Tuesday, March 15, 2016

{This and That}

First, since I have had a couple more inquiries: yes, CM West :: Retreat at the Beach is full!  If you're interested but didn't get a chance to sign up, we do have a waiting list going, so feel free to add your name.

There are a couple regional conferences in the works for the West Coast in 2017, one in Northern California and one in Seattle.  Amber has more details over at Charlotte Mason West, including an offer to save your spot with a small refundable deposit toward one (or both!) events.

And one last note: CM West is now on Facebook!  Head over and "like" to get notice of upcoming events and plans for West Coast Charlotte Mason homeschoolers.


I shared this podcast with John Muir Laws on the Joyous Lessons Facebook page last week.  It's short but packed with encouragement.  I particularly liked the prompts he recommends asking oneself when in the field.  It has me adjusting my journaling style a tad and eager to learn more!

Speaking of, I got his new book in the mail a couple weeks ago and it's a fantastic resource!  Meaty, inspiring, detailed.  He has some great tips and tricks for drawing in there, but more important than that, he presents a way of looking at the nature journal that is super helpful for those of us without artistic backgrounds or a wealth of nature knowledge.  He encourages questions, annotations, sketches in a variety of media, very careful observation.  He emphasizes process, practice, and patience.  It's an all-around great book, and I know Charlotte Mason mamas will get a lot out of it.

His website is full of other goodies, including links to his blog tutorials and YouTube videos and a set of lesson plans for school kids.  Have you seen those plans yet?  I used them a bit with the kids when I first came across them a couple years ago, but I just pulled them back out as I plan our spring.  It would be a great way to jump start your spring nature studies!  (And like I said, it's free!)


Last week was a long week of rain, so we decided to head to the aquarium for a bit of nature study...

moon jellies
My favorites are always the deep sea tank (with hammerhead sharks, pelagic rays, huge tuna, and thousands of sardines!) and the jellyfish, but this time we spent some time watching the plovers in the aviary, whom we see in flocks at the beach all the time but never get very close to since they're skittish in the wild.

And hey, it's Minn!

Actually, as my kids pointed out with exasperated sighs, "Minn is a snapping turtle, Mommy."  But we had a great time examining this guy up close--apparently we have passed him by on previous visits.


On a less rainy note: all in all, the weather here has been amazing for late winter, and we're back to our weekly beach trips.

After a few months away from the coast after Justin's birth, we're noticing how different the sandscape is since the last time we were there in October.  We were going so often back then that it was more difficult to notice those bit-by-bit changes.

But now we find we have come back to a very different-looking beach.  Very little seaweed, no "cliffs" of sand separating the dune from the water's edge, huge mussels and clam shells washed ashore.  I'm taking notes and hoping to compare the February-March coastline to next year's.

Like I mentioned over on Instagram, we usually have the place pretty much to ourselves.  I am so thankful for my husband's current work schedule that allows us to take mid-week treks there together.

And you know what that means: more {Nature Study at the Beach} coming up soon!


Baby Justin turned four months old!  He spends the day scooting himself backwards under sofas and chairs, chewing on his newly-found fingers, and attempting to grab his sisters' hair with his slobbery hands...

See?  Hands in mouth, all the time!
This week he got an impromptu first haircut this weekend because his "bangs" were getting in his eyes.

See?  Long bangs!
He's rarely out of someone's arms, even while he's sleeping.

See?  This is how we  do narrations!
And he's thisclose to crawling.  I am so not ready for that!

A friendly reader, Erika, was kind enough to email me about how she organizes her nature collection, and I think you'll agree it's neat, usable, and beautiful too:

those cubbies that I love, and a nature tray too!
It got me thinking: if any of you that don't blog or post on Instagram would like to share your nature collection, email me a photo (with permission to share) and I'll put them into a little round-up post here.


In case you're wondering how we observe the Holy Week, you can see a pretty detailed description of our family's traditions a few years ago: Welcoming Holy Week.  Do you have any favorite Holy Week observances that you think we would enjoy?  Let me know.  I'm always looking for ways to grow our prayer and practice.


Later this week I'm hoping to finally get up my recap of our Year 4 and Year 1 exams from a couple months ago.  Yes, I'm late on those, and I know a few of you are waiting. :)  Next week at the latest.

And don't forget about Keeping Company--if you'd like to jump in, please do!


  1. So glad that you finally wrote!!! I was waiting and waiting for a post! Can't wait to see the exams! God bless!

    1. Aw, thanks! The kids were all sick this weekend, so I'm a bit behind, but I am always happy when I get some time to pull a post together for this space. :)

  2. Wow - that Laws books looks like a great resource. I'll have to try to remember to take a picture of our nature collection. We've had a cold, gray, rainy week so not much picture taking this week. Amazing to see you folks at the beach this time of year! Such lovely times you must have. The coast looks so beautiful.

    1. I bet your kids would love the Laws book, Kimberlee. And I'd love to see your nature collection!

      The coast is so fresh and green this time of year. We had a couple weeks in February where it was hitting 80 at the beach--unseasonably warm but much appreciated! It is not usually so hot here in NorCal! :)

  3. I would love to know your tips for having lots of littles around water. I have a hard time doing nature studies or field trips around water because I can't possibly keep an eye on everyone at the same time- WHILE trying to observe nature. (my littles are too young to swim). And of course my boys like to test the limits and get as close as they can to everything. :) I see some of your kids have on floaty things...

    1. Hi Katie! I can relate. Currently I have two decent swimmers, two in swim lessons now (so they can float but not swim), and then four non-swimmers. It can be very stressful to be near the water with all those little ones! That is part of the reason I don't do beach trips by myself--just with my husband. We can each take a baby (1yo and infant) and then take turns keeping an eye on everyone else.

      Most of the beaches we go to have strong waves and rip tides on occasion. My kids play in the shallow and don't attempt to go deeper--they are pretty good about that. But it still makes me nervous sometimes. A few things we do to make it a bit less stressful:

      We have enforced out-of-water periods. So for example, we'll have them play an hour out of the water when we first get there, then an hour in, then an hour out, then another hour in, and then they play a little to dry off before we head home. When it's out-of-water time, they have to stay away from the water--they can't go past a certain line that we set in the sand. So we do our nature walk, play soccer, build sand castles, etc. during that time. That means half the time we're there at the beach is stress-free for mama. ;)

      I also have my younger girls (4 and 3) wear flotation devices, just as an extra precaution. I really like these: http://amzn.to/1M91Ppz (<<That's an affiliate link to the kind I like best. They stay put and keep the kids' head above water reliably well. We use them for trips to the pool too.)

      Hope that helps a little! I feel like we have a good enough routine in place that I could actually take the kids by myself at this point, but I'd really prefer to have more swimmers before I do that, just to be sure. :)

  4. Erika's display is lovely, I'm glad she shared that. It looks very useful, but also very orderly as well. Both of those things always really appeal to me.

    I just listened to the interview with Laws and it is making me really want to buy his new book. :-) (Not to mention go to the CMI Western Conference... *ahem*)

    I love all the pictures of the beach and your kiddos! And wow, Justin is scooting himself around already? Yikes!

    And thanks for mentioning the CM West links. :-)

    (And I wish those floaties you mentioned in your comment worked for younger kiddos - I have a 2 year old who only weighs 22 lbs but could really use something like that. Last fall she all of a sudden got absolutely fearless around water and wanted to swim and swim and swim. I'm really wondering what she'll be like this year... but I am not foreseeing a lot of sitting and chatting time at the lake this summer)

    1. Yeah, that's the hardest age, I think. The puddle jumper fits my tiny 3.5yo (25 pounds) okay (not a great fit but good enough for safety, I think), but my tiny almost-2yo (21 pounds) definitely wouldn't fit. I am just thankful that my littles are fairly cautious around water despite being mischievous outside of it. ;)

  5. I don't comment on here often but I'm 20 now and a Catholic homeschool graduate. I am the oldest if 10 kids, I was 13 1/2 when my youngest sister was born. We were all born between 11 and 20 months apart. 6 girls and 4 boys. I just wanted to encourage you about bringing littles, lots of little ones to the Easter vigil & other holy week events. I know it seems alot or extremely overwhelming. I know that there were MANY years when my parents & or I would be out in the narthex or even in the car for most of all of the time during these holy masses and events. I know that the efforts were truly/are worth it because now when we are ages 20-7, the foundation/memories of going to these masses have been built. It was hard for many of those years, but I just wanted to encourage you to think about bringing the whole family to these masses & events. God bless!!

    1. Thank you -- that is wonderfully encouraging!