Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rolling it Back In

In order to simplify my life, I am going to roll the content of this blog back into my general blog, Everyday Snapshots. I will be redoing the tags over there to make things easier to find. If you subscribe to this blog, please accept this invitation to join me over there. This blog will remain active until I can move content over. Thank you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Invitation

For those who read this blog, but not my regular blog Everyday Snapshots, I wanted to let you know that I will likely not be posting much here in October (not that I have been posting here much anyway, but that is beside the point). I am doing a scrapbooking challenge called Layout A Day. I will be posting my layouts each day as I complete them over on the other blog. I would love for you to pop over there and see what we are up to.

Monday, September 14, 2009

October Themes

We have really been having such a great time with our September themes. On days that we do themes, we stop at about 3:30 and have a full “tea party” or just a snack. If we are cooking the snack, Olivia and I usually prepare it while John naps. While the kids munch away, I read to them and then we do a craft or activity where planned. Good fun.


  • pumpkins on the vine
  • chrysanthemums in gold, russet and magenta
  • acorns underfoot
  • National Squirrel Awareness Week (7-13)
  • The Full Harvest Moon (4)


  • comforting casseroles
  • chili and cornbread
  • pumpkin muffins with streusel topping
  • hot apple cider
  • rice krispie treats
  • freshly baked pretzels
  • caramel apples
  • squirrel-shaped cookies
  • popcorn balls
  • spaghetti and Bolognese sauce – National Pasta Month
  • Scary Skillet Sheppard's Pie
  • Mummy Face Pizzas

Faith: Ordinary Time Continues (green)

  • The Feast of St. Therese (1) LT
  • The Guardian Angels (2)
  • The Month of the Holy Rosary (7)


  • Columbus Day (12)
  • National Popcorn Month
  • National Pasta Month
  • Our wedding anniversary
  • All Hallow's Eve
  • Football games


  • The Littlest Pumpkin
  • Autumn Days
  • Colorful Leaves
  • Growing Apples and Pumpkins
  • Pumpkin, Pumpkin
  • The Popcorn Book
  • Squirrels
  • The Biggest Pumpkin Ever
  • The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin
  • The Scarecrow's Hat

Field Trips:

  • a visit to the pumpkin patch
  • an autumn walk


  • acorn hunting (for squirrels)
  • put out corn cobs for squirrels
  • do some squirrel watching with the binoculars
  • make leaf prints
  • collect pine cones
  • Pray the "Guardian Angel Prayer" (Catholic Customs p. 41). Make an angel craft. Make one angel for each family member. Hang over dining table in a "mobile".
  • Read The Tooth Book for National Dental Hygiene Month (5)
  • Pray a decade of the Rosary. Color the rosary. (7) Kids get their own.
  • Read Follow the Dream Columbus Day story (12)
  • Read poetry on Shel Silverstein's birthday (18)
  • read Strega Nona for National Pasta Month
  • watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”
  • plant a paperwhite narcissus bulb for Christmas bloom.
  • roast pumpkin seeds
  • carve pumpkins

Monday, August 31, 2009

Circle Time

I still can’t decide what to call this part of our school day. Will it be circle time (the ps nomenclature), morning basket, family time? I am taking suggestions…

At any rate, I can’t quite remember how I stumbled on this concept, but after reading about it on a few blogs (see links below) and the 4Real forums, I decided to add it to our day. To be more exact, I thought it would be a fantastic way to begin our day each morning. Getting together with the same set activities each morning would be the hook that lured us into our day, provide consistency, and hopefully provide a “container” for those activities I want to do, but are often so small that I forget them (picture study, memorization, etc)

Enter the new family time board and basket with outline. Each day we plan to cover:

  • Calendar - Review month name. Place date on calendar. Do Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow cards.
  • Weather - Review season card. Change weather wheel.
  • Prayer -  Pray for weekly family. Alternate prayers as learned. Use Christmas Cards to create a family prayer file.
  • Pledge - Recite
  • Singing - Sing weekly song(s). One religious, one secular. Break up songs between other activities.
  • Countdown - Remove link for current countdown. Beach trip, pumpkin patch, Dad home, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc
  • Memorize - Recite memory work. Read new and review from memory box.
  • Sight Word - Review weekly sight word. Play sight word games.
  • Learning - Do activity for this week’s learning. Place value, telling time to the hour, appropriate clothes for weather, sign language ABCs, learn phone number and address
  • Picture Study - Point out/discuss picture. Review artist/picture name.
  • Young Learners Bible Storybook - Do current day’s activity as per curriculum.
  • Sing, Play, Create Activity - - Do current day’s activity as per curriculum.

This looks like tons of stuff, I know, but it will move really quickly. It takes all of two seconds to move the weather wheel and say that it is still summer. The pledge will take all of 15 seconds. Point to our picture study of the week and asking them to name some colors in the artwork will take less than a minute, unless they decide to discuss it more. I have also arranged the activities in such a way that John can drop out of participating about half-way through. The stuff near the end is more for Olivia.

Having put this into practice one day now I can say that it will take some training to make it all happen. We are already implementing Circle Time rules (ie. sit criss-cross applesauce, don’t pull on the board, etc) but that is good because Olivia needs a bit of that to help with other times she needs to sit still and pay attention.

Here is our portable family time board -- helpful for doing this one handed in the living room while nursing a baby ;-).


And on the back, pockets for holding the extra supplies and a velcro attachment for our flag.


And Workbox #1 which includes our binder, memory box, CDs, books and other supplies.



I have tried to plan out as much family time as possible here at the beginning of the year. Not getting stuck waiting for me to plan out the next section is a big key to success I believe. I have printed pictures for our art study through next May, I have prayer families chosen through the end of November from last year’s Christmas cards. I have other items printed and ready to go, songs chosen, etc. I do plan on taking December off (unless the kids revolt in which we may do a shortened version). These are all placed in the binder in page protectors with the monthly plans.

Looking at the board I am also beginning to think it needs a puppet friend to conduct one of the sessions, which would seal the success of family time in my house for years. Maybe I will shop for one this weekend. I will keep you posted on how this works!


Preschoolers and Peace blog – She offers an e-book, but the blog is a fantastic resource on its own.

Wildflowers and Marbles Morning Basket post.

Pinewood Castle offers her fall circle time plans.

Wayzley Academy – The inspiration for the portable circle time board.

Memory system – Simply Charlotte Mason offers this scripture memory system. This is where our memory work will come from each day. I plan to use if for scripture, prayers, catechism and poetry, though.

September Plans – Here you can see or download our family time plans for the month of September.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


There are times when you read something so profound, you just have to write it down to remember it. Such is this:

“Home education is a school of virtue for mothers first.” – Elizabeth Foss

Read the rest here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Organizing Part 2: The Bookshelves

I “finished” this project a few weeks ago, but other pressing projects have kept me from posting about it until now.  As our little collection of living books grew and grew quickly (thanks in part to my friend Donna’s purging of her own homeschool library – used book sale!), I knew that I would need some way to get a handle on organizing what we had. It does no good to have fantastic living books on squirrels or the five senses or Abraham Lincoln if you don’t remember that you have the book when the time comes to study each subject.

Enter the book organization project, Library Thing, and a helper elf.

Library Thing is an online book organizing system that is even used by some schools and smaller libraries to catalog books. You can enter up to 100 books for free (yeah, who has fewer than 100 books?) but a lifetime membership and the ability to add an endless number of tomes is only $25. I also spent $15 on one of their Cue Cat bar code readers to facilitate my book entry process.

There are many wonderful things about Library Thing. First, your catalog is stored off-site and you can access it from anywhere. The technically savvy could even pull it up on their iPhone or Blackberry while in the bookstore to avoid duplicate purchases.  You can also share libraries with others. If there is someone local to you whom you share books with this would be a great way to see what they have on hand (hint, hint local gals). Library Thing also includes a link to WorldCat which will allow you to search for titles and will tell you the closest libraries to your zip code which carry those titles. Love this feature. Finally, the best feature of Library Thing are the unlimited number of tags you can add to a book to help you categorize your home library.

Organizing a home library is not an easy process. In fact, I was quite daunted by it and put it off for a while. One day, though, I called in my Helper Elf (pre-teen from homeschool group out to make some spending money) and decided it could be put off no longer. Since you know I have to do before and after shots, when we started the bookshelves in the school room looked like this:



Umm, yeah, not looking so good, and the likelihood of finding anything was pretty small. So here are the steps we took to remedy the situation:

Step 1: Clear all the shelves and stack books by topic.  I had decided to organize the books by subject and then alphabetically by author. Each subject would get its own colored dot on the spine and be stored together. My subjects included: science and nature, math, language arts (includes literature and reading), social studies (includes history, geography, and civics), the arts, activity books, religion, and educational reference/homeschooling.

Step 2: Add the dots. Once we had huge stacks of books all about the room, Helper Elf stuck the colored dots on the spine of each book.

Step 3: Enter data into Library Thing. I would then take a stack of labeled books and scan the bar code or type in the ISBN or title to enter the book into Library Thing.  Once a books was entered, I would then tag it with the subject (science, math), the color of the dot (peach, green, blue), and then the topics covered in the book (farm, squirrels, American History, Civil War, etc). One note: the barcode scanner worked okay. Honestly it was probably just a quick to type in the ISBN number from the rear of the book, so if you want to save the $15 don’t feel like the scanner is a must. I will say the scanner automatically put the book in your library. Typing the number pulled up a “list” of books (often the only book on the “list” was the one you were after). It then took an extra mouse click to add the book to your library. On the other hand, at least half the time I had to swipe a book more than once to get the bar code to scan, so time saved on the extra click is a toss-up. Also, I had a small stack of books by private publishers that were not in the Library Thing catalog. I was able to enter the information for those books manually to put them in my library.

Step 4: Alphabetize and store. Once an entire section of colored dots were completed, we would alphabetize the section by author and add them to the shelves.

What does this mean for me?

Searching by Theme: Now when I want a book on a particular topic I can click on the descriptive tag (i.e. farm) and see every book I own and where it is stored. Some farm-themed books may be under math, activity, science, or literature, but Library Thing helps me to find them all.

Searching by Subject: I can also simply click on a subject tag like math or science and see my entire library for that subject. Since we are in the younger grades I might as well teach on the topics we already have books for instead of buying new ones and this helps with that process.

Not to mention, my shelves now look much better:


As you can see, I now have room for even more books! My Library Thing Library only has just over 400 right now. (Only homeschool books are entered. I am not even planning on entering personal reading books at this point.)

My next big plans for Library Thing are to add in all the ebooks that I own and to catalog my audio books as well. Most of those will have to be added manually, but it is so important as right now they are just a list of computer files, and I would be hard pressed to find anything relevant to a subject when I wanted it. Once they are sorted and tagged, though, it will be info at my fingertips. Of course I also have to maintain my catalog and I am tagging, entering, and filing new books as they come in to the house.

More info coming soon in other posts about shopping for books and how Library Thing can help you organize the books you don’t own (yes, I really said that).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It’s Tea Time!

Tea time is one of those activities I have read about on homeschooling blogs over the past couple of years anxiously awaiting the time I could implement it in our own home. I don’t remember if I first came across the idea in Elizabeth’s book Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home or through Julie’s Bravewriter blog, but I know both women helped to plant the seed. So the first order of business was to find some tea cups and a tea pot.

I set out last Friday with friend Melba hoping to piece together some mismatched cups and a tea pot we could use. I wasn’t after fancy or expensive, just “special” dishes we would use for our teas. We scoured the local antique mall, and I had just about given up hope when I came across this gem.


It was lovely and absolutely perfect. (In fact the only problem with it may be when we inevitably break our first piece and bust up the set -- pun intended). I brought it home and the kids eagerly helped me to unpack every piece, so excited about the impending tea party. I made them wait the entire weekend before we put it to its first use.

While John napped, Olivia and I baked muffins, washed the tea set, and set the table.


They loved it. Now with it being in the mid-90s everyday we are substituting lemonade for tea at the moment, but we look forward to cooler days when we can have an herbal brew or hot chocolate instead.


So, what does tea time have to do with “school”? Here are our tea time plans for the year:

  • Poetry teas (a la Bravewriter) -- reading poetry and playing word games. This is what we did Monday and the kids loved it, even asking me to read a couple of poems again.
  • Liturgical Teas – Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things posted an entire year’s worth of liturgical tea plans complete with menus and activities. We will be eagerly doing these as the year progresses. Note our green table cloth above for Ordinary Time. We have green and red and will be adding more soon -- got to get violet before Advent.
  • Seasonal activities – We will do many of the readings and activities from our Monthly Themes Lists during tea time.


We won’t do tea everyday, but hope to most days. The 3:30 time slot will help to bookend our day and keep us on routine while providing an afternoon snack as well. Sometimes the fare will be store-bought, while other times Olivia and I will bake our goodies together while John naps (more learning!). On nice, cool days I hope to take the party outside on the back porch, especially when observing our seasonal themes.

If you are in the neighborhood we hope to have you over for tea this year!