Monday, June 30, 2014

June in Review

  • Birthdays in June: 5
  • Parties: 4 (including a big open house for our new home, Father's Day, a graduation party, & a double birthday party)
  • Library book sale: 1. Spent $20 and filled our bags to bursting (literally, not figuratively) with books, CDs, and audio books.
  • Family Reunions: 1
  • Reunion with TN friends, without children (miracle): 1. So nice to spend time with friends whose relationship with us has lasted over the years.
  • Visit with IN friends, including children: 1. Philip preached for a friend, told about our camp program, and then there was an epic dodgeball game, of which I did not take part, not least because I spent the entire time trying to keep the iBoy from taking part, eating rocks, crawling into the road, etc. 
  • Weeks of VBS: 1. Those 5 days are long and packed, though. The kids also got to go to VBS with their other grandparents and their Kentucky cousins for 2 days. They had a blast, of course.
  • Anniversary: 15 Years of Marriage. They've been good years and I still love that boy.
  • Number of large cups of coffee on Friday of our quick anniversary trip to Nashville: 3+. 
  • Items that broke down: 1 van (now on its last miles but we haven't purchased a new to us vehicle yet. Think we're running on prayers at this point), 1 washing machine (Temporarily. It's working again now.), desktop computer hard drive (caput, but our friend was able to recover most of our files, pictures, etc.), 2 blenders (yes, not one, but two!)
  • Items on my library card: 45.
  • Items on Philip's library card: 45. That's so weird that we have the same number of things. He usually has more (we use his for the girls' school stuff) but we've been taking those back to get ready for a new school year. 
  • Number of hair things Sweet Pea put in her hair one night (see above pictures): I didn't count but you sure couldn't see much of her hair
  • Number of pictures taken: can't check this because our files are jumbled right now but I'm guessing around 500

Watching: Endeavor (the Morse prequel series), Silk (a British series), Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Australian series), Monuments Men (my verdict: not as good as the book) and a movie about a time traveling man who finds true love (probably not the one you're thinking of though the same girl stars in both).

Books published in 2014 finished in June:
Verdict: quite good, maybe better than the first. Warnings: rough language, very graphic murder
Verdict: well written and made me curious to know more about these people, but what I really wanted to do was give all those childish Americans in Paris in the 1920's a hearty slap on the face and telling-off. GROW UP ALREADY. What a bunch of spoiled brats. [/rant]

Books reviewed in June: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig.

Books read in June: at least 14. Check back later this week for the complete list.

Blog posts in June: 24 (including this one)
My favorite posts this month:
Most popular posts this month:
On Creative and Domestic (a homemaking blog my sister and I just started), I shared:
Pinterest Board I'm contemplating this week:
Follow Karen (Candid Diversions)'s board Celebrating - Glorious Fourth on Pinterest.
What did you do in June?

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Weekend Links - June 28, 2014

This has been an interesting week. One thing that happened (among many other disasters both big and small): our beloved desktop computer died an ignoble death. A techie friend of ours installed a new hard drive(s) (my husband tells me one of these is "solid state" and he is quite excited about it. Means nothing to me but...) and was able to salvage many of our old things. We're missing some programs because we've misplaced some things in the move (didn't know THOSE cd's would be important, don't you know). My apologies if any of these links are duplicates. We still don't have everything sorted out yet.

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
  • Where I. Am. the. Mom. by Christy Duffy at Where I Am. This went viral, for good reason. This is a new to me blog but I'm subscribing now. The follow-up to her viral post:
  • Who's In Charge? It's so crazy to me that we have to discuss this, but that's where we live now and ignoring this stuff does NOT make it go away. And another one:
  • Rita Skeeters Among Us. Having a post go viral must be a wild ride.
  • Cool at 13, Adrift at 23 by Jan Hoffman in the New York Times. Not to be too snarky, but this shocks whom, exactly? My dad has been telling me all my life not to be the kind of person who thought their glory days were in highschool. Can you imagine peaking in middle school? *shudder*
Homeschooling / Education
Reading / Writing
In the News
For Fun
What caught your eye this week?

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare

I have to confess: I was excited to review this book. I had read the first couple of chapters because our library has the hardcover version of book. The problem was it is so popular I could never keep it long enough to read the entire thing. When the paperback version (soon to be released) was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.

I know now why our library couldn't keep it on the shelves. This is not a book you'll want to borrow. You will want your own copy so that you can refer to it whenever you wish.

Ludwig's love of Shakespeare is evident on every page and it is infectious. He walks a fine authorial line, always offering more information that his readers may not know, but never talking down or condescending.

Helping our children to enjoy Shakespeare by memorizing selected passages just makes so much sense. Ludwig presents his choices and explains how to teach them in a step by step way, never overwhelming parent or child.

Our family has looked at Shakespeare using Lamb's adaptations, Nesbit's adaptations, and the brilliant picture books by Bruce Coville. In our new school year, I'm excited to add these suggestions from Ludwig to our repertoire. (See this post for more about how we've started studying Shakespeare: Another Homeschool Year, Shakespeare Edition.)

Shakespeare is referenced in so many stories, movies, & sayings. Quick quiz: where did the proverb, "Neither a borrow nor lender be," come from? I've actually met people that thought the Bible said that. Answer: it's in Hamlet, and there are plenty more quotes where that came from. So many phrases even in our currently degraded English come from Shakespeare. Knowing the source makes reading, movie watching, or even conversation between friends that much richer.

This book isn't just for homeschool families, either. You can use it no matter what educational system you use. And, if your own education was sadly lacking in Shakespeare (most are) you could use this book to start your own study. This book isn't just the how, it will also explain the why. With all the resources he lists in the back (more reading, recommended movies or audio versions...), this will be a book I use for reference throughout our year.

Highly recommended for anyone. This book will inspire you to read more, learn more, or just revel a bit more in the genius that is Shakespeare.

For more info:

Linking up with:
Living and Learning at Home
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Opinions expressed on this blog are my own.
Shakespeare image credit: Brian, The Lincolnian.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Considering Homeschooling

Post to remember: A Candidly Incomplete Guide to Considering Homeschooling from September 7, 2009

What I like about it: I think it's still accurate. Homeschooling is still easier and harder than you might think. Our lives are like I describe in the post, only more so. (We've added two children and moved twice since then!)

What I'd change now: I'd make a graphic for it, to make it pinnable. So I made a quick one this morning. This is it (image is link to original post):
Do you read your old posts? If you have one you'd like to share, please link to it in the comments. And if you're a homeschooler, do you agree or disagree with my two statements about homeschooling?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Homeschool Mom vs. Reality
First posted: July 17, 2013

Summer Homeschool Mom attends conventions and pores over the Rainbow Resource Catalog. She compares prices at eBay, Amazon, CBD, and whatever other online classified sites she knows.

Summer Homeschool Mom cracks open The Well Trained Mind again. She reads blogs and pins ideas and downloads free unit studies and coloring sheets and planner pages.

Summer Homeschool Mom loves planners. She has at least three or four types printed and neatly plotted.

Summer Homeschool Mom thinks getting an early start sounds like a good idea. She imagines days where she wakes, showers, prays, eats, reads, and prepares for the day long before her children are up...

Every Summer I face the same struggle: finishing out an old school year and planning the new one. My idealism and my realism clash in a major battle of wills.

This year we're not facing a move or a new baby. We're planning what will be one of our first "normal" school years in a long time. (Whatever normal means, of course.) We'll have three school age children (roughly corresponding to 8th Grade, 5th Grade, & 2nd Grade levels) and two below school age (a soon to be 4 year old who wants to be involved in our school day and a 1 year old who wants to be into everything).

I find my idealistic self really rising up this year. I've considered multiple co-ops, support groups, and online classes. I've bought my curriculum and started my plans, even though it's still June and we haven't finished everything I had planned for last year.

I'm thinking about what doesn't work, and what might work and what I wish, in an ideal world, would work, even though it hasn't yet. We finally have a place for keeping most of our supplies accessible, a luxury we've almost never had in our homeschool.

I've described our style as "Relaxed Classical" in the past. In the "just getting by" months of last year (2 big moves, a new baby, etc.) we slimmed our school day down to the minimum (Phonics, Reading, Writing, Math, History) but now I'd like to add in those things that we didn't have time or energy to complete (Shakespeare, Latin, more time with Science, etc.)

Summer Homeschool Mom has many admirable qualities, and this year I'm trying to work with her strengths, while not letting her idealism run away with me. It's a time for really focusing on what is a priority in our family (loving learning, strong reading skills, systematic math) and what isn't (many electives are great ideas in theory but less practical when I consider how many children we have and other obligations).

So, I'm trying to keep the exhortation from the Great Homeschool Convention Classical Panel, about not making it too hard. And I want to make sure I'm not just ignoring the needs of our soon to be 4 year old, who loves learning and creating right along with us.

Tell me, fellow homeschool moms, how do you deal with your inner planner / idealistic self?

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Living and Learning at Home

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Links - June 21, 2014

We've had a fabulous couple of days celebrating our anniversary. This morning we reunited with our kids (that's the first time we've left the iBoy for that long) and now we're almost ready to make the trek home to get started on whatever the next 15 years holds.

Meanwhile, here are the links I saved this week:

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
Homeschooling / Education
For Fun
What caught your eye this week?
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Throwback Thursday - 15 Years of Marriage

I've spent the last 17 years of our existence trying to use words to tell you how much I love you. I used to write you letters - after we had spent 18 out of 24 hours together - confessing how much I loved you and how much you meant to me. (Which reminds me: where are those letters? We really should burn them.) As inadequate as I've found words to be in expressing this love, I'm going to try again.

When we made our vows 15 years ago, I suspected some of them might be hard to keep. (Even after we omitted the word "obey".) As it turns out, "Forsaking all others and keeping only unto him," has been the easiest promise I ever made.

There is no one like you. 7 billion people on the earth and none compares favorably to you. You're my favorite person, past or present.

17 years ago you'd walk by and I'd think, "I love that boy."

Today - after fights and growing up and giving birth and losing a baby and moving and crying and learning not to be selfish and saying goodbye to people we love and choosing to do the right thing even when it was lonely and holding on tight because we were all we had - I see you across a room and I still think, "I love that boy."

I know your faults - better than anyone - and you know mine. But I'd rather deal with your faults than anyone else's strengths. And despite my faults, you still treat me like I'm worthy and beautiful and funny, rather than flawed, bitter, & neurotic.

We both know I'm not a "people pleaser". I don't spend a lot of energy trying to make other people happy. But you are the exception. I so much desire to make you happy every day. A day where I don't make you laugh is not a good day.

You - we both know this is true - are not a good gift giver. But that's OK because your smile and your time, your attention and your joy in just being with me, those are my favorite gifts that you give me anyway.

So, we didn't get to go on our big trip this year. Moving and EVERYTHING WE OWN breaking down and dental issues and so on (otherwise known as real life) have postponed all those plans we made about our next overseas trip.

I'm OK with that. I'd rather be with you, doing real life stuff, than with anyone else going to exotic places and doing anything else.

So, fifteen years in and I still get to be be your Leia ("I am not a committee."), and Leeloo ("Multipass!") and Arwen ("I choose a mortal life."), or, if you prefer, Eowyn ("I am no man."). And I will listen to you describe your game designs and I will cheer for you and sometimes I'll even play.

And you will continue to be my Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, Henry Tilney, Captain Wentworth, Gilbert Blythe, John Thornton, & Percy Blakeney all in one. I'll base some characters in my stories on you, even though critics might say my heroes "aren't realistic" because they're just too amazing. What do they know about romantic heroes anyway?

Marriage to you has been better than a dream come true, because no matter how good I imagined it would be (and we both know my imagination can be quite wild), it is far better than I ever could have dreamed.
What do the next 15 years hold? I don't know. Probably weddings, and maybe even our first grandbabies, and maybe more moving (please, no!), and more than a few fights and then making up, more dental visits than we care to think about, and hopefully at least another trip to England (or two...) and across the country to see the ocean again, and more reading, writing, talking, dreaming, praying, singing, scolding, enduring, loving, and more just plain living than we can imagine at this moment. 

I may have only been 18 when I committed to God and you in front of all our friends and family (and those people neither of us knew) to love you for all of my life. I know I had no conception of how long or short that might be, or what that really meant. But I can tell you this now, 15 years later, older and wiser and way more exhausted: if I had 100 lives to live, I would choose you every time.

Previous anniversary posts: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
Throwback Thursday: 30 Things I've Learned About Marriage

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Twitter Tuesday

My apologies to those of you who have seen all this before. One of the benefits of this blog is a record of what was going on in our family. So I'm saving these tweets here, lest I forget the days when our 3 yr old was addicted to Minecraft.

Do you use Twitter? Where do you keep track of the funny things your kids say?

Monday, June 16, 2014

"How Do I Look?" Advice for Husbands

Dear Husbands,

When we ask you how we look, it's not because we're trying to torture you. Yes, we know, to you this question is a minefield. There are so many wrong answers possible. I'm going to spill some secrets here and tell you both WHY we do it and a few ways you can answer correctly.

1. We need someone to tell us if something is wrong. Stains, rips, buttons askew, unmatched shoes - maybe you couldn't care less if they happen to you. But we care - a lot. Help us out - we've been wrangling toddlers (or teenagers) all day. Presentable is the new standard and you can help us meet it. And please, PLEASE, just tell us if our skirts are tucked into our tights. So. Not. Cool.
source: K Michiels
2. We need someone - namely you - to care. When you answer "fine" or "OK" or worst of all, you don't answer at all, we interpret that as you are busy, you don't care or, on a really bad day, that you don't love us anymore and we are destined to live out the rest of our natural lives in a loveless, lonely marriage and... OK, yes, we can get a bit carried away. Please don't let that happen.

If we ask you which shirt is better, tell us which one you like and maybe even why. ("It matches your eyes," "It looks happier," "It feels better when we hug," are all possible winning answers.)

We're asking your opinion not just because we don't have any girlfriends handy, but because your opinion carries so much weight.
3. We need someone to remember. When you say something like, "I like that dress because it reminds me of that one you wore when we were dating," well, that's gold right there. That's Pass Go & Collect $200 in wife world.

We want to know what you like. If you think one hairstyle is better than another, for heaven's sake, SAY SO. Fixing hair can be a time-consuming task. Save us the effort if you prefer down or up or curled or braided. Do you want us to wear eye makeup or a darker lipstick or less makeup altogether? What do we wear to make you think about when we first fell in love? Is there a scent or perfume you like better than the others? Don't just think it - say it.

See, this isn't just academic. We do this for you. Sure, we want to be presentable to the world. We'd rather not walk out in public in unflattering clothes. But the real goal is to see a sparkle in your eyes. If you tell us which shirt you like best, I guarantee you'll see that shirt more often.
Let's recap:
  • Don't say: That's hideous.
  • Do say: I like your (insert specific article of clothing here) more.
  • Don't say: Fine.
  • Do say: I love when you wear (specific item here).
  • Don't say: nothing.
  • Do say: Hon, you're wearing two different shoes. Tell me which one you want and I'll go get it. [bonus points!]
  • Don't say: I wish you looked like you did when we were dating. [author's note: this is considered grounds for divorce in all 50 states.]
  • Do say: That (specific article of clothing) reminds me of when we were dating, OR I love it when you wear my team colors, OR pretty much anything else other than the above statement.
Get it? We're dressing for you. We want to know you care, that you notice us, and that you love us enough not to let us go out with spaghetti sauce stains down our sleeves.

If I can assist you further in these matters, do write.

Sincerely yours,
A Wife
[*author's note: this letter was not precipitated by any incorrect action on the part of the author's own fabulous husband. It is advice purely for the betterment of marriages everywhere.]

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Weekend Links - June 15, 2014

After a full week of VBS, today we have a birthday party for my nephew (the famous Fen) and brother-in-law, Philip and our oldest are off to a game convention, and we're hosting Father's Day festivities at our house tomorrow. The fun times just keep rolling.

On to the links!

Spiritual / Inner Life
Marriage / Parenting
In the News
What caught your eye this week?
Linking up with:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Favorite Fictional Fathers

OK, favorite real fathers are, of course, my own & my husband. They are truly fantastic dads. (And don't even get me started about my grandpas because they're amazing too.)

But what about those other dads we met while we were growing up, the ones who lived in books? So many children's books feature orphans, with dead or absent fathers. The good guys tend to stand out.

These may be fictional (though some are based on real people), but here are a few of my favorite dads from books:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday - VBS Edition

This week is Vacation Bible School for our church. Despite having one of our buildings out of commission, and the weather not exactly cooperating, and a vehicle broken down...well, anyway, there have been a few extra challenges.

But we love VBS and it's going well despite the troubles.

I've shared some posts about VBS in the past and for Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd re-visit a few of those.
The best one might be this one from June 2011: Top 10 Tuesday VBS Edition. (10 Things to Love about Vacation Bible School.) Bonus: funny pictures of the oldest 3 girls when they were younger.

Even further back are these posts from June 2007: We're VBS-ing, Works for Me Wednesday - VBS Hints, and one of my favorites, The Cowgirls. Just look how little Sweet Pea was!

What I love about these posts: the pictures. The memories. The confirmation that VBS is one of our favorite things.

What I'd change now: I added a catchier graphic to the Top 10 post and I might add pictures to one or two, but otherwise I don't think I'd change much.

Do your kids have VBS? What are your favorite memories of this summer tradition?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Reasons I Love Peace Hill Press

We use books from Peace Hill Press for these subjects:
  • Phonics instruction: The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
  • Writing instruction: Writing with Ease and Writing with Skill
  • Grammar: First Language Lessons
  • History: The Story of the World
We've used the History, Grammar, and Phonics books throughout our homeschool years, starting with our oldest. This year we added the writing curriculum after trying other things that just weren't working.

Now, this is not a sponsored post or an affiliate post. I'm not affiliated with Peace Hill Press in any way. But I love these books and here are a few reasons why:

1. Many of the books are designed for multiple uses. Homeschool families are allowed to copy the activity pages for their students. Non-consumable means not having to buy new workbooks for each child. Saving money makes me happy. (The Grammar books are an exception to this. The teacher's guide can be used over again but you will need to purchase new student books for each child.)

They also facilitate use by multiple ages at once. We do History together, but my oldest has extra reading, assignments, & so on in order to go deeper into the material, while my younger students focus on the chapter, map work, & coloring pages. I had three school age students this year, ranging from seventh grade work to first grade. Anything where we could work together was a time saver for me.

2. The quality is excellent. These are not photo-copied in someone's basement workshop. We've used the History books for nearly two complete four year cycles now. They are holding up well despite enthusiastic use by my History loving students. There are also online resources and special things that can be added on. (We particularly enjoy The Story of the World cds as read by Jim Weiss.)

3. These follow the classical model, as laid out by Susan Wise Bauer in her book The Well Trained Mind. This method just makes sense to me. Four year cycles to get through all of History may sound daunting but The Story of the World makes it possible.

4. If you follow PHP on Facebook, you get information about upcoming products or seminars and a good dose of humor. I'm not sure who does their social media, but he or she has a well developed sense of humor. And who couldn't use a little more fun in their homeschool day, right?

5. Susan Wise Bauer is brilliant. Do I agree with her on every subject? No, of course not. I suspect particularly on matters of faith, we might have to agree to disagree. But on education, writing, preparing a student for college, and so on, I enjoy learning from her experience. She is a fantastic communicator.

You can find more of my favorite homeschool books in my Amazon store (this is an affiliate link, see Disclosure page for more about this).

Do you have a favorite curriculum? What do you love about it?
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Living and Learning at Home