The Kitchen

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson, 1898

Here’s a bit of loveliness to cheer up a gray day.

I read an article about teachers who choose to practice self-care are then happier and better able to deal with the emotional-social drain of their teaching job. I imagine that applies to motherhood and homeschooling as well. In Charlotte Mason terms, it’s called “Mother Culture.” The crisp lines, bright spaces, and homey details in this painting are my self-care for the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, right?


End of the Year Post

Most Memorable Adult Novel I’ve Read in 2017: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017). I can’t recommend it to everyone, but for those who like being transported to dangerous places (like Africa) and sympathizing with beautiful people who are misunderstood, then this is good.

Most Memorable Non-Fiction I’ve Read in 2017: Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015). It’s really encouraged me to take time out to think things through, to realize that I’m the type of person who likes to think and reflect and read, and to be okay with that kind of a teacher in our homeschool. And to be okay with quiet learning progress (and not noticeable strides in progress).

Most Memorable Children’s Read-Aloud in 2017: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935). Why haven’t I read this aloud before? We did it in one day. It was that good.

My Favorite Post I’ve Written in 2017: Mr. and Mrs. Roussel. I even wrote a story based on it.

The Favorite Thing I’ve Done in 2017: Got a job at BlogMutt, ghost-writing posts and articles for clients from all over the English-speaking countries. I haven’t made much (yet), but it’s a good feeling to be transferring some money here and there into my savings account. And I like the writing challenges.

Most Memorable Concept I’ve Learned at Church (or Bible Study) in 2017: The comfort God provides is often in our looking forward to our time with Him in eternity. Even among our friends and families, we are alienated. But God loves us completely and has wonderful things for us to come.

Best Thing about Homeschooling in 2017: The continuation of Five in a Row and not following an Ambleside Online schedule anymore. Oh! I also loved the Native America History Unit Study we did.

Favorite Game I’ve Played with My Kids in 2017: Labyrinth. Unfortunately, it’s no one else’s favorite game. Fortunately, I can easily play my left brain against my right brain:)

Weirdest Way We Spent Time at Home in 2017: Speaking names backward. My youngest daughter is Rehteah. Then comes Yluc. The oldest is Eidde, but the girls tease him and call him Drawde. Lucky me, I’m still Mom.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 (and I’ve given this some thought): Paint a picture, just for me. But I have to get it done in a year!

Happy New Year!

Christmas: The Good and The Wishes for Improvement

This Christmas I’ve tried not to overdo things. This means taking advantage of my kids’ natural holiday excitement. I’m not going for the 12 days of Christmas crafts this year (did that last year, and it was a fun memory, but not necessary to repeat). I’m baking goodies that we haven’t had in awhile but aren’t technically Christmas goodies. No advent calendar. It’s been kind of nice, and some unexpected great moments have come up, all on their own!

  • Dancing to Handel’s Messiah before bedtime. The first time I tried playing this CD the kids purposely moved to a different room. The second time we read a Mike Venezia book about Handel and then they requested to listen to the CD so they could dance to it. It was fun! I didn’t dance myself. That wouldn’t have been fun.
  • Nutcracker mania. This was unexpected. It began with a free art project I plopped into a hole in my homeschool schedule. We each painted a winter scene and pasted a marker-colored Nutcracker character on top. They are beautiful! Then we went to the library and checked out two different Nutcracker movies, one of which had an actual ballet on it as a bonus feature. And we checked out three different Nutcracker children’s books.
  • The kids shopped for each other at the Dollar Tree. This involved stealth and secrets. We all went into the store together. I accompanied them each individually to the toy aisle and hid their choices in an opaque bag while the other two hid out in the home products aisle. Then I sent them to the car (small town, folks… I wouldn’t have done this in Chicago) while I paid. The children were thoughtful and sweet in their choices.
  • I cared enough to enjoy a carton of eggnog. I’m the only one in my family who likes it. I allow myself one carton a year. Last year I was so bah-humbug I refused to buy my carton of eggnog.

And some things about this Christmas could still be improved upon next year. For instance, my husband bought me two gifts. One of which he apparently couldn’t wait for me to open. He told me several times beforehand it was a nosewarmer. (Whatever, right?) He made me open it a couple weeks ago although I told him I’d just as soon wait till Christmas. It was a pair of electric socks. They can’t go in the wash. You have to charge them up. I don’t know. My feet haven’t been sufficiently cold enough to justify getting the socks dirty yet. The other gift under the tree is apparently a Van Gogh print (except sometimes he forgets and calls it a Renoir). He talks about it constantly, teasing me, getting me to argue with him. I don’t even want it anymore and I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is will remind me of all those excess words between us. Bleh. I wish for no presents next year from him. Or at least a present with no words attached.

The other improvement is my own attitude toward Christmas at church. The kids’ program, the caroling, the advent sermon series… they are all good, but I find myself not caring so much. I wish for a better attitude, more focused on Christ. I kind of wish Christmas was always on Sunday, like Easter. And I wish we followed the Dutch tradition of gift-exchanging on Dec. 6, so Christmas Day could be church and feasting.

Well, Merry Christmas, everyone. It has its ups and downs, but it’s always about Jesus, who is always good and perfect and lovely, no matter if I am up or down.


Kids Books Repeatedly Checked Out of the Library

We use the library a lot. I have 85 items checked out at the moment. I use it for homeschool, and my kids can’t resist piling up the favorites every time we go. I sometimes have to tell them to go back in the stacks and find something we’ve never read before (because I get tired of reading the same things over and over). Here’s a list of some of the favorites that get checked out again and again. You will soon see that my girls are more likely to check out repeats than my son.

  • George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall. This big book always weighs down the library box. I consider it a book about being tactful and friendly. The stories are sometimes delightfully goofy!
  • Anything by Holly Hobbie, especially Fanny, Fanny and Annabelle, and the Toot and Puddle books. Okay, and also Everything But the Horse. These books encourage imaginative creativity to the tenth degree!
  • The Water Hole by Graeme Base. We love the moose. My youngest can pore over the whole book searching for the hidden animals.
  • Alfie and Annie Rose books by Shirley Hughes. Yes, my kids are getting too old for these, but love for a book is timeless, right?
  • Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor. I’m supposed to like these because they are fun and girly in a good way, and they build our vocabularies, but we’ve checked out Splendiferous Christmas so often… sigh… I believe I’m anti-fancy because of Nancy.
  • My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco. She is a prolific author, tackling subjects other children’s authors don’t touch. Mostly, she writes stories about real people she has known. This book is about her real older brother. I like the ending, and I like to read the dedication, which is to her brother “with love.” I point that out with extra emphasis to my girls, who can totally sympathize with the “rotten” part of the book.
  • Randy’s Dandy Lions and Cowardly Clyde by Bill Peet. His books have rhyme and rhythm. And usually some decent morals. They have good guys and bad guys, and they have underdogs who rise to the occasion. We like them.
  • Ponyella by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans. A horse and a Cinderella spin-off. Need I say more?
  • Strega Nona books by Tomie dePaola. These are Catholic (we’re Protestant) and full of magic spells. But somehow dePaola works his charm and makes it more than acceptable anyway.

There’s more. But I’m drawing a blank, so I’ll stop here. The above books are ones we’ve been enjoying for years. Honestly, I think if we owned them we wouldn’t read them nearly so often. Libraries are way more fun than bookshelves at home.

Do you have any favorites that get checked out again and again?

Native America Unit Study

We finished our Native America Unit Study which I bought from Homeschool Legacy. I am really impressed! It is a six-week study, but I stretched it out to eight weeks. It covered Native America in geographical units: Southwest, Northeast, Great Plains, etc. The unit study included suggested reading, a devotional, interesting facts, website suggestions, some games, some recipes, and more. It claims to be no prep, but that’s not true, at least in my case. I had to prepare ahead of time by ordering the books from the library and making sure I had everything in time.

The best thing about the study? Reading Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell. It really opened up the life of the Navajos to us. Second best? A matching game about the different parts of a buffalo and what the Great Plains people used them for. (No one wanted to get the buffalo chip match. Eww.)

I’m not getting paid to write this review; I just think it’s worth sharing with you. If you’re looking for a different sort of history unit, go over to Homeschool Legacy and check it out!

The Conflict

You could say I’m fairly well tuned to the beat of homeschooling and motherhood, at least for kids still in the elementary age. I am homeschooling and mothering every day. I read blogs by honest mothers trying to do the same things I do. I attend a homeschool co-op and listen to other moms chat in the breakroom. I even read books written by homeschool moms and dads. Well, in all the information and advice I’ve gleaned through these different sources, I sense a conflict. If you’re a homeschooling mom, you probably feel this conflict, too, even if you haven’t tried describing it. I’m just beginning to put it in words.

The conflict is one between taking care of yourself and giving of yourself.

Self-care. It’s important, right? I’ve recently added “Quiet Time for Mom” to the top of my homeschool daily schedule. My kids are old enough now that I can safely leave them with their breakfast and puzzles and Barbies in the downstairs while I take a few minutes upstairs to be alone, read the Bible, a devotional, pray, write in a prayer journal. Then I come downstairs to be Teacher-Mom. But what about at 10:30 am when Teacher-Mom is on her second can of Mt. Dew (because it has been a two-can day already), the grand scheme of the schedule has not been played out yet, and it seems easier to just let everyone play while I plan dinner and switch loads of laundry, which is more relaxing, and besides, Homemaker-Mom is feeling guilty for being non-existent all morning? Or worse, what about the times Grumpy-Mom shows up and refuses to go away? What then? Is it okay to go take care of these other sides of Mom?

Or must I keep going, self-sacrificing, refuse to notice that I’m grumpy, or tell myself that an education is more important than a load of laundry? Give of myself more and more. That’s really a Biblical concept, and that’s what I should be striving after, right? Forget about those selfish yearnings to make money of my own so I don’t have to feel bad about asking my husband for more when my wallet runs out. Forget about wanting some time to do art alone without a thousand interruptions (after all, we moms live in phases, and the phase for being left alone will eventually come). Forget about that walk the kids used to love but now don’t. Forget about trying to be rested on a Sunday afternoon (because that hasn’t happened in forever). My job right now is to Be There. To Live Here with Children. To Be Dependent on my Husband. To Be the One my Children are Dependent On. To Be in the Middle of All These Conflicts.

That’s my conclusion. Being part of this conflict means I’m where I’m supposed to be. It’s a tough job we moms have. It’s confusing. There are no books or blogs written to truly solve this problem. God is a solution, I guess, but God makes it pretty clear that following Him isn’t supposed to be an easy thing. He knows the answers, but I will never understand what I want to understand.

Day Away Home

Once upon a clear fall day a homeschool mom decided enough was enough. She was going on vacation. So she donned her favorite red and black plaid shirt, comfy jeans, put her hair up, and told her children to be good; she’d be right back. She went outside to feed the cats, got a good breath of cool air, and then she came back in. However, she did not come back home! She came to the Day Away Home (which is totally imaginary, but it just goes to show she spends much time around her daughters who play imaginary all the time).

Day Away Home itinerary:
Item 1. School. Even away from normality, one must be educated. Today happened to be science video day, which brought the class into the transition forests of the Great Lakes region. We looked up into the treetops and were thankful for the way God renews His earth.

Item 2. Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell. Oh, we are enthralled with this story of Sacagawea. It is definitely a trip out west. An exploration. We were really horrified that the icky Frenchman won the Hand Game and so won Sacagawea as his wife, but we’re glad she could go with Lewis and Clark.

Item 3. Dinner. We ate food this mom enjoys but doesn’t often make: fried slices of ring bologna and mashed potatoes with pineapple on the side.

Item 4. Apple Orchard. A yearly trip to the orchard playground and store. A giant pumpkin stood in the front (was it real? was it a Cinderella coach?) A new castle structure added intrigue to the playground, and a certain nine-year-old boy who is usually bored with anything his sisters enjoy managed to entertain himself quite nicely.

Item 5. Leaf Maze. Aforementioned nine-year-old boy went to much effort to create an elaborate leaf maze in the Day Away Home backyard, complete with checkpoints and an entry sign-in sheet. Mother and sisters completed the maze and amazingly mother made it out without asking for directions!

Item 6. Games on the floor. Uno and Spot It! were the games of choice.

The day wound down, and I suppose I am no longer on my day away. But that’s okay. I have a good grown-up book waiting for me upstairs. 🙂