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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Homeschool Resolutions for 2008

Generally, it seems to me, homeschoolers tend to make their homeschool resolutions at the beginning of the school year rather than the New Year. I'm no different, but the New Year lends itself to a reassessment of how the school year has gone thus far. It's a good time to review the plans you made in the heady "homeschool convention" days of summer, when everything seemed possible! For the past 3 or 4 months we've plugged away more or less successfully, so where are we now?

Are there areas you've succeeded and want to ensure you continue that succees? Areas where you'd hoped to do better and need to recommit yourself? Things that have been troublesome that need to be addressed? Unexpected triumphs? Unrealized goals? Unrealistic expectations?Sometimes a review helps clarify where you've been particularly successful or not and why.

I'm going to spend this last week of our homeschool holiday break giving our last semester a good look. Then I'll be making the needed adjustments as I begin preparing for our school to resume on January 7th. The following are some of my thoughts on areas you might want to consider as you reassess your family. The areas our family needs to recognize successes or struggles are in ITALICS and our resolutions are in BOLD.

Goals for the entire family: Those goals that have slipped by the wayside or ones I'd like to institute. - In the past Hubby has been able to lead this each morning (or most mornings), but this fall that seemed to fall off a bit. So, we will recommitt ourselves to that. Also, we are going to begin incorporating Morning and/or Evening prayer from our "Anglican Family Prayer" book. We resolve to make daily family prayer and bible reading a priority.

School "flow": How does your day and week routine flow? Are there consistent bumps in the road? Are there techniques that have helped your days and weekls move along smoothly? - We've done a better job this Fall at keeping a regular schedule each week for school. However, our daily routine needs to be readjusted. One major change I'm making is me getting up and dressed first thing each school morning. In the past I've often found myself in my PJs still at mid-morning. I resolve to have myself completely dressed and ready to greet the children each school day.

Goals for each child: Those goals you've set for each child. Have you made good progress up to this point on these goals? Has one or more been supersceded (necessarily or not)? Do you need to rethink this goal or recommit to it? - My goals: Eldest (DS 10)- to become comfortable writing independently. He's coming along nicely with help for both of us through Classical Conversations "Essentials Program". Middle (DS - 8) - to bring reading up to a level of fluency rather than decoding. He's also coming along nicely, but I've slacked a bit in our goal to read a little each day. I need to recommit to this as I see the regular practice (even if it is only a few minutes) helps him immensely. Youngest (DD - 5) - to give her regular practice in "basics" of Kindergarten. Due to her eagerness, this has not been a problem. She requests to do her "school" every day! I resolve to continue the daily writing with DS - 10, daily reading with DS -8, and daily basics with DD - 5.

Concerning Co-op participation: Have you participated at a level appropriate for the needs of your family? Taking seriously your commitment to the program and/or maintaining the primacy of your homeschool needs? - We've been involved in Classical Conversations. I'm pleased with the interaction it has provided us and the structure and accountability. The program relies heavily on the parent to set the pace and our group does an excellent job of encouraging the parent in their teaching role. This has been a great boon to us. I've been able to enjoy the aspects of the program that enhance our homeschool, while not feeling pressured to take on more than we need. We resolve to maintain an appropriate activity level within our Co-op that maintains the primacy of our homeschool.

Outside classes: Have you overcommitted yourself, children or family? Is there one child who needs special attention in this area? Are there classes you'd like to seek out for your children? - My eldest is involved in karate and drama. My youngest is taking ballet. They both love their classes and these have not interfered with our homeschool. My middle also needs some outside art classes. I'm going to recommit to finding a class for him or making time to do the Mona Brooks "Drawing with Children" course I already own. I resolve to seek an art class for my middle DS.

Family activities and outside responsibilities: Where do you feel you need to be more or less involved? Are there activities you'd like to take on as a family or ones you've taken on that need to be assessed? Do these activities contribute positively to your homeschool or do they detract? - We've been particularly busy with our church the past 3-4 years. This year my husband's and my responsibilities have come to a close. We've been very slow to take on new responsibilities. It is a struggle not to take on more, but we are being very deliberate in what we choose to participate in or not. We've definitely noticed a lessening of the stress-level! We resolve to continue to carefully evaluate each activity and how it affects the homeschool and family.

Chores: Where do you see failings or successes? Do some chores need "refresher courses"? Do you see some of your kids slacking off in certain areas? Are you slacking off in your direction of chores or in your own chores? Are there some chores that seem superfluous? Are there some chores that need to be added? Do you need to consider a new "system" or just buckle down with the one you already have? - I've decided to make some chores "required" to recieve a minimum allowance and some chores optional (as a way to earn the rest of their "allowance"). We resolve to re-address the issue of chores and allowance payment and to incorporate a system that ensures a minimum allowance with the chance for extra earning.

Goals for the teacher: Where do you need support and/or encouragement? When or how are you "feeding" yourself? Are you allowing yourself too much "self"? Where do you need to recongize a sacrifice is needed on your part? - As I stated earlier, I need to be up and ready to greet the children each school day. I also need to have a plan for regular daily prayer and bible reading. In addition to these daily needs, I need to improve my "Mother Culture" through book reading, lectures, cultural events, entertainment, fellowship and "personal time". I resolve to develop a list of "Mother Culture" ideas and consult it to plan daily, weekly and monthly "Mother Culture" time.

I'm sure there are other areas you might consider reviewing. If you have areas you'd like to share, I'd love to hear! Leave a comment! If you blog about it, leave a link, too!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas wishes, prayer and scripture

Merry Christmas

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns,
one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

From the Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Christmas Day

And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.... From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.

John 1:14, 16-18 NRSV

Have a blessed and lovely Christmas!

A quiet diversion

If you are like me, you might need something relaxing, quiet and lovely to do either before or after Christmas Day. Well, I've got that something! Go grab a cup of coffee, tea or glogg and settle in for a Virtualy Holiday House Tour.

Enjoy! I'm going to be taking notes for next year's Christmas decorations.

(HT: Like Merchant Ships)

Friends, other than a "Merry Christmas" post, that, I believe, will be it for my on my blog until after the New Year. Have a truly blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A new Glogg recipe (mulled wine)

Svenska Glogg (or Swedish Mulled Wine) is a traditional Swedish drink for the Christmas season and no wonder - boy, will it chase away the chilly weather! It is a very potent spiced wine - served warm.

There are many different recipes for Glogg. Hubby's family's version takes two types of port wine, brandy, and vodka - and of course lots of spices. This one (the one we used last year and decided we liked equally as well) is a bit less alcoholic, but every bit as wonderful! I'm calling it "Erikson's Glogg" - because my kids are Erik's sons...and someday perhaps this will be their family recipe for Glogg.

Erikson's Glogg
1 large bottle red wine
1 reg. bottle port wine
10 cardamom pods, gently cracked
small handful of cloves (10 or so)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 T whole allspice
1/2 c (or more) of sugar (more or less to taste - depending on your wine)
Handfuls of almonds and raisins.
1 orange cut in half

Place the spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, allspice) in a loosely-tied cheesecloth bundle. Combine the wine and the spice bundle in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir in 1/2 c of the sugar, carefully tasting to determine if it needs more. Continue adding by 1/4 cup fulls until it the wine tannins are smoothed out, but not too sweet. Toss in almonds and raisins (one or two handfuls of each). Float the orange halves in the glogg. Continue simmering the mixture slowly for 15 minutes.

At this point you can cool it off and store it, or go ahead and serve.

Before serving it is traditional to put a splash of Aquavit in the pot (or vodka) (or more - depending on your perferences) and light the glogg. Be VERY CAREFUL doing this...we've never had a problem, but it is fire, people! The floating almonds will sizzle and the flamed glogg mellows. (It also reduces the alcohol content a bit.) We turn down the lights and everyone gathers around when the pot is lit. The kids think it is wonderful!

Serve this in mugs - and be sure each glass gets a few of the almonds and raisins. (We serve with a spoon so we can dig these out of the bottom of the glass.) This is perfect to enjoy after the kids are in bed on Christmas a darkened room with just the Christmas tree lights on. Very relaxing!

Interested in more holiday recipes? Visit my food blog: To Every Meal There is a Season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Advent "Link Love" 3

My friend, Jeanne, of At A Hen's Pace has a beautiful Advent poem up. Also, wish her a happy anniversary - it's a big one plus one!

A lovely rendition of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" featuring lovely madonnas from across the Christian world is up at On a Joyful Journey. Her blog is brand new - so go by and welcome her to the blogosphere!

Last Sunday in church, we discussed what it means that God is with us always. This touching story (very short), to me, illustrates beautifully how the Lord is with us even when things are bleak.

Ann at Holy Experience can always be counted on for a thougtful and thought-provoking...wait, and ACTION provoking, post. She doesn't disappoint in "How to Celebrate Christmas".
An Advent recap (a sort of accidental Advent lesson learned) from "Et Tu?"
Happy Catholic just turned me on to a wonderful online magazine "Dappled Things". Their current issus has an article I plan on reading during my Christmas break: "The Truth of His Humanity"

The Archbishop of Canterbury discusses the nativity as folklore and adds a little more fuel to the Anglican's a log and another. I'm sure there will be more.
One last craft to keep the kids busy during the last couple of days before Christmas.

While they are crafting, perhaps you will enjoy storytime with a "thatmom" podcast of: A Long John Christmas.

And totally cheating here - a straight cut and paste from StandFirm:
Streaming live . . . The BBC's Radio 4 will be broadcasting Lessons and Carols live from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge this coming Monday, December 24, at 10 a.m. EST. View the full program and order of service.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday - Christmas Edition

So, what works for me? In my home, where crafts happen at the drop of the hat...and spur of the moment...I've started "The Christmas Craft Box". Some of my crafts are planned and laid out for the kids to do, but most of them just happen. So, I've made up a large box of Christmas-themed craft supplies for my kids. They can dig in and help themselves whenever the craft mood strikes.

Today the craft mood struck - we made crazy Christmas collages with all the catalogs we've received the past couple of months. (I've been saving them up just for this!) And then later we tried to make gumdrop Christmas Balls, but the kids gave out. Instead, they began making gumdrop and toothpick structures! These were a real hit and they've been working steadily for two hours or more! WOW!

Some ideas for craft box contents: "Foamies" - especially the peel and stick kind, old wine corks to make those cute reindeer ornaments, pipe cleaners, brown paper bags, egg cartons, coloring and activity books, construction paper, pom-poms of various sizes and colors, MadLibs, styrofoam balls, and lots of glitter.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Homeschool Blog Awards!

Great place to find excellent blogs - some of my favorites are winners!. Go by and see who won!

The Homeschool Blog Awards

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent "Link Love" 2

Two Square Meals gives us a lovelyAdvent update with just a little opining about children's behavior. I'm jealous, though, because the sweet little book she mentions is out of stock at Amazon! Oh well, next year.

Mere Comments has, as usual, a thought-provoking essay. It starts with an Advent theme, but then goes on to eternity and "knowing and being known." One I'll need to read again.

The Apostle to Suburbia shows off her Advent decorations. I love that she doesn't limit her decorations to one room!

And from Half Pint House and excellent look at what she is doing for Advent - with pictures. Don't miss the freebie .pdf from God's World News (with Jesse Tree symbols).

One of my newest reads: Scribbit has a great post with activity ideas. We are going to do the gumdrop decoration idea. Also scroll down to see a lovely etched glass project...with instructions if you'd like to give it a try. This is a Mama activity.

I could just sit and stare at this lovely photo for hours. Down here in the sunny South, this is a sight we rarely see. Shades of White often has wonderful and fun photos from around her home!

Another activity - look at this adorable little button wreath! We have jars of old buttons, we just may have to make some of these. How cute they'd be on gifts or wreaths, or on the tree (or a mini-tree).

Blessed Advent to you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How the Grinch Stole BACK Christmas!

Stumbled upon this delightful bit of fun today - from Touchtone Magazine's blog, a longtime reader, Joe Long, submitted this sequel to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". I debated whether or not to post the whole thing here, but since that isn't really kosher here in bloggyland (without permission) I've included just a snippet and a link.

It will be worth your click, I promise! Here's the snippet:

“Now, don’t kid a kidder,” he tells such a one –
“I stole Christmas once, and I know how it’s done.
“But I stole it with style; I stole it with flare.
“You aren’t that clever, or else wouldn’t dare;
“To my exploits, your Christmas theft can’t hold a candle –
“You’re not even a thief – just a wannabe vandal.”

Without further ado... here's the link!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Prayer Beads

In the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, I mentioned that I've been using Anglican prayer beads (or rosary) for a few months. I also mentioned that I'd found an online source for liturgically-themed prayers for Anglican prayer beads. The link is still eluding me, but I'm going to go ahead and share the prayer for Advent. I wish I could give credit to the original website, but when I find it, I will post the link. Until then, here's an Advent prayer series for use with beads:

The Cross:
O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia!

The Invitatory Bead:
Stir up your power, O God, and come among us. Heal our wounds, calm our fears, and give us peace; through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen.

The Cruciform Beads:

Come, O Lord, and visit us in peace;
Let us rejoice before you with a perfect heart.

The Week Beads:
My soul waits for the Lord;
In His Word is my hope.

This isn't exactly how the prayer was laid out on the website. I've switched it around just a bit (the words are the same, just in different places).

Praying with the beads is a great meditative prayer practice. I love to get up early, but often find myself so foggy-headed early in the morning that I bumble around with my prayers. I'm so focused on "saying the right words" that I forget the focus of my prayer should be communication with God. So, in the early morning, I use the prayer beads and a collect from the Prayer Book. Then later in the day, I find some time to journal prayers for various needs - a time of intercessory prayer. At other times of the day, I sometimes pull out the prayer beads again. I'd like to put some order to this, but haven't yet done so. That is New Year's Resolution material!

If you use prayer beads, please leave a comment and tell me how you use them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Advent "Link Love"

A lovely essay about discovering Christmas called "Finding Narnia".

Do you have the "Spirit of Christmas" or the Spirit of Christ?

A curmudgeon on Christmas cards. (We've been sending religious cards for a few years now, but I'm rethinking the whole Christmas photo thing now. :) )

A quick bible lesson.

And an early Christmas gift...go ahead, open it now!

A Christmas meme

On a bit on an impromptu blogging break, but thought this would be a quick fun bit...

A Christmas meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both - I prefer a nicely wrapped package, but I frequently ust bags when in a pinch! DH and I have a great system - I'm great at the wrapping paper, he's the bow guy. Not just your peel and stick variety - oh no, he does great creative stuff!

2. Real tree or artificial? DH grew up cutting his own (62 acres and plenty of pine trees); I grew up with fake. The past 14 years we've had a real tree, but last year we bit the bullet and went fake. It was a financial and simplicity decision. We love the real thing, but at $50 a year - our fake tree will pay for itself in no time. Not to mention how easy the fake tree is!

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually St. Lucia Day (Dec 13th), but only lights. We decorate on Christmas Eve.

4. When do you take the tree down? After Epiphany.

5. Do you like eggnog? LOVE IT! But I'm the only one in my whole family who does. It makes an especially good coffee creamer. :)

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? 2 - a Playmobile one for the kids to play with and a display one. The display one is very "artsy". I love it, but I'm thinking about starting a more realistic Bethlehem scene with the kids next year.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My Dad - "I don't need anything" - and he doesn't, but how can we not buy a gift?

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A set of pop-up laundry hampers. However, I must say that I've found them quite useful. Still I don't recommend them as Christmas gifts to a mother of 3 who might like a bit of pampering on Christmas morning.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? "A Christmas Story" and "Charlie Brown Christmas"

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I start in earnest after Thanksgiving.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, but I have sent a gift or two straight to Goodwill.

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? St. Lucia bread with orange marmalade

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear on the family tree and around the house. The kids have mini-trees with colored lights.

16. Favorite Christmas song? This is really an Advent song, but I love it: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". The other favorite is a song I learned in French class - I'm not sure of the title...but the first line is: "Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella, Un flambeau courons au berceau".

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? When we were first married, we traveled to both sets of parents, but now with three kids we stay home.

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yes, I can! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet Cupid, Donder and Blixen...and Rudolph!

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? My MIL made us a lovely baset-woven star for our tree-topper.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We open a couple small gifts, but the majority are saved for Christmas morning.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Just the traffic - the rest I can put up with and kind of enjoy.

22. Best thing about this time of year? We enjoy doing "secret" good deeds for each other - it is just so much fun trying to do something nice in secret!