Thursday, June 9, 2022

{This and That} :: A June Update

Hello friends! Last time I was in this space, I shared about Christmas baking; somehow six months flew by and now it's June. Time for an update...


We finished our school year back in April, so have been on break for the past six weeks or so. I always begin summer break with really high hopes for all I will be able to get done. Then about a week or so in, I realize that I still have children to care for, meals to cook, and all the usual life tasks to stay on top of, even if it is a "break." So I have to put my projects in perspective and go through a few iterations of a summer schedule before I find one I am satisfied with.

I like to treat each month of our break a little bit differently. So for the last few weeks of April, I  finished up my filing for the year, re-shelved books (and got out the books for next year!), made my pre-reading plan for the summer, and met with the kids to set up their summer plans. For example, I added my boys' chess tournaments to the calendar, signed my daughter up for a literature class she really wanted to take, helped kids pull book stacks for free reading, did some catch-up cleaning from those last few weeks of the school year that were so busy, etc. I think of this as launching summer break, not summer break itself -- it helps me feel better about all the effort it takes! 

We also fit in a good number of fun trips those first few weeks, including the beach and the art museum. And Easter was in April! It was a busy month.

Then in May, we set up a schedule and some goals for the month. One thing that has helped us all stay on track: I decided to continue with Weekly Meetings through the summer. With so many kids to manage, this has helped my life feel more manageable. Basically I have a short (5-10 minute) meeting with each of my older kids and any of my younger kids that have a request. We do coffee and cookies just like during the school year (though we may swap to something like lemonade once it gets really hot!). It's a time for me to handle any small things that have come up over the course of the week -- books they want me to request from the library, reminders about upcoming events, questions about projects, etc. Having these collected into just one day a week has made my mind feel a lot clearer, and my kids like knowing I will have time to chat if they want it.


Another big help this summer has been Cate's Preschool!

On weekends when my husband is off with the boys at their chess tournaments, I hire Catherine to spend two hours with the youngest four (ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) doing some fun activities. She draws a timetable up on the white board and then executes -- all on her own. It usually involves her reading aloud a chapter from their current novel, drawing time, work on a sewing project, singing games, picture books, an Italian game, folksong singing, etc. In the meantime, I spend the two hours working in my bedroom. I only have a few rules for her: everyone has to be included, everyone has to be happy-ish, and no one can ask me any questions. ;) It is going wonderfully and she is now asking if she can do "preschool" with them more often. I think I will have her do a daily block with them the last week of this month when I'm ready to tackle some more of our school planning.


One of these days I will have to round up {What We're Reading} like I used to, but for now, I thought I would highlight three books I have enjoyed lately...

During my morning prayer time I have been rereading Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers by Fr. Lejeune. I forgot  how good a book this is! It covers in a basic way the spiritual life for mothers. It has helped me build back some fruitful habits and rework some elements of my routine to strengthen my interior life. (This copy is a really nice hardcover reprint with a pretty cover and nice readable font. There are a few annoying typos here and there, but they do not detract from the meaning at all.)

My older kids will be reading Uncle Tom's Cabin this year as we study the Civil War. I had read selections in college but had never read it in its entirety, so it was one of the first big novels I picked up this summer. I found it enthralling as a historical document and painfully touching as a story. You see quite clearly Stowe's biases, but you also see a certain fierceness and fortitude that I found moving and admirable. It speaks to a very specific time and place, but it also speaks to our day in surprising ways -- and it offers an interesting example of a persuasive argument that I know my older students will want to analyze. A very difficult but worthy read. Some local friends and I will be discussing it next week for our little book club. (This copy has original illustrations and a pleasing typeset -- I recommend it. Just be aware it does not censor the n-word and is unabridged.)

Bruchac's Sacajawea was my other first novel of the summer, which my Form 2 and 3 kids will be reading next year with the CMEC. In telling the story of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea; the chapters go back and forth between perspectives; sometimes I find this jarring in novels, but here I found it made a enjoyable and intriguing combination. Bruchac did careful research for the book, and it shows -- the characters are brought to life beautifully and respectfully. There are a few difficult moments, so I would be cautious giving this to a sensitive young reader, but otherwise, it makes a great companion to or replacement for Daugherty's Of Courage Undaunted.


I wanted to let you know of a couple places I'll be speaking this summer:

The CMEC Summer Retreat is back! We will be meeting at the beautiful Merion Tribute House outside Philadelphia on July 11-12 to consider "Our Constant Joy: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Home and School." There are just a few spots left, so if you'd like to attend, be sure to sign up soon. We are hoping to offer this year's retreat as a package for sale, like we have in the past. So if you can't make it to Philly this summer but are interested in learning more, keep an eye out for that coming later this summer/early fall. 

I will be speaking about artist study, composer study, and notebooks, and I am learning so much through my research -- as well as pulling together some of our family's "best practices" that I have always wanted to share in a more thorough way.

I also have pre-recorded an brief "Introduction to Charlotte Mason" for the Catholic Homeschool Conference happening this weekend -- with registration closing today! If you will be attending, I hope you'll look for my talk, "Educating Persons." And if you have Catholic friends interested in learning more about the Mason approach, encourage them to check it out as well!

(Speaking of the CMEC, registration is currently open for the 2022-23 School Year! We have two live chats scheduled in June: one for community learning and one about summer planning. You can find all the details at our website and request our Information Packet to learn more. I also plan to give the Fall Mini-Retreat this October, which is free for members, either in person in Philly or broadcasted live online to watch from home!)


Some of my projects this summer, besides working on my retreat talks:

Thinking through college visits (how did we get here?!) and prepping for the SAT
Editing Gianna's second novel (hoping to get it out this fall!)
Lots of pre-reading!
Building our swimming skills (see goggles below!)
Organizing the garage and decluttering the bookshelves

And my littles keep me so busy: plotting out a delightful Kinderleben year for this guy (on the far left) and running after this sweetheart on the right!


So what are you up to this summer? Will I see you in Philadelphia, or will YOU see ME (ha!) at The Catholic Homeschool Conference? Do you have any advice for college visits? (We're looking for a college that's super friendly to traditional Catholics.)

And I'll have to come back with a recap of our school year. It was a great year.


  1. You are so on top of it, Kyndra! I have been watching all your prep on IG with interest. I will be doing most of my school planning in July, after I have completed my prep for the summer retreat. But I am really looking forward to digging in! Hopefully I will be done with most of my pre-reading at that point too. :)

  2. It's been our first full week of break and we've been doing lots of new chore training and just generally getting into the summer routine/schedule (including daily Mass, which is a new practice we're trying while Tom is working from home in the summer and can come with us. I'll see how we're doing by the end of summer and hopefully we can continue it when I'm the only adult! :D)

    I've gotten all our school books in, made lots of brain dumps for next year, "planned the plan" for how/when/what I am going to pre-read this summer, and created all my templates for school planning/weekly lesson plans and checklists, etc. I'm making myself wait to begin pre-reading until *after* I've done the end-of-year reflections on both students. :) I'm also listening to both the 2018 and 2019 CMEC Summer Retreats, and finding them so inspiring! It's fun to think of your family back in time 3-4 years ago. :)

    I'm sure you're already looking into TAC as it's closer to home; our dear babysitter is a rising sophomore there and told us last night that there's a daily TLM. I think Christendom does as well (at least they definitely have one every Sunday) and Wyoming Catholic. I'm sure there are others I'm missing (maybe Thomas More in NH?). Good luck with all the college prep; very exciting!!

    1. Hi Nicole!

      That's so nice you are going to daily Mass. I am sure it will bear much fruit in your family life -- what a great summer "habit" to build!

      And I'm glad you are finding the summer retreats helpful! It is funny to think that the 2018 Summer Retreat was my very first time meeting Amy and Erin and doing anything for the CMEC. :) You and I are in a similar place with our school planning. I have all my books and have planned my plan, and I already have done a good amount of pre-reading (including what I did during curriculum selection this past winter!), but I am waiting to REALLY dig until I am finished with my retreat talks. July will be my big planning month.

      Yes, when you narrow in on Catholic colleges that offer a regular TLM, it's a shorter list -- which maybe will make it easier in a way? :) Thank you for the suggestions!

  3. I so enjoy your recaps! That's a great idea to have different goals for each month of summer - this is something I would like to implement, both in terms of goals for myself and my student. We have been on holiday for six weeks already. School finished with a bit of a fizzle as my Form 1B broke his wrist and that was an adjustment for both of us. I realized the other day that we are both feeling tired from the lack of routine and are also missing the dynamism that the school year brings - we work hard, but we also have a lot of outside activities with our homeschool community, which is actually refreshing, although it can feel tiring in the thick of it! Summer here in the Southwest is tough, as outdoor time is limited to very early walks and the pool. I have been doing a lot of pre-reading, setting up my logbook, writing lesson plans, rewatching old CMEC Form Meetings, as well as the Summer Planning and Method of a Lesson course. I feel a bit all over the place but I'm getting it done by chipping away at it.
    I love "Counsels of Perfection for Christian Women" and now you've made me want to reread it!
    Also, I have a student who would love to join "Cate's Preschool"!

    1. Thanks, Raquel! Yes, it can be funny to move into summertime "early," like we always do (and it sounds like you did too), without a plan for organizing the time a bit. I love our long summers but appreciate having a good routine and some goals and plans here and there to structure the long hours of free time (which we also love!). And when you aren't able to go outside much, that sounds like it would be especially important!

      Cate would love it if Ronan could join her preschool. The more the merrier! :)

    2. Oh my, I just realized we haven't been on break for six weeks - it's only been three and a half weeks! - but the lack of routine makes me feel as if the time is both dragging and flying by. Ronan broke his wrist the first week of May, then he had First Confession, followed by First Holy Communion, so things have been a blur. We have a planning meeting for our local TBG co-op next week, and I'm also looking forward to the two June CMEC meetings to help me reorientate myself!

    3. We have our co-op planning meeting coming up as well -- very exciting!

  4. What is your honest opinion of the Paterson-Smyth commentaries? I know they come highly recommended in the CM world; however, I'm leary of the protestant/Anglican take seeping in. I know you use other commentaries, too, like Knecht's (which doesn't cover all of the books either), but what is your honest opinion on this? Do you feel they are truly helpful or are they really not necessary?

    1. I do find them valuable. The books are unique in that they are written specifically to introduce worthy ideas to children about the Bible stories and yet are not dumbed down in their approach -- they actually *are* worthy ideas. I have found it challenging to find something similar that is Catholic. I certainly could just read a Catholic commentary for adults and pull out my own ideas to share, but in lieu of that process, I like the Paterson-Smyth on my shelf for ease and I see the stories through a new lens through his insights. I don't agree with him on all points, but the areas where I find disagreement are rare (and I just don't include those in our lessons -- I pick and choose the parts I want to focus on).

      The only thing comparable I have seen that is Catholic is the first half of Mother Loyola's First Communion, which goes through the Old and New Testaments in a really similar way. If it were organized by book and more developed, I would use that instead because I think they have the same goal, and yet she has that Catholic approach and hits the nail on the head every time. We use her book as well, but just reading it through, not tied to our Bible reading, since it just isn't set up that way. But that book is a real gem and has shaped my thoughts about reading the Bible to children more than any other.

      If you are interested in the Paterson Smyth but do not want to purchase, you could always read them online instead: