Thursday, January 26, 2017

Homeschooling in the Wild: Charlotte Mason and Mother Friday

Halfway through our first full year of intentional homeschooling and I'm realizing just how much I adore this aspect of motherhood. I attended state-schools all the way until college, and so my daughter and I are discovering how education at home works together, and right now, we are just reveling in the magic of it.

Our exploration has lead us so far to the Charlotte Mason method, which is rich in literature, art, music, and nature. And specifically, to the Catholic curriculum based off of that method, Mater Amabilis. But as much as I loved the tone and structure of that curriculum, some of the books don't quite fit our family..we've ended up starting there and jumping off into sometime else. 

It's a little fuller in the fairy-tale, Faith, and artistic aspects..a little wilder and free form in the nature study, and a little more rigorous in catechesis. We also have edited our history texts completely, as the books recommended seems a little limited. Since we're starting with American History, I wanted Yarrow to learn more about the people who were here before Colonization before we learned about the United States itself. 

And she is thriving in this learning environment! We have library books piled up high on the dresser, a morning basket full of the read-aloud books, and such a variety of ideas to pull from. Yarrow is really getting to know her name-saint, Paraskeva, this year! She has been so delighted to try to include her in things on Fridays especially, and to get closer to Christ through her.

We're reading poetry each morning and I can see her mind filling up with images from our newest book, The Tree is Older than You Are. 

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is that she shares it with her brother. Watching him watch her writing out a line of poetry, or helping her collect beech leaves makes everything so rich for me. Seeing her have the chance to practice her Arabesques in between math questions is delightful. Education is such a multi-layered thing..and my children finding their own paths in it. I'm so blessed to be able to guide them, and to give them the chance to guide each other.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Meals and Planning..

I've given one planner over completely to meal-planning. Maybe it would would better within my 'bullet journal', but I feel like it would take up too much space, unnecessarily. I already have another planner with areas for each meal and a grocery list, a water counter, and the daily readings from Mass. It all fits together so well. 

We read the Mass readings aloud at breakfast, as the start to our school-day, our day is bookended in Scripture, my husband reads aloud at bed time as well. Right now, Isaiah precedes The Wizard of Oz.

Meal planning comes naturally to me, I love doing writing it all down and seeing the week
progress on paper. Living out my plans, is a constant struggle. I'm lazy or distracted, or else I forget entirely to go shopping and my plans are abandoned. But as we transition to a more intentional life, meal planning is essential. I want our meals to mean something, to be times of communion as a family. Acts of hospitality and love. I also need them to be healthy, sustaining, and frugal. All my intentions, existing together demand a primarily plant-based diet. A monastic table, rich in the living things we can grow, harvest, and grow again. 

I'm writing out the coming weeks meal-plans, and to keep track of how we're progressing towards our monastic table..I mark each meal with a notation to indicate vegan, vegetarian, or meaty. Only the meals on Sundays or feast days are meaty, and my goal is that out of the 21 meals in a week, 10 will be without animal products (excluding honey, which seems both penitential and hospitable). It's easier than expected, but writing out goals always them is another thing entirely.

I would love to hear your mealtime goals, and what inspired them! Blessings.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Capsule Wardrobes..

There are so many definitions of the capsule wardrobe online. I don't feel bad altering to fit my own needs as well. In my mind, a capsule wardrobe is a small, cohesive collection of clothes that fit together to form a unified whole. They exist in relation to each other, and can generally be worn together interchangeable, but not in a dull way. My intentions for my capsule wardrobe are to have something funky, interesting, and attractive that fits my way of life, and my limited storage space. 

I originally planned on having about 36 pieces of clothing, excepting shoes and scarves.. but when I went through my clothes and made up a list of the items I need to replace or repair, I came up with a number closer to 25 or 30 pieces of clothing. The wardrobe I'm planning for now is made up of 5 skirts, 5 dresses, 10 tops, and 5 variable pieces..leggings or jeans or something. I might end up with fewer of those. I didn't include shoes, but I'd like to end up with 4 pairs of shoes: flats, boots, heels, and muck boots. I also plan on having 4 or 5 scarves. I already have lovely cowboy boots, some fun red flats, and pretty brown heels..since 90% of my wardrobe is black though, I wonder if I should replace the brown heels with something more relate-able. 

But since we're in the middle of 'No-Spend January', adding to my wardrobe will have to wait a while. Right now I'm firmly in the reducing stage of the process. And reducing is so much fun! While I go about getting rid of the clothes that don't spark joy, I'm redoing my drawers, pasting pages from a crumbling book of Parisian photography over the old drawer-paper. 

I'm also creating a capsule board on Pinterest, so I can pick through clothing in my mind before buying anything. 

Has anyone else done a capsule wardrobe? I'd love any advice on making a smooth transition into clothing simplicity.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year

I try to bind each year to a word and let that word guide my goals and actions as I move through the months. This year, my focus is on Beauty. 

I'm always at least half focused on Beauty, so this year is more of refocusing, a deepening relationship with the word, and all it represents.

In part, I am talking about physical beauty, I want to take more time to nourish my body and adorn it. I'll be paying more attention to the health of my skin. I've made a rich, moisturizing cream with coffee-butter, shea butter, olive oil, rose-hip seed oil, and essential oils indulge my face each night. I'm wearing honey-clay masks regularly; and I hope to pick up body brushing again. 

I'm also taking more time with my hair and makeup most days and working on building a capsule wardrobe. My current wardrobe is small enough, but it lack cohesion and consistent beauty. Too often I go out looking sloppier than I want to. I'd like to reduce my wardrobe just a bit more, add some 'muck-about-the-yard' boots to save my shoes, and give my wardrobe a sense of wholeness.

But beauty is petty when it doesn't go beyond the body. In this new year, I hope to extend it through the things in my life and into the spirit of it. As I craft beauty in my self and my home, through building a culture of simplicity and hospitality, I hope it will make soul-beauty more and more a natural part of life. 

I'm reducing my belongings, and my family is reducing with me. We're clearing out the cluttering, half-wanted things and letting our little house breathe a bit more. Fewer toys, fewer clothes, fewer distractions. The kids are even getting excited about packing away the toys and clothes they don't love and sending them off to other kids. My daughter could wear three outfits over and over each week and be happy in them, she adores the soft, cozy clogs her grandparents sent her for Christmas and her glittery boots, but is only half-heartedly attached to 2 other pairs of winter shoes in the basket. The warm, red union suit her other grandparents gave her for Christmas is deeply loved, but two other pajamas can be packed off easily.

My husband is filling the house with artwork this winter. Some of it will sell on his Etsy site, Paperwine Industries, but some of it will replace less loved pieces on our own walls.

And as we clear out and simplify, we're building in time for prayer, reading, quiet, and especially play. We're adding in a daily noon Angelus, a personal rosary and divine mercy for me, and a family quiet time at 3pm..which I intend to be a tech-free time. I want to make sure I have order in my day, structure for my children, and time to play with them as well. I think I tend to neglect play.

I have a bullet journal and a dreambook to keep me focused on my goals for the year, hopefully they will help me make 2017 a year of living beauty.

Blessings this new year! What are your goals and how are you pursuing them? Tell me all about it!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Technology is a Problem..

About a week ago, we ran out of data. I had to unplug for a while, waiting for the new month to start. Our new data month started up yesterday, and today, the tablet cracked. I can't use it at all and have to run in to see about it's replacement. It's obnoxious and frustrating. 

During my week off-line, I distanced myself a little from my social media habit. And while I was excited to get a chance to go online again, I didn't crave time online as much as I had. It was nice to be forced away from the distraction. But complete unplugging isn't ideal for us right now. My husband has been reviving Paperwine and I've been reviving my blogging and enjoying Instagram. Those aspects have been especially healthy and good. I want them to continue.. I even want much of my facebook use to continue, in a limited sense. And in the winter, on these long, cold nights of stove tending - the connection is entertaining. 

So I'll be heading into town some time this weekend to figure out what's to be done. The problem doesn't really go away, it just keeps getting patched up and moving forward. And tonight, while the stove crackles merrily and the air outside dips down below zero again, I'll be drinking coffee or tea..or maybe a manhattan..and thinking about how to make this latest issue less of a burden and more of an opportunity.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Life Updates

Until this past week, I've neglected this blog for over a year. I've missed writing out my thoughts here, and sharing my life with faraway friends in this way. And with a little bit of extra time know and the fresh motivation a new year brings - I think I'm ready to dive back into blogging!

What have we been doing this past year?

Well, homeschooling is an exciting new adventure! Yarrow and I are working through a blend of kindergarten and first-grade level work. Most of the inspiration and direction in our homeschooling has come from the Charlotte Mason perspective, specifically through it's Catholic interpretation in the Mater Amabilis curriculum. I've edited a bit to fit better with our life and views, but the tone is ideal and the philosophy of learning is so very inspiring! 

We focus a bit more on regular reading of the Bible, poetry, art, and music than the curriculum calls for, and I've adjusted the history reading to focus on Native American, pre-Columbian perspectives for our first term. I'm hoping in the spring to include some interesting perspectives on post-Columbian early America, but still appropriate for a 5 year old. So far we've enjoyed "If you lived with the Iroquois", "All Our Relatives", and "The Discovery of the Americas" - all of these books we read aloud at breakfast, along with the Bible, Sing-a-Song-of-Popcorn (poetry), our current art book, a saint story, and our catechism lesson (we're working with the Faith and Life series). We don't read anything but the Bible every single day, we switch it up. And after breakfast we work on Yarrow's reading practice. She's reading "Harry and The Lady Next Door" right now, and so proud of herself for being 'A Reader.'

Ilya loves the read-alouds in the morning, and during work times he can usually focus for a little while coloring his name, or another word in bubble letters, practicing colors - he adores purple! - and tormenting the dog.

* * * * 

Along with homeschooling, I'm working on building my own interior life. "Mother Culture" is what Charlotte Mason types call it. I didn't know it had a special name. It seems essential to all people..and so easily neglected by us all as well. 

I have been neglecting mine, but slowly I'm building it back up. 

As we're transitioning to our less consuming way of life, I'm reading Marie Kondo's "life-changing magic" book..or I was, until I lent it out. Now I'm reading "The Joy of Less" and trying to change my direction from someone who constantly buys and purges to someone satisfied with the things she has. Someone attracted to less. It's difficult. I find myself wanting to create a false sense of perfection by getting rid of everything and then buying in all sorts of attractive replacements, instead of being content and patient in the slow work of building my home. It's a challenge!

* * * * * 

And I've contacted a studio that will rent out kiln space to me! Since I still have no where to throw this winter, all that means is that I can fire the bisque-ware that is languishing in my shed. But I can fire them! And perhaps I can get my wheel fixed up, cleaned off, and going again! 

* * * * * 

I read somewhere...and have absorbed the quote, if not the author..that "the gospel is never good news unless it is subversive." 

And with all my notebooks and planners, daily things, schooling, baking, reading, and praying.. that is the end goal. Subversion. To change the world from my own hidden corner of it. That my faith might find it's way up into the sunlight and alter the landscape. It's an exciting goal.

* * * *

Where are you in life these days? What has changed since we last connected? What are you doing, and where are you going? I would absolutely love to know.

Friday, December 2, 2016


The company my husband worked for closed for good this fall. We had planned for a winter without regular work anyway, and now that it's here - with no certain starting date for a regular income in view, we're beginning a new aspect of our homesteading life. Ideally, I would love to avoid the regular work-life for our family in the future. To continue a simpler, more intimate domestic monastery..with my husband painting and drawing, selling his work, and occasionally doing side work building chimneys or painting houses for our neighbors and friends.

But that sort of life takes something I don't have a lot of yet: self-discipline and a love of simplicity. I struggle with those. I still have the suburban-ever-present desire for more, and training myself to want less, to reveal in true simplicity, and not merely the trappings of simplicity is hard. 

I'm working hard to build that inner richness this Advent. My husband is working hard to create beautiful pieces of art and then find homes for them in ways that support our family finances as well. I love watching him work at this! I love seeing the lovely images in his mind take shape on wood and paper. I love having him home, giving him the chance to participate more in schooling Yarrow and shaping our days. And I'm learning to say no to myself. To purge out the unloved things without replacing them. To love discipline, consistency, and not run always toward the new and shiny things of the world. 

It's hard, but the payoff is amazing! A husband who can be home more, creating more, living more. And a healthier soul for me as well. I'm still a novice regarding simplicity. But I do think I'm learning and growing stronger each day. And if you want to help my learning curve at husband's Esty shop is Paperwine Industries