Sunday, October 24, 2021

{This and That} :: Happy October!

Happy to be popping in with an update on a very rainy, very delightful Sunday afternoon!

We begin exams tomorrow after a very full first term. This is the one of the smoothest first terms I have ever had, thanks mostly to lots of help from my husband as we transitioned to a fuller morning timetable. Whenever he is not in meetings, he has been keeping the three youngest with him to play in his office from 9-11am. On the days he is busy, I have a rotation of toys and Littleleben activities ready for them. I no longer have a morning break, but I have enjoyed finishing my school day earlier and am feeling less tired in the afternoon hours.

Home education is always a stretching experience -- there is no avoiding the challenges that each day brings in a family with so many different ages and personalities! But I am so grateful for a joyful fall term and excited for the weeks ahead.

Some recent highlights from our work together...

Form 1 pacing and mapmaking

singing with our TBG Songbooks

sloyd portfolios

Plutarch weekly painting!

Burgess Bird Book brush drawing

flat washes

raffia tassels

reading lessons - word-building practice

breakfast reading

chalk drawing - warm-up with spirals

object drawing in chalk - ellipses

weekly meetings

Form  5 commonplace

Plant Life in Field and Garden - male and female flowers

raffia fringe

European geography with playdoh

...and with the white board!

clay modeling from imagination

high school  chemistry

the littles playing restaurant :)

Trojan horse in the Book of Centuries


My trip to Philadelphia for the CMEC's Fall Mini-Retreat a couple weeks ago was a wonderful time. Amy and I were able to explore composition through the Forms, from copywork in Form 1 through high school writing.

We spent a morning walking in Valley Forge while we brainstormed our community offerings for the next year. The perfect place for perspective and inspiration!

And I had a window seat on my flight home on a beautifully clear day. (Can you tell which part of the country I was flying over in each one?)

I can always tell when I'm back home in California when I see its neat suburbs creeping up the golden hills that stretch for miles.


My three September birthday girls are looking so grown up...


What have you been reading lately? After lots of pre-reading this summer and early fall, I have taken the last month or so to pick up some more leisurely books...

On my flight to Philadelphia, I spent five thoroughly riveted hours reading Willa Cather's Shadows on the Rock. This was actually a re-read for me, but it had been a few years and my high schoolers will be reading it this spring. I was reminded why it is one of my favorites of all time as I tried to hide my tears on the packed flight!

My Form 1 students have been listening through the Little House series for their literature reading this term. After hearing bits and pieces here and there, I decided to re-read the series myself back-to-back last weekend. I have to say: it was a more emotional experience than I was expecting! It had probably been five years since the last time I read the novels, and wow -- it is a different series altogether when your oldest daughter is the same age as Laura when she gets her first teaching job away from home. It gave me a lot to think about.

Today I started The Song of the Scaffold, which I read years ago but don't remember that well. I'm thinking it might make a good addition to next year's study of the French Revolution.

So I suppose it is a season for re-reading? I am always looking for something familiar in the fall. Do your book choices vary by season?


After talking about restful Sundays at the CMEC Summer Gatherings this past July, I have been motivated to refresh my own Sunday routine. It's always nice to build in some special, small practices that help make it a day to look forward to. (Especially because football season means I have several free hours on Sundays while the kids watch with my husband!)

We go to an early Mass so my sons can serve, so we are home in time for breakfast. I always enjoy my leisurely Sunday coffee -- it is truly a highlight of my week.

A fun recent addition: I have been using my Dry Gloss kit from Bare Hands (a gift from a dear friend) to take care of my nails each week. The best thing about this kit is that it gives you neat, shiny nails with no polish -- I love it. While I'm doing my manicure, I listen to a podcast episode. My current favorite is from Optimal Work. Usually I really enjoy the quiet and I'm not generally a podcast person, but this has been a nice change of pace for me on Sundays.

I also work in my TBG Notebook. I don't usually have time to make an artist or composer study entry during our lesson because my Form 1 students need me to act as scribe for their narrations, so on Sundays I set aside time to sketch or write. I also occasionally pull out my Book of Centuries or nature journal if I have something I'd like to add. 

(As a side note, my kids are using the Riverbend Press TBG Notebooks this year and they just adore them. They take such good care of them because they feel so special, and the paper is a dream to work on. But I like a smaller format for myself right now; I'm using a Prat Flexbook for my TBG Notebook.)

Sundays always involve some spiritual reading for me as well. I mentioned this before over on Instagram, but I use Sundays as an opportunity to read the week's Bible lessons. A few weeks ago, I read ahead and completed the term's assignments, so lately I have been dipping into The Sermons from St. Alphonsus Ligouri for All Sundays of the Year (which my older kids are also reading weekly), Scale How Meditations, and others from my shelves. Often my spiritual reading helps me form an intention for the week that I write in my logbook as a daily prayer.

And I like to have a treat for Sundays. Right now I am well-stocked with options because my kids gifted me with some fun sweets for my birthday -- I'm enjoying some homemade lavender ice cream right now (!) and have several chocolate bars stashed in my desk drawer. But often my girls will bake something tasty to enjoy over Sunday. We then save the rest in the freezer to pull out for the next Friday's Weekly Meetings. As the weather gets colder, I have been sipping hot water with lemon through the afternoon as I sit and read. Fragrant and fresh!

My Sunday observance too varies with the seasons. Soon it will be time for cozy fires, baking, reading, and crafting. :) What ways have you been making Sunday special lately?


Like I mentioned, I recently celebrated a birthday and got so many fun little handmade gifts from my crew...

Aren't they so creative? I love to see how they take skills they have built during lessons over the years and weave them into thoughtful things.

And the large papercutting in the top center is by my kindergartener and is based on Turner's Dordrecht from the Kinderleben Artist Print Set. This is actually his second time reinterpreting the piece -- he also painted it a few weeks ago!


Before I sign off, a few logistical notes:

First, a few months ago, Blogger somehow switched my comments to moderated without notifying me. I noticed last week that I had dozens and dozens of comments awaiting moderation in my account. I went through all of them and commented back, so you may have recently heard from me about something you asked long, long ago. ;) Sorry about that!

Some of you have sent email requests recently to access documents I have shared here on the blog in the past. Google Drive made a security update that turned off sharing settings for old documents -- and since I have been posting here for over a decade, that affected a good number of my Drive links! I think I have resolved the issue, but if you encounter a problem, feel free to hit that "request access" button so I am aware of which documents still need to be tweaked.

Speaking of old documents, one this has always been popular is the All Souls' Day prayer cards I created years ago -- and November 2nd is just around the corner! You can find that free printable here.

Finally, you may have heard that Google's blog subscription service, Feedburner, was recently discontinued. I converted all existing email subscriptions to But if you used to get email notifications for new posts here on Joyous Lessons and are no longer doing so, you may need to re-request to follow. You'll find the subscription box over in the right sidebar. As always, thanks for following along. I really appreciate your readership.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Midterm Review :: Fall 2021

studying da Vinci to prepare for a memory sketch

Five weeks are behind us in Term 1, with five to go! Last year, on the advice of Amy, I scheduled a break after our first five weeks of school, and I did the same this year. Generally speaking, we don't take many breaks during the school year -- we all work well with a good amount of momentum behind us, and we mostly just like to plug along and enjoy a longer summer. But I found that this midterm break in Term 1 is so nice for reflecting on the school year's start and making adjustments/additions.

For example, this week, I will be...

  • setting up the next five weeks of art, handicraft, and Italian lessons (I find these easier to plot out in 5-week chunks)
  • looking over our term programs to make sure everything I planned has now been incorporated into our routine
  • making a few small changes to our timetables (always tweaking as needed!)
  • weighing some outside classes/opportunities for fall
  • meeting with each student to see if he or she needs any additional support or has had helpful insights to share into our plans or schedule
  • doing some final prep for Term 2 and 3 that I didn't get to over the summer (mostly pre-reading for my high schoolers)

This break also provides a chance for me to work on some household projects and schedule in some fun. Those early weeks back to school each year leave very little time for either of those things! :) So we'll be cleaning, cooking, running errands, and going on a couple outings, I hope.

And my older kids won't be completely off school: my Form 3-5 students will do a few readings this week to "get ahead" a bit since we will be missing two days of school in October while I am in Philadelphia. They also have online Latin and Italian classes to attend.

Some notes on what we have been up to since I last shared...

raffia handicrafts with the CMEC

these two are loving their saint biographies

Form 1 reading lesson with a favorite book

demonstrations with Chemical History of a Candle

buttes and mesas with Geography from A to Z

working on proportion and shape in flat objects for chalk drawing lessons

paper folding and cutting with Kinderleben and Form 1 - a weekly favorite!

We have five weeks of Weekly Paintings stacked up so far...

I love both the variety and the similarities: there are three Evangelines, three Baby Moseses, and one of the Louis XIV looks quite a lot like the pair of Charles IIs! :)

This can be a difficult season to get outside in California -- it is still so hot and dry in September! But I am grateful that this summer has been so much better than the past few years; no days of wildfire smoke yet here in the South Bay. I am also grateful for our nature group for motivating me to get out with the kids weekly.

For example, we had a fun exploration of oak galls a couple weeks ago...

Amazing, right? Other weeks we have studied milkweed and doveweed, which are slowly going to seed right now. Our family has been doing a special study on birds this term. We have had some lovely early morning walks to make our daily observations -- with our eyes and our ears! (I had to buy a new copy of our favorite Backyard Birdsong book after too much play!) Cool late summer mornings are such a balm. 

A wonderful addition to our school year has been our local CMEC co-op, which we are having every other Friday instead of nature club. I will have to write a separate post about how we have structured our group and the subjects we are tackling together. It has been such a joy for me and for my kids! The families involved are all kind and committed. It's fun to learn with friends. :)

More on that another day!

So do you take a break early in the fall? And how is your school year going so far?

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