Announcing a Webinar on Exams with Celeste Cruz!

I can’t tell you how excited we are!  We know this wasn’t part of our original line-up, but we have a special surprise addition to our spring webinar lineup.  You’ll want to be there – we have yet to find someone so knowlegable and well-spoken on the topic of exams in a Charlotte Mason homeschool.  We are thrilled to have Celeste Cruz come talk with us!

We both started reading Celeste’s blog, Joyous Lessons, years ago.  On her site, she shares a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both practicalities and philosophy.  She shares school planning tips and worksheets, nature study and notebooking ideas (and a great link up!), great ideas for teaching foreign language, annual plans for each of her students, and so much more.  Did we mention she has eight children (with number nine on the way!) and that they are all under the age of 11?  Oh, and she hosts a conference every year for the CM mamas on the west coast.  Her calm and kind demeanor will absolutely give you the confidence you need to sort of how to do exams well in your home, even if you’ve never done them before.

We are thrilled to have befriended Celeste through our shared Instagram account, @CharlotteMasonIRL and she is such a lovely person.  We so appreciate that she will able to come join us May 23rd at 8pm EST to chat about Exams in the CM Homeschool.  We invite all of you to come join us as well!

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Click here to sign up!

The webinar will be approximately an hour long and is $10.

In this webinar, we will discuss Charlotte Mason-style exams from both a philosophical and a practical perspective. We will talk about general principles governing PNEU exams, how questions and expectations changed through the Forms, how Miss Mason’s schools managed the exam process, and how students (and teachers!) were assessed using the results.

We will then take that understanding and consider it in the context of the homeschool. How might Exam Week look in the home? What subjects should be covered, and how can we prepare questions and set the proper atmosphere for best work?  How can exam performance help us assess our students’ progress and our own methods and materials?  Can exams really be enjoyable and fruitful, helping us to be better teachers and our children to be better students? (Hint: the answer to that last question is yes!)
Afterward, Celeste invites your questions and concerns for a short Q&A session to follow.
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But is it practical?

As homeschooling mothers, we are often busy with those things the must be done: chores, schedules, driving, schooling.  We know there is benefit to reading good books, poetry, good music, and days of rest, but finding the time always seems difficult.  The practical things, the urgent things, beckon us.

Soon, school planning time comes around.  We look at our year and what wasn’t executed the way we had envisioned and we’ve heard much talk of new ideas and new ways of implementing different subjects; it can feel overwhelming. We must pick out math curricula, history books, science topics… How do we introduce writing?  Is narration being done correctly? What if the kids don’t spell well?  Many things seem to need our immediate attention.  They all seem so urgent.

I invite you to take a few steps back.  Perhaps now is a good time to take a bird’s eye view of your home school.  Or perhaps fly even a bit higher than the average bird…

The Great Regcognition

Let’s come together and talk about the philosophy of your homeschool.  We’ll do it by diving deeply into Charlotte Mason’s “creed picture“.  It was here that much of her greatest thoughts are visually expressed.

What will we talk about at the webinar?

  • The Florentine mind of the Middle Ages, and the “boldness of the scheme of education” presented in the painting.
  • The Holy Spirit as teacher.
  • How we can co-operate in the education of our children.
  • Who are the characters in the painting and why are they important?
  • What messages did the artist send through the structure of the painting?
  • How can the discord in our lives and school rooms brought into harmony through unity?
  • What role does virtue and wisdom play in education?  Should they be our aim?
  • How to understand this painting from the top down and the bottom up and how that affects your school room.

Will it be practical? Yes.  In the same way that having a map or GPS device is practical when driving across the country.  Can you make it to your destination without one? Maybe, but you’ll be glad to have it when you are on the road.  You trip will certainly be full of smooth and easy days if you can plan where to go and what to see.  Surely, you will need to worry about gasoline, food, and rest stops – but it is best to start with a map.  Consider this painting your roadmap!

Do you want your own copy of the painting? We are giving away three and there is still time to enter!

If you haven’t registered for the webinar yet, I’d love for you to join me this Tuesday, March 21 at 8pm.  We have some great folks signed up and the conversation is going to be great!

The Great Regcognition

February 

February is not typically an easy month for schooling.  I would say homeschooling, but I’ve heard from enough teachers that this is a universal struggle.  I can’t help but think it goes beyond schooling at all.  Winter is dragging on, there is little or no green growth, but we are so close.  So close.  Spring officially comes in March, the days are growing longer, and hope is on the horizon for warm days, ice cream cones, and beach trips.  How can we best manage our days through this very long shortest month of the year?

One way I have found is to get outside more.  We’ve been lucky this year in that the weather is mild.  We went to the park today to get some sunshine and it was lovely.  Because of that decision, not all the schoolwork will get done today and that’s ok.  It isn’t ok every day, but here and there in February, it can make all the other days so much more bearable.

Mother culture time.  Moms need to recharge too.  I have mother culture activities in progress the same way I have books in progress – easy, medium, and hard all ready for me to pick up wherever I left off whenever the time is available.  I just finished an embroidery of a worker bee (part nature study, part handicraft) and I’ve been enjoying doing some hand lettering in the evenings.  It is only enjoyable when I am surrounded by a clean kitchen and sitting at a clean table, so I am always sure to get those things done early when I remind myself I can have some time to enjoy writing later.

Coffee.  An occasional donut.  Enough said.

Field trips.  I find February to be a great time for field trips.  If the day is dreary or cabin fever is running high, have a list ready of places you’d like to go with the kids.  If you are well prepared, you can take this time to see the term artist at the local art museum, go to a history museum that supplements your readings that term, or find hear your composer being played by a symphony.  We found that we live right by the National Underground Railroad Museum and that seemed like a great way to supplement our study of Lincoln and Douglass and the Civil War.  We were lucky enough to then come upon the John A. Roebling bridge that spans the Ohio River.  It was completed in 1867, only two years after the war was over.  The same river that separated north and south during the war and was an impediment to those who yearned for freedom in the slave states, was spanned by this beautiful bridge so quickly after the war ended and the bridge still stands as a symbol of unity.  It was also the practice bridge for it’s more famous counterpart, the Brooklyn Bridge.  We learned more by getting out of the house than we would have staying home, I daresay.


Lastly, this is the time of year I start planning ahead. Planning for summer and for next year.  For things like camps and weekend trips as well as books, budgets, and goals for the next grade.  It is a joy to do, and prevents overwhelm come May and June when there are so many end-of-year items of my to do list.  It helps me to enjoy the summer months with less stress, while being a stress reliever in the here and now as well. A win-win if ever there was one.

If you are stuck in the mire of February, and not sure how to plan your year better or how to fix some of the issues plaguing your homeschool, we’d love to help you out.  We have consulting available, and we’d love to help you sort out what isn’t working so that you can get back to thriving in your role as teacher and mother.  Sometimes, it is just the February slump, but other times you just need someone to help you with the task of planning the day, making time for the feast, choosing books appropriate to the students in your home, or some other specific task that you could just use a bit of outside advice on.  We have a limited schedule, but we make all the time we can for mothers who ask for help.  We are booking March now and would love to be of service to you!

CM and Community

Amy is on the Delectable Education Podcast today talking all about her vast experience with starting Charlotte Mason communities.  Amy and I met largely because of the book club she held in her living room full of women eager to learn more of Mason, her methods, and how to better implement them in our homes.  She also began a co-op out of her home which grew and grew until it became, and still is, a school for children K-12.  After moving, she has begun a new co-op and still sits on the board at the school she began, though the running of the day to day operations is now in the hands of another amazing mother and teacher of Charlotte’s method.  In addition to books clubs, co-ops, and a school, Amy has also begun a Nature Club or two, muti-day summer intensives for mothers, field trips, and so many other ways that have helped moms and their children thrive not only in their homes, but within a community of learning.

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If you are a reader who is clicking over after listening to the podcast, we welcome you to our little corner of the internet.  We are homeschooling mothers who have used the CM method for many years and in many different situations – at home, in school, overseas, and in multiple regions within the USA.  To hear more of our stories, click here.  We like to write about how using the CM method has changed our whole lives, and not just our homeschools, so while we certainly write about nature, and books, and habits, you’ll also see us chatting about homemaking, mother culture, and organizing our days.

If you are a long time reader, we invite you to head over to hear Amy speaking today on the podcast!  We’d love to hear about communities you’ve started or questions you have about starting communities in the comments or via email.

The Kitchen

Welcome to the first room in our series, the Kitchen.  Let’s start here, as this is both the heart of the home and where much work of the mother occurs. Before we dive into cleaning, simplifying, and making our kitchen beautiful, it would make sense to think about what we need our kitchens to be. If we think of our rooms as servants to the people who use them, how can your kitchen better serve your family?

Think through the annoying spots.  That counter that is just NEVER clear, that drawer that doesn’t even open all the way and you have no idea what is back there, the cabinet where all the storage containers are in a jumble or the pots are jammed in… You all know what your least favorite spots are.  Write them down.  If you use one, this would be a great page in your bullet journal.  Write down all the things that make your kitchen inefficient or unpleasant right now.  Some of these we can work on this month and it will be so nice to look at this list after the problems are solved!

Related to this is also the idea of where do your processes have a bottleneck?  Is one part of the kitchen where people are bumping into one another as they cook while no one ever seems to be in another spot?  Maybe some rearranging is in order.  We’ll discuss work zones later in the series, but it might be a good time to start thinking about yours and how you can arrange the things in your kitchen to accommodate the people who use them.  In my home, I’d like my kids to unload the dishwasher with less help from me, but that means it would be nice if all the bowls and glassware weren’t on shelves they cannot reach.  Perhaps moving the coffee maker and mugs away from the main cooking area to prevent morning traffic jams would help you, or creating a space where kids can help prep veggies without being too close to a hot oven is your need.  Write down all your thoughts and possible solutions.  Brainstorm here for a while because sometimes a very small change can have a big impact.

When the cooking is through, is it easy to clean?  Do you have a system for getting the dishes cleaned quickly after each meal and the counter cleared as well?  Is the floor swept and the table wiped so that if a guest were to drop in, you could bring them gladly into your kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee?  Do you have a schedule for cleaning out those things that are not everyday tasks – the oven, the microwave, the refrigerator?  Cutting time off of your cleaning means you can use it elsewhere so we’ll focus on this aspect of the kitchen too.  Until then, write down a list of things that don’t get done as often as you like, and another list of all the people in the home who are able to do those tasks.  Caring for the home is a family affair, not yours alone.

Switching gears, what do you love about your kitchen?  Maybe you appreciate the ample cabinet space, or you love an apron that was passed down from your grandmother.  Big or small, make a list of things that are great about your space.  Good light? Charming woodwork? A lovely piece of art hanging on the wall?  We’ll figure out a way to highlight these later and hopefully make the list even longer.

Lastly, I like to remember that when we make our space the best it can be, then it is up to us to improve our attitudes toward the space as well.  I like to think of the fact that there are women who blog daily recipes and write cookbooks out of tiny kitchens.  Ma Ingalls had no cabinets or refrigerator and she raised five children and cooked delicious meals. You need not live in or pine for some imaginary dream kitchen when the one you have now is where your life is being lived day by day. Amazing meals happen in awkward spaces and amazing memories are made in humble kitchens.  Celebrate the space you have now, and let’s make it as pleasant as possible.

 

 

 

Bullet Journal Daily Logs and Weekly Spreads for the Homeschooling Mom

At the heart of the Bullet Journal is the daily log.  This is the page that stays open all day to keep us on track.

Camille and I have tried the many ways of keeping a daily log/weekly spread. Today we are sharing our favorites with the hopes that you will see the flexibility of this method and maybe even find one that fits your life!

There are two things we need to live a more organized and peaceful life: resolution and method.

“The real truth with most of us is that it requires a little more resolution and a good deal more method than we possess to so arrange and carry out the work of the day… (The Parent Review, “Simple Things” by S. F. S.Volume 12, no. 12, 1901, pgs. 958-960).

The Bullet Journal is such a method to arrange and carry out the work of the day! And when we have a method the resolution becomes easier and easier. The method is our way of laying down the rails and then finding freedom. So often we have the resolution but not the method to fulfill it!

But back to the weekly spread!

Amy

This is the main spread that I have used for over 2 years:

Left Side:

The left page is where I do my brain dump of all that is going on in my mind for that particular week. After doing this for a few weeks, I saw that I had a few major categories and divided this page into 5 categories:

Home: Everything that relates to our family life! Reminders to make a dentist appointment, call someone back, send an email, an idea I want to explore.

Work: Everything that relates to my Charlotte Mason initiatives: CM Reading Club, Nature Club, Truth, Beauty Goodness Symposium, the Charlotte Mason Educational Center of PA.

Liturgical Year: I take the time to note any important feast days for us to celebrate that week. This particular week I reminded myself to prep for our All Saints Day celebration and then created a separate page for planning.

Grocery: This isn’t my grocery list, but where I jot down if I notice we are out of one our pantry staples. You know, the things that nag at you but you always forget when you actually sit down to make your grocery list. This week I noted we were running low on tea.

Errands: This is a list of the out-of-the ordinary things I might need to pick up or drop off during the week. This week it was a birthday gift for my daughter’s friend.

Right Side:

Then on the right is my weekly list. First, I write in all of normal weekly events, like basketball practice, choir, violin lessons. Yes, these are on my Google Calendar that I share with my husband and yes, they repeat every week, but I still write them out each Sunday night. When I do so, I feel like I really get a hold of the week and feel so much more at peace. My next step is to then migrate things from the left page over to the right on the day that actually makes sense for me to do them. Its only after doing the brain dump on the left and then filling in our normal weekly events that I can accurately plan when I can do what needs to be done!

Just recently I switched to a new spread and I really like it. I love that my menu, my events, and my to-do are all on one big spread and then I have a column on the far left for my brain dump. It’s small but I found I don’t need a ton of space for the brain dump and that I usually want to create a whole page for many of the items anyway.


Camille

My main spread that I could not get through a week without is relatively simple.  I always set this up on Sunday afternoon or evening in preparation for the week ahead.  I happened to take a photo during a school break week, so I’ve also included one for a school week, though I don’t make a lot of school notes on my main spread.

First, I make a mini brain dump of things I want  to remember, do, or accomplish that week.  In the first example, my daughter had a feast day that I wanted to remember because for two years in a row we have either forgotten or been travelling so it could not be properly celebrated. I wanted to make sure we had time to let her choose dinner and dessert, as well as time to buy the ingredients needed, if any.  It was also epiphany week and I wanted to remember our king cake.  We had also been gifted a membership to the art museum and I wanted to go before school started up again.

I then start up a list of what I can reasonably accomplish the following day.  Not grand hopes of things to accomplish, but realistic plans.  These smaller lists for each day also include smaller tasks that need doing, such as errands, a reminder to put away that basket of laundry (so I can’t claim I forgot it…), or phone calls and emails that need to be made.

This particular week, being a week of no schooling, I also had a list of projects I wanted to complete, which is an unusual addition.

In the following spread, you’ll see that while the format is the same, the usefulness changes because I was beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving guests, planning my Advent Term as well as Term 2 for school, and I had a lot of small tasks that needed to be taken care of such as phone calls and errands.

While this is my home base spread for the week, it expands as these tasks get carried out.  For example, I created new spreads for school planning, as well as my Thanksgiving menu, and gifts that needed ordering for birthdays, hostess gifts, and Christmas.

Now, the other part of my Sunday afternoon routine is menu planning, but it doesn’t fit on my main spread and gets one of its own.  That is a post for another day!

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into our lives and found it helpful! Please share below any questions you have below!

Next week we will be sharing with you all the Collections we keep as Charlotte Mason moms. Subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

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Would you like to learn more about keeping a Bullet Journal? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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5 Steps to Begin Again After a Holiday

Happy New Year! It’s time to begin again in the Snell household after a full holiday season.

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Our Holy Family of Nazareth remains as a reminder of Christmas lessons

“Ordinary Time” sounds like a good idea after feasts, travels, a new puppy, family-time, a teething baby, gift-giving, and more. My 5 year old keeps saying, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why!”

But starting again is often easier said than done. I love Mason’s metaphor of “Laying Down the Rails,” because it rings true. When our whole system is up and running, it just keeps running. When the train falls off the track, it’s so hard to get it moving again…

So here are 5 steps I take to get back-on-track, after holidays, travel, extended illness, or at the beginning of a new term.

  1. Order and refresh your home.

  • Toys: Often on a break, I’ve let out more toys from our toy library or we’ve been given gifts so I take the time to go through play areas and bedrooms and return items to our toy library in the basement.

  • Food: I make sure we’ve restocked our pantry and have a solid meal plan. Over a break, it’s much easier to wing it, but since starting back is hard to do, having all of my meals planned (even breakfast and lunch), means I have one less thing to think about. Also, I try to purge all of the sweets and extra sugar that has made its way into our house and be sure we have lots of healthy snacks around instead.

 

  • Clothes: I try to do a quick purge of items that the children have outgrown or seasonal items no longer needed (Holiday dresses put away, for example). And then we catch up on laundry.

  • De-clutter Hot Spots: It’s easy for piles to start when everyone is in holiday mode–the stairs, the kitchen table, the mantle, a coffee table. We spend time to put things back in their places. After Christmas gift giving, there are usually a few items that need to find a new home.

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  1. Order and Refresh the school room.

 

  • Schedule/Timetable: I look over our time-table to be sure it is still will work for this new season. Has a new activity or sport started? Will the upcoming few weeks entail more travel or any disruptions I need to plan around?
  • Refresh Supplies: It sure is nice to begin with freshly sharpened pencils and to be sure all of our notebooks are ready to go.
  • Organize Bookshelves: I purge any books no longer needed and any books that have found their way to the school shelf that don’t belong. Books have a life of their own, don’t they?
  • Weekly School Prep Page: I walk through “my weekly school prep page” in my bullet journal
  • Pre-reading: I make sure any books I need to pre-read are up in my bedroom so I can skim them at night before bed.

 

  1. Choose one new habit.

Though we have turned the page of our calendar to a new year, for the Charlotte Mason mamma, not much changes…We think in terms of habits, not resolutions. The New Year is a natural time to pause and reflect, but we know that refinement is a slow, steady effort. Not a wild goal. Resolutions tend to be easily broken, frustratingly out-of-reach, quickly discarded. Big goals may help motivate us for a time, but we are in it for the long haul.

  • Habits are part of our regular, every day life.
  • Habits are consistent and reliable.
  • Habits become involuntary. Like eating, breathing, and making our beds
  • Habits are something we do because it is part of who we are.

“Learning How to Live” means we are in the Habit of Building Habits.

What new habit do you need most?

  1. Bullet Journal! (Yes, it’s a verb)

The bullet journal has truly revolutionized my life—I’m better organized and much more at peace. Here’s what I do:

  • Brain Dump: I just list out all of the things that have been swirling in my head—thank you notes, items to be returned, a check to send, a worry about a child, a goal I have. There is no rhyme or reason to the list.

 

  • Monthly Calendar and Project list: I migrate items from the brain dump that belong here and add anything that might be missing.

 

  • Weekly Calendar: I create the new weekly page.

 

  • Planning Routine: I look over my planning routine page just to be sure I’m not forgetting to do what I’ve planned to do to plan.

 

  1. Start with a modified schedule.

 

I plan to start at least a half hour later, if we’ve been sleeping in, so I cut back on a few blocks on our time-table for that day to account for the later start. I also know brains will be a bit sluggish so I lower my expectations. This might mean I read smaller sections than usual before asking them to narrate or I might allow a child who has difficulty writing, draw their narration. I might re-arrange the week to put the books and subjects that bring us the most delight on the first day.

I know the temptation to just jump back in and not take additional time off, but time and time again, I’ve seen this backfire. If education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, it make sense that we need to think on these things for our days to go well. Putting things in place will mean that the train will chug smoothly down the rails and in the end much more will be accomplished.

Often, I am disappointed that I didn’t “accomplish more” when a break comes to an end. But it’s important for us as parents and teachers to take real breaks too. So now I just tack on a few more days at the end of each break and try to fully embrace each holiday. “Work while you work, play while you play, this is the way to be happy each day.
Remember school teachers have in-service days to plan and organize–homeschooling moms need them too!

So take that extra day or two or three, after you’ve gotten off the tracks, and you will find delight again in your home, your children, and your day!