Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ecce Diem... Autumn

"I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson

If I accomplish anything in parenting, I hope it is that I encourage and help my children develop a strong curiosity about the world outside their own small, tidy little boxes. In our ever-changing, technology-filled world, we have all the information we could ever want right at our fingertips. We don't have to look very far. But what really makes our life journey worthwhile?

"How many people spend their entire lives striving for something with their nose to the grindstone only to wake up one day to realize they haven't really lived at all. You can never surf the same wave twice; you only get one shot at it. Yesterday is not coming back." The Road to Sparta by Dean Karnazes

My first phenology wheel—a daily wedge of nature.

I serve as her guide, but my daughter does her own thing.

I'm no artist and neither is my daughter, yet we thoroughly enjoy finding something each day that causes us to ponder, wonder, explore, and record. I'm opening up our nature journals to your (hopefully not too) critical eyes because I passionately want to provide some encouragement about embracing nature and studying something of beauty each day; examining something uniquely intriguing that is right there on your path.

"The question is not what you look at but what you see." Henry David Thoreau

She enjoys combining and blending colors.

Mary's interpretation of dogwood leaves.

We spend some time each day developing our powers of observation and also our journaling skills. We experiment with different mediums and techniques; always being aware of the gift of individuality; always remembering that we are daily growing and finding our expressive voices.

"Everyone has a sprout of talent. Developing that sprout into a wonderful ability depends on how it is cultivated." Ability Development from Age Zero by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Experimenting with word placement.
Oil pastels

We try to capture the mood of the day and change how we look at our specimens. 

We hammered wildflowers and came up with this.
She felt that the leaf was glowing.
Adding some poetry.

Nature journaling has opened up my world; more specifically, my appreciation—my daily awe and fascination. It allows me to literally stop and smell the roses. But it has also opened up a path for me to guide my children down, one that they will hopefully continue to travel on throughout their lives.

"I have to learn the habits of adoration intentionally—to get out of my head and stop to notice the colors in my daughter's eyes or the sound of rain on our back porch." Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Mimicking nature is no small task.

Playing with the background.

"Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better." Albert Einstein

Over the years, I have learned that making an effort to appreciate the natural world each and every day and to marvel at something beautiful makes life's journey much more gratifying and interesting. Journaling has underscored the fact that so much of life—creation—is unknown and possibly even unknowable. Explore the shadows.

"I can't do anything about the state of the world, but I can put my own life in order.
Liturgy of the Ordinary

We're working on shadowing.

My biggest inspiration has come from the book Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. "Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you. That is the essence of the process... Don't judge your drawing. You are not an artist yet." Aww... that takes the pressure off and brings me back to remembering the purpose of this habit.

I'm finding that I like to tell a story when I journal. It helps me remember.

This season, my life is full of changes. I have a new, precious granddaughter. I have a struggling adult son. I have a teenage daughter adjusting to her first year in public school. And, as of last week, I no longer have any children homeschooling. Change is good but often unsettling.

"And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment in this presence." Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Ecce diem—Behold the day.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Ecce Diem...Summer

The girls are getting older and so am I. We all worked extremely hard during the past school year. They moved up a few notches academically and I mentored six homeschooled 8th graders in all their subjects. Whew! We needed a break. So when June came along, we put away the school books and set out to enjoy whatever came our way.

Now a-days, our older 14-year-old daughter's enjoyment comes mainly through being with her friends and I understand that. Thankfully, our 11-year-old daughter still loves the outdoors, exploring nature, Monarch butterflies, and being with me. I embrace this daily. These times are fleeting. (I know... I have adult children.)

Our 2017 summer nature project involved monthly showcasing the flowers in our backyard. In the Spring, we planted some wildflower seeds very randomly and have enjoyed discovering new beauties almost daily.

I want to share our pressed flowers with you and tell you how we created these pictures. I like to keep things simple and that is what this is.

Each month, we spent some time picking our favorite blooms right from our own backyard. We tried to identify them and find their scientific names. This is easier said than done and I often snapped a picture of a flower and posted it to the Facebook group Plant Identification for help. In just a few seconds, I had my answer. Amazing. We also looked up the plant names from the wildflower seed bag and matched the flowers with the pictures.

Our pressing technique is pretty straight forward — flowers in between two sheets of paper flattened out in the pages of heavy books with a heavy object on top. This works for us.

Over the next few days ... weeks, Mary prepares her display surfaces. We cut regular, common watercolor paper purchased at Walmart into our desired sizes. To fit our frame, we cut the paper into pieces roughly 5x3. She then takes her time creating the backgrounds for her pressed flowers. We watched several watercolor wash tutorials on YouTube so that she could learn some techniques. She not only practices those but makes up some of her own. I just let her enjoy. (I get my hands into it too.) These need to dry and then they join the flowers to get pressed flat for a day or two.

Now for the really fun part. After a couple of weeks, Mary takes a look at her flowers (now all flat and dry).  Uh-oh, looks like she pressed more than just a flower this time. 😳

She makes some choices and starts gluing them onto the watercolor paper (also flat and dry).

While she's busy gluing, I have fun practicing some illuminated lettering.

By paying attention to the sizes and the colors, she places the flowers in the best spots; on the best color of paper in order to highlight each one. Rubber cement works well because it dries fairly quickly and the excess can be rubbed off. A layer of Mod Podge finishes them off. We're hoping that the Mod Podge will preserve their colors a little bit.

Now it's time to write the names and keep our fingers crossed that we got them all right. We just finished up August and left this step out. She just didn't have it in her. Sometimes it's perfectly okay to do something just for fun and not for its educational value. I often have to remind myself of this.

This whole thing was inspired by a frame given to Mary from my husband's secretary. It's designed to hold eight photos on two strings by mini clothespins inside a white frame. I took the back off so that the outside sunshine could shine through. I love how they all have looked standing on the windowsill of our living room window. I know that similar frames can be bought online and would actually be pretty easy to make with a frame, some string, and a little bit of hot glue. I think I'll try that sometime.

I adore all of these but I think that May is my favorite. Perhaps because it was the first one we did or maybe because Spring flowers make me happy. Which do you like the best?

As we replace the pictures each month, Mary takes the last month's pressings and glues them into her nature notebook. 

It will be fun to look back on these and remember the Summer of 2017. We're still enjoying our summer project from last year!

One of my main objectives during these all too short years I get to spend with these precious souls is to instill the habit of appreciating each day and finding something beautiful in everything and everyone. The world can use a little bit more of this. So... Ecce diem! Behold the day!


Monday, August 7, 2017

Gearing Up

It's the beginning of August and I actually can feel Autumn in the air. I'm also feeling the urge to get my act together and get organized. Over the years, I've found that I desperately need a plan; a schedule, so this year I'm assembling and recording my various resources in blog form. This will provide me with a convenient spot to refer to, make changes, and update through the year. This should help me remember all the resources that I plan to use. I always print out my blog entries putting them in a notebook. Hopefully, the girls will look back on these days with fond memories.

This year marks a big change for us. Grace will be attending our public high school—9th grade—and so, sweet Mary will get all my attention during the school day. I have some great plans ahead and am looking forward to an interesting year. Maybe there's something here that will interest you.

We've been successful with Saxon Math so we will continue on. Mary is finishing up Saxon 6/5 and will proceed to 7/6. We love math games and try to play a few every week. We also enjoy doing some critical thinking/logic activities. This Building Thinking Skills book has been with us for a couple of years and this year we'll tackle The Basics of Critical Thinking. Since we do these other brain training activities, sometimes we spread the Saxon lesson over two days.

I'm changing it up a little this year by adding Latin into Mary's English Grammar study. I'll be writing weekly lesson plans incorporating numerous resources. Feel free to follow along if this sounds like your cup of tea. Here is my blog site. Carpe Diem
The resources I'm using are the following:
I know that's a lot of stuff, but I love grammar so much of this study is for me. 😜

Since Mary is in our CC community's Essentials class, she will go through Pudewa's IEW curriculum again but I am planning to tweak it a bit. In the past, I've been intrigued with Brave Writer. This year I decided it was time to give it a try. We'll work through the Arrow curriculum that I bought last year. I'm excited for Mary to work on her grammar, punctuation, spelling, and writing skills by way of reading worthwhile books. She will also keep a daily journal which will be completely her own. She'll do her freewriting here.

I'm excited about this year's history study. We'll focus on American History using CC's history sentence as a general guide. I'm planning to read A Young Person's History of the United States as a read aloud. We'll also work through Kid's Discover American History. One book that we read three years ago is Two Miserable Presidents. This book was not just informative, but extremely entertaining. It will be on our list again this time around. (He has one about King George that's good too.) As we're doing this, we'll study our own state's history, charting US events along with WV history on a visual timeline. We're going to spend some time traveling to different places in our state as we learn about them. I'm not native to WV; consequently, I didn't learn WV history as a child. 

Science is Mary's thing. This year I have an actual curriculum to guide us and provide hands on experiments to follow. We've already started The Building Blocks of Science. So far, so good. It has an interesting student text, well-explained experiments to support the text, and a lab notebook. We also have maintained nature notebooks over the years which we'll continue. We record our observations, identify and press flowers, practice drawing and using watercolors, and copy nature poetry. Exploring Nature with Children has been a helpful resource through the years and my personal favorite is Keeping a Nature Journal. Mary is also planning to get involved with our local robotics program. She's looking forward to that.

I want to focus on American poets while reading and copying their poetry. Mary will memorize and recite some of these works.  Along with the books that she'll be reading from the Brave Writer curriculum, I'll include a few of my own choices. Some of these will be from the Challenge A reading list. I also found a book list at Build Your Library that I'll draw from. She'll make at least one entry in her commonplace notebook each week.

I want to make it a priority to find the time for a weekly art project. I think art is so important in brain development. Last time through Cycle 3, I used Great American Artists for Kids for some inspiration. I'll use this again but I did find another website that has many options. Hmmm... Maybe we'll get started and try one of these projects this week. Middle school art lessons. In addition to Mary's piano lessons, we're going to research American composers learning about their music as we move through our history lessons. I also think that it will be interesting to discover the different genres of music specific to each time period.

As I finish writing this, I see that we have a packed year ahead. Of course, some of this will change as we go along, but I feel that I found some great resources to work with. I hope you all have a wonderful and fulfilling year. If you have any questions about these products or are just wondering how we're getting along, feel free to email me at


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rising to the Challenge

I'd like to share some thoughts with you on how I take a genius middle school curriculum—Classical Conversations Challenge A and B—and make it work for a younger student. Who says we can't borrow from the future? I do it all the time! Maybe I can spark some of you to do the same. Most the resources that I'm going to mention can be bought at the Classical Conversations bookstore. If you have older students in Challenge, you probably already have these on your shelves and also a couple of guides to refer to.

We've used Saxon Math from homeschooling Day 1, nine years ago. It has served us well but with my younger daughter, I'm tweaking it a bit. I add in lots of Math games—games I used when I tutored Essentials and also ones I used in my Challenge B class. Quick Flip Arithematic is brimming with math card games of various levels. There's also tons of free games online just waiting to be downloaded. I test them out on my 5th grader before my Challenge B students get their brains on them. She helps me with the fine tuning and enjoys every minute of it. Because of this, she's a whiz with negative numbers (a concept her Saxon book hasn't covered fully yet) and knows her math facts inside and out. Fibonacci numbers are another passion of ours. We keep math up year round having fun with Kahn Academy on days that we only want a little bit of independent, relaxed review.

My daughter is enrolled in Essentials, but we started learning English Grammar years ago. She was ready and so was I. Our Mother Tongue is a wonderful tool for learning grammar along with diagramming. I love all the history it shares in its sidebars. If you need an extra boost with diagramming, Grammar and Diagramming Sentences is a great resource. It provides more sentences to diagram when the Essentials guide isn't enough. We also spent a year with the IEW Fix-It curriculum. A link to IEW is found in the list at the bottom of CC's home page. By starting young with English Grammar, I not only helped my daughter, I helped myself.

Latin can also be introduced before the Challenge years. I like to sneak Latin into our English Grammar studies. This upcoming school year (6th grade) I'll get my daughter started with Henle Latin. We'll also watch some of the Visual Latin DVDs. Dwane Thomas is funny and makes sense. CC Connected has some of these videos in the Challenge Tier's Classical Learning Center as well as many other helpful videos to aid in learning Latin. Visual Latin can be bought through Compass Classroom or Roman Roads Media. Both links are on Classical Conversation's home page. Beginning this August, I'll be sharing my weekly plans as we learn Latin through English Grammar. I have my Week 1 plans ready to preview. Check out my link. If you think it looks interesting, please follow along with me in my adventure.

As far as literature goes, she'll read some of the books available through both Challenge A and B. It won't hurt her to have already read and narrated these before she hits the Challenge years. My personal favorites (and so the ones she will read) are Amos Fortune, Number the Stars, Little Britches, The Hiding Place, and Where the Wild Fern Grows. In fact, these will probably be read-a-loud books.

We've discovered a couple of other parts of the Challenge curriculum that are user-friendly for younger students. One is the digital logic lessons in the back in Intermediate Logic. This introduction to binary numbers and logic circuits is intriguing and has given us the desire to learn coding—something we're going to tackle this summer. If you have access to this curriculum, check out the last lessons. Unfortunately, the Challenge B students aren't assigned this section during the school year. What a shame. These are worth doing at home with the family.

And last but certainly not least, all ages can gain a basic knowledge of atoms, the periodic table, and bonding through Discovering Atomos. This is a light Introduction to Chemistry offered in Challenge B. We've thoroughly enjoyed this short study coupled with a basic molecular bonding set. It's a fantastic start into this area of Science.

Even if your student doesn't fill the age requirements of the various classes offered in CC, you can still take advantage of their rich resources and start some of the studies at home. And if you really want to tap into something wonderful, subscribe to CC Connected's Challenge Tier. Dive into the Classical Learning Center. There's enough great stuff in there to last a lifetime.

I strive to make learning fun and always take time for the things my daughter loves: cooking, playing the piano, Legos, just "messing" around with her stuffed animals, and making robots. Childhood is such a small part of a lifetime...

To sum all this up, one of my personal parenting goals is to offer my children/students what they need when they need it. It doesn't hurt to work ahead if that's where the interest lies, especially when the curriculum is right at our fingertips.


P.S. A variation of this article was originally published in Classical Conversations' Writer's Circle. Subscribe and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I wish I could say that we started homeschooling after much time spent in prayer, but the truth is...
we were scared.
We somehow managed to see four of our children graduate from public high school. 
My heart still achesThey did not thrive. 
Neither did we.
This second time around we took a plunge.
and were swept away... 
Homeschooling changed us. 
We became smarter parents. 
Sounder people. Stronger Christians.

Well, I've been afraid of changin' 'cause I built my life around you, but time makes you bolder; children grow older. I'm getting older too.
—Stevie Nicks

Once upon a time, I was a public school student.
I wish I could say that I was dream child, 
but the truth is...
I was a leader, student, friend, follower, slacker, traitor.
High school exposed me to differences and I learned to appreciate them. 
It was there I began to understand that we are all more the same 
than we are different.

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
—Ernest Hemingway

I wish I could say that I always listen to God's voice; always follow his path, 
but the truth is...
I'm a mere atom. 
A fragment of God's vast creation.
Electrically charged
bouncing between negative and positive
seeking balance.
His footprints surround me. 
Always felt... but often invisible.

There is a time for everything and a season for everything under the heavens.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1

I wish I could say that homeschooling continues to satisfy our needs, 
but the truth is...
Our season is changing.
Our teenage daughter wants more.
Academia is enlightening. 
She wants friends, activities, a life unique to her. 
She's ready to learn about her world 
about relationships and figure out 
how to develop them
how to maintain them 
and sometimes... 
how to shed them. 
I remember myself at her age. 
All those times—both good and bad— I shared with my childhood friends.
These are factors that have affected my worldview.

I am what I am.—Popeye

I wish I could say that I'm the best teacher our girls could have, 
but the truth is...
I'm no Socrates. 
As their teacher, I study hard and prepare well.  
I know that struggling makes the learning all the sweeter and I so love the learning, the struggle, the teaching. 
it's not about me. Unfortunately.
There have been many times that I haven't been able to fully explain or engage my daughter in the subject matter.
She wants to know, and we don't always find the answer.
We need a bigger village.

People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.—Anne Sullivan

I wish I could say that our daughter is content to stay home, 
but the truth is...
Our daughter needs to fly.
And here's where the fear creeps in again. 
Will we lose her heart if we let her go? 
Will she succumb to temptations too hard to resist? 
Will she be strong enough to keep her faith in God? 
It's safer to keep her under our direct control than to loosen the reigns.
But when will she stretch her wings?
When will she know who she is unless she experiences some of what she is not?
It's time to let go of fear and grab on to trust.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

When August 2017 rolls around, 
we'll be seeing yet another child off to public high school.
This time we're sending a child who has a healthy home life. 
United parents. A solid educational foundation. strong faith. 
I wish I could have said that when my firstborn was beginning 9th grade 
some 20 years ago.

I often wonder... 
Is there only one path 
only one way that I'm lead 
by His footprints? 
Do His steps ever
shift or veer 
leaving choices for me to discern 
each equally pleasing to Him?

No man should bring children into this world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education.—Plato

Her day will be changed. Varying lifestyles. 
Different values. Conflicting beliefs. 
Are those things to be feared?
We believe they're to be embraced. 
God created and cares for each of us.
He wants us to do the same. 
Nurturing. Respecting. Loving one another. 
Even those who are different.
Why not begin as a child?

Appreciate your uniqueness.
—Captain Kangaroo

Our children will only be home with us a few more short years. We want to help them navigate this sometimes puzzling world.
To have some space.
To explore what makes them tick.
To partake in trial and error.
To begin to create their own world views singular to their God-given personalities
ones of purpose and commitment.

We're want to be the wall they cling to when they need a stronghold and the wall they push from when rested and ready to swim again.

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.—Anne Frank

We have one more child still hanging tightly to her wall. She's not ready to let go, yet. When that day comes (as we know it will) there will be no fear because through years of ups and downs, we have finally learned... 

The only thing to fear is fear itself.—FDR

Still—even after all this rambling—the feeling in my heart is bittersweet as I'm facing the end of officially homeschooling this child. I really have no idea what will happen over the next few years but... we will follow His lead.

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading.
—Oswald Chambers


P.S. As my wonderfully wise husband/friend/soulmate often says
remember that today is not the end of the story. 😉
To be continued...

I share some thoughts about The Wall and other things on my new blog venture Threads of my Tapestry. Take a peek.