Out with the old year, in with the new...country?

So I've hinted here and there that next year is going to be a bit crazy. Every year here is a bit crazy but normally I don't know what craziness to expect until it happens; this year, I know in advance! We're moving! To England! Yay!!!

And yes, all those exclammation points are needed becasue this is a dream come true. England, the land of our honeymoon. The land of my beloved Jane Austen...and Charlotte Bronte....and Charlotte Mason. Okay, I'll stop now. But rest assured, I could go on.

But that's not until late spring. Right now, it's prep time. And prep time is crazy time. Because I've got a whole houseful of kids and animals and stuff that has to be dealt with in one way or another (spoilers - the kids get to come... and so does the dog and much of the stuff because we'll be there at least 3 years. But not the guinea pigs are hopefully not a lot of our crap. I tend toward minimalism but with 4 kids, the stuff still accumlates fast)

I've given myself the holidays to enjoy holiday stuff but that's just a a few more days. Then the kids get back to work on their second term of school with hopes of finishing it on time (10 weeks or less!), I start decluttering like a crazy women and ordering everything we need for next year school (I want it all here and organized before we go so I'm not worrying about it later) and Craig starts chasing me around with paperwork he wants done and we both start working on our massive (and growing) checklist of things to be done here to the house before we go. But in the end I'll end up living the dream so bring it on!

Classics Challenge: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

11 hrs. I finished the Challenge with 11 hours to spare! I really didn't think I would but I actually got into the story towards the end. It took me a while, mostly because of ebook formatting options. I read a lot faster when I found a good hardcopy at my dad's house over the holidays. Then I was close enough to the end that I powered through on my annoying ebook once we came home.

I used this for my Classic from a Place You've Lived seeing as how Hannibal MO (aka Mark Twain country) is not too far from us. I actually would like to go visit this spring if I can fit it into the schedule. So it's from here - and yet it's not. The world Huck Finn lives in is so different from what I live in day to day that I think it would be easy to dismiss parts of it or at least some of the ideas its sharing. It's tempting to read this in a less than humble way. In other words, to use it as a way to pat yourself on the back for being so woke. Which would be a mistake. But having said that, it's one I would have loved to read at the time because I think it would have been almost a different book. Of course, one can never really do that and I suppose that is one of the best reasons to read it now. To try and see from that point of view. Both the ideas that were prevelent then - and the way people fought them.  I wish I could articulate more but I think I need a few more weeks (months?) to think on it. And the idea of it being banned because of racial slurs - well, that's a whole 'nother post that I don't even have the desire to write anytime soon! But it's all interesting to think about.

On a less "educational" level, it was also just enjoyable. Having a little boy in my life probably made certain parts more humorous too. Little boys are their own type of creature - and one that I think Mark Twain was familiar with.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was my Back to the Classics Challenge Classic From a Place You've Lived selection.


Classics Challenge 2019

Another Classics Challenge completed! (sorta)

I've finished 11 of my 12 catagories. I actually did more of the ones I originally picked this year that I typically do which is kinda neat. I still have Huck Finn to finish and I'm only at about 50% so I'm putting this up now and if I don't finish, I don't finish. We are still thick in Christmas celebrations here (it's only the 4th day of Christmas, more presents to open and more treats to make/bake!) but I will be trying. (Update - I finished! And almost half a day to spare)

1. 19th Century Classic  -  That Lass O'Lowries

2. 20th Century Classic -  40 Acres and No Mule

3. Classic by a Woman Author  In This House of Brede

4. Classic in Translation.  Dante's Inferno

5. Classic Comic Novel. Mike

6. Classic Tragic Novel. The Great Gatsby

7. Very Long Classic. The History of Tom Jones

8. Classic Novella. The Death of Ivan Ilyich

9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean). Robinson Crusoe. 

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia).  

11. Classic From a Place You've Lived. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

12. Classic Play. Much Ado About Nothing

Of all my reads for this challenge, I think my favorite was In This House of Brede but followed pretty closely by 40 Acres and No Mule. The one I'm most proud of completing is Dante's Inferno and the one I could live my life without ever reading again is Tom Jones. Since my review I've read some other opinions about the lessons it teaches so I won't judge if you like it or assign it to high schoolers or anything but I won't ever be picking it again!

And that's my challenge. I've really enjoyed doing this challenge with Karen and her Books and Chocolate blog for the past few years and I've seen a few others recently but I haven't decided if I'm doing any next year. Maybe I'll just see where the books lead. Or maybe not, my type A personality is already a little freaked out about not having a list for this next year :-) 

And if you need to get ahold of me Karen, try naethingm@gmail.com

Classics Challenge - Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is one of those classics that I couldn't really believe I'd never read. I won't say I'm ashamed to not have read because there are too many wonderful books in the world to ever be ashamed of not having read any one particular book but I am really glad I've can now say I've read it.

Crusoe spends most of the book on a desert island somewhere near Trinidad which is in the Caribeans so I'm putting this one in the catagory of  Classic from Americas/Caribbean.

I "read" this one mostly by listening along with Lucy (its an Ambleside Online year 4 book). Mark Smith was already a favorite librivox reader of ours and it was nice to have a familiar voice leading us through it. That also meant we took it slow, listening to about 10-15 minutes 4 days a week for many weeks. I think that really contributed to my enjoyment. This book is by no means a simple adventure/survival story but still, not really liking that sort of book, I probably wouldn't have given the other aspects as much of a chance to sink into my brain had I read it on my own quickly.

 Both she and I really liked the middle section. The first part moved quickly and you start to get a little annoyed at Mr. Crusoe for his bad decisions. But we stuck with him and I'm glad. I'm not sure Lucy got as much out of his religious ponderings as I did but I also know that both of us probably internalized more than we think and we both have already made connections to other books and situations since then. That's another benefit to having read it with her, when we see a connection - we get excited to share it with each other!

Robinson Crusoe is my Back to the Classics Challenge - Classic from Americas or Caribbean. For more about challenge, head over to Books and Chocolate.


Together - Term Review continues

Together Time 

What we call our morning time. I've shorted it up a bit and I'm having a hard time finding a good time for this, mostly because the right after lunch time we had is now right before naptime for Jude and I feel like I'm always rushing it so I can put him down because he's falling apart or I'm rushing it because he's asleep and I don't want us singing and waking him up or him waking up right as we finish and big kids start quiet time which means I don't get any quiet time myself. So this was probably the weakest link in terms of consistency. But it has folk and hymns, catachism questions, recitation pieces (poetry,bible and some US history memorization work) and everything got memorized and/or learned fairly well so I won't panic yet. 

Feast Time

 In addition to our daily-ish family together time, we did a weekly mini-coop with other AO friends. This was Picture study and a artist biography, Swedish Drill, Handicrafts and Map Study and some extra quality picture books (Diana Stanley for the win!). We were as consistent with this as fall and germ season allowed. 

Tea Time

Since we moved a few of our regular tea time activites to our feast morning (picture study, composer), we had some space to fill. We do the AO Year 4 Mason/Long geography readings (Jonah's always followed along with Lucys' work in the AO schedule), bible videos (Phil Vischer bible study videos - they are great and allow me 10 minutes to actually make the tea), the MCT poetry book and whatever extra special studies I want to do (Good Pictures/Bad Pictures last term, I'm planning on doing Connoisseur Kids this upcoming term) and Keeping time (timelines and painted narration cards) We didn't get everything I had planned done but when I made those plans, I didn't know we'd be doing the Feast time so in the end, I'm really happy that we got a whole AO term done along with all the extra stuff.

Jonah's keeping cards. 


We were having consistently issues but I moved it to right after breakfast and it's getting done pretty regularly now. We've dropped Solfa for now but they kids love to sing so I'm sure it will get added back in again in the future.


We had a good summer of handicrafts with out summer mini-coop of two other families. Paper cutting was a huge hit! This fall we have dabbled in a few things but mostly child led. I introduced them to sculpey and they took off with that, I've got a constant stream of little items next to my oven waiting to be baked. Lucy and Jonah both did a church workshop with all sorts of sewing and woodbuilding and fun projects all afternoon, Lucy did a sewing badge for AHG and then we worked on this present for our first cousin - due this April!

. This is one subject that I need to learn to be content with bursts. When I write it all down, what we did was quite sufficient but it doesn't fit into my neat tidy weekly checklists. I need to learnt to be okay with that instead of stressing out when we don't get to it weekly.


I outsourced! We hired a local artist to come to our house and teach Lucy and Jonah every other week for an hour and a half. They absolutely love it. She's a wonderful woman and its been such a great experiance. The kids do tons of drawing and as I said, sculpting,  on their own but she's been getting them into bigger, messier projects like print making and lino cuts and mosaics. And I no longer feel guilty for not being able to make bigger, messier projects happen with a preschooler and toddler underfoot. She comes at naptime so Norah and I try to have special time when its just the two of us, painting and reading and snuggling. I've noticed that Norah has started thinking she is bad at art but its just she's always tagging along with what the bigger two are doing. When its just her and me, she thinks she brilliant at art - and she is!




Nature Study - Another fits and bursts subject. We read Burgess Sea Shore book this summer and did a bunch of nature study on our beach vacation and afterwards drawing the items we found. We didn't quite make our 25 stars on our hiking chart yet but we'll try to fit one or two more hikes before it's officially winter.  We also started phenology wheels after we picked a tree to study all year but I also forgot where I "safely stored" said phenology wheels so we're a little behind. Oops.

Changes to make

No matter how well the term has gone, I always panick when I'm writing exams because all I see is what we didn't do and what I wasn't consistent about. I've learned now to try and ignore those feelings because once they've actually taken their exams and I've put together their pieces and added them to their portfolios, I feel pretty good about what we accomplished and am not planning on changing too much.

 I'd like to try and be more consistent with our morning time but since this is the first time we've ever struggled with it, I think its definitely a life stage issue. I finally made a cd of all our folks songs to replace the ones I lost and add in the newer songs. I also plan to buy a hymn cd and work our way through. Having the cds means that we can at least get our songs in if its a field trip day. And we did more composer study this term than ever before, finishing a biography about Mozart and actually listening to some of his pieces at least 3 times a week. But next term I'd like to start trying to recognize specific pieces by our composer and learning their names. This next term will be a bit crazy so if we do as well next term as we did this term, I'll be pretty happy.

Jonah's Year 1 Term 2 Exams

Jonah did great this term too. For our family term this spring/summer, we studied ancients and when I asked him what he wanted to do this fall, he specifically asked to do extra science and learn about "how scientists learned things in time" so in addition to the AO year 1 science, we've added Berean Builders Science in the Ancient World. We're only doing it 1-2x a week but he's enjoying the readings and the demonstrations/experiments. Lucy doesn't have to but normally choosees to listen in.

Math - I didn't do any math exam questions but he's doing MEP and Beast Academy. We'll probably have to narrow it down to one eventually but for now, he's enjoying doing both.

     Tell one story about David.
There was this big valley and there was two hills on either side. And the Philistines were on one side and the Israelites were on the other side. And the Philistines had one of their people was a giant and everyone was afraid of him but they were having a war and David, he choose to fight Goliath and he killed Goliath. He took five flat stones from the brook and took his sling and he shot Goliath in the forehead and then he fell over.

    Tell about the shepherds and the angels.
So there were some shepherds in the fields in the same area where Jesus was going to be born. And then an angel appeared to them “There is going to be, in the city of Bethlehem, a baby and he will be called Jesus, the son of God” and then their appeared a multitude of angels and they praised the Lord, the angels did, and then the angels went away and the shepherds said “let us go there and see Jesus, the baby, and then they went there to Bethlehem and they worshipped him.


Tell a fable.
Ass and salt. So this Ass and his owner, they were bringing salt back home and the donkey, the ass, tripped and he fell into the water and the salt melted and then it was easier to carry it home so next time he fell over on purpose and the master figured out he was doing in on purpose. Then he went to the seashore and brought home two baskets of sponges and the ass fell down and it was then harder to carry.
Tell the story of Grace Darling.
There was a ship and it was sailing on the sea and there was a waterfall and it drove over the cliff and half the boat fell down and the other half had people on it and they clung on to it so they wouldn’t go down the waterfall. And there was a lighthouse far away and the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, named Grace Darling, saw the boat and told her father and her father, the lighthouse keeper, he said “No” but then finally she persuaded him to go and then they went and got all the people onto their boat and went back to the lighthouse and then the people that were on the boat went back to their homes. The end.

Tell me the story of the First Letter, or Armadillos or Tell me about how the crickets had to wait.
So there was a mom and a dad and they had one daughter was Taffy that meant girl who does not have very good manners and ought to be spanked and the dad’s name was Tegumai that meant man who does not put his foot forward in a hurry and the mom’s name was Teshumai and it meant, woman who asks a very many questions. And Taffy and her dad always came home late and one day they went out on a fishing trip but before they had caught anything the dad’s fishing spear broke and he was going to mend it when this stranger came from a different country from them and Taffy drew them a picture of, well, it looked like a bunch of people were throwing spears at her dad and then he took it to the mom’s house, the cave, and then there was some other people there and they all put mud in the his hair and were rude to him but then they went there and they saw them fishing, because they were done mending. And then they all laughed and then cleaned his hair and then the mom said “you have made an invention!”

Draw a picture narration for Aladdin and the Magic Lamp OR The Glass Slipper.

So this is the castle that was in the dessert and this Aladdin laying down and the princess in the window.

Tell how the Giant's Dance was brought to England, or how Arthur became king.

Arthur became king. Everyone was fighting about who would be king. So Merlin walked in with Arthur and he said, this is the new king and everyone was like “oh no, he is just a boy and Uther Pendragon did not have a son!” and then he brought all the people to a stone with a sword in it and then everyone tried to pull the sword out of it to become king but no one did it until Arthur took and pulled it out. And then that was his sword and he lived a long good life.

Tell about Dick Whittington, Picciola, or Antonio Canova.

Antonio Canova. So there was this boy named Antonio Canova and his father died so he lived with his grandfather who was a poor woodsman and he carved things out of wood and tried to make statues out of marble. And one time he  accidently broke a big statue and he was sorry and he carved something out of butter. It was a crouching lion. And everyone really liked it and then he became a somebody who makes statues and who is good at it.

Tell me what you remember about George Washington.
He was a very good boy at school and he was the best at riding horses at school and he had good manners except he cut down his father’s tree, cherry tree, and when he was grown up, he wanted to be a surveyor and then he was in the army and he went through the river Delaware and everyone wanted to go home and then they won the war and they got home on Christmas day. And they celebrated that he came back and they had a big feast. And his soldiers when he was in the army were just farmers and weren’t really soldiers and all the time they went home to see their children and family. And he was the first founding father and the first president. And his other name insGeneral Washington.

Geography – 100%
1.      Find Lake Michigan and Lake Superior on a map. Where is Missouri on the same map.
2.      Find the continents of Africa and Europe on the map. Find the countries of Canada, United States, United Kingdom. 

Natural History and General Science
Describe your favorite nature study find this term.

It was a big black caterpillar, a little bit longer than a wooly bear, and it was all black. It was a lot faster and I saw it in the middle of our yard on the concrete. And the last place I saw it was all the way over by the wall.

Tell me what do you know about nests? Or Tell me about the woodpecker family?

Woodpeckers tap on trees with their long beaks. And they live in trees sometimes and some of them live on the ground. And there are flickers and red headed woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers. They eat bugs and berries and one member of the woodpecker family, the top, the very tip of their beak, it can flip up to catch worms in the ground without their whole bill opening.

His Downy Woodpecker drawing

Describe one of our science demonstrations and what it meant.

You take one glass and put vinegar in it and you put some pennies in it and a nail that is not stainless steel or galvanized and you wait. And the pennies should get shinier. The copper ions come off of the penny and that makes it shinier. But if you use stainless steel or galvanized, the nails get shinier because that’s what happened with us. And one that worked was…
You take two cups and put cold water in one and boiling water in the other one. And you put pepper in both of them. Black pepper. And then you watch it. The pepper in the hot water glass will go around and not go straight down but in the cold water glass it just floats down and stays down. Because in the hot water, the ions are moving and they push the pepper up and around. But in the cold water, its not really moving, not as much, so it just floats down.

Picture Study
Describe your favorite picture from this term's picture study.

Now let’s see, my favorite was…the last supper. So Jesus is in the middle and they are all on the same of the table which is kind of odd. And its just at the time that Jesus is telling everyone that someone is going to betray him and everybody is whispering to each other “do you think I’m going to be it?” and things like that. And at one side there is a hall and the side that they aren’t sitting, there is a hallway going down from the table. And its in a big room and I don’t see which one is Judas.


Schools out for - thanksgiving break! Lucy's Year 4 Term 1 Exams and Review

It's not quite as catchy as "summer" but I am still pretty excited to have wrapped up the first term of the school year. It was Lucy's first term of year 4 and Jonah's second term of year 1.

Lucy's Year 4 Term 1

Year 4 was quite intimidating for me. It just has so many new components! But she's done so well with all of them.


We went with Getting Started with Latin. I'm doing it with her as a refresher for myself. We do it all orally (and ecclesiastical pronunction for you Latin geeks). We are almost half way done with the first book and I'm glad there is a second! The only thing I wish it had was a bit of English to Latin translation instead of relying on Latin to English excercises but I add a few of those in myself every once in a while. I have all three levels of the Latin Road to English Grammar but those are fairly intsense so I don't want to start them yet. This is a gentle and easy but effective intro to Latin.


I love our grammar program. We do just the grammar and practice books from Michael Clay Thompson (actually, I take that back, we are also all working through his first level's poetry book very slowly in our tea time but its kind of its own thing). Lucy and I read Grammar Island together over the summer and now she does one practice sentance a day, doing his four part sentance analysis. This was the first time we had done any formal grammar with Lucy but she's done brilliantly and its one of her favorite tasks every day.


We started Simple Spelling. It's inexpensive and all the levels in one. We started at the beginning with level A (3rd grade) but have jumped her up to Level B. She studies the same passage all week and by Friday, has no issues with dictation. The only issue I have is that she only gets one passage each week. It's a good quality passage but I'm wondering if perhaps I should do 3 days of Simple Spelling and two days where she picks her own passage for copywork. 


Form 2 means full plays! I let her pick and was not at all surprised when she asked for Much Ado About Nothing. We tried listening to the Arkangel radio productions but she thought they moved too fast and we were missing the jokes. So we just took turns reading. We'd pick different parts each scene and sometimes one person would end up talking themselves quite a bit but we had so much fun. I don't think I've heard her laugh as loud and as much as I did in this reading, especially the ones with Dogberry. One of her exam questions asked for her favorite scene. This is the picture she drew to accompany it, showing Dogberry handing out his ridiculous instructions. 

Dogberry is telling the guards what to do. And he says, you must be very quiet and I think it would be a good idea for you to sleep because you would be very quiet indeed. And if the prince comes, then stop him, but only if he wants to be stopped. And if thieves come in the night, you should make them go away and leave them alone, don’t take the thieves just leave them alone. And that is all. 

Originally, I had planned for us to do just Shakespeare in the fall and then depending on how it went, either replace it with Plutach or add Plutarch in. We have a bit of a crazy spring planned and on paper Shakespeare should really stay out of next term (and maybe Plutarch - as I said, crazy spring!) but I don't think I can because she'd be so heartbroken so I think we'll tackle Hamlet.

Written Narrations 

I didn't expect any issues with written narrations because she loves to write. And she did well, the only issues was that she didn't like having to have shorten narrations so we compronised by my letting her write was she could in a reasonable amount of time and then she would finish orally. We only did one a week this term, I'll probably bump that up to two next term. I also let her choose which book each week and she often choose Storybook of Science but did branch out to Shakespeare and Minn occasionally as well. I'll continue to encourage her to try different books but unless she really gets stuck, I'll leave the choice to her. And reading her written narrations each week is one of my favorite tasks, I just enjoy seeing her writing style develop.

History, Literature, Science and Bible

This isn't my favorite period of history but the revolutionary war is coming and that will be fun (It's Lucy's favorite time period)  I'm hoping she can start to take over more on her own but I thought she did really well with what she was given and the exam results seemed to validate that. We started doing recorded narrations with a voice memo app on my phone and that works really well. Her recorded narrations are the most detailed, even more than when I'm reading to her. We did Robinson Crusoe on audio and managed to stay on track which felt pretty good. Madam How and Lady Why was stretching but we took it slow, added some youtube videos and its definitely growing on us. 


She finished the oral part of Learnables 1 and instead of moving to the reading section we started using ULAT. We both really love it. We just finished the free portion and I subscribed for the next year. We do it together. She could probably do it on her own but I'm trying to refresh my memory/keep up with her so we do it together. 

So overall, I'm really happy with how Term 1 went! It was definitely an increase in work load and expection for her but she rose to the challenge very well and I'm so proud of her.

Exam samples:

I find it helpful to see other kids exam questions so I will continue to share as long as the kids are comfortable with it. My little ones love to share theirs. Lucy's is getting longer so I'll just share some samples. Notice that some answers are really long and detailed - and some aren't. And I'm okay with that. We had to do exams concurrently with our last few days of readings although I lightened the load by dropping math and language arts on those days. It kinda dampened the fun of our exams days so I'll try not to do that again but we had a big thanksgiving trip planned and sick days took up our flex time so it is what it is.

1.    Describe a picture from this term's picture study and tell me what you know about Leonardo DaVinci

Leonardo DaVinci, well, he was first an apprentice and the other apprentices would work on a big picture together and when the artist, when he started to paint a picture and Leonardo draw one of the angels in it, the artist thought his angel was so good that he never painted again because Leonardo was so much better than him at painting. Leonardo didn’t finish a lot of his work, he started to make a big statue of a horse and it was working pretty good but just when he was just about to make it, all the metal was used for cannons. And he also had sort of a contest with Michelangelo. He painted a big mural of Jesus and the disciples and when he was old, he lived with the king of France and he painted a very famous picture called the Mona Lisa and its one of the most popular paintings in the whole world.

I have two favorites. One of my favorites is the Lady with the Ermine and it’s the lady and she’s posed odd. Her body is turned one way and her head is turned the other and she looks uncomfortable and shes holding an Ermine which is a weasel. And the ermine looks kinda like a dragon or a lizard because it doesn’t look like it has fur, it just has greenish skin. But she looks kinda fancy, she’s wearing fancy clothes but the background is all black.

And then my other favorite is one I like a bit more, it’s the mural of the disciples at the big table. And it looks as if it were just when Jesus had told them that someone was going to betray him because they all seem to be excited and worried looking and Jesus is in the middle and he’s in a red and blue robe.

Tell about John the Baptist and about how he baptized Jesus.
All that happened was John was baptizing Jesus and a dove flew down. And God said “this is my son, with whom I am well pleased.” I’m not really sure what else there is to say about it. 

Narrate one of these stories: Apollo and Daphne, Pyramus and Thisbe, Cephalus and Procris, or Diana and Actaeon.

There was a guy who was shot by Cupid so he loved nymph named Daphne. But Daphne was shot by a different arrow so she didn’t love Apollo. So Apollo was chasing her and Daphne was running away and then she turned into a tree. 

Draw a Map of Robinson Crusoe's island or an outfit of his.

She did an amazingly detailed map but I forgot to take a picture and now we're out of town. I'll try and remember to add it when we get home. It was great. 

What are earthquakes? What causes them?

Not in Madam How and Lady Why’s thinking, but earthquakes are caused by the shifting of the tectonic plates and sometimes the plates shift passed each other and sometimes the plates bump into each other and sometimes they pull away from each other. If they pull apart from each other, then under the sea the inner mantle it hardens to become crust but if they bump into each other and there are continents on the plates, they rise up into a mountain.

Talk about silk, and about Epeira's Bridge… or Describe how flax is made.

Epeira is a spider and it usually makes its webs over banks of rivers. And this is how they make them because they can’t swim to the other side, they’d just drown, this is how they would stretch the web over the river. So, they go to a branch on one side of the river and they attach a thread there then they spin a thread that is long enough and they simple let it blow in the wind and the wind carries it to the other side and catches it. And once it gets caught on something, the Epeiria goes back and forth over it to make it very strong. And there is more. After that, then the Epeira makes another bridge a little ways under that one, but he doesn’t do it the same way. He goes down to a lower branch just below the end of the first bridge he made, lowering himself down by a thread. Then he attaches a thread there, goes back up and across and he spins thread as he walks across but he hasn’t been attaching the thread as he goes, then he goes down on the other side and attaches it there then it falls and goes all across the bottom. So then he makes a thread right between those in the very center between those two bridges and he stands in the middle of that and then he makes little ropes of thread going out from that center point and these are called the radiating threads. 


Classics Challenge - 40 Acres and No Mule

I had a hard time picking one for this catagory because while in past years, I think I've struggled with this category, this year I had too many that fit. I read several Barbara Pym books*, Rumor Godden's Black Narcissus** and I even branched out and tried another spy novel.***

In the end though, I had to go with 40 Acres and No Mule. Mostly because it only had 160 rating and 12 reviews on Goodreads which is such a shame. It's so good! I had read several Janice Holt Giles fiction books**** and enjoyed them but this is actually a non-fiction work where she recounts her first year living in the Appalachian mountains with her husband who grew up there. You get to see the Appalachian mountains from an outside's view - but an outsider who you can tell does love the people and area.

If you've enjoyed Christy in the past, I feel like this is a good non-fiction counterpart. Overall, it's lighthearted although it definitely has its heart tugging moments. She doesn't gloss over the realities of Appachian life in the 40s but she doesn't sit in judgement over them and most of the struggles she shares are her own troubles adapting to a different way of life. It's one she obviously sees value in and she's trying to share those values with her readers. And she has a real way with words. I wish her books were easier to find. I think I read the only copy of this book in our big Missouri collection and I had to wait a little while for it to arrive so who knows where it came from (probably one of the smaller libraries twhose collections I enby because they keep their older books).

* A Glass of Blessings and Some Tame Gazelle. Both light readings but delightful.
** Not really delightful and a bit of a let down after This House of Brede but that's the comparison speaking. It's still very well done and thought provoking if somewhat sad.
***The Spy Who Came in from the Cold - very well done and probably will always be my favorite spy novel because I don't like spy novels and I didn't hate this.
****Hannah Fowler is one I very heartily recommend!

40 Acres and No Mule was my Back to the Classics Challenge 20th century selection. It was written in 1967.


Classics Challenge - The Inferno

Okay, I'm back with another epic poem to add to my completed list! Dante's Inferno. This one was completed with the help of Anthony Esolen and his translation/notes. I'm not well read enough to tell you it was a "good translation" or not but I enjoyed both his translation and his notes and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have gotten through it without those notes. As it was, quite a bit of it still went over my head.

I'm not sure what else to say here because truthfully, my goal in reading these poems is not to do anything but finish. I don't mean that in a checking off a box sort of way, it's just this is very stretching for me so I'm not looking to make deep connections or search for big themes or anything but read it, try to understand the basics and let it soak in. If I had more of an agenda, I'd be disappointed with myself. But that also makes it hard to write about or review! It's good, I mean, it's Dante! And while I did feel like I was mostly treading water, there were two or three distict times when I had to put it down to ponder something beyond what is he literally saying here to the level of "oh, I had never thought about sin that way" or "that's a unique way of viewing human nature and God's response" And those times made it worth it so I do hope to someday finish the series. And they've got to me a little bit peppier than a whole poem about hell, right?

The Inferno was my Back to the Classics Challenge Translation Selection...I'm getting close to the end!

Sabbath Dinner

I have lots of ideas. Most of them involve work for Craig of some sort so he gets nervous when I mention any sort of "idea" I have. But this one is one that we all like so I thought I'd share.

As a SAHM mom, taking a Sabbath is kinda hard. Because a lot of what I do can't just stop for 24 hours. Diapers need to be changed, picure books read, fights stopped and consequences administered, food made and little people tuck and re-tucked into bed. I can't even really stop picking things up because both the toddler and the puppy still put things in their mouths! But I get to the end of the week and I'm drained.

I tried reading books about the Sabbath because really wanted to be more diligent about applying the concept to my life. That's just what I do when I have a situation - I read about it. But they weren't really too helpful. I didn't need to be told I needed a Sabbath or convicted that it was a good idea, I needed some practical ways to make it work for a mom of little kids. But I've been figuring it out as a go and making some progress. I started last spring with one simple change - I stopped doing laundry on Sundays. I'm pretty minimalistic with the kid's clothing which means I can't get too far behind but even I can skip one day. Or maybe it's because I'm so minimlistic that can't ever get too far behind which allows me one day of flexibility. That's all I did to change my sabbath at first but that one changed the way I view the day.

Then a few months ago, we started having a Sabbath dinner on Saturday night after getting inspired by the What Have You Podcast. Now, we eat dinner as a family at home 99% of the time. In our stage of life I can make that happen and while I know it will get harder as the kids get older, I hope that continues as long as possible. But I've started making Saturday nights a bit more special. I make a sorta fancy dessert of some kind - this has been more challenging now that we're moved to being sugar-free around here (another post for another time) but also something that makes it even more special as we have less treats at other times. I love baking but it's not always easy with a toddler afoot so making time for that when Craig is around is really nice for me. 

We also use a table cloth and put candles out. I might have set the bar a bit too high at the beginning because now if I don't have homemade bread/rolls and at least 2 sides in addition to a fancier main dish the kids feel a bit cheated but overall, it's been really good. After dinner we clean up and that is the beginning of my Sabbath time and it goes all the way to Sunday dinner when we have leftovers if possible or a simple breakfast for dinner meal. Then after dinner on Sunday, the kids help me do a quick clean-up and vacuum. Knowing that is coming before the week starts really helps me not panic and start picking up toys and messes on Sunday afternoon and choose reading a book or watching the kids playoutside. And the kids know that if they hurry do all the chores and then get pajamas on, I'll probably read them an extra chapter of a read-aloud before bed so we are all pretty motivated. Then I start the week feeling refreshed but not behind. I'm sure my sabbath time will change in different life seasons but I hope the dinner part continues at least. 

Berry Tiramasu - really good!

Lemon meringue pie. The girls liked it but the boys apparently don't like lemon desserts. 

Berry Blitz Torte - Also very good and a fun chance for me to practice meringues. 

Fortune cookies - not as fancy looking at some of the previous desserts but a real challenge for me! Lucy wrote my fortunes and they were so much fun.

Sugar-free apple pie. Probably the best of the sugar free desserts I've made so far (I just used erithritol for sweetener in my regular pie recipe) although this Pumpkin Chiffon Pie was a big hit as well. The kids were skeptical at first but those two proved to them that we wouldn't suffer too much without sugar. I haven't done as well with chocolate desserts but I have lots of Saturdays to practice!

Do you take a Sabbath? What does that look like for you and your family? Any practical tips to share?


Dusting off this ol' blog - It's Fall!

Whew, it's been a while. And it's been a really long while if you don't count birthday posts or reviews of classic books. And I'm not even caught up on those! I missed Norah's birthday last month and I know I've read a few more for my classics challenge but haven't posted about them. But I'll wait on that for now.

For now I'm trying to concentrate on getting back into the habit of writing. It's not easy! Life is good here. We're about to finish up our first term of the school year. We got a (purposefully) late start because of a September beach trip but as long as we keep up the pace, we should get exams done in time to enjoy Thanksgiving. (Well, I mean, we'll stop and have Thanksgiving either way, I'm not a crazy person! But I'll enjoy them more knowing exams are done :-)

The biggest challenge of the term isn't one I'll be talking about in my term wrap up post because it wasn't a student or a subject. It our unofficial homeschool mascots - Jude the dude

and Norah the explorer. 

I've try to start the day with Norah and her "school" aka a few picture books, a simply workbook page or two and maybe some playdough or watercoloring. Filling her tank definitely helps but she still misses her siblings attention when they can't play with her 24/7.

Jude upset because I wouldn't let him climb on the counter and play with knives. 

My goal with Jude is just to keep him alive. It's not like I've never done the toddler stage before but he's on a whole different level. We know have a crib in our living room to help contain him and his climbing antics and I just bought a leash. Yes I did. And I don't even feel a tiny bit guilty about that. So Montessori moms -  just look away! But I'm also starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. He'll sit in his chair and "paint with water" for a few minutes. And playdough can buy me maybe 15 mintutes of containment. And if Norah is in the right mood (playful but not too crazy because sometimes she can be overly loving with him still), they'll play barn or playmobile for a little while together.  Lucy and Jonah are just as excited as I am when this happens and we all race off to be productive at the table. Which makes me laugh. It's probably the only time Jonah willingly stops playing Legos! (He likes school - but he likes Legos more). 

But I can't really complain too much because frankly, look at him. He's just too adorable. Lucy even asked me last week which of them was the cutest baby. I told her the truth - I couldn't decide because they were all so cute but she replied "well, I've seen us all as babies in pictures and I think Jude's the cutest." He's certainly in the running. He started to give hugs and all of the kids compete to see who gets the most. Sometimes he'll spend 5 minutes just going from big sibling to big sibling giving hugs. Of course, when its snack time, he shoves his in his mouth and then goes from big sibling to big siblings holding out his hands in an effort to get more - and he almost always gets some so I think it balances out. 

This ended exactly as you would think. 

It helps when we get outside. Jude is a tornado inside but amazing outside. He loves the sandbox, visiting the chickens, playing basketball on his little hoop right next to the big kids on their big ones. He'd be happy to be outside all the time if I could. I try to accomodate him but the weather is starting to limit that a bit. This week was the first that we had a few days of being cooped up. I, personally, like those hygge sort of days, but he doesn't really understand temperatures yet. 

The big kids didn't mind though. They just built this massive fort that occupies a good portion of my basement and leavses me climbing over the lego playtable to reach the washing machine at times. This picture doesn't even do it justice. It's grown since then and inside has multiple compartments. I'm not sure how long I'll let it stay up because I really do need my kitchen stools and extra blankets back eventually but for now, I don't have the heart to make them undo it. I just love watching them play together like this.

And as usual, we've got lots of home projects going on. The latest was a new table. During the summer, Craig added a bench to our kitchen/dining room area. 

Then we built ourselves a new table to gain a bit more space. It doesn't look that much bigger but it actually helps a lot. I can fit my planner open when I sit on the end and both kids still have math books open without bumping it. That's all I had asked for! I have to get chairs but I'll get around to that in a few months I guess. 

We've also been having fun with scouts. Lucy in her American Heritage Girl troop and Jonah in Trail Life. 

Mother Daughter Spa night.

And going on lots of hikes and adventures before it gets too cold. Winter is coming but I hope not too soon, I do so love fall!