Schooling in the Summer?!

When I pictured having kids I had no idea what I was in for. I never imagined that busy summer days with my children could be so full of love and joy. I cannot imagine a better life than raising these little hooligans. Are you having a good summer friends? I hope yours has been filled with sunshine and laughter.

We finished 2nd grade and 4th grade with relief that a break was here. During the respite we did what everyone does in the summer; jam pack our days with adventures, plans, and preparing for the next school year. It only took me about two weeks to be excited to start back up, so I spent the rest of our break preparing for 3rd, 5th grade and, hm…pre-pre- school. I am glad to get a good head start before any online classes and clubs start. As it is we still have piano and baseball through the summer, the latter filling all our evenings during the week.

We usually start our days with school but the beauty of schooling through the summer is that in addition not having a significant memory lapse in learning, those days that are too hot to enjoy the outdoors can also be spent productively.

Somedays during the summer we don’t school in the mornings, but head out and pick fruit or hike before the 90 degree heat does us in. Then, we will spend the heat of the day leisurely getting our work done. Here is how our school day breaks down:

  • Breakfast/ animals chores / get ready for the day
  • Morning basket
  • Individual time with mom
  • Combined subjects altogether
  • Solo work time

Keep in mind this is the schedule for most days, but once our clubs start in the fall along with a few online classes, the evenings will also start to have their own schedule, in addition to juggling things around one morning a week. It’s a blessing to be so flexible with our schedule, particularly if a great opportunity opens up, like C’s IEW writing class, offered by a stellar veteran teacher on a invitation only bases- that’s something we will gladly change the schedule up for! Another great thing about homeschooling- we aren’t tied to one particular option. We can search out the best solutions for any given subject, a schooling buffet, if you will.

I can bet some of you are wondering, ”what does your toddler do this whole time?!” Well, obviously she just quietly plays by herself, sometimes asking for different Mozart CD. Just kidding!! She’s such an easy kid, I really don’t have any complaints, but that might be because I don’t expect her to be anything other than a toddler. We have her own little ”school basket” she plays with, and she loves to do her ”work” stations that I’ve discussed before in a previous post . During individual time I will occasionally have one of the big kids ride bikes with her, push her in a swing, or read her books. If they are really patient with her and put in extra effort, they have the chance to earn “special time coupons”. These coupons can be cashed in with me or Husband for extra one on one time at night. During most of the day, between helping spell words or reading aloud our history book, the big kids work on their own. I relish the little moments of summer with Pickle during these times. Sometimes we eat blueberries or raspberries off our bushes while I push her in the swing, or chat with the chickens while collecting eggs, or we putter in the garden counting how many slugs we’ve caught in the beer trap. The bigs are at an age where I need to facilitate chunks of quiet time for them to get their work done, rather than having to be so hands on with each subject. Sweet backyard times with Pickle are a win-win.

I think it is super important to always keep yourself in a growth mindset. In my case I need to stay positive and avoid stagnation with homeschooling and our health. If I get lazy or unmotivated, we all suffer! Naturally I think the best way to expand skills, mindsets, and knowledge is by reading. Hey, it’s not just my opinion, seriously! So, to stay excited about homeschooling and to stay vigilant with our health I make sure I’m always reading at least one ”work” book aka, something that’s educational. Here are some books I’m reading right now;

The Dirt Cure – highly recommended if you’re ever on the fence about focusing on food over medication, or if you need more encouragement to stay the course of healthy food choices. Written by a pediatric neurologist mother.

Let Them Be Kids– light hearted and full of good reminders. Particularly good if you feel like you need some parental encouragement, or a few tips and tricks.

How the Irish Saved Civilization– brilliant book. I haven’t been this hooked on a book in years. You’re never too old to learn history. Can’t recommend this book enough.

I think reading three books at once is probably enough don’t you? Well, three, not counting the book I’m reading aloud to the big kids, the dozen or so picture books I read to the toddler daily, and all our schooling read alouds. Reading is certainly the heart beat of this homeschool family, let me tell ya.

I hope this is your best summer yet folks. It has already been one for the books for us and it’s only half way through! We look forward to more adventures, bike rides, school projects, and sunny days at the beach.


Our Longest Field Trip Friday Yet!

A week ago the kids and I were really brave and we went on our longest field trip yet to Rocky Reach Dam. C is in his engineering unit in science so this was a perfect field trip! My parents and a few of my sisters came with us and my parents graciously hosted us at their cabin for two nights.

I’ve never been this far with the three kids by myself so I was nervous, but excited to feel empowered by the independence. You might be thinking, ”Um, what’s so hard about a three hour drive?” Well, when my kids are little, from newborn to about 4, they really, really struggle with car rides. My babies were never the ones you’d toss in the carseat and drive around for nap time, no sir. However, Pickle was a champ on the all the car rides on our adventure.

I was so grateful for all the help from my parents and sisters. The bigs even got the option to swim in Lake Chelan, and believe it or not they swam for hours- in APRIL! Lake Chelan is glacier fed so it was quite a feat.

I had prepared some worksheets on kinetic energy that we went over the night before we toured the dam, so I hope the kids were able to have a enriching experience and retain some information. This dam is impressive and unique- it generates enough energy to sell power to four other states!

Check out those propeller blades! See the tiny guy in the upper left hand corner for scale?

It’s not a trip to Eastern Washington without a trip to Anjou Bakery. If you get the chance, you really should go, it’s delish!

While we had a sunny and hot day when we went to the dam, the next day it snowed on the way home over the pass and in Cle Elum! It was quite fun.

We always seem to travel home in pjs. I kinda love it.

I was so proud of Pickle for being a patient traveler, and I was so incredibly grateful to C and A for being so helpful. The trip was a blast with my Adventure Crew! We came home and started our spring break during Holy Week because there was a lot to do to prepare for Easter!! Stay tuned for a post on our Easter traditions ranging from babkas to bunnies and Resurrection rolls to deep cleaning.


Adventure is out there!

Our field trips have been taking us outside more and thank goodness for that! The sunny weather cannot come soon enough. Meanwhile, I’ll be content with overcast skies for our outings, just as long as it’s not a downpour. It’s is frightfully difficult to find motivation for hiking when a proper PNW rain starts.
I’ve been incorporating history successfully into the field trips AND hikes. I had the idea to do grave stone rubbings, which for the life of me, I cannot think why I haven’t thought of before.

Yep, I’ve made custom t-shirts for Field Trip Fridays.

Auburn has a historical cemetery right in the middle of town! Some even say it’s in the dead center…get it? Haha! When we went to this cemetery I was astonished to find a Civil War veteran buried there. The kids got a rubbing of the grave stone, we took it home and did some research and WOAH! You will not believe the high drama that surrounded this guy’s life. Check out the story here. One of my favorite things to discover with the kids are all the mysteries behind the lives these people had. It feels like we are real historians learning about the local people who came before us. Fun fact, Auburn used to be called Slaughter. Slaughter! Who would have thought?!

Gravesite of Native American Angeline Seattle – NOT related to Chief Seattle as is frequently thought

This past week we made the trek out to Franklin Ghost Town which didn’t disappoint. We accidentally ended up hiking 4 miles instead of 2.5 but that’s another story. Anyways, we saw the 1,300 foot mine shaft where some miners died (suspected murder!) and the small decrepit but touching cemetery, the remains of the coal car tracks, and the ruins of the powder house. The kids got great rubbings of some of the graves. Of course we are always very respectful and gentle when we get rubbings, only getting them from grave stones that are in decent condition and not roped off. The kids are very into doing the rubbings and finding these “lost in time” historical sites, as C calls them. There were at one point 1,100 citizens in the town, and 15 different nationalities and languages being spoken! Talk about a diverse group. The mine shaft has an incredible view of Mt. Rainier, it feels like you can just reach out and touch it.

Mine shaft
C: “Wait, this is a hike? I thought it was a walk..” Me: “well, uh, it said it was short, I didn’t realize short meant 2.5 miles.”

We also stopped by the Black Diamond Cemetery, another historical location know for its paranormal activity! While we were excited by the potential spookiness, we didn’t see or hear anything out of the normal. Just a rooster crowing. Or was it? Haha. I tried to convince the kids it was someone howling, and I received quite the eye rolls which I may or may not have been aiming for, haha! There were many Italian names on the old graves which makes me wonder if Black Diamond hosted a large amount of Italian immigrants at one point- must have right? There were some really beautiful quotes on some of the stones with tragic implications, such as young woman and two infants buried together, since the infants didn’t even live a day we assumed she died in child birth.

Owen Beach Boardwalk

A week or so ago we went out to Point Defiance Park which is a labryinth of trails and I accidentally ended up adding a mile or two to our hike (hm, I’m noticing a theme here). We finally made it to the ancient mountaineering tree! This tree was a sapling when William Shakespeare was born- wowza! The bigs and I chatted all the way back about what that tree has seen, or not seen, and how noisy it’s life must be now.

If you’re wondering where Pickle is in all these pictures, she usually munching on a snack in the backpack. She is hiking more and more and covered about a mile all on her own on this past weekend’s adventure, “Me wun, mama!” Im definitely ready for her to “wun” as much as she wants. I will bring however many raisins I need to bribe her; she’s getting big! I’m so grateful we can have these adventures throughout the kiddos childhood, I hope they have fond memories of these days. I know I will.

Lenten Morning Basket

It feels like Lent got here in quite a hurry doesn’t it? Usually, January and February drag by, but this year I think that we were so busy I didn’t even notice them come and go. With some days in the high 50s, but some nights dropping to 20 degrees, it feels as if Spring is trying to push open the door that February keeps trying to hold shut.

The chickens are starting to lay again and my Lenten rose is starting to bloom so that can only mean one thing: Easter is coming!

Lent and Easter are my favorite. Well, okay, some of my favorites. I’m really just a fan of all the holidays. Who doesn’t love an excuse to make fancy food and relax? But Easter always feels a bit extra special because of the hardship of Lent right before. The sacrifices sure make the victory that much more sweet. I have very fond memories of Lent and Easter growing up. Our Lent traditions were strict and the older we got the more strict they became. Not because our parents made it that way, we imposed them on ourselves because the journey of being shriven was undeniably gratifying and rewarding in itself. Rather than dreading it, I look forward to Lent every year. Our Lent doesn’t feel quite as strenuous as I remember it being at C and A’s age but I’m sure my perspective is warped by time. It might also be because the many of the typical Lenten foods abstained from are eggs, dairy, and oils which is our modi operandi around here 24/7. However, the older they get the more creatively stringent our Lents will become.

I’ve only added a few new things to our morning basket to reflect the season. Since Lent is so long I’m sure more spring related activities will be added later once we are in the swing of things.

To switch up art a little the kids will be working through some tutorials that we bought off of Art Hub For Kids. If you haven’t heard of them, check it out! They definitely been a highlight for A the past few years.

I’ve gotten out our Lent cross and cleaned it off, now I just need some nontoxic tapers for it. We light a new candle each week of Lent at dinner time and say some special prayers every night when they are lit. On Easter the candles get switched to all white.

We’ve used for our Lenten calendars for the past few years, and a new addition is that they have a Byzantine version now- neat! I also got a printable craft of the Last Supper for the kids to do. I’m looking forward to that as a new addition this year. I highly recommend Catholic Icing, she’s a great resource and has lots of freebies.

I was glad to pull out the kids Lenten blocks that we made a few years ago. Luckily, the personalized three categories of prayer, fasting, and alms giving still apply but I think this might be their last year before they have to be repainted; new prayers need to be memorized and I’m sure the kids would like the opportunity to think of other things to fast from. Even though our family gives up things and takes on things as a family unit for Lent, they get to roll these everyday to make the fasting season a more personal journey, until they can really guide themselves through prayers, fasting, and alms giving for 40 days.

I hope you enjoyed the wee tour of our Lenten basket folks! May you have a fulfilling and rigorous Lent.


February Morning Basket

I’m a little behind on sharing our morning basket for February but, better late than never, right? This is a short month for us, since I scheduled a week long break during this month, which means the morning basket does not have quite as many activities in it. Nevertheless, we’ve been keeping quite busy and loving the new materials.

The past few months I was inspired by my own personal struggles and decided to incorporate things I am currently learning into the kids schooling. I kept thinking to myself, “If I only knew that my body was sending me signals of distress and how to handle them sooner!” After much research I purchased an activity unit study about stress response that was designed for kids. I can’t recommend it enough, it is presented incredibly well. If only all people had this type of training as children, I can only imagine how much better the world would be, I know I wish I had! Check it out here. I spread the activities and reading out over a week but it could easily be used longer than that. For example, the posters I kept 8 1/2 by 11, laminated them, and have been reviewing them with the kids, as well as a belly breathing chart I made for the kids (and me!) to practice with. A and C took to it more than I thought they would and showed me how in tune with themselves they are.

We have been still using our art cards as inspiration for art discussion and drawing. The kids don’t seem to be tired of them and sketching is a nice way for them to keep busy while I read aloud. However, I’ve got my eye on some new ones, stay tuned.

We are listening to our gospel cd over again, and I am still really glad it’s part of the morning basket. It’s a great morning matcha companion for those of us that aren’t inclined to hit the ground running. The kids can listen while I stare off into the fire zoning out plan our day- school starts before I even change out of my pjs! Just kidding, I wear my pjs like all day.
The states and capitols have just about been mastered! I’m proud of the bigs!

My mom got us this gorgeous Panagia book. The illustrations of icons are so beautiful, the kids and I are loving looking at a page at a time and reading it together. Our trusty old poems book is still going strong. A has almost finished The Village Blacksmith and C has tackled about half of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere! They’ve each memorized about 6-8 poems since August.

This is an ugly but effective way to contain alllll our math flash cards. C is working through all the multiplication and division facts 1-12 and A is working on all the addition and subtraction facts for second grade. Hopefully, all of these will be memorized by next year.

I’ve added more games to our morning basket, just to start the day off on the right foot. Admittedly, it is difficult for me to make myself get to them every morning, but I am always so glad that I did. We alternate between memory and slapjack these days, both of which are so fun and provide good chances for sportsmanship practice. I’m not sure if IKEA still carries these memory cards, but if they do you should get them. They have really pretty pictures and are very sturdy.

Of course it would not be a good February morning basket without Valentines! I had this big elaborate plan to have Valentines made from scratch with doilies and glitter but…it was expensive and frankly, I got bogged down with other things. SO, Amazon to the rescue (like always) and we had some simple Valentines but got some great stickers to send out with them so I don’t think the kids felt too neglected. We did end up making a few homemade ones with the extra stickers which even C enjoyed despite not enjoying art very much.

I thought I’d give you a little sneak peak into Pickle’s school time basket. As with all toddlers, things have to mixed up quite often so I ended up getting a few new items for her basket.

Pardon the terrible photo, the natural light didn’t want to come out at all. The gray busy board is from my in laws and I just love it! It is a fantastic fine motor skills activity. The blue board is a wipe on wipe off board from ages ago that Pickle really likes to use over, and over, and over! I made those animal imitation cards for C out of 3×5 cards and masking tape and a sad little pipe cleaner, haha! What can I say, things were tight. I am proud of how well it is holding up though! P acts out the cards for Recitation. The Around the Farm book and little reader books are starting to grow on her. The Water Wow is just always such a winner as is the sticker book. She prefers to do those with people rather than on her own though. The dice in the middle was a gift from my friend years ago. It has a pocket with color coordinated cards that utilize fine motor and gross motor skills. Toddlers roll the dice then pick a card and act it out. It is a big hit with P! The little jar is full of leaping frogs that she is enjoying figuring out.

Well, I hope that you enjoyed this little peak into our mornings! I’m always looking for suggestions on school materials for our morning basket and things to keep a toddler busy, so let know if you have any ideas! I’m off to prep for freezer meals this weekend. I am doing some of our favorites this time, plus a new sweet potato shepherds pie recipe I’m really excited about, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a great weekend friends, cheers!

Field Trip Friday: Fort Nisqually Living History Museum

Located in the Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, the Fort Nisqually History Museum is just 30 minutes away from us and yet, this was the first time we’ve been there. We have been missing out! This was one of our best field trips yet! While most of the buildings on site are modeled after the real fort built in the 1830s, the history of the fort was so well preserved that the layout and details are historically accurate. A few of the buildings are the original buildings. The kids and I had so much fun, we could have stayed there all day. I cannot recommend this experience enough.

In my opinion, the fee for the four of us to go was very modest for the experience provided. The kids got a scavenger hunt with a small prize at the end, the employees were dressed in authentic period attire, and they were extremely kid friendly. I was very grateful for their relaxed demeanors with my particularly wiggly toddler as well as their willingness to explain aspects of the fort and their jobs. The employees go about their assigned job on the fort as if they really live there. We got to see them smoke some real ham in their smoke shed. The pig had been butchered on site a month ago and has been preserved in salt as the guy said, “We use everything but the squeal!” They did this just casually, it wasn’t a set up demonstration, we got a private show!

General store. This fort was a major trading post.

The buildings are set up with amazing period artifacts. The kitchen garden is actually used, and their lavender was being dried in a store room. It was just the coolest! By far one of the best things was the blacksmith shop. We watched them light the fire with flint and work iron right in front of us, all while in authentic attire and using a real 1830s forge!

Blacksmiths – these guys were amazing! They told great stories.
Drying lavender harvested from the garden
A lookout tower
Looking down on the store and blacksmith from a tower

When we saw they had chickens naturally we had to inspect them. They had the most gorgeous speckled Sussex rooster and we couldn’t get enough of him. C and I decided we need a speckled Sussex. Or two. Or five. No plastic watering or food holders here! They even kept the chicken coop authentic.

I mean… SO handsome right? It made us miss Lucas (our re-homed rooster) a lot 😢

While wandering around we came across a whole building full of 1830s children’s toys including some stilts which the kids were quite interested in. We didn’t notice till later that Pickle had pinched some of the glass beads used in one of the games but luckily we were able to return them after we found them clutched in her tiny fist a few buildings later. To be fair, they are the same type of bead that I hide in the sandbox for her to find so… understandable mistake. She will tell you otherwise however.

Most of the buildings had 1830s wood stoves actually in use and if you look at the photo above, you can see they chop all their wood on-site!

Kitchen and garden

You can see the outside of the kitchen and the garden in the photo above both. The garden is rather dormant right now obviously but the kitchen had something hanging from the rafters in it being processed for something, and I’ll tell ya, it smelled terrible. I always like to think I’m all hardcore and could live off the land but I’ll tell ya right now- NOPE. I don’t think I’d make it. The smell might be something you get used to but the other daily, let’s say, necessities is not something I’d handle well. There were several privy’s around the fort and while they are not in use I’ve gotta be honest, the pile of corncobs right next to seat ready to be used for wiping was a humbling notion for this pampered bum.

An old painting set being admired by my artist
This lovely woman asked if the kids would like to raise the flag! I then proceeded to give a mom-ily on why the flag has those colors and layout. I’m sure she appreciated it 😬

We had an incredible time at Fort Nisqually and I highly recommend checking it out, if you have kids in tow or not, it is a learning treasure trove for all! I plan on going back during one of their workshops on tin smithing or leather working later this year. I’d imagine it would be interesting to go during each season to see what the fort employees duties are. Let me know if you go, or maybe we will see you there!

Happy weekend friends! Cheers!


During my own homeschool years my mom always held what she called “Recitation” at the end of each school week. We have carried on this tradition and I find it an incredibly valuable homeschooling tool. So, what exactly is it? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary the this is what Recitation means:

rec·​i·​ta·​tion // ˌre-sə-ˈtā-shən

Definition of recitation

1: the act of enumerating a recitation of relevant details.

2: the act or an instance of reading or repeating aloud especially publicly.

3a: a student’s oral reply to questions b: a class period especially in association with and for review of a lecture.

And according to the Oxford Dictionary it means this;

1: an act of saying a piece of poetry or literature that you have learned to an audience.

I like both of these definitions because that’s exactly what Recitation means for us. The kids have an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in a way that doesn’t just boil down to grades on a sheet of paper. Letter grades can be a very limiting tool to gauge a students knowledge, particularly in the elementary school ages. Demonstrations, narrations, and memory work provide the kids (and me!) evidence of learning and skills mastered. So you’re not sure if you kiddo is learning history? Have them tell back to you what they know! Write it down and then let them read it at Recitation.

Our Recitation is every Friday night and the kids and I recently discovered something about each other- it’s our favorite day of the week! After collecting science projects, math tests, art work, history maps and projects all week, each child gets their stack to show Husband. They start with the poem they are working on memorizing, then usually they show him their math tests (if they have one that week) and talk about what was hard or what was easy. Then comes the science demonstrations where lab reports get read aloud and crafts or projects are shown to Husband. For example, sometimes the project is just weather data, and sometimes it a big project that’s been worked on all week like a diorama.

All Azelie’s science reports collected here for the year
Azelie’s science project demonstration the ocean zones. She flooded it with water at Recitation to show dad and make it “more realistic mom” 😉

Even Pickle has caught on and loves to show all her “glue” projects to Husband. Even if it’s the third time he’s seen them that week, haha! Lastly the kids usually read aloud their books reports for whatever reading they have been assigned or from books Husband and I are reading aloud. Occasionally, the bigs will also play a piano piece for Husband. Whomever is not giving their recitation is encouraged to be a good audience member and listen respectfully, although sometimes we get great conversations going about a school topic, which provides even more learning!

C and A are running for officer positions in 4H and have to make speeches so they will practice those all week and give them at Recitation in order to be all set for Monday

I highly encourage making Recitation a big deal even if you choose to only show case poetry. We commit to it each week, no matter what, even if we need to shift it to Saturday. This gives everyone some accountability for all of us and a sense of pride in our work. After Recitation we celebrate by having brownies and ice cream and watching a movie as a family- it’s just the best!

Our School is Everywhere

I bit the bullet and we spent a day in Seattle adventuring as a family. Understandably, Seattle can be a stressful place to visit these days due to restrictions and the general expensiveness, but I decided to not let my stress and apprehensiveness hold us back. So, after lots of prep and lots of planning, we headed out to the Museum Of History And Industry (MOHAI) and the Museum of Flight this past weekend. It’s tricky managing all the moving parts that it takes to get five people out the door, let alone making sure the animals and house are all set, but I was determined to make a day of it.

Head to Seattle early to get good parking and beat the coffee lines! Hint: Sunday = lots more free parking and less crowds than Saturday.

The MOHAI had been on my list for field trips this year because they are hosting the DaVinci exhibit (you can check out the details here). The goal was that this exhibit would enrich C’s science this year which is all about physics. It did not disappoint! In addition to the DaVinci exhibit, their history of Seattle compilation complemented the early modern time period we are studying which was a huge plus! The WW1 and WW2 displays were fantastic. We lucked out with the weather as it was a beautiful, clear day so we were able to walk around park and sit at the water eating our packed lunches. It was gorgeous! We definitely took advantage of the morning and spent 3 hours at the museum, waterfront, and walking a bit of Seattle.

Armed with note taking supplies, the Bigs are ready!
Pausing to take some notes
Chief Seattle and his family converted to Catholicism. This is his daughter’s rosary.
The kids thought this was pretty nifty!
Beautiful day
An 800 year old tree!
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked around Seattle, it was nice to be back.

After the MOHAI we packed up and headed to the Museum of Flight. We had been hanging onto some free passes I was given a year or two ago and decided to use them while we had valid negative Covid tests that we needed to get into places in Seattle, otherwise I would not have tried to do two museums in one day. The Bigs handled two museums just fine, but it took a big toll on Pickle who was a champ during our long day. As a consequence we didn’t spend more than an hour and a half at the Museum of Flight but it was still such a treat to go and see all the aircraft. Caidoc especially loves this museum.

We had the best time on our Museum Day and I am so grateful for the resources that surround us. Adventures like these really make me love homeschooling even more. Even if it seems intimidating, get out there friends! You’ve got this.


A Winter of Peace

The excitement of Christmas and the New Year is dwindling, but it left us with such grateful hearts. I was more than ready to get back to school after our longer than planned break due to getting sick. Something about those long breaks is just the opposite of peaceful- the kiddos get cantankerous let me tell ya!

Wooden gingerbread houses we made this year

I am trying to make our mornings more peaceful by starting school slowly in front of the fire all snuggled up. After our morning checklists which are some simple to-do’s for the Bigs, and my usual toddler care and breakfast prep, we start with the audio gospel from our trusty morning basket. That way I have time to run around doing a few quick chores such as baking bread or cleaning up breakfast, and usually squeezing in my spiritual reading and morning tea. See how it doesn’t seem all that peaceful? I’m working on slowing down, as my body is not appreciating it and I’m sure the kids don’t either.

My bestest bookends

Starting a fire in the morning has been incorporated for a few reasons; 1. I’m using it as a way to beat the winter blues, 2. C and A are learning how to build and start fires on their own, 3. C is learning how to chop wood, 4. The ash is beneficial for the chickens and the garden. It’s really nice to have C and A be old enough to take on more homesteading chores. C is just loving chopping wood for kindling daily! I was quite proud of them for helping me haul and stack 2 cords of wood. It was so fun and rewarding. These snuggly fires have been a game changer for all of us, we are all loving the routine and warmth.

C chopping kindling and A ready to stack

Part of making schooling more peaceful for us means making time for the fun stuff! The daily math, science, and language arts is so crucial to development, but so are our relationships and mental health. A great way for us to bond, relax, AND learn is by doing what I call “the fun stuff”; crafts, projects, child led discussions, etc.

Some of “the fun stuff” – A made this model of a WW1 trench all by herself

I am getting better at not sweating it when a concept is proving difficult for a child to grasp or when it seems like no one is remembering anything, but I have a long way to go. The pressure of homeschooling is very real. I am the bottom line for their education and while that is a great privilege, it also means I am responsible for preparing them for life. This is absolutely the most incredible, most worthwhile, yet hardest job on the planet. Usually, the best solution to a challenging school day for us is to walk it off. Literally. I will just announce that we are going for a walk and we hop on bikes or scooters and go. Sometimes it’s met with consternation but our daily walk (or bike ride or scooter ride) has become such a part of our routine that it’s usually a welcome respite that the kids will ask for to clear their heads.

New roller blades

Don’t I live a wonderful life? I am so grateful. Looking back at these pictures always reminds me of that. The days might not always be peaceful but they precious and man, they are going so fast. Maybe the biggest key to a peaceful day is that- remembering. Remembering that I only get to borrow these amazing and unique souls for such a little while. Remembering that I am so thankful for every snuggly, hectic, moment no matter what we are learning. I’ll bet if I can remember that, our minds and hearts will be just as peaceful as they come.

Advent Morning Basket

The days are short and packed. Advent seems much shorter as an adult than it did as a kid, I’ll tell ya 😉. I’m working on my energy levels, but these days it is a struggle. I recently got back a few disappointing medical tests, indicating that my autoimmune condition is not doing as well as I had hoped, and while I suspected as much, but it was worse than I thought. However, I am very grateful for the resources I have with medication, helpful advisors, and my supportive family. While I plan strategies for improving my symptoms, I’m thankful for the distraction of all our fun advent activities.

Our advent morning basket is one of the easiest to plan for since there are so many fun Christmas projects and learning activities! This is the advent calendar that I made when C was a baby. We put our Jesse Tree ornaments in the pockets, as well as a little card that has a Christmas carol to sing each day and a random act of kindness to perform. The pieces of our nativity scene are also spread out over the pockets so Pickle can add them to the stable that we have set up.

Advent Calendar
Jesse tree ornament
Laminated cards
A wise man for the nativity scene
Our Jesse Tree

Our elf Otto will sometimes bring something fun to do in the morning, like wooden ornaments to paint, or hot cocoa to make, and a new one this year is wooden gingerbread houses to assemble and paint! Nothing like a fun activity to start school off on the right foot. Otto is so smart and knows when I am feeling low ebb and it seems like he always has a activity handy for that day 😉 .

A note from Otto
Children put out shoes on the Eve of the feast of St. Nicholas and he fills them with treats. In our house it’s usually when the kids get new slippers for the winter too.
Doing one of our very favorite Advent random acts of kindness: candy cane bombing a parking lot!
Pickle did some too! She was very excited about it this year. And since you’re probably curious; yes, she won’t take off this Elsa costume these days. She is very into Frozen and Winnie the Pooh.

School can be so fun! A new project I’ve added to the morning basket this year is a fold out interactive booklet that describes the Catholic 12 days of Christmas. We are loving it! You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. They work a little bit on it each day and will be done by the last recitation of year so that they can show Husband.

We are assembling it in booklet form

Of course we are still working through our Catholic symbols book, focusing on the particular symbols and imagery found around Advent and Christmas, such as the Christmas tree, the (Roman Rite) advent wreath, and the Magi.

We use the Byzantine Advent wreath that is shaped as a star and marks the weeks of the St. Philip’s Fast, which is a longer period of Advent than the Roman rite. Lighting the candles is a tradition that usually takes place at dinner each evening and has its own set of prayers with it. However, the big kids are in faith formation class through our Roman rite parish so as homework they are also filling in this wreath during our morning basket time.

Besides all our fun Advent activities and traditions in our morning basket we continue with our regular math flash cards, state/capitol flash cards, gospel cds, and our art history book. Whew! It sounds like a lot, but it really only takes about an hour or hour and a half to do all our morning basket activities.

Otto reading some books to the other toys around the house!

C and A rocked their Christmas piano recital! Pickle was very excited to dress up.

This past fall was difficult for me physically, and now it seems that the winter will be too. And while I am discouraged that all my efforts have not improved my symptoms, I am also profoundly grateful for my life, subpar health and all. I have more capabilities and freedom than many people with autoimmune conditions. It feels contrary to be discouraged and grateful but I think physical suffering brings profound grace. Each day I take a walk with my kids in the fresh air and think, “This is such a gift and I will miss this so much someday”. It is those peaceful little moments that is more than enough to get me through any tough times I am having. I look forward to many small peaceful moments this Advent season and I hope you do too.


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