Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Keeping Company :: February 2016

Welcome to the Keeping Company link-up for February!  I have so enjoyed looking through the beautiful nature journal and commonplace entries over on Instagram this month (lots of new participants!) and reading the thoughtful blog posts on what's going on in your notebooks this new year.  Speaking of...

In the Past Month

I know a lot of you made Keeping-related resolutions and I love how they showed in the posts shared in January.  So many worthy pursuits, happy habits, and lovely results!

The impending start of Lent (just a week away, if you can believe it!) was apparently the lens through which I was reading this month's posts because the ones I pulled to share not only suited New Year's resolutions but also Lenten practice...

Amber is trying something new with her Gospel study, incorporating the wisdom of the Church Fathers along with Charlotte Mason-style habits.

Carol's stellar post on Cultivating a Scientific Habit of Mind is both educationally and spiritually inspiring.

Chastisement from George MacDonald shared by My Peace in the Puzzle.

Another way to journal through the Bible over at Melissa's!

top (l to r) - homeschool47 - vlcjrogers - sarah.lashbrook - arliemaria
middle (l to r) - rjnsix - happylhomemaker1 - athena_amidstthereeds - h5manriquez
bottom (l to r) - h5manriquez - mary,frances.pickett - legendsandlace - obispo98

Starting the Discussion

With all the decluttering chat around the blogosphere (thanks to the New Year!), I've been thinking about collections, specifically nature study collections.  I would consider them another kind of Keeping: a physical accumulation, culled and collected by the owner, worth saving, of value to learning.  In those ways, they are very much like a nature journal--or, perhaps better stated, a worthwhile supplement to one's nature records.  Charlotte Mason's students preserved and exhibited various collections both as individuals and as classes, so she obviously saw the value in lovingly preserving found items too.

So I have a few optional questions for you this month, if you're so inclined: Do you or your children keep a nature collection?  How do you store it?  Do you change what you exhibit seasonally?  Would you consider yours a temporary or permanent collection?  Do you draw from it, or does it lead to further study for you?  Do you cull often?  What are your favorite ways to display your nature finds?

(I have a partly selfish reason for asking: I've got a post in my drafts folder about our most recent nature swap, which netted some absolutely lovely additions to our collection and lots of opportunity for new observations!  I hope to get that up this month and link to it here.)

The Link-Up

:: 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.

Thank you once again for participating!

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Year in My Nature Journal

I have been promising a look at my nature journal for ages now, so I thought it would be fun to show the pages from the whole past year gathered together.  The entries go from newest to oldest, spanning from October 2014 to October 2015.  (I haven't had a chance to take photos of my most recent few pages, so I dialed it back a couple months to still make it a full year's work.)

I have shared bits of these pages here and there, but never the full layouts, which I think are useful because they show how little I actually draw or paint (only a couple times a month) versus how often I write notes (pretty much a bit a week).  I average about half a page a week, though it doesn't work out exactly that way--sometimes I work for longer and sometimes I just add an observation or two.  (Or sometimes when I'm in the first trimester or overdue, I don't journal at all! ;))

The point I want to make is that that there are lots of different ways to journal, lots of different kinds of observations we moms can be making.  I also hope you can see here that a practice done slowly yet consistently can bear fruit.  I don't have time to sketch every day, but even the bit I do manage weekly nets a lively, useful record of our adventures and discoveries.  And I'm getting to know with intimacy the world around me, which is far more important than the product but directly flows from creating that product, if that makes sense.

Simply put: drawing requires a special level of attention to detail, and that's the main reason Charlotte Mason suggests it.  But when you have your hands full and the thought of getting out the paints gives you a headache, a few jotted notes are much better than not recording at all!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

{From My Commonplace}

A bit from my religious commonplace book on a rainy day...

"For she knew why all this was done.  Long before St. Paul, she had said: 'He loved me and delivered Himself for me.' It was to get her her wondrous graces, to do great things for her, that He had emptied Himself of His glory and come down upon earth.  She could not get used to these thoughts. They never lost their freshness.  She gazed and gazed upon Him with untiring love and thankfulness, and ever-growing wonder and delight. And as she gazed, the virtue of His Sacred Humanity went out to her, as later to the needy, suffering crowd.  For to look lovingly at Jesus in the mysteries of His human life is to draw into our own lives the virtues of His.  But we must give it time.  O that we had a little of our Mother's habit of pondering; blessed habit, it has made the Church's saints in every age!"

-- from Mother Mary Loyola's Hail Full of Grace (also available free online)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Christmas Crafting :: 2015

Our handicrafting is definitely seasonal--during much of the school year, we don't get to it, but then we have a burst of creativity around each holiday.  (I've shared previous years' Christmas crafting here, here, and here.)   This Christmas was no exception, and now that gifts have been given, I can share the crafting the kids and I have been up to over the last couple months!

Gianna and Cate did quite a bit of gift sewing...

On the right are doll pillows for the Baby Girls to go with the simple doll quilts I made them (picture later in the post).  Gianna embroidered the flowers and Cate sewed around and did the stuffing.  

On the left: embroidered playing card holders for the Big Boys.  Cate did the embroidering this time, and then Gianna sewed down the sides on the machine for durability.  Super easy and useful too!

(And I'll add here: it's so nice having a stash of wool felt for when interest strikes.  We have a set in each colorway and the pieces are just the right size for a couple small projects each.  The felt's colors are saturated and the texture is sturdy--so much better than acrylic craft felt.  Add embroidery floss in every color and the kids can make anything they think up!)

Gianna sewed these teething rings for the Baby Boys.  I bought wooden rings, and then she cut double-pointed ovals out of fabric, sewed right sides together, flipped and top-stiched, then looped them onto the rings.  These are great drool-catchers and can be removed to wash.

They have made these felt hearts before--they are such a quick project, simple enough for a beginner but with a nice end result.  Cate made the one above for Gianna all on her own (to hang over her bed), and the girls worked together to make one in blue for their great-grandma (who plans to hang hers from her bedroom doorknob).

Gianna also took some bath towels we no longer needed and cut them into hand towels for the garage and such for Daddy.  She cut each towel in thirds, then zig-zagged the edges on the machine.  This was a great starter project for machine sewing--plenty of long, straight lines.

I did a bit of crafting too that could easily be done by children, so I'll share the projects here:

The doll quilts I mentioned above.  I am no quilter, and I am too lazy to stitch a proper binding, so I sewed right sides together, flipped out, and topstitched the whole thing.  I was able to use bits from my stash to make the simple nine-square design and I backed it with flannel.  Gianna has already asked to do some simple quilting this summer and I think I'll start her with something like this.

This is a sweet fabric book for my little guys.  I had this plastic ring from a free paper book we got somewhere or other that had long ago fallen apart.  I sewed squares from fabric scraps with ribbon tags, crinkle plastic, and interfacing for durability. Then I added buttonholes in the corner so they could be strung onto the ring.  Again: washable and super easy.

I handmake an ornament for the children each year.  I've done fabric, modeling clay, buttons, felt, and various other media in the past.  This year, I made beaded ornaments with glass beads and clear jewelry line.  As I was making them, I thought what a great project they would be with the littles--very classy looking but so simple.  (The hardest part was tying the knots!)

The children also did lots of paper folding and Christmas-inspired drawing.  And paper snowflakes for winter solstice, of course!  We did a stack of coffee filter snowflakes, as we always do.  Then I was inspired to try giant ones out of tissue paper, and they came out great!  (You can see them behind Cate in that bottom photo.)  They're all hanging in our windows now and setting a wintery tone.

The girls got some more craft kits for Christmas, which they're planning to use for Mother's Day gifts and Easter decorations.  I'm assuming we'll get another burst of handi-crafting right around then! ;)

Friday, January 8, 2016

What We're Reading :: For Christmas

In lieu of my What We're Reading post for December, I figured I'd wait and share our Christmas books--because that's pretty much all the kids have been reading since they unwrapped them!

Warning: this is a monster post.  It was a delightfully bookish Christmas this year. ;)

On Christmas Eve, I went out to the stockroom (aka a hidden bookshelf in my garage!) and chose books for each child out of my stash from used book shopping throughout the year.  It is so much fun picking out which ones go to which child!  I try to gauge both reading level and individual interest, and of course it depends on what I have on hand too.  I barely ever buy books new, so their gifts are always partly determined by what I come across.  Thankfully, I come across a lot of wonderful books! ;)

For Vincent, age 9
Sid Fleischman's Jim Bridger's Alarm Clock and Other Tall Tales
Eric Sloane's Diary of an Early American Boy
Petershams' The Story of Aircraft
the Illustrated Junior Classics version of Arabian Nights
d'Aulaires' Book of Trolls

For Gianna, age 9
Edward Lear's The Four Little Children Who Went Around the World (looks like this is out of print, which is too bad because it is fabulously quirky)
TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
Norton's The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Afield (ours are vintage copies, but they have the same illustrator)
Kate Greenaway's Book of Games
Pyle's The Wonder Clock (the vintage hardback is out of print, but they sell new paperbacks thankfully!)

For Cate, age 6
Richardson's Great Children's Stories
Trina Schart Hyman's The Sleeping Beauty
Kate Greenaway's Family Treasury
Hoban's A Bargain for Frances (although ours is the oversized hardback)
Gutmann's I Love You: Verses and Sweet Sayings

For Xavier, age 5
Margaret Wise Brown's Seven Little Postmen
Cooper Edens' The Glorious American Songbook
Margaret Wise Brown's Little Fur Family
Hoffmann's The Story of Christmas
Richard Scarry's ABC

For Bridget, age 4
Eloise Wilkins' The Christmas Story
Gutmann's Nursery Songs and Lullabies
Susan Jeffers' Hansel and Gretel
Sylvia Long's Mother Goose
Aylesworth's Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Mosel's Tikki Tikki Tembo and Richard Scarry's Little ABC and About Animals (for Clara, age 3)
Eloise Wilkins' My Good Morning Book and The Provensens' The First Noel (for the Baby Boys)
the songbook Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!, illustrated by Anita Lobel (for the Big Kids)

From Grandma..,.

Winnie-the-Pooh on audio (for Bridget)
Little House in the Big Woods on audio (for us all)
Elsa Beskow's Around the Year (for Clara)
Stratemeyer's The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill and The Minute Boys of Lexington (for Vincent)
Farjeon's Heroes and Heroines (for Gianna)
Elpel's Botany in a Day (for me!)
Kahl's The Duchess Bakes a Cake (for Cate)
Jim Arknosky's Wild World (for Xavier)

And other goodies!

O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi, illustrated by Lynch (from a friend who knows we love classic tales beautifully illustrated)
Charles Dickens' Christmas Stories (from a friend who knows I never mind a book straight from the thrift shop!)
Nature Anatomy (for my boys from their aunt)
...and some more Little House picture books and a lovely hardcover Douay-Rheims (picked up for my husband from the thrift store!)

And just before Christmas, this sweet package arrived in the mail from dear Kimberlee--she said she saw the books at her local used bookshop and thought of us...

I love that people see vintage Italian texts and sweet baby board books and think of our family! :) It even came wrapped in tissue paper and colored string, which my girls thought was so charming and tried to duplicate in their own wrapping this year.

And now to find homes for all of them...  Thankfully my husband gave me bookshelves for Christmas!

So what were your favorite books to give and receive this year?  Is your home as full of Christmas book readers as mine is?  Are you plotting out your 2016 reading plans?  I'm up for a little all-things-books chat if you are! :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Keeping Company :: January 2016

Keeping Company is one year old!

Last year, you all shared hundreds of wonderful posts here, detailing the Keeping going on in your families.  In addition, there were hundreds of photos tagged over on Instagram, thousands of views and clicks, kind and encouraging comments spread over the linked blogs, and lots and lots of helpful conversations.

Thank you for participating, whether as a blogger, Instagrammer, commenter, or just a reader.  I am so grateful for the inspiration and community.

In case you missed yesterday's post, I'm making a small change for this year: I'm going to merge my "Invitation" and "Link-Up" posts into one post on the first Tuesday of each month.  So every first Tuesday, I'll share the linky for the new month's collection.  I'll also feature a few posts from the previous month's collection, or ask some notebooking-related questions, or round up some of the best recent Instagram-tagged photos, or do some combination of those things.  I hope you'll join in the conversation!

And if this link-up has been helpful to you, consider sharing it with friends!  Feel free to link to this post or to the main Keeping Company page on your blog or social media.  And Instagram users: if you see a notebooking photo you find inspiring and think should be tagged, let the poster know!  I'd love any CM-schooling moms who could benefit from this community to be included.

In the Past Month
The December collection featured some great posts about nature study in cold, rainy weather that I thought you all might appreciate.  We had a super cold (for us!) and rainy holiday, so I'm looking for ways to continue our science studies even while indoors...

Lisa shared some wonderful examples from her kids' science journals.  I'm looking forward to starting science notebooks with my Big Kids next year, so I appreciate her photos and write-up of the experience.

from Olive Plants All Around My Table

Looking for some rainy day nature study?  Carol and her crew built a snailery!

from journey-and-destination

Crafty in Coffeeland has some helpful ideas for getting outdoors in the rain and for bringing nature study indoors too!

from Crafty in Coffeland

And over on Instagram...

top (l to r) - athena_amidstthereeds - happylhomemaker1 - obispo98
bottom (l to r) - msjschole - rjnsix - alison_winter

Keeping Resolutions
Get it?  Ha.  Really, though: I am hoping to keep my Keeping resolutions this year!  Are any of you making notebooking goals for this coming year like I am?  Here are mine:

:: A weekly entry in my nature journal.  This was my goal last year too, and I did a pretty good job of holding to that.  There were some weeks missed over the summer, and once Justin was born, my nature journal pretty much fell out of use for the last month of the year.  But that was to be expected! This year, I'm resolving the same thing: just one entry a week, any kind of entry.  It might be a note about the weather, or a list of wildflowers in bloom, or a dry-brushed bird, or a whole write-up of a nature outing with sketches.  And I plan to share my entries here on the blog over the course of the year--that's a great motivation!  (By the way, I'll be sharing "A Year in My Nature Journal" here on the blog next week with all my nature journaling from 2015.)

:: A weekly check of our Calendar of Firsts.  Again, this is one I'm continuing from last year.  I have it on our weekly assignment sheet, but I sometimes still forget to add entries if my kids don't remind me!  I'm placing it on the shelf with my nature journal so I'll remember to pull it out at least every Friday.

:: A {From My Commonplace} post here at least once a month.  My simple reading goals are to keep up with my Well-Read Mom group and my local CM study group, and those books provide plenty of rich commonplace fodder!

:: To keep a Century Chart with my Big Kids for their Year 5 studies.  They are doing one now for Year 4 and it looks like so much fun!  I am kicking myself for not keeping one alongside them.  This summer, I'll be sure to prepare a chart for myself too.

I encourage you to share your Keeping resolutions too if you are so inclined!

The Link-Up

:: 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.

Looking forward to seeing what you all are up to.  As always. thanks for participating!

Monday, January 4, 2016

{This and That} :: Christmas Edition

Happy 2016 and Merry Christmas!  It's the 11th Day of Christmas here, and unfortunately, I'm dealing with a house full of sick kids.  But we made it through all our Christmas visiting before it hit, so I can't complain too much.

happy, non-sick children on Christmas Day!

So how is your Christmas going?  We had a really nice break.  I didn't get everything done; there were squabbles and time-outs; we planned to make a beach day trip, but it was too cold and rainy (especially with an infant).  I hit New Year's pretty tired from lots of time with family and little time to recharge.

But I felt so aware of my blessings too.  I mean, is there anything as wonderful as a baby at Christmas?

Maybe a toddler at Christmas?

Or a full house of wonder-filled children?

Or a Traditional Latin Mass at a beautiful church?

I mean, really--blessings abound!


We always place for our centerpiece at Christmas breakfast all the Baby Jesus figures from the various nativities we have collected over the years.  Then after breakfast we have a procession through the house placing them in their mangers.  We have enough for each child to carry one and it is such a special start to our day.  It's my favorite family tradition for Christmas!

Even though we're back to school and Daddy's back to work, we've still got a day of Christmas proper left, and then Epiphany too--so I hope you're still celebrating like we are!  On Epiphany, we always do our traditional house blessing, a special meal, and a family gift.  (I have Mother Loyola's With the Church: Advent to Ascension put aside for is this year.)


The kids' art teacher happens to be a lady from our parish, which is nice because she encourages the kids to do religious drawings during lessons.  These are the ones they worked on through Advent:

The girls selected images from Christmas picture books to copy: Cate's is from Eloise Wilkins' The Christmas ABC and Gianna's is from the Petershams' The Christ Child.  Vincent really wanted to draw St. Nicholas, so I helped him find a picture online to copy.

And bonus: these drawings made the perfect cover art for this year's Christmas cards!  We always handmake our cards, but I wasn't up for any major art projects, so this worked out great.


Some good reads recently:

My Book of the Church's Year--a charming illustrative depiction of the liturgical year.

They're right: you'll never look at seeds the same way again.  (A Seed is Sleepy is a pretty great introduction too.)

Keeping the Christmas Season: a Christmas Prayer Companion, compiled by Jennifer at Family in Feast and Feria.  We always appreciate Jennifer's liturgical resources!

This made the Facebook rounds a couple weeks ago, but I got to thinking about it again in the context of our recent holiday celebrations: In Defense of Domesticity.

It's too late for me, but just in case it's not too late for you:  How to Avoid Converting to Catholicism, in Eight Easy Steps.  (Obviously, sarcasm warning.  Ha!  But this pretty much sums up my own conversion, so I just had to share.  Certainly gave me a giggle!)


Is there anything better than breaking open a fresh planner to start a new year?  I bought this planner a few weeks ago and have been itching to pull it out, but of course, I had to wait until January.   I've already got my old one in the garage hidden away and this new one all filled up with appointments and to-dos.  I am loving the layout and the larger size (I have done a 5x8 in the past but did the full 8x11 this year.)  I'll have to write some time about my personal planner system because after years of tweaking and trial, I have finally found a combination of electronic and paper that works really well for me.


On the blog in 2016...

I have been thinking about what I'd like to blog about this year.  I have so many potential topics but have to narrow them down just based on time and energy.  As always, my main consideration is what I feel like writing about--this is a hobby after all!  But I always welcome reader feedback too, and I like to know in what ways I might be helpful to the homeschooling community.

In that vein, I've been keeping a list of post requests that I have gotten over the past few months so I can work on answers to some of those to share here.  For example, I have had several emails to discuss my Italian plans, post a Day in the Life and what a week looks like here, make suggestions on how to teach kids about the Traditional Latin Mass, share favorite toddler products, and more.  Want to add anything to the list?  Now's your chance! ;)  What do you like reading about most here?  Any questions you have been itching to ask?


I'll be back tomorrow to post this year's first Keeping Company link-up.  This year, I'm going to merge my "Invitation" and "Link-Up" and just post on the first Tuesday of each month.  On that day, I'll post the linky tool as well as some chat--sometimes a formal prompt, sometimes a spotlight, sometimes an Instagram wrap-up, sometimes a combination of those things.  Basically, I'll be making it a little less organized and a little more conversational. ;)

I'd love it if you'd join me here tomorrow (or any time this month!) to post about your notebooking.  See you then!