Monday, October 12, 2015

Keeping Company :: October Link-Up

Welcome to Keeping Company's October link-up, your chance to read and share posts about Charlotte Mason-inspired notebooking.  Thanks for visiting, and be sure to check back all month for inspiration.

And if you'd like to link to a Keeping post of your own, just follow the directions below!  We'd be happy to have you join us.

This has been a busy month on Instagram!  To share just a sampling of the lovely #KeepingCompanyCM entries that have rolled in over the past few weeks...


:: For bloggers: You should see the linky below.  Click on the "Add my link" button, and it will prompt you to include the information for your post.  Once you submit it, your link will be added to the list, and others will be able to click over and read what you have shared.

:: For Instagrammers: Tag related photos with #KeepingCompanyCM to join the link-up.  (You can also add individual Instagram photos via the linky if you prefer.)


:: Remember to link to a specific post and not to the homepage of your blog.  

:: Any posts about CM-style Keeping are welcome!  The prompt is optional.  Your post can be as simple as a photo of your commonplace book.  And please don't feel like you have to be an expert.  We are all looking to grow in these habits together. :)

:: Feel free to add more than one post.  The link-up will be open for a month, so you can come back and add more if you are so inclined.

:: You can grab the button over there on the sidebar if you'd like to add it to your post or site.

Thanks for giving us all a peek into the Keeping going on in your home this fall!

{This and That}

We are finished with term exams and have launched into Term 2.  Exam week went a little rockier than usual because we all got hit with a bad cold (me on down to the baby).  We got a nice light day of exams in on Monday and then crashed.  By the end of the week, the kids were well enough to take their exams back up again, but I wasn't well enough to administer any but the written portions and some audio-recorded questions.  It will be funny to look back on these recordings, with my barely-there voice and the kids' raspy, nasal replies.  So it was a lighter rounds of exams this time but still successful, I think.  I'll share more about them another day.

I always schedule a special teatime to celebrate the end of the term and of exam week, but this time I was too sick to manage it and the kids were asking me every few hours when we were having our treat a tad disappointed.  But we finally got around to it a few days later, when in my sick-and-tired state, I stumbled upon these at the store and popped them right into my cart:

It was the perfect post-nature study snack.  Thank you, Trader Joe's!


We read this line from Age of Fable today and I immediately thought of my girls:
"Their faces were not all alike, nor yet unlike--but such as sisters' ought to be."

I see very little resemblance other than hair and eye color, actually, but we get comments all the time on how similar they look.  (And often we're asked whether they are two sets of twins--I definitely don't see that!)

I took my girls for birthday treats (above) and then haircuts (below) this weekend and we had such a fun time.

I love that all four of my girls are old enough to enjoy a (very rare) outing alone with Mommy!

(And the short hair is perfect for the triple-digits weather we're having this week.  You know, just in time for fall. ;))


We also spent a few minutes over the weekend planning All Saints' Day costumes.  Since my due date is All Saints' Day, I'm not planning a party this year (like I have in the past), nor am I entirely sure we'll even make it out trick-or-treating the night before.  So I strongly encouraged them to pull out the ones from last year so that they don't get too disappointed if not much celebrating (other than Mass, of course) happens.  We went through the bin and are reusing all of them, so I just need to assemble a veil and crown for St. Bridget of Sweden and we should be set.

I am, however, promising them coloring pages and apple cider either way, and they can dress up all they like here at home!


Another bit from this week's reading that immediately struck me, this time a section on the brown pelican from O'Dell's The Cruise of the Arctic Star, which we're reading for California geography/history this year:
"Two years ago when you sailed along this part of the coast early in the morning, you would always find them skimming the sea, ten or twelve birds in a flight.  They flew without moving their wings, in a long glide and one after the other, along the line of the surf where the waves were just beginning to crest, so close to the water that they were at times covered with spray, touching the water now and again with the tips of their wings, so close that you marveled that they did not crash.  It seemed that they were not searching for food, nor were they on their way anywhere.  It was a flight of pure joy."

See that line along the horizon?  We comment on them just about every time we're at the shore.  They fly in single file all morning long and are beautiful to watch.


The cold put me behind a bit in my nesting plans, but I did get my big project for this pregnancy finished and I couldn't be happier about it.  I spent a long day cleaning out the garage, really for the first time since we moved into this house four years ago.  My saintly husband, who always puts up with my crazy nesting schemes, pulled down just about everything from our storage shelves so that I could sort through them, took a huge load to the dump, pulled another couple loads of donations and recycle to the curb for pickup, and just generally served as my heavy lifter.  It feels like we cut the garage clutter by half and I am so happy every time I walk through there that I almost don't even care that I haven't done much else on my nesting list yet.

Almost.  I'm a bit behind, but now that I'm not sick, I'm back on the warpath!  This week: sewing Christmas gifts, preparing Italian activities for Terms 2 and 3, and going through the filing cabinets.  Wish me luck!

(I know I have quite a few pregnant friends right now: anyone else in crazy-nesting-energy mode?)


Have I mentioned Mother Mary Loyola?  Oh, I have?  Like a thousand times? 

Well, I can't help but mention her again!  We just began Hail Full of Grace for my 4th graders' spiritual reading for Term 2 and it's fantastic.  The introduction alone ignited my kids' excitement about our daily rosary, and they are highly anticipating our journey through her meditations on the mysteries.  As always, the depth of her insights on the topic are rich and her writing both simple and literary.  And it's the perfect length to enjoy over a school term.  

I also picked up Forgive Us Our Trespasses for this Lent, which should coincide nicely with our Term 3.

(By the way, you can also find her works free online also!)


I'll be back early tomorrow with this month's Keeping Company link-up.  Looking forward to chatting about notebooking with all of you!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

{From My Commonplace}

"In a word, the nature and experience of things dictated to me upon just reflection that all the good things of this world are no farther good to us that they are for our use; and that whatever we may heap up indeed to give to others, we enjoy just as much as we can use, and no more.  I had now brought my state of life to be much easier in itself that it was at first and much easier to my mind, as well as to my body.  I frequently sat down to my meat with thankfulness and admired the hand of God's providence, which had thus spread my table in the wilderness ... and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them because they see and covet something that He has not given them.  All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have."

 -- from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Keeping Company :: October Invitation

Hello, friends, and welcome to October!  Popping in to invite you once again to our monthly link-up for all Charlotte Mason-style notebooking.  As always, thanks so much to those of you who have contributed to our September collection!  And if you haven't yet, what are you waiting for? ;)

Monthly Feature

Last month, I asked about notebooks other than the "Big Three," and several of you shared some rich and fun student-led options that have served as fodder for my own creative planning...

Kristyn and Carol both shared their children's foreign language notebooks, one with younger students learning Spanish and one with older students learning French .

Spanish notebook from Beraca Valley Academy
French notebook from Journey and Destination

Speaking of foreign languages, the students at My Peace in the Puzzle have been busy with a creative approach to note-booking word roots.

Roots notebook from My Peace in the Puzzle

And for a look at how a student's passion can drive his Keeping, check out Barbara's son's World War I notebook.  It's brilliant work and just the kind of project I love to see spring from my own kids' interests!

WWI notebook from Maria Magdalena Academy

This Month's Optional Prompt

The change in seasons always makes me feel a bit introspective, so I thought I'd ask a more contemplative set of question this month for this so inclined.

What part of Keeping do you find the biggest challenge--either personally or in encouraging Keeping habits in your children?  What part do you find the most enjoyable?  And further, for those that have been Keeping for a while now: what is the biggest benefit you have found to your Keeping over the years?  What has been the hardest habit to form or maintain long-term?

I'll be back here next Tuesday, October 13th, to post this month's link-up.  Until then, feel free to add your posts on any Charlotte Mason-style notebooking topic to the September page!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What We're Reading :: September

Sneaking in at the very end of the month with what we've been reading this September...

C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters (in bits here and there)
Pearl Buck's The Good Earth (for our local book club)
Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 and Macaulay's For the Children's Sake (for our CM study group using Brandy's Start Here)

To the Big Kids
Sewell's Black Beauty (just finished on audio--a Year 4 free read that I mentioned here)
Salten's Bambi (another Year 4 book--the three of us just finished reading it in tandem and I'll have more to say about it soon!)
Speare's The Sign of the Beaver (put this on hold to finish Black Beauty, so we're still at the very beginning)

Vincent, age 9
Seredy's The White Stag (a re-read)
Masefield's Jim Davis: A High-Sea Adventure (free for Kindle!)
Pyle's The Book of Pirates (another birthday book)

Gianna, age 9
Pierson's Among the Forest People
MacDonald's The Light Princess (MacDonald is a big favorite of hers)
Nancy Savage Carlson's A Brother for the Orphelines (with lovely illustrations by Garth Williams)

To the Middles (Cate, age 6, and Xavier, age 5)
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and The Complete Beatrix Potter Treasury (our scheduled Year 0 books)
Neumann Press' First Communion Days (I'm half reading this and half letting them listen to the Librivox audio)
For this week's reading lessons: Stevenson's "The Cow" (for Cate) and the first set of Bob books (for Xave)

To the Littles
Zimmerman and Clemesha's Trashy Town (one of the Big Kids' favorites when they were obsessed with the trash truck -- I picked this up with Xave in mind but my girls giggle like crazy over Mr. Gilly!)
McLerran and Cooney's Roxaboxen (a long-overdue new addition to our home shelves)
Hall and Cooney's Ox-Cart Man (their current favorite from Xavier's kindergarten shelf)

In the mailbox...
A couple of my longtime PaperbackSwap wishlist books finally came up, so it was nice to get those in the mail this month, along with another batch from my favorite Instagram sellers.  And there are a couple in the middle from the new for-sale table at Mass and a couple library sale rack finds too:

All About Moths and Butterflies (to add to my collection of All About books, which are sadly oop)
de la Mare's Rhymes and Verses
Buff's The Apple and the Arrow
Weils' Red Sails to Capri
Bishop's Twenty and Ten (from the AO list of free reads)
de la Mare's The Voice (haven't had a chance to look through this one yet)
Komroff's Marco Polo (we used the free Towle version when my Big Kids went through Year 3, but I'm looking forward to trying this one for Cate in a couple years)
Pope's Reptiles Round the World (a cheap garage sale find from last weekend)
Go In and Out the Window (finally got to the front of the line at PaperbackSwap for this one!)
My Catholic Faith (the vintage text our Traditional Latin Mass community uses for catechism--lovely!)
Tan's A Manual of Practical Devotion to St. Joseph (on my list for a long while)
a Botticelli book for art study images
The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems (because I can never pass up a nicely-illustrated poetry anthology)
The Fireside Book of Love Songs (because I can never pass up a vintage songbook!)

We also brought some new books into the home for my birthday girls...but I'll save those for next month. :)

What are you reading lately?  Any fun garage sale scores or boxes in the mail?

Monday, September 28, 2015

{This and That}

Well, we are finished with Term 1, and so far so good!  My new narrator started out a bit shaky but has shown great improvement over the past month, my Year 4 students are rising to new academic challenges, and my kindergartener's only complaint is for me to do math and reading every day with him rather than just twice a week each.  We are still on track with the overview I posted at the beginning of the year, so I haven't had to make many adjustments to our plans yet.

But I have made adjustments to our daily schedule--or at least how often we use it!  When we're home, our daily schedule is working wonderfully.  But with three days out of the house each week (plus another morning consumed by piano and art lessons), I am having a difficult time fitting in all I need to do.  So it's not so much changing that schedule as relying on our weekly checklist more than our daily schedule for the time being.  We're getting things smoothed out as I get used to more car-schooling and weekend work.  It's a short-lived stage, though, and besides, I wouldn't trade our beach days for anything!

But the funny thing is that when this baby arrives and we're back at home most days of the week, I think it will actually be easier to fit in our schoolwork rather than more difficult, as it usually is with a newborn.  So go figure.

This week we're doing exams and next week we'll jump into Term 2.  I'll be posting our Term 2 Morning Basket plans soon!  Some selections will spill over from Term 1 but most will be new.


We have three September birthday girls in our house: Bridget's was earlier in the month, Gianna's birthday was last week, and Clara's is this week.  That means lots more books in the house! ;) But more about that another day, after Clara opens hers and I can share some photos.

Most of Gianna's other gifts centered on a theme...

Lots of writing goodies!  She has always been an eager writer, and although we don't do much writing for school (just one written narration a week), she uses a lot of her free time in that pursuit.  She's currently busy writing a stage version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  And a few short stories about princesses (who happen to all have lots of siblings).  And some Redwall fan fiction.  And letters to penpals.  And a list of spiritual resolutions.  And a prayer book!  Like I said, she keeps very busy.  I enjoyed writing as a kid too, and so I find that part of her personality very fun.

And do you see the quote on those notecards?  I didn't even notice, but she did right away and remarked with a grin, "That sounds just like something he would say."  Ha.


To mark the beginning of fall, I wanted to share a few of our favorite fall picture books from a few years ago.

It's still in the 90s here, but we won't talk about my feelings on that.


Thanks to that hot weather, however, we had a picture-perfect day at the beach last week...

It reminded me of a Carnival Cruise ad.  That is if people with piles of small children went on cruises.  I have a feeling we're not quite their target market.

But my kids loved checking out the "ocean liner," as they called it.  Where is that term from, by the way?  Byron BartonLois Lenski?  Richard Scarry?  It feels old-fashioned to me, but I can't place where they picked it up.

ETA: Nevermind, I asked Vincent and he grabbed the culprit from the shelf: Lippman's Busy Boats!


My husband and I were talking about how I used to crimp my hair as a girl (dating myself as a child of the 80s/90s here), and Gianna was wondering what crimping was.  I told her it was a method of curling hair and was just a fad from when I was younger.

Then she asked. "What's a fad?"  I tried to think of an example she would understand, and I was surprised that the only one that came to mind was the wigs worn during the Revolutionary Period.

No, no, we are not stereotypical homeschoolers at all. ;)


With our recent trips to the beach, we've been listening to a lot of audiobooks.  We just finished Black Beauty last week.  Halfway through, my husband finally said, "Wow, this is really a downer."  Ha!  It really had been up to that point!  Thankfully it ended happily.  But I feel like it should have a warning on the cover: "An equine Oliver Twist."  (It probably didn't help that our book before that was Pollyanna.)

I can't decide what we'll listen to next.  I just requested Peter Pan (a re-listen for us from Year 1) and The Railway Children (from Year 4, but the big kids have already read it on their own) from the library to have on deck.  But what I really want to listen to next is Swallows and Amazons.  It's the only Year 3 free read we didn't get to last year simply because our library doesn't own the audio, and I feel like it will benefit from a good reading with a nice British accent. ;)  I am hesitant to buy it before previewing or at least hearing raves from people I trust.  So, friends: Swallows and Amazons on audio--worth buying?


I wrote last week all about our nature study group's plans for this year.  One thing I forgot to mention is my favorite advantage of meeting in a group, whether for focused study or just exploration: the conversations.

As an example of the kinds of chat that make me very thankful for our group of interested moms and students, I'll share an ongoing "wondering" from the past couple weeks:

:: One of the moms notices that some of the live oak acorns have sap within the cap that oozes out and onto the picnic tables below.
:: I (showing my cluelessness here) wonder if all acorns have sap--maybe it's just something I've never noticed?  Maybe the sap is the agent that releases the nut from its cap?
:: We look at different examples and find that some have sap and some don't.  Hm.
:: I look it up online when I get home and read about "drippy nut syndrome," which happens to target the particular variety we're looking at (coast live oak).
:: I bring that information to the group, and we check if any of the acorns from the other oak variety we're watching (valley oak) has the same problem.
:: A friend then notices that the valley oak doesn't seem to have any acorns at all--just the caps!  Hm.
:: And we notice that the walnuts there also are not bearing fruit either, although the ones near my house have plenty of nuts already.  Hm.
:: And then another mom notices that the blackest live oak acorns seem to have the most sap--they're practically drenched in it.  So is the disease turning the acorns black?  Or are they riper than the other acorns and therefore have had more time to get drippy?  Hm.
:: Then today I get a text from a friend with a "mystery acorn" photo and a request for me to share the website I mentioned to her distinguishing all the various live oaks in the area.  (And no, this acorn didn't have sap.)

And it just continues from there!  We often generate more questions than answers, but it's nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of.

I think it's great too for kids to see their mom and other kids and adults wondering, researching, and taking an active interest in nature study.


After I shared some picture book favorites a couple weeks ago, a sweet homeschooling e-friend whom I really admire asked if we had Roxaboxen on our shelves since we had a couple other Cooney titles listed.  I said we didn't and would add it to our Christmas list.  Well, guess what arrived in the mail a few days later?  Thank you, Kimberlee!  Her daughter even decorated the envelope with ink drawings of "things that fly"--birds and helicopters and more.  The best.

(Psst: if you haven't checked out Pondered in My Heart yet, do yourself a favor and head over.  This Catholic homeschooling family is full of amazing artists and musicians doing all sorts of lovely living and learning.  One of her daughters is an illustrator of children's books, and they also have a family Etsy shop with many charming wares.  It has been one of my favorite blogs for years.)


Thank you for the wonderful posts linked so far at this month's Keeping Company collection.  I'm also noticing lots of new people tagging #KeepingCompanyCM over on Instagram--keep them coming!  It is so inspiring to see your work.  I'll post the new month's invitation next week!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nature Study Outing :: This Year's Nature Group

I haven't posted much about our nature study outings lately, which is rather strange because we have been spending more time exploring outdoors than ever!

The timing has been perfect for adventuring: the beaches are less crowded now that kids are back to school, the weather is still summery, and we don't yet have a newborn in tow.  And as I mentioned before, my husband's schedule also just got way more flexible, so he's available to come along with us or keep the toddler at home while I take the bigs.  Ideal!

So for the past couple months, we've been going to the beach a couple times a week with my husband and then hitting our regular weekly nature study outing with friends too.  I am soaking up the many outdoor hours before the weeks of hibernation that the new baby may bring.

More on our latest beach finds another time.  Today I want to talk about how we're structuring this year's nature study outings with friends.


We have been doing a weekly nature study group outing faithfully for several years now.  Old friends have left and new friends have joined over the years; right now we have a fairly big group of local homeschoolers interested in Charlotte Mason's methods, and I can't describe what a treat that has been!

Our group has run differently depending on the families and the seasons.  One year, we arranged topical lessons for our littles and met somewhere new each week.  Another year, we were completely open-ended and let the kids run wild the whole time, always at the same county park.  Whichever way, we've always learned much more than I expected and had lots of fun.  The keys for us have been to refrain from too much "talky-talky" (love that CM term!), to encourage exploration and discovery, to provide some structure but not so much that it becomes a chore, to create a littles-friendly environment (most of us have toddlers along too), and to make it happen.  (That last one is the most important one of all.)

This year, our group has a wide range of ages involved (high schoolers down to newborns), and my kids are getting a bit older and are ready for some lightly-scheduled study.  But the two of us informally charged with organizing the meetings were both due with fall babies (my friend had hers a few weeks ago, and I'm due in a few weeks with mine), so we needed something simple.

We decided to choose a focus for the year--trees--and spend one outing a month on that focus.  At our August and September meetings, we introduced six of our local native trees, ones most of the kids were familiar with from previous study.  In each subsequent month, we'll make notes on changes, and we'll also consider things like oak galls, insects and birds that nest in those trees, branching patterns, lichen, leaf structure, and more.  All the children--and the moms too!--bring their journals and spend some time nature journaling.  After that 20-30 minutes, they're free to run around and discover on their own.


On the other 3-4 weeks of the month, we don't have a planned lesson.  But a smaller group of us still meet at the same spot, explore, observe, and chat about our findings, then do our nature journals at home afterward.  I'll admit, I personally privilege these meetings over the other kind because the kids just seem to find the most amazing things:

For example, after our journaling session for this month, during which we sketched the shape of our trees before they lose their leaves, two of the boys spotted a dead red-eared slider legs up in the pond and hauled it out for everyone to take a look at.  You can imagine the excitement that produced...though we moms were a little concerned it might explode at any moment because it was so bloated!

keeping their distance!

On another of our "off weeks," a few of the kids spotted this garden spider among the reeds at the pond's edge.  And then, wouldn't you know it, we read about epeira just a few days later in Fabre's Story-Book of Science!

Another week, they found a dead but well-preserved Anna's hummingbird.  We were able to look at the amazing iridescence on the feathers up close.

And perhaps our rarest spotting from the last few months: a piano!

I didn't even need my field guide to help identify that one. ;)

Several weeks this summer were spent catching (and releasing) tadpoles, minnows, water boatmen, frogs, mosquito larvae and more.  The kids have scooped half-eaten crawfish from the creek to take a closer look.  They have listened to the kingfishers call to each other from the cottonwoods that line one side of the pond to the sycamores that line the other.  They have watched a palm-sized bullfrog tadpole skirt the banks.  They have built forts with dried reeds, then wondered what kind of reeds they were.  They have walked through poison oak more times than I can count (no reactions yet, somehow!).  They have noticed when all the coyote mint was in bloom and waited for the stems of the water smartweed to turn red.  They have scattered seeds from the sedge, watched the rangers prune the field, wondered at the curly fireweed pods, seen spittle bugs for the first time, and so much more.

And my Baby Girls come running to me with "treasures" (empty snail shells, cracked acorns, or bits of peeled-off sycamore bark) asking if I can "please bring it home to draw" every week.

No matter how many times we frequent this spot, and no matter whether we have something planned or are just venturing out to explore in the fresh air, we always learn something new.


So that's enough from me.  How has nature study been going for your family this year?  Are you meeting with a group?  Do you prefer exploring on your own?  How often do you incorporate formal study versus casual walk-and-talk?  Do you journal in the field or at home afterward?  I'm always looking for ideas to try out with our local friends, so please do share!

I hope to go back to regular little nature updates here, and I'll definitely write soon about what we've seen lately on our beach trips.  Hint: some new birds, another trip to the aquarium, and more connections to Madam How and Lady Why!