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Monday, April 26, 2010

Daybook - Monday, April 26th

outside my window . . . an embarrassingly shaggy lawn.

in the kitchen . . . dishes piled in the sink left from the weekend.  I dislike starting Monday with dishes in the sink.  It just makes me feel behind already.

around the house . . . boxes piled beside the front door waiting transport to the storage unit.  Daughter's room with slashes of new color on the walls.  Both projects stalled last week and need to be re-started.  And laundry.

on my iPod . . .  lots of wonderful things which cannot be enjoyed because my silly calico cat enjoyed an ear-bud cord snack a couple of nights ago.  This is the second pair she's mangled.  The first time it was my fault for leaving them out...this time is was my eldest son's!  Guess who owes mom some money?  It is very odd - she can't seem to resist Apple's white cord coating.  She's also chewed up one iPod power cord.

from our studies . . . we are sticking with our "basics" right now, the three R's.  Oldest son has his Mock Trial competition on Tuesday...and then his Challenge B program is over for the year.  We'll do school for a few more weeks until our upcoming beach vacation!

thinking about . . . living in the country near good friends with a community playground, pool, and garden.  Working together on ministry projects and sharing life.  Doesn't that sound like a good life?

listening to. . . my morning NPR - something about derivatives.

thankful for. . . a Sunday afternoon spent with dear friends in good conversation while repelling children from second helpings of cupcakes.  And, particularly, a friend who is more like family - to the point of not being overly concerned about dirty dishes in the sink or clothes to be folded when there is an opportunity for fellowship.

pondering the words . . . "Try a simple experiment.  Take a small child on your knee.  Respect him.  Do not see him as something to prune, form, or mold.  This is an individual who things, acts, and feels.  He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become. ... We are told by many in our generation that this small child is a cog in a machine, or even that he is a possession, like a pet animal.... We must answer: No.  You are holding a person on your knee and that is wonderful."   -- Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in her book about Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy, For the Children's Sake.

reading . . . When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper (again)

remembering . . . last year being Baby L's first spring.  So many "firsts": first month home, first flowers, first meeting of friends and family.


to educate faithfully . . .  an awful sinus/ear issue last week really knocked me off my game.  I'm feeling better and hope this week will have better luck with the faithful part of our educational plan.  I think last week I would have said we were educating accidentally.  Back to our trimmed down study of the basics - but feel about ready to get back to the rich stuff....books, poetry, art, history, etc.

one of my favorite things . . . my new Order of the Daughters of the Holy Cross pin/pendant.

milestones in the past week . . . yesterday Baby L went, on her own initiative, to one of her godmothers during church!  Auntie B had a quiet and welcoming lap, just what Baby L needed.

a few plans for the upcoming week . . .   Hoping for a coffee date with a couple dear friends.  Might go to a US Naval Academy presentation for eldest son (he's entering high school and hopes to go to USNA or AF Academy after graduation).  Possibly attending a local event for some good Ghanaian culture Tuesday morning.  Mock Trial competition Tuesday evening (pray for his nerves if you are so inclined!  They are having the trial before a federal judge!).  Mother-in-Law coming to visit for her birthday and we are taking her to Biltmore House's "Homeschool Days".  Eldest son has a youth retreat this weekend.  And on Sunday I've got a relaxing "Twilight Tea Party" to attend.  Will it really be May by the end of this week?  Why yes, it will.

a picture thought I'm sharing . . .

the creek on a piece of property we are considering purchasing for a new home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saint George's Feast Day

April 23rd: Feast Day of Saint George
Patron saint of England and also: soldiers, archers, cavalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and the Scouts.

Who was St. George?
Surely you've heard the story of the Saint who slayed the dragon to save the princess?  Well, that's him.  But here's a good history.

How to celebrate?
:-: Catholic Icing has some wonderfully fun craft ideas to celebrate.
:-: A large collection of ideas, activities, and recipes from a UK website.
:-: A Continual Feast (a great book and now a blog!) has a unique recipe: Creamed St. George's Day Mushrooms. (Why mushrooms?  You'll have to follow that link to find out!)
:-: Read M. Hodge's lovely picture book about St. George and the Dragon.  Or read his story from The Golden Legend (online) or this one, a bit easier to read.
:-: Make and hang a St. George's flag.
:-: Display some lovely red roses (the flower he offered the princess saved from the legendary dragon).
:-: Since George is the patron saint of England, enjoy some typically English dishes like Fish & Chips.
:-: Learn some facts about English history and/or geography - I'm partial to this interactive map.

A prayer:
O GOD, who didst grant to Saint George strength and constancy in the various torments which he sustained for our holy faith; we beseech Thee to preserve, through his intercession, our faith from wavering and doubt, so that we may serve Thee with a sincere heart faithfully unto death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks: April 17 - Easter Week 2

A lovely post and suggestion for the Easter Season from Ann V. at A Holy Experience:  a simple wreath.  I cannot afford the price tag (although the handiwork looks well worth it).  Wonder if there is a way to adapt this with ready-made materials.  Any ideas, readers?

Getting your priorities straight and letting go of the need for perfection:  Natalie at Imitating Steventon talks about getting real as you get farther along the homeschool path...although I think it might have as much to do with getting older: A Breakthrough.

NO - it gets old.  Freshen up your repertoire and give your kids a break from your usual refusals by learning 8 Ways Not to Say No from Minds in Bloom.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Family Altar

Morning light has been slowly growing from thin to bright for an hour or so.  Time to wake the children.

"Come on children!  Let's hurry down stairs.  Daddy wants to read bible before breakfast."

One by one they come, some dragging, some bounding, like the morning's birds to a bird bath.

"Mama, you said I could light the candle," whispers a small one.
"Ok, but let me help you," says Mama.

Carefully, mother's hand clasps little one's hand as the candle is lit and the family is finally all assembled.  The little altar shelf displays a white pillar candle - gleaming in its whiteness, a simple wooden cross, a displayed bible, a small icon of Christ Pantokrator, a brass candle snuffer, and an embossed metal storage box.  The ribbons adorning the little altar space have recently been changed from purple to white for Easter season.

Baby toddles from person to person for good morning kisses as Daddy starts the morning's reading. 

Later, the candle is snuffed and all disperse to chores, breakfast, and the office.  The day has begun.

So, what is a Family Altar?
A Family Altar is, first of all, anything you like it to be.  Simple or elaborate.  Private or Communal.  Formal or Relaxed.   Above all it is a visual reminder (for your own family) of the importance of the religious life within the family.  It can be a place family members gather for bible reading or devotional time alone or as a group.  It can be a place to display bits of God's creation you find on your nature walks.  It can be a place for your children to practice and learn about the liturgical life.

And how do make one?

Items you’ll need:
A Free-standing cross (purchased or homemade)
A pillar candle (white or red to represent the Holy Spirit)
A shelf or small table (or portion of a table)

Other items you might like to add:
-:- Lengths of ribbon in liturgical colors (red, white, green, purple, black, gold) to lay across altar area, drape around the cross, or otherwise display on the altar. Alternately, you could use pieces of fabric in liturgical colors as a ‘table cloth’ under your altar area.
-:- Candle snuffer – little kids enjoy snuffing out the candle.
-:- Small icon of Jesus – these can be found online and printed on cardstock or laminated or glued onto small wooden plaques (found at most craft stores in the wood craft section). Generally, there are no worries about copyright if you are not selling them to others.
-:- A decorative box to keep the supplies handy, but out of sight.
-:- Bottle of Holy Water (see your priest)

Where to find the items:
Crosses can be found at Hobby Lobby (or other craft store) or a Christian book store. As a family, you might enjoy making yours. Candles and ribbon can be found at any craft store. The icons can be found by doing a Google Image Search on “icon of Jesus”.

Where to place your altar
It doesn’t matter where you locate your family altar, but someplace that the entire family can gather is ideal. If it has the possibility for also being a private prayer place, that might be nice, too. (An example might be a shelf on a bookcase in a less-frequently used room.)

Traditionally, altars are set up in churches so that the congregation is facing East. You can try to do this in your home, too, but it certainly is not necessary.

If you don’t have a place you can keep the altar our permanently, you could keep the pieces in a lovely box and make the set up part of your family prayer time. Each family member could have a different responsibility.

How to set up your altar
Facing the altar: Place your cross on the right and the candle on the left. If you have book holder, place this in the middle and place your bible there. Above that (or if no book holder, in the middle) place the icon. You can tape or tack this in place on the wall, if you want. If you are using the ribbon, decide how you want to display that and choose the appropriate seasonal color. Lent: purple, Good Friday: black, Easter: white or gold, Pentecost: red, Ordinary Time: green, Advent: purple, Christmas: white

How to use the altar
Use it as a focus for family or individual prayer.  Allow a child to light and/or snuff the candle at the beginning and end of prayer or bible reading.  On feast days, let the children help you lay out the seasonal-colored ribbon or cloth.

Another idea
You might like to add icons for various days of the church year (Easter, Ascension, saints' days, etc).  Icons for these can be found by doing a Google image search.  Again, no worries about copyright as long as you are not selling the icons.  But do be mindful if the website specifically prohibits copying of pictures.   You can display them by hanging on the wall or back of shelf or by using a small display easel.

I know many of my readers probably do something similar.  If your family uses some sort of family altar, would you leave a comment and share any ideas or suggestions you have?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks - Easter Season: Week 1

Christ is Risen!

:-: It is Easter Season, right, so is there a reason we can't dye more eggs?  Check out the gorgeous naturally dyed eggs at Waltzing Mathilda.

:- : A great sticker/activity book by Tomie da Paola for the Easter Season: Garden of the Good Shepherd.   Check out Waltzing Mathilda's excellent ideas for playing off this book in a series of weekly "Garden Parties"- including some printables!

:-: Nothing to do with Easter, but there is a GREAT discussion of Norms and Nobility (start reading with this post) going on at Cindy's blog Dominion Family.  Even if you can't afford to buy the book to read along, the posts and conversations are worth your time to read.  And, in my opinion, a must for home educators!

:-: Finally, and sadly, a beloved blogger, Michael Spencer, who blogged at "Internet Monk: Dispatches from the post-evangelical wilderness", has died from brain cancer.  His writings will really challenge your religion.  He has passed, but his blog is being continued.  Right now they are re-posting some classic articles from Mr. Spencer.  Titles like: Why I Am a Christian (10 reasons)     Our Problem with Grace      Dr. StrangeLiturgy      On Christless Preaching

I know it isn't Saturday, but I was too busy this past Saturday to blog...and I just couldn't wait to share these resources with you!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Will your students' writing win $$$ ?

From the Circe Institute website:

"Education and Liberty are themes as American as baseball and apple pie. Yet, much of American literature, and most of American pop culture see the two as antithetical. Some people seem to see school as a barrier to liberty. In the 2010 Lost Tools of Writing Essay Contest, students are asked to consider the relationship between education and liberty. Are they indeed opposites? Or can one fulfill the other? Can a person be free without being educated? Can a person be educated without being free?

You decide. Then persuade us."

Write and WIN!  Registration deadline is May 1, final submissions due May 10.  

For full contest information visit the Lost Tools of Writing Essay page.

Daybook - Monday, April 12th

outside my window . . . I think we've traded weather with California (specifically the Santa Rosa area): upper 70s-80s during the day, 40s at night.  I'm hoping CA will let us keep their weather for all of summer.

in the kitchen . . . a batch of Artisan bread is in the plan for today.  Maybe two because my dough is getting a little old and I need to use it up.  We are all enjoying our feasting!  Bring on the meat!  And cheese!  And milk!  And butter!

around the house . . . packing has slowed down while we do some painting.  2 rooms completed, 1 in the midst, and 9 more to go (that number includes hallways).

thinking about . . . factionalism in politics and the affect it is having on our representative democracy.  Great article in First Things.


listening to. . .  my morning NPR news, just about to switch to the local classical music station WDAV.

thankful for. . . a new workout schedule with hubby (and whatever kids want to join us).  Of course this is not just a new schedule, but an entirely new habit.

pondering the words . . . "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community," is the definition James Madison gives of a faction.

reading . . . slowly through my new First Things magazine, still slogging through Divine Comedy here and there, looking for a good church father reading for Easter season - any recommendations (Amy - what is it that you are reading - I'm coming over to your blog to check!)

remembering . . .  to think the best of people even when I'm afraid they've done the worst.

noticing . . . that the green in my yard is much more weed than grass.  But after the last few summers of drought, I'll take anything green.


to foster rhythm and beauty . . . waking the children for morning bible reading.

to live the liturgy . . .  white ribbons on the family altar, thinking about being a Christian person not just a Christ-inspired person.

to educate faithfully . . .  still hitting math and language arts each day during this busy season of household projects (packing and painting, etc) in preparation for our move.


one of my favorite things . . .  a good paintbrush

milestones in the past week . . .  Baby L is trying so hard to learn to jump.  I love that funny little toddler jump - they put so much effort into it, yet can't quite leave the ground.

a few plans for the upcoming week . . .  Mock trial practice for eldest son today with last day of Challenge B (Classical Conversations) Wednesday,  chapter meeting of Daughters of the Holy Cross (I'm becoming a daughter this month!),  painting, painting, painting, and getting a few estimates for painting our 2-story foyer and stairwell.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Welcome Easter!

Did you have a blessed Easter Sunday?  I hope so!  We had to divide and conquer this year: hubby attended Easter Vigil and I attended Easter Morning service (only one early morning service - our space at a local Catholic HS serves as overflow for one of the largest Catholic churches in our area, so we only had it from 8-10 when their overflow services started).  We split kids between us so that Baby L could stay home with the other parent.  It worked fine, but next year we worship together!

Our spring is shaping up to be a decidedly hectic one, so I'm looking for some simple ways to keep the idea of the Easter Season before us.  Why is our Easter season going to be so hectic, you ask?  We expect it to be filled with housepacking and homesite visiting...we are building a new home!!  You can check out some photos from the land on our family blog: The Potter's Shed.

So, any special plans to celebrate the Easter Season?   A poster with a "road" leading from Easter to Ascension perhaps?  Any ideas?  Look at me fishing for ideas rather than having them to share!  Well, that is how it is sometimes!  

I've asked for your ideas, but I'll also share one.  You know those odd little plastic dye cups that come in the basic PAAS Easter Egg Dye kits?  We save them and use them for snack cups each year.  They make a perfect size for a snack!   See:


Blessings to you this Easter Season!