1. The Chrismas Tree
The Christmas tree was picked, trimmed (I actually trimmed lots of branches to make her look like a Silver Tip Fir, but she wasn’t having it), and decorated. We didn’t go to the usual tree farm this year but opted for a tree from a local nursery. They had all of the trees named. Among the many trees beautifully displayed was George, Wink, Luke, Prancer and ours, Belinda. Trees being named was quite possibly the cutest thing that could have happened. The girls had so much fun running around trying to find just the right name. After we brought Belinda in, the house was immediately filled with that wonderful fir scent of Christmas. We decorated her to the best of our abilities (see missing lights at top right) and now she looks festive and ready to take on the season. And tomorrow is the first day of the advent! Which…has become my most favorite time of the year!
2. The Advent
Another Advent season is upon us. And yeah, we can get so wrapped up in choosing just the right tree or just the right gifts that the meaning of it all dissipates along with our energy. I grew up with a simple Christmas. Nothing to open before, nothing to expect, just twinkling lights and the innate joy of the season, well, and wishing for a gift or two. Somehow, after I had kids, the advent became, by my own two hands, oh so complicated. We can go all advent worrying about what the neighbor’s Elf on the Shelf is doing or what Pinterest worthy project we will put together. And we can forget, we can forget all about the miracle birth, THE reason we celebrate CHRISTmas. Some time ago American cartoonist James Thurber said, There are two kinds of light, the glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures. Not all lights are made the same. And complicated light looks a lot like glare. The kind of glare that steals joy.
I’ve been trying very hard to quit perfectionism. It isn’t easy. No, it isn’t. So last year I was in search of glow. I wanted a simplified advent, an activity not just for activities sake, but something meaningful and stress-less. Not a joy thief. So I made the executive decision to unplug from electronics, light a candle, turn off the lights, serve dinner, and open the scriptures (along with Ann Voskamp’s book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift) for some family reading time. To be honest, I had no idea how this would all pan out. The first night we ate with one candle, it was dark, but I noticed we lingered a little longer around the dinner table. No one rushed away to some other activity. By day 24 we had more than enough beautiful light, a candle for each day preceding Christmas, and a family who could not bear to turn on artificial lights and resume modern life. Glow! Another curious and studied phenomenon, the lack of artificial light before bedtime made us all feel sleepy earlier. Double glow! In all, it was such a simple way to enjoy time together and reflect on Jesus’ birth. And this year, by popular vote, we are doing it again.
If you are looking to start a meaningful tradition, this might be the one for you! Light a candle and feel the warmth of the season. Don’t get all be caught up in details, home cooked food, take-out, dessert only, anything goes so long as it is shared by candle light. Glow not glare. Happy Advent friends!
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16-hole birthday ring (what we use for advent as well as birthdays). We use the ring plus other individual candles.
Brass candle holders.
Small beeswax tapers
other beeswax candles are made by me or from Wholefoods.
This is not an ad. Just something I want to share.
A few years ago I came across Brave Writer. I bookmarked the website and forgot all about it. I tell you, the hardest parts of homeschooling are, one: to remember all of the wonderful resources and two: to choose which is best. Choosing homeschooling methods and curricula can send you spiraling out of control. Stay on task, though, because when you need just the right resource for your child (or yourself), you will find it. Look in the forgotten bookmarks.
With the help of Brave Writer and a
little lot of persistence I am making language arts not just an umbrella of subjects to be studied, but also a part of our quotidian. This isn’t an easy task. The TV, iPad, and a plethora of other “more interesting” things to do are constantly trying to rain on my parade. But I don’t surrender easily to inanimate peer pressure. Especially since what I have implemented so far has positively affected my English language learning. So this is really about me now. And If it ain’t Pride & Prejudice, Little Women, The Sound of Music and The Voice (teaches them perseverance) ain’t nobody watching it.
One the rituals we started is our Friday afternoon tea and poetry. Reading poetry isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’ve spent years avoiding poetry in English because I thought I was obligated to understand something. What’s the pleasure in understanding Endymion? I can’t be so sure John Keats understood what he wrote. Nevertheless reading it is like music to my ears and food for my soul. A thing of beauty really is a joy for ever. So for our tea and poetry time no one is required to understand a thing. We just drink tea, read, and eat sugar. Win, win, win. Now, don’t get me wrong, there will be time to pick things apart and try to understand the meaning of words. Just not yet.
Sometimes we bake from scratch, other times we ride our bikes to our favorite local French bakery for their delicious goodies (pictured). The importance isn’t in what we share food wise, but that we intentionally stop our day and give life to those words on the pages. And maybe have a laugh or too reading Shel Silverstein’s whacky poetry.
At the beginning of this school year we made some pom pom bookmarks. We kept a few and gave mostly away to our neighbors and friends. This was an easy and fun project for the girls to do on their own. We use a Clover Pom Pom Maker and instead of clipping the trying strings short we kept them long enough to mark a book page. It’s that simple! Hope you enjoy making these with your littles.
It feels like forever since I last stopped here. Lord have mercy on my soul, I had to use the “forgot your password” link to retrieve my password. Anyway, now that I made my way here, I hope to dust this place up and make it a cozy space again. Tea anyone?
Let’s see, since my last stop a lot has happened. Most of you who visit me here also visit me on Instagram, so you know what I have been up to. But if you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a recap: This year I decided to take my oldest daughter out of public school and educate her at home. Shocking, I know. Homeschooling was a topic in and out of my heart for a long time. Actually, since before she started kindergarten and she’s in third grade now. Gosh, I had so many stereotypes to overcome. I mean, who wants to raise weird kids. My only resort to sort through this mess in my head was prayer. I prayed about it until the cows came home and what do you know, not a sing bush burned to tell me what to do. God works in his many ways, yes he does and he would not let this desire go away. Trust me, I tried to extinguish the fire many a times.
This past summer though was the tipping point for me. I came to realize how much I desired this adventure. We had a hard summer, my husband was traveling for most of it, but in a way it was also beautiful. We trimmed down our activities to the bare minimum and in the plentiful free time, we thrived. Yes, I’ve read the research and I listened to the TED talks. Boredom is essential and we were bored. The good thing about a good dose of “I am bored” is that soon the old gets reinvented and becomes new again. My girls played together more often and longer, we enjoyed simple pleasures that would not have been possible with a full schedule, and the more time I had, the more I thought of what homeschooling would look like for us. So, when I could no longer put it off, I asked my daughter if she would like to learn at home. She said yes and here we are, full of sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. Utopia.
Not really, our beginning was shaky, to say the least. In the first few weeks I regretted my choice and I could see my eight year old regretted having said yes. Exhaustion set in, not from the work, but from the worry. I worried intensely about what we were doing. Even against my better judgement, I spent too much time reading the school district’s third grade scope and sequence. Comparison was ruling my game and I found myself in a slump. As Dr. Seuss said “When you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”
The weeks progressed and one fine day I decided enough with the worrying and comparing. This isn’t public school at home, it is home school. I know, I know, I have every available Charlotte Mason book, either written by her or written about her, I’ve read them all. What I had to develop wasn’t more education knowledge, it was faith. That Charlotte, she knew us too well. In little time we began finding our groove and the things that bothered us started to fade away. Those magical rails Ms. Mason talks about soon become very real if we keep at it. No we haven’t worked out all of our kinks (mostly mine) and I assume, we never will. For once we work on one kink we find another one a day later. Welcome to the school of real life.
We are ten weeks into it and I am overjoyed that we are still here and thriving. It isn’t perfect, but it is real and we feel it. The changes we have made are shaping our relationships and attitudes. It is refreshing. I’ve seen my girls grow closer, creative play take flight, and me grow into the person I want to be. The feeling of taking on a challenge, for better or worse, surpasses the anxiety of not doing what I was meant to do.
Our journey has just begun and the road ahead is full of forks and bumps. I have no idea how long it will last or where it will lead. The unknown is just a feeling any parent has to grow accustomed to, most especially those taking their children’s education in their own hands. Although the weeks have been short I’ve learned a few things. A routine is important a schedule is not. You guys, I had our plans down to the minutes. Now I Laugh about it. A feeling is important, how much stuff you cover is not. Teach the basics (3 R’s) and slowly add the rest. Slow and steady, someone said, wins the race. If you don’t get it today, you get it tomorrow, or the day after. Quality trumps quantity. The heart is more important than a wooden attitude because you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink it. Cut the comparison crap out. Your school looks like your school and yours only. Shape it how you want. Isn’t it why we do this anyway?
Now, let me finish this already too long recap with the biggest news. In case you missed it, come May 2016 we will welcome another little one…because…three wasn’t hard enough. I am destined to look like an Edvard Munch painting for the rest of my life. This last baby will determine whether my husband is a girl maker or not. Maybe, just maybe, this time we’ve got XY in this oven.
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