Tuesday, January 15, 2019

{From My Commonplace} :: Pre-Reading Edition

One of my annual goals is to keep up with pre-reading my Year 7 students' books. I choose to privilege that reading over personal reading at times partly because of  my personality -- I feel better about our homeschool when I know I am prepared. It allows me to rest in the process much more peacefully and engage with my children more joyfully.

But I also privilege it because the books are just plain wonderful. There are so many quotes that speak to other reading I am doing, so many big ideas to chew on, such rich style. I am constantly making entries into my Reading Journal.

Here are a few from just this past week, split into To Be and Not To Be. :)

To Be

Let's be Romans -- in thorough preparation!

Let's see inside our kids and believe in them-- let's be Joan.

Not to Be

First, I love a good metaphor. Let's not be like the Lycosa!

And let's not be short-sighted, narrowly-focused and utilitarian.

As I read, I am reminded of the Way of the Will chart mentioned in The Living Page. Interesting how the Romans are both "to be" and "not to be" this week, depending on what measuring stick we're using.

And can't we say the same of so much?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Keeping Company :: Winter 2019

Happy New Year, and welcome to another year of Keeping Company together! I thought I'd give a little re-introduction on...

How This Works

Just as a reminder: throughout the year, I reshare CM-style notebooking posts @keepingcompanycm. Then at the beginning of each quarter, I pull together a post here on the blog with some special highlights from Instagram and the blog world.

If you would like to share about the notebooks you or your students have been keeping (and I would love if you would!), you can...
:: leave a comment below with a link to your blog post, or
:: leave a comment below with a description of what you have been up to, or
:: tag #keepingcompanycm on Instagram.

The purpose of this Keeping Company link-up is to join in community as keepers, encouraging one another to notice, record, and engage with ideas in tangible ways. The details are always at the bottom of each Keeping Company post. Feel free to jump in at any time!

Catching Up

Before I round up some notebook-keeping ideas from around the web, I'd like to share a couple keeping-related "news" items:

I'll be speaking about notebooks at Motherwell in Charlottesville, Virginia this April! I'll be sharing how my Pre-Reading Journal revolutionized my posture as a teacher and giving a talk on notebooks for students. If you are new to keeping or want to give your notebook habits a bit of a boost, I think this will be a great event.

My friend Mariah and I are co-writing a column on notebook-keeping for the new Charlotte Mason print magazine, Common Place Quarterly. In the first issue coming out in just a couple weeks (woohoo!), we discussed some thoughts behind the commonplace book and shared the simple Reading Journal we are each keeping alongside the magazine. We'll also be chatting about our column on Instagram Live as part of the CPQ Coffee Chat series in the next month or so. I'll try to share here as a heads-up if you would like to pop over and watch! The account is public, so you don't have to be an Instagram user to view. :)

Starting the Conversation

Have you been working in your notebooks this quarter? Any New Year's keeping resolutions?

I thought about trying a daily sketch challenge for January, but then decided that my energies ought to be put toward some other habits I'm working to build, so for now, I'm sticking with my weekly work in my (pre-)Reading JournalBook of Centuries, and nature journal. I was behind in making sketches in my BoC this fall, so I have been taking a bit of time over the Christmas break to do a few.

My Reading Journal continues to be a joy to work in. I'll give a more thorough look into Year 7 through my eyes when the year is over, but here's a preview.

The kids have been enjoying their BoCs so much. There have been a lot of entries inspired by our "illustrated" version of Beowulf (the illustrations are really just photos of artifacts, which is perfect!) and quite a few straight out of Arnold-Forster as well. They have really hit their stride with this practice.

I started a pretty new gratitude journal with another one of the notebooks from my favorite little lined set.

(And did you see that EcoQua now has a TEAL option?! It's such a pretty shade and a nice change from the warm tones they offered before. I grabbed a small blank one to begin my CPQ Reading Journal that I mentioned above.)

Keeping in Community

We are talking notebook-keeping goals over @keepingcompanycm too!

@sarah_jonna - @naturekeeping - @mariah___dawn

There is more to come on that topic next week. But there was plenty of fantastic content in the last few months of 2018 too! For example, lots of science examples (which we don't see enough of!)...

@sageparnassus - @jessicaseverne - @jessarie.dawn
...plenty of commonplace-related chat...


...an illustrated journey to the Celestial City...

and more!

Also: Erin and Crystin are both talking about commonplace books this quarter, and Frannie is pondering how all those things we "keep" in our minds and hearts and how memorization can be a spiritual act. Good words!

I am always humbled and inspired by the ladies that share their thoughts and work, from those just starting out to the experienced keepers -- it is really nice to be in community with others moms in this process. So thank you for another year of keeping me company and I can't wait to see what 2019 holds.  Please join us!

The Link-Up

:: For BLOGGERS: Leave a link to any blog posts related to CM-style keeping in the comments section of this post all quarter.  I will be sure to click over and read so I can highlight them here in the next edition!

:: For INSTAGRAMMERS: Tag related photos with #KeepingCompanyCM.  You can also follow my new account: @keepingcompanycm. I will be re-sharing daily on that account from posts tagged!
:: Any posts about CM-style Keeping are welcome.  Your post can be as simple as a photo of your commonplace book or your kids' drawing.
:: You can grab the button over there on the sidebar if you'd like to add it to your post or site.

Monday, January 7, 2019

{This and That} :: The New Year

Happy New Year! I am happy to be back to school, back to regular life, and back to this space.

I have lots of hopes and goals for 2019, and one of them is to be a bit more consistent here. There are posts I'd really love to get out of my drafts folder and into the world, so I'm hoping to carve out some energy to do that. (I am pretty sure I said the same thing last year. Ha! But I really am going to try!)

For winter, I have a couple posts almost ready to go about the religious life of the family. And I also have a simple Getting Started with Handicrafts series planned based on a bunch of questions from over on Instagram. This month, I'm planning to start with sloyd and scherenschnitte, just based on our own experiences from the past couple years learning and practicing these crafts regularly. (If you have handicrafts questions you'd like answered from someone who is learning right alongside her kids, let me know!)

Later this week, the winter edition of Keeping Company will be up! Once again, I am hoping to be back to sharing daily @keepingcompanycm after taking Advent off. And I'll be posting about the books gifted at Christmas in our home in a {What We're Reading} installment soon.


We have been embracing the joys of the season. Our Christmas was honestly the most peaceful and fun Christmas we have had in years. I am so thankful we had twelve full days to soak it all in.

We took all of the kids to "midnight Mass," which was at the confusingly-named-but-extremely-convenient hour of 9pm. We left at 7pm to drive around the town and look at Christmas lights, then got to church early for Confession and carols before a beautiful High Mass and even the baby was enthralled, engaged, and quiet. Home and to bed with no issues!

Christmas morning was slow and full of delight. This year more than ever I was struck by how few years we may have like this left, all of us together and the children still small(ish). Childhood is so short!

There were some special spiritual graces that flooded me on Christmas Day. I felt like some long-time prayers were answered at Mass and that morning. Too special to share here, but I at least want to express the gratefulness in my heart. God is faithful.

We always process through the house to place the Baby Jesus figures in their respective creches.

We did our usual brunch and a dinner of dips, which was a huge hit. I think we have a new tradition!

I even got a nap in when gifts were open and kids were happily occupied.

The rest of our break involved books and handicrafts, and some planning time for me.

(I actually made the ornaments in the photo above before Christmas. Each year I make an ornament for each of my kids, and this year I chose sloyd stars made of gold cardstock and hung on twine. I got the idea of turning "thread winders" into ornaments from Anna over on Instagram. My kids made a bunch from thick scrapbook paper to give as gifts!)

Yesterday we did our house blessing and the Three Kings arrived to greet the Infant Jesus...except we have multiple creches with full sets of figures, so I think there were 15 kings total? :) We also had a belated Christmas party with family, which made the day extra festive.

It was a lovely holiday but I'm excited to be back to school today. Just three weeks left in Term 2! I did most of my Term 3 planning over the break, but still have a few things to work out. Hoping I get a few empty evenings to manage it all before our last term sneaks up on me!


Do you choose a word for the year? I have for the past few years, and each time it was been fruitful in ways I didn't expect.

Here's what I wrote on Instagram as a reflection on 2018.
My "word" for last year was FOCUS. I was coming out of a postpartum fog and desperately needed to get my FOCUS back again. There are seasons during which I know I must surrender to crazy newborn days and soak up those depleted moments in the name of love; that was my last six months of 2017. But I needed 2018 to be a year of clarity and simplicity that would allow me to replenish mentally and emotionally.
I thought that would mean some difficult pruning. I was ready to take a hard look at my commitments and decide where to FOCUS my energies. I decided that this was going to be a year of saying no to a lot of things so I could say yes to single-minded school days and peace of mind.
And I did do a lot of that. I said no to good things this year. It was far less painful than I thought it would be, mostly because I could literally feel God's graces of courage and confidence. As my kids get older, I have become increasingly aware that my time is finite and my extra obligations have to be selected very carefully. I feel like I have gotten better at making those hard choices.
But at the same time, this year has been suprisingly full of unexpected opportunities. Several times I have been absolutely convinced in prayer that I should say yes to a new project, even though I couldn't see clearly where the time and energy were going to come from. And then the time and energy HAVE come, and I have walked away feeling more fulfilled and invigorated.
It turns out that practicing FOCUS doesn't always require doing less. Sometimes it means doing more, but privileging what will provide and heighten my FOCUS rather than dissipate it. (Sounds a lot like Mason's view on the habit of attention. 😉)
Sometimes it means taking on hard work in prayer, knowing that there are lessons in store for me when I give my time in faith. There are certain kinds of obligations that end up giving me back far more than they require--even when they require rather a lot.
God has taken my desire to FOCUS this year and given me tasks and relationships to FOCUS on that I didn't know I needed but that served my soul. I am still learning discernment and balance, but 2018 was a joyful surprise. ❤️
Did you choose a word? I have one I think I'm settled on for this year, but I'm still pondering...


The first issue of Common Place Quarterly will be shipping this month and I can't wait to see it in print. They just made orders available for the second quarter, as well as an auto-subscribe option if you'd like to commit quarterly or annually. I'm putting the finishing touches on my contributions to the second issue and beginning my articles for the third...the magazine world moves so fast!


CMiRL is back! We took a month-long Advent-Christmas break and it was so good to have that time for reflection and refreshment.

We "met" online last week to talk business and are full of fresh ideas. We're kicking it off with a peek into "back to school" in each of our homes and a bunch of survey questions for the community while we're at it.

If you're not yet following along, head over and check it out! (It's a public account, so it's available whether you are an IG user or not!)


Some conference news...

CM West :: Retreat in Old San Juan sold out just before Christmas (hooray!), but we're still taking names for the waitlist. I'm excited to turn our attention from registration to writing talks, planning immersions, and pulling together the official schedule!

And Northern California and Central Valley friends, I will be speaking at a half-day retreat for Catholic homeschool mothers in Escalon in early February. Email me if you would like details and I will send you the flyer with more information and put you in touch with the organizers. It will be a simple and lovely opportunity to gather and share before Lent.


That's it for now. I'd love to hear how your Christmas went and your plans for the new year. :)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

{This and That} :: Fourth Sunday of Advent

We are finally on break! We did a light week this week and finished up everything on Thursday -- except for our nature journaling, which we spent some time on Friday morning in honor of the Winter Solstice. I was nursing a bit of a cold, so we explored our backyard for a bit, then came inside for tea.

We also cut out snowflakes, which we always do on Winter Solstice.

They are our first decorations up every year since we wait to decorate our home until Christmas Eve. When we hang our snowflakes in the windows, it really starts to feel like Christmas is on the way! It was a great start to our holiday break.

I have been doing some pre-Christmas baking. We save our feasting for Christmas too, so I don't do our baking too far in advance, but there are a couple things I make the freeze well. So I have shortbread, peppermint squares, and gingersnaps freezing and the rest will wait for a big baking day on Monday: sour cream apple pie, homemade nutter butters, lemon crinkle cookies, and another batch of cranberry bliss bars. I have been pregnant or in a newborn fog for the past couple Christmases, so this is the first year in a long while I have felt up to doing a good amount of baking!

A great way to celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent: CM West just sold out this week! (Psst: there's still the opportunity to add your name to the waitlist.) The main thing on my list for this break besides spending time with my children and husband is to get an outline together for my talk. I am looking forward for some uninterrupted time over the holidays to do that!

(I saw a personality quiz that listed favorite Christmas gifts by type, and it predicted that the best thing to get a person like me is "More time to get stuff done." Yup. So thanks to my husband for already promising me to make that happen. :))

I have other things on the list too: Term 3 planning, a bit of catch up in my Book of Centuries, and sewing lessons for my middles. Among other things. But mostly, my plan is just to rest and to do a lot of thinking. And I am so happy for that!

I will be away from this space for the next couple weeks. But before I go, I wanted to catch up on some recent happenings...

One of the teens in our Charlotte Mason group put on a handicraft fair. It was a blast!

We rolled beeswax candles for St. Lucy's day. It was our first time and will certainly be a new tradition!

St. Nicholas brought his usual oranges, candy canes, and chocolate...

...and a book for each of the kids!

Rocking Horse Land and Other Classic Tales of Dolls and Toys

The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Adrizzone
Oscar Wilde Stories for Children, illustrated by Lynch
Miracle on 34th Street, illustrated by Tomie de Paola
Mother Goose, a classic reprint
The Message of the Bells, by Van Loon (haven't read this yet!)
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Tooney (but in a smaller size for one of my little boys)


Last but not least, here is a peek at our Christmas card this year, painted by Gianna:

Thank you for your support this year -- I am grateful for your encouragement and fellowship. It is a blessing to be in community with you, and I wish you and your families a restful and joyous Christmas.

I'm hoping to give a few peeks at our festivities over on Instagram if you'd like to follow along. Otherwise, I will see you here in the New Year!