I wanted to stop in to say thank you! In the few months since we have begun blogging, we’ve had so many kind readers reach out to us with comments, suggestions, and encouragement. It is a joy to share some of our stories and advice with you. We were honored to have so many of you join us last night for our first webinar and it makes us excited to create more posts and talks to inspire you in your journey as a mother, teacher, and homemaker.
Since so many new eyes have come to our blog in the recent weeks, we also wanted to call your attention to some of the posts in the archives. In discussing the home going forward, it might be helpful to look back a bit as you think about what you want from your home and how you can make it fulfill those goals.
We have chatted about how the atmosphere of our home is shaped by our person – the attitude and tone that we set.
We discussed our thoughts on organization and decoration, which often means cutting clutter to make room for other aspects of a full life.
We pondered the fact that we NEED beauty, it isn’t just a want.
Then we talked about our outdoor spaces and the atmosphere outside of our four walls.
We hope this gives you something to ponder as you start critically looking at the rooms in your home! We’ve been doing it too and we have lots of pictures to show you as we simplify, organize, and add beauty to our spaces. We hope you are taking pictures too, or will as you follow along. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #delightfulhome2017 when you post them on Facebook or Instagram!
Thriving. This is what we all want to be doing, but all too often we find ourselves feeling like we are barely surviving. We are treading water, or worse – drowning. There are times this is a legitimate feeling. Illness, pregnancy, new baby, lack of sleep, moving, job loss, etc. can throw us off of our usual routine and send us down a path where we find a temporary new normal in a lower gear – survival mode. If you are in a time where you are in legitimate survival mode, get some rest and take care of what you must do as best you can. You can come back to this series later, it will still be here.
To thrive is a decision. The greater part of this decision is mental, but we need to support this decision with changes to our physical space in order to aid our success. For example, I can make the decision to eat well, but unless I shop for proper food and make a plan to step out of old, bad habits, I am not likely to succeed. In order to thrive in my home, where I spend a large portion of my life, I need to make a plan. Not a plan for a home that works for someone else on Pinterest, or a home that looks great in that catalog in the mailbox – a home that supports the people who live in it. If I am the home-maker, then it is my job to make a home that supports my decision to thrive.
So then, what does it look like to thrive as a homeschooling mother, which is what I am? This is my vision of a delightful home- easy to maintain, pleasant to look at, many cozy spots for reading, a place for everything and everything in its place, a quiet space for prayer, designated toy spaces, organized pantry, bird feeders just out the window to look at, bookshelves (oh, the bookshelves!), neat and easily accessible storage for out of season items… Your list may be the same or radically different, but now is the time to make it. Now is the time to sort out what you want from daily life – then adjust your home spaces to that vision.
This series isn’t about just cleaning your spaces, or just decluttering them, and certainly not about creating spaces that are picture perfect at all times – it is about creating spaces that will help you to thrive in your daily life. Your home can’t do all the work, but it can either aid or sabotage your efforts. Cooking is easier when you can see your ingredients, know your meal plan, and reach your tools with out other tools falling out on you. Cleaning is easier when there is a schedule of chores and the cleaners you need are neatly stored near to the spot they get used frequently. Laundry is easier when there is a method to the madness. Schooling is easier when you know where the books and supplies all reside and they are easily accessible for use and when they need to be put away. When each of these tasks become easier, they take less time. That is time you can now use for those other things in life that bring you joy – reading, writing, crafting, birdwatching, or any amount of other things.
All of this planning and change doesn’t take place over the course of a day, week, or month. At least, we didn’t think we could! We wanted to take our time and do this well. Amy and I are both in the oddly similar situation of living in a home where things are unpacked, but not… ideally placed. Maybe you are in the same boat. Let’s go room by room and make our homes into places that serve our families well and help each member to thrive.
Each week, we’ll discuss some aspect of a room here on the blog. We’ll talk about the room itself and what the purpose of it is. What do we do here, and what do we wish we could do here? What does this room do well, and what can we not stand about it? Is a big change needed, or would a small change be enough to make a big difference? Then we’ll declutter – remove all the things that prevent the room from doing its job well. The rest will be organized so that it can be a room that helps us, rather than hinders us. Lastly, let’s add in a few things that will add beauty and joy. Every room needs to be one that we enjoy being in!
Here is the schedule for going through our homes this year. We will post all the links to this post as we create the posts week by week.
When we set out to begin this delightful home series, Amy and I really thought long and hard about why we would do it. We discussed that we really wanted to share was a series of posts that would help you love your home, right where you are. We have both recently moved (sadly, farther away from each other, rather than closer), and we’ve fully unpacked, but we needed to live there a while to really let it feel like home – to see how we use each room, what feels out of place, or what we’d like to adjust. We’re sure you have similar adjustments you’d like to make and maybe you’re on the search for new ideas and to see how other homeschooling moms use their spaces.
We began to discuss the resources that we had used in the past to really bring order and joy to our spaces. First and foremost, Amy and I both really liked The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Sure, Kondo thanks her socks for their usefulness before puts them in the hamper and there are some other strange notions to avoid, but the overall message is a good one: Keep only the things that bring you joy through their beauty or usefulness. It is amazing how much your home will change for the better when you implement that rule alone. Add in a few other ideas for storage and space saving folding and suddenly you’ve freed up hours of your week because you don’t have to maintain and contain messes.
When you’ve decided on what to keep, there are best practices in organization. The Complete Book of Home Organization really helps here. (Her blog also has lots of inspiration and ideas!) Many times, we may have dishes stored across the kitchen from the dishwasher meaning tons of extra steps and wasted time when unloading or other similar inefficiencies. We may store pans where they are buried under pots and being scratched and dented, and so disorder means having to spend more on replacements. This book has many tips to keep things orderly, and before you know it, using and cleaning your rooms is so much quicker and easier. We can also put into practice ideas to make chores easier for younger folks by keeping certain items in lower cabinets or drawers.
The book that taught Amy everything she knows about homemaking and, even more importantly, convinced her it was a worthwhile endeavor was Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. I still remember hearing the NPR story our first year of marriage (yes, 1999) and then heading to the bookstore (there were still lots of those around back then!) to buy it.
We also love Like Mother, Like Daughter, for her very practical approach to homekeeping. It is inspiring to read the wisdom of a woman who has raised seven children and has really reasonable advice for how clean a home should be and great advice to keep it so.
The Madame Chic books are refreshing and elevating. At Home with Madame Chic offers practical advice on “having a happy, fulfilling, and passionate life at home.” Jennifer Scott shares how a little planning and the little details go a long way in refining the tone of your home.
I also loved this 31 post series about having a Heart of Hospitality. It reminded me that my home is not to be made beautiful in order to puff up my own pride, or to impress those who may see it, but rather I should have a home that is beautiful in order to offer beauty and hospitality to others. To make them feel comfortable, welcomed, and loved. That goes for people who visit as well as those who live here. I now think of my rooms as servants and ponder how they serve those who use each spot.
Along those lines is also the book, A Life Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. It is lovely and was the book we used last year to guide our monthly chats. There is a lot to enjoy about their story as well as the home life the Clarksons aim for.
Lastly, while not a book or a blog, may I recommend, before starting on a path toward order to take a good hard look at your cleaning supplies? A few months back, I realized that I disliked cleaning in part because my supply closet was disordered and full of ugly things. A neon broom that was frayed and cracked, a mop that was just not that good at the job it was supposed to do, etc. Now might be a good time to check the tools of your trade. It may be time to freshen them up. If your mop and broom are in good working order, consider a fresh new caddy for your cleaning supplies and maybe some non-toxic cleaners. Something that is a joy to use and leaves your home cleaner will make the job so much easier. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Then organize them in an attractive way. A few tools neatly arranged on hooks can be pleasant to use and easy to put away.
We kick off our month of the Kitchen in February. I hope you’ll join us in decluttering, organizing, and beautifying one of the hardest working rooms in the house. If you want to share your photos with us on Instagram or Facebook, we’re using the hashtag #delightfulhome2017
I like a clean slate. A break – to think, to assess, to make tweaks. I do this multiple times per year and one of those times is the week following the new year. We don’t start up with schooling until the weekend after Epiphany, which falls on January 6th, and so that week between the first of January and the beginning of school is for relaxing, spending time together, and thinking about what needs to be adjusted going forward in our school, our schedules, our home, etc.
I like to take an inventory of what went well and what didn’t go so well in the previous term. Do we have good habits that have slipped or what habits should we focus on? What has changed since we last started a term? Is everyone still waking up at the same time or napping consistently? Is someone now old enough to take on an additional or different daily responsibility? How is the chore schedule – did anyone age enough to be added in and taught how to do a new-to-them chore?
In our home, the last couple of years have meant a lot of moving around, but now we have been in our current home for four months and have settled in a bit. I am realizing that our schedule will (God willing!) have the opportunity to be consistent as we plan on being in our current home for at least a year, if not longer. With no moves, no newborns, no packing and unpacking, I want to be sure that our schedule has all the things that we would like to include in our days. We aren’t in survival mode right now, and our days should reflect that. I’ve ordered and used these schedule cards and they helped tremendously in making sure my i’s are dotted and my t’s crossed.
We also have a little boy who is freshly four. While Charlotte doesn’t recommend starting school until the age of six, he is eagerly asking for the opportunity to “do school”. I need to find the time in the day for more reading with mom (or older siblings) and time to play number games and learn letter sounds. He can take on a bit of household responsibility and needs to improve in some areas of behavior. I need to give him some dedicated attention and time.
In addition to our school time being scheduled well, I want to make sure we are making time for the chores that need to get done. While everyone pitches in as needed, I’d like to get a system of morning, afternoon, and meal time chores on paper so everyone knows what is expected ahead of time and can do the jobs more independently.
On the other hand, what has worked extremely well is merging history time frames across all students. Learning about the same period of history has meant that my younger student doesn’t feel like the timeline is already filled in before she gets to add items to the wall. It means that we can have conversations as a family about what it would be like to travel with Lewis and Clark or along the Oregon trail. We are making connections together and encouraging one another. It is a huge win for us!
Another item that is working really well for us is a weekly hike. We’ve been going on Fridays to our local nature center and hiking on the trails. Everyone benefits from being outdoors and I like going to the same location over and over to see the seasonal changes. We are beginning a new nature study club this term, so this will have to change to every other friday, but I want to make sure it stays in our schedule.
Next week, I’ll share a bit of our schedule and our book selections for the term. I always like to see what people are using in their homeschools and I think it would be fun to share what we’ll be up to this term.
Amy and I love to chat about home. We could go on and on about books, blogs, and tips we’ve heard from friends that can help us to make our homes more welcoming, more beautiful, and more efficient. Between us, we have nine children to feed, clothe, and love. It takes a lot of work to keep our homes in order, and even more work when that order falls away! We love it so much in fact, that a few years back we asked some of our friends if they wanted to meet to discuss our homes once a month. To get breakfast as a group and have some time for what we considered to be professional development. If we were going to be homemakers, we should allot some time to discuss it, learn about it, and do it well. That group is still going strong and has been an enormous blessing to us, our families, and our homes. We now want to bring many of those pages of notes, tips, tricks, and new ideas to you, our readers.
This is not about having a dream house, or a home that could be showcased in a catalog. This is about creating a home that is delightful to you and your family because it is both functional and beautiful. It is about making small changes that make a big difference in how you use your home and how well it serves the needs of your family. It can be done in small spaces or large ones, a home you rent or a home your family has lived in for generations. You spend most of your time at home, so let’s work toward making that time enjoyable.
Why does it matter to have a home that is delightful? Isn’t it good enough to have a roof over your head and a place to cook meals – even if you can barely see your counters? Well, yes and no. Yes, because we should be grateful for even the humblest of spaces and no, because we weren’t called to live in disorder. As mothers and homemakers, we set the atmosphere of the homes we inhabit. The atmosphere of a home with a calm mother, who is not stressed by the chores because there is a plan in place to complete them, and who has an orderly home ready for drop-in guests will naturally be different than one with a frazzled mother, constantly feeling behind and downtrodden by her workload. We want your homes to be places of delight for your families, but also for you!
We were inspired by the Home Organization Challenge going on right now. That is a great site for inspiration and tips! We also knew that dedicating 14 straight weeks to overhauling our homes wasn’t going to work for either of us. We wanted to stretch it out over the year and do a great job in each room of our homes. Taking a full month to dedicate to decluttering, giving some thought to how the space it used and making adjustments, then adding in beauty to complement the improved function. We welcome you to join us! We can’t wait to see your photos and comments on Instagram and Facebook.
Well, it took until the third day of Christmas to get one of us on here to officially say, “Merry Christmas!” to our dear blog readers. It has been so delightful to hear your kind comments and emails this year. We hope to make this space a great resource for your and your families in the new year! Since Amy and I both celebrate Christmas for the full 12 days, we’ll be back to posting after the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6th.
Getting out in winter looks different all over the country, but in Ohio and New Jersey, where we live, the winters mean cold and snow. Sometimes just a bit, other times a big, heavy helping, but every winter is cold and snowy. It is easy to think that in weather like this, we should stay in our warm homes until the season passes. Hot tea and hot cocoa, books and warm slippers, movie nights and cozy blankets – all of this sounds pretty appealing when the weather is chilly. With that said, if we prepare ourselves with warm and water-resistant clothing, winter is an especially beautiful season and there is so much to explore and learn.
Here are some ideas to inspire winter nature study:
Buds: Did you know the buds on trees and many bushes form in fall, so they are ready to inspect and explore. They will swell and become more visible in spring, but they are formed now. Are they hard or soft? Fuzzy or smooth? What color are they in winter? Below are three that I found right in my front yard.
Bark: Being able to identify your favorite tree using the bark is a lovely way to know your favorite trees even better. What better time than in winter, when you don’t have the benefit of seeing their leaves, fruit, or seeds? I personally like using the book Bark, as it outlines the ways to look more deeply at the color, texture, and surface variations of the bark on trees.
When the darkness comes early, its great to find a clear day and look at the skies after dinner. You don’t need much knowledge to start – be able to find the north star or the big dipper and then see where your curiosity takes you. If you are looking to go in depth during your winter term, check out The Stars or Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey (of Curious George fame, who knew he was an astronomer?) Sometimes, I like to use my SkyView app as well to learn more about what I’m seeing.
Birds are easier to see in winter because the branches are so bare. Head out for a walk in your neighborhood, at a local park, or at a nature center. If you have a pair of binoculars, you’ll be able to spot lots of varieties of non-migrating birds. Or, maybe where you live is “the south” for some varieties of birds that spend their summers in the far north? My favorite idea blends my love of birds with my desire to stay warm – window bird feeders. I’ve collected a bunch of feeders over the years and I really love to be able to have one right in my living room window. I’ve found they work best when you have other feeders on a post nearby, then the birds eventually become brave enough to jump right over to your window. Other sources of food are scarce in the winter, so I find my feeders full of delightful varieties of birds – right now I can see a nuthatch, junco, a pair of cardinals, tufted titmouse, red-bellied woodpecker, song sparrow, and a house finch. In the past few days we’ve been visited by a whole murmuration of starlings, a red-tailed hawk (who did not have any seed, but perhaps was looking for all the song birds?) as well as a blue jay.
Is it truly just too cold to go outdoors? A trip to your closet, thrift store, or donation pile might offer enough substance for a bit of nature study. Find something made of 100% cotton, 100% wool, and 100% linen and get your magnifying glass. Inspect the different fibers and then go in your encyclopedia or online to see what they look like when they are growing, how they are spun into yarn (both now and historically), and how they are woven or knit into the fabrics we wear. This could also spur some handicrafts – be warned! Suddenly, the kids might be interested in weaving, spinning, or knitting for themselves.
Lastly, study the snow! Weather study is great most times of year, but especially in winter when the precipitation is so varied. Is it snow, sleet, or hail? Perhaps leave a few magnifying glass plates out in the cold and wait for a snowflake to land on them. Can you get them in quickly enough to check out the flake magnified? Maybe a magnifying glass outdoors offers enough of a glimpse of the crystalline structure. Try it out! Why do icicles form and why does salt keep the streets from icing? What kind of clouds bring the snow and what does the barometer do before the snow comes? So many questions to explore around the weather in wintertime!
What is your favorite way to do nature study in the winter months? If you aren’t in the snow areas, how does your climate and surroundings change during this time of year?
I’m just popping in during our Advent break since I got a little window of time to think and relax with a good cup of tea. In planning our spring term and participating in some online discussions regarding educational philosophy, I had some thoughts I thought you might be interested in reading. I hope you’re having a lovely time preparing for Christmas!
Our chief concern for the mind or for the body is to supply a well-ordered table with abundant, appetising, nourishing and very varied food, which children deal with in their own way and for themselves. This food must be served au naturel, without the predigestion which deprives it of stimulating and nourishing properties and no sort of forcible feeding or spoon feeding may be practised. Hungry minds sit down to such a diet with the charming greediness of little children; they absorb it, assimilate it and grow thereby in a manner astonishing to those accustomed to the dull profitless ruminating so often practised in schools. – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 71 (emphasis mine)
A few years back, I read the book Desiring the Kingdom, by James K. A. Smith and it fascinated me. I found myself alternately nodding in agreement and shaking my head in dissent, but I was so intrigued. His ideas about education being the formation of a person rather than offering information were key in how I thought about my school day. I vigorously agreed that we are more than our minds, we are embodied, and so what we do – our habits, our daily rituals, how we spend our leisure time, etc. – are as formative, or more so, than the facts we learn. Also, the how forms us as much as the what of our learning. This is also around the time I found Charlotte Mason. I read her volumes and I delighted in the fact that she talked of learning through stories, of habits, being outdoors, learning handicrafts, having conversations, and that all of this was good because it was all from God Himself. She talked of the mind, but she talked of the body as well – exercise, fresh air, proper clothing, and proper food. She did not ignore the body, but rather found body and mind to be analogous in their needs – a proper diet being the one need she mentioned over and over. Both body and mind needed varied food that they would then absorb, asssimilate, and would allow them to grow.
“…these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.” -Aristotle
Another person who read Smith’s book was Jenny Rallens. I watched her video on having a Liturgical Classroom (a term used not in terms of Divine Liturgy, but rather repeated practices or habits) and realized that this idea is so much older than Mason. From the days of Origen, who claimed them to be based in Jewish religious practices, to the present day Christians have been practicing Lectio Divina, or a holy reading of scripture through the process of Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Comtemplatio. In translation – to read, to think deeply, to pray, and to be changed (their definition of contemplation was more robust than ours is today – it was more a change of self that would result in an outpouring to others). When the era of scholasticism came about out of the monasteries and churches, the ideas of Lectio Divina was simply ingrained in their minds as the proper way to learn. The prayer was dropped when the texts were not sacred, and so the idea of Lectio, Meditatio, Contemplatio (Rallens uses Compositio – to write or create) was the mark of education in this era. It was so common in fact, that it was often simply referred to as “making honey”. From early times bees were a symbol of the Christian church. A bee worked tirelessly and most of its work went to benefit others. Man and animals routinely eat the honey the bees give their whole lives to produce. How do they do it? They gather nectar, digest it, and then it is changed to honey in abundance for the benefit of others as well as their own needs.
Are we to believe it was in the Church that we first saw this idea? Perhaps. I would propose for your consideration, that the Trivium might be the first model for this way of learning. For moderns, we may think of the seven liberal arts as seven subjects, but that thinking could not be more incorrect. The trivium, or three ways, were more an approach to learning than subjects in and of themselves. It was through them that one could then hope to make sense of their experiences – to understand what they are taking in, to discern its value, and to communicate one’s thoughts. Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric would be the way a student learned to read, to think, and to communicate. The trivium has to do particularly with language, so a student would take in language reading myths, poetry, singing songs, and hearing the great tales. They would learn the skill of reading and writing, surely, but it was much deeper than that. They would have been taking in the Greek culture with the reading they did. Logic was then meant to refine one’s thoughts for the ability to think and reason clearly were held in high esteem throughout Greek culture. Socrates is quoted as saying, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” However, what good are thoughts that one cannot express? The effective communication of these thoughts to others comprised rhetoric. To be able to share with others the lucid thoughts of a well educated man was the goal of the trivium. Here we see again, the same pattern to take in, to digest, to be changed and grow.
In seeing this idea across the ages, it makes me look again at the way my school and home operate. Am I trusting that what the children read and do throughout the day are enough to feed them, or am I overly concerned about packing more into the day or testing to confirm the “results”? Do I give enough time for the Meditatio? Is there enough free time for their minds to digest all that they have been fed? Do they have ample time to be bored or quiet? How can I protect the quiet in my home when six people live in this house? Do I allow them my undivided attention when they are trying to share and discuss their thoughts or am I more likely to rush them or go about my own tasks, thus sending the signal that this part of learning is not important – that we are “done” rather than continually learning?
In this time of Advent, Amy and I are spending some extra time with our families preparing for the Christmas season so things will likely be quiet here. We may stop in with one or two more posts before the New Year and the feast of the Epiphany, but we also reserve the right to simply stay quiet the whole time and see you in 2017. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season and we can’t wait to share with you all the great ideas we have for posts in the new year! If you have any requests for posts or are curious about any specific topic, send us an email or leave a comment.
(As an aside, I highly recommend hanging your Advent wreath from a light fixture. All surfaces are easily wipeable and no little hands pick at the wreath. Also, its a big treat to light the thing and the kids will gladly have the table set and the dishwasher unloaded to be the one to stand on the counter to light the candle.)
We have created a few lists to help you get your Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Birthday, or any other gift giving day) shopping done and to help you in your quest for the things that with help you create and atmosphere, a discipline, and a life of education. It may seem a bit early, but we know many moms shop early so that job is done and they can enjoy the Advent season without the pressure of buying gifts. If you’re a last minute shopper, bookmark this list and it will be waiting for you in December. These are all items we have and love, or would like to have. Most are not affiliate links and we are not sponsored by any companies. We do however have a few Amazon affiliate links mixed in, which means your cost remains the same but we get a few cents for sending you there and it helps us with stocking stuffers for our combined nine children.
The Nature List
I’ve been using this pocket watercolor set for years. I love that I can refill it with different hues or better grade paint as I improve (though, for my level of skill, this is really great quality!) and it is so small that I can take it anywhere.
These water brushes have made all the difference for us! It used to seem so difficult to paint in the field, but now we can open our paints and begin with these brushes that hold a reservoir of water.
This beautiful wildflowers poster would be a lovely addition to any room in the house, and there are also versions for bugs, herbs, leaves, birds, and many others. If you can’t fit a full poster, check out the nature cards.
How about some rubber boots that won’t break the bank, but will keep you both fashionable and dry? Then you can step right into the creek with your kids or trudge through mud without flinching. This is one of my favorite investments – now the kids don’t get all the fun! (Amy seconds the recommendation on these boots! They have held up better than any other boot brand we have tried and purchasing in black means they can be passed down from one kid to the next!)
My kids loved getting these 7-in-1 outdoor tools as stocking stuffers one Christmas. It features a whistle, compass, thermometer, led light, magnifier, viewfinder, lanyard and storage chamber.
We have used many different types of Nature Journals over the years, but have settled on these as our favorites. They feel good in your hands, are small enough to carry on a hike or on vacation, come in different colors which is nice for a big family! (We’ve also used this one and this one,, if you are looking for a hard back edition.
One of the best purchases we’ve made are designated nature bags for each child to carry their own supplies when on a hike. With this many kids, it would be hard for mom to carry everyone’s water, paints, journals, etc.! Having everyone in charge of their own possessions is just one less impediment to getting outside!!! These are ultralight and durable and from the 2,000+ reviews and all the added videos and pictures, you can see how awesome they are. A great gift was for each kid to get one of these in a different color.
This hummingbird feeder brought our family so much joy last summer. I can’t even sing its praises highly enough. Hummingbirds came right up to the window all day long! They are amazing to watch.
If you aren’t in an area that hummingbirds frequent, what about a feeder for birds that do come to your area? We love this window feeder to see them up close, but be warned that they won’t come right away. We set up a few other feeders within two or three feet of this one (they were mounted on a pole) so that they would be bribed to come nearby and eventually be brave enough to jump to the window feeder.
Want to turn your iPhone camera to take amazing close up shots? The easy macro allows you to take amazing shots of bugs, flowers, leaves, and all sorts of other nature! Here are a few examples: