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?

(Links above may be Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The First Two Weeks :: 2021-2022 School Year

Two weeks in and we are back in the rhythm of lessons!

I am struck by the "joy in living" that the Mason feast brings. We have a full timetable but a varied and delightful one.

I think the photos express it better than words could...

first day fun

American history with Form 1A

Big Kids working on math, geography, and writing

first clay lesson of the year - brussels sprouts from the fridge! :)

Chemical History of a Candle for Form 2A and 3

group dictation - a paragraph for Form 2, a page for Form 3

brush drawing from the yard

sloyd with Form 1 and 2B

Da Vinci this term

noticing stem length and leaf arrangement with Buckley's Plant Life

islands and archipelagos in the sand tray

chromatography experiment for high schoolers

nature journaling -- finally a bit of cool weather!

Joyous lessons has always been my goal. Progress, peace, growth. and joy -- these motivate me to take up my homeschooling responsibilities as my profession, with diligence and regularity (as Mason says in Home Education).

A few notes about our year so far:

:: I switched to mostly-morning school from naptime school this year. We have done the bulk of our school during naptime for the past decade, so it was a big shift! But with the ages I have this year, it was good timing to try a new arrangement to our day. So far, so good! 

:: The high schoolers work roughly 9-3 (with a half hour break for lunch) four days a week. I work from 9-11:40 with the Form 1, 2, and 3 kids -- parts together, parts independently. At 11:40, we meet as a family for movement (dance or drill), singing, and recitations. After lunch (12-12:30), we have one subject together (art, handicraft, arist study, composer study), and then Form 1 (and sometimes Form 2) are finished. Two days a week we have one subject after that: Shakespeare or Plutarch and then Form 2B is finished. Form 2A and 3 have another reading to complete a couple days a week, and Latin homework and Italian copywork or grammar on the other days, but they are done by 1:30.

:: Fridays are light for everyone. The Form 1 and 2 kids don't have any scheduled lessons, Form 3 has two readings, and the high schoolers have math, Italian, grammar, and one of their science readings. This coming week we will start a every-other-Friday co-op which will make those Fridays a bit fuller but the rest of the days of those weeks a bit shorter.

:: I currently meet with my high schoolers twice daily: for five minutes at the beginning of each school day and for about ten minutes at the end of each school day. At our morning meeting, I give them any notes for the day and "seed thoughts" I want to offer for their lessons. At our afternoon meeting, I read three narrations from each of them: Bible, science, and history (all of which they write narrations for daily). This allows our Weekly Meeting, which we have on Friday afternoons, to be a bit shorter. I do roughly the same thing in the afternoons with my Form 3 student.

:: I still have a weekly prep session during which I set up my planner for the week and pre-read any books I didn't get to over the summer. It takes me about an hour. I pre-read our Bible reading on Sundays, which takes an additional half hour or so -- the older Forms have separate Bible reading from my younger kids, so each Sunday I am reading from Exodus, Mark, Ezra, Mason's Saviour of the World, and various commentaries.

:: The set-up for my timetable, planner, and logbook is the same as last year. I still love it! It is my brain on paper.

I'll share more practical bits later, but suffice it to say I am delighted with our start to the year! It has been such a rich couple weeks. There are challenges and it can be quite tiring to manage so much -- don't get me wrong. But what a gift to spend my life guiding small persons into large ones. And the "books and things"! Living ideas drive me as much as they do my students.

Have you started your school year? What is your favorite subject so far?

Monday, August 9, 2021

{This and That} :: Back to School!

Well, we are officially back to school!

I can't believe my oldest two are sophomores this year! I also have a middle schooler, four elementary students, a kindergartener, and two littles.

I hope to share throughout the year here about our schooling adventures! I'm going to try to get a post up in the next couple weeks with some early reflections, a peek at our timetable, and an update on plans and lessons.

You can also find more day-to-day snaps over on Instagram: @celeste_cruz. (My account is currently public, so even if you don't have an Instagram account, you can follow along. I think of it like a micro-blog. :))


I got back a few weeks ago from a whirlwind trip to the East Coast with the CMEC. We hosted Summer Gatherings in three cities over four days: Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Washington DC!

My trip started off with a cross-country flight that was delayed twelve hours and became an unexpected red-eye. 

I got to Philadelphia early Wednesday morning, and our first event was that afternoon. Somehow I managed to give my talk and lead everyone through brush drawing on an hour's sleep -- it was so heartening to see friends and meet new moms that the adrenaline carried me through! And the team from The Mason Academy who hosted the event did a stellar job.

The next day, Amy and I drove to DC and flew to Atlanta. We were met at the airport by CMEC member Melissa, who hosted us at her beautiful home and acted as our driver. Wonderful Southern hospitality -- she was an absolute delight!

On Friday was our Atlanta event, hosted by our friend Heather. I first met Heather when she and her littlest flew out for a CM West retreat a few years ago. Now it was my turn to pay her a visit, and I was thrilled to be able to meet her husband and children too. Heather and her team ran an organized and inviting afternoon for families in the area, and the moms that were able to attend were so interesting and kind.

Her church had a lovely space for us to use, and her friend Brittny hosted us at her home for a delicious dinner. All the green I saw in Atlanta was a balm to my dried-out-Cali-summer soul!

Early the next morning, Amy and I flew back to DC for the event there that afternoon. This was our biggest event of the three -- the church was packed with mothers and babies!

The DC crowd had so much energy and lots of vibrant conversation. I got to meet some ladies I have known online for ages (which was the case at each event!).

Immediately after the DC event, we drove back to Philadelphia, arriving in the middle of a huge downpour. We don't often have lightning and thunder in California, so it was a fun treat for me! The next few days were spent in meetings, talking through all of our plans for the coming year -- so much easier to do in person than online like we usually work. 

I was never fully able to make up for the lost sleep of that first night and spent a good chunk of the week in a bit of a daze! But there were so many grace-filled meetings and moments.

Speaking of the CMEC: registration for the 2021-2022 School Year will be closing August 30th! We are excited about all the new families and groups who have joined us this year. There has been so much energy at our meetings this summer, and we have our big Kick-Off coming up August 16th.

If you're not yet on our contact list but would like to get updates on the CMEC, head over to sign up! And if you're interested in our offerings, request an Information Packet to see samples and video tours of our curriculum and our website.


I mentioned this above and on social media but didn't get a chance to formally share here: Gianna finished her first novel, Four Red Banners!

This has been a big project for her over the past two years, and I'm so proud of her for seeing it through with such enthusiasm and dedication!

The first draft of the book was told to her younger sisters, night after night at bedtime. In the weeks following, she would write by hand each chapter. She spent months typing it up once written, and about a year editing, formatting, and designing the book. Writing is her passion, and the characters of Four Red Banners are so real to her and her siblings that they seem almost to be part of our family.

It's a story of civil war, treason, and intrigue with strong male friendships, a budding (and very wholesome) romance, and a mysterious bit of fantasy. I see so much influence from the many, many good books she has read over the years, from Alcott's Eight Cousins to Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse, to more modern favorites like Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Mara, Daughter of the Nile and Rosemary Sutcliff's Knight's Fee. Those little echoes have been so delightful and heartening to find.

We have gone back and forth about the age recommendation for this novel -- I think perhaps 10-13yo is the sweet spot for homeschool students, but my 8-9yos also love it, as did teen friends. She has been thrilled to get such great feedback so far!


Speaking of writing: thanks to Gianna's inspiration over the past few years, my younger kids have become very dedicated storytellers as well. Here is Andrew's latest. If you are familiar with Four Red Banners, you may notice some sweet similarities!


And because I can't resist, a couple cute (albeit blurry) baby pics. Emilia is 18 months old! Almost all of her pictures have this funny little smirk -- doesn't she just ooze adorable mischief?!


I'll be back soon with an update on lessons and a little post I'm pulling together about summer routines.

When do you start back to school?