Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wonderful Words

JB and I hope to learn how to take digital photos and upload them directly on to this blog. She composed and drew a lovely acrostic poem on the whiteboard this morning, "SCARF". It is inspired by the noun we all love to wear this time of year, not what hungry hockey players do to their food. If we are quick learners, we will post a picture of this work of art.

Notes: JB and I went to Adoration yesterday. Math is getting beefed up. Our reading in science and history is going well. JB did an experiment and recorded her observations. J is feeling bad and is in slow gear. My learning goal for the year is to retain what we study. We are a family of talkers so talking things through is often our method of review and synthesis. The new three-ring binders I bought for JB and J are helping us get more of our work in the notebooks. One of the joys of winter is that it is fun to get out the glue sticks and the construction paper and add color and design to any activity. Tomorrow, when we drive up to Cumming for Maggie's club meeting, I want to take JB and J's Faith and Life books and do the cover for J's new notebook. JB thought up the title, "Family Fun with Faith". Maggie is keeping her K-12 and Dr. Jay Wile company. She is on a math sabbatical. We are all jazzed up to create some bear books. With three family birthdays in Jan and Feb, as well as George W. and Abe L.,and a family interest in all the migrating birds we have seen this winter, we like B things: birthdays, birds and bears. We are helping to host a baby shower in February -- the love of babies is perennial...which makes me think of the movie that J and I downloaded for free off Netflix last nite: The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Just got back from music lessons and am off to try that healthy version of "country-fried" steak. Some southerners refer to it as "chicken-fried" steak, which is funny. Much more has gone on here in the last few days. It helps me so much to take a few minutes and count a few of the blessings we experience. I hope J gets well soon as we have various teas and parties we are getting together in the next few weeks. I did not mention the work the girls are putting in to the two plays our family is involved in: Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spa Shopping

Yesterday afternoon, my new friend, Sandra, from our TORCH group, and lovely mother of six girls, took it upon herself to have my three children to her home for play. The kids had a great time, and I shopped for two hours by myself. I went to the Natural Foods Warehouse and Publix, and I could not have had a more mellow time if I'd spent $250.00 at a day spa. It is very pleasing to my hubby when when we eat homecooked meals. It is to me as well. It is one of my major weaknesses that I do not plan and shop as I should, thus leaving us ordering way too much pizza and buying drive-thru tacos.

Since my grandmother, Elsie, died the last Sunday in December, I have been talking to the children alot about my childhood. My grandmother had such an influence on me. For over forty years, she owned and operated. along with several other women who rented booths, Elsie's Beauty Shop. Down the street from her shop was a typical homestyle resaurant called Polson's Restaurant. In the south, we crave a good "meat and three" (1 meat and three vegetable, served with warm rolls and cornbread). served with a meringue topped pie of some sort. So, I got out one of my southern cookbooks, filled with Kentucky favorites.

I am going to try to adapt some of my southern "meat and three" meals to healthier ingredients. "Chicken-fried" steak, mashed potatoes and gravy. The famous Kentucky "Hot Brown." more later on yummy, tummy-warming southern food...

My daughter is gathering the family to the basement for a movie. Last night I read the "Ash Wednesday and Lent" chapter in this very inspiring book (click here for the link). If you look in the upper right corner of the cover, their is a photo of a lovely Madonna and child statue. Well, we just inherited this very statue from my husband's granparents' home last year.

Sorry if my prose is stilted this evening....I am so very tired (happy, good tired, that is...) from working the nursery this afternoon while all the big kids were in the coop.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mending the Nets

We had such a good day; we really settled in and enjoyed each other and our studies. The sun is setting here in Georgia; and, even after two cups of coffee and two cups of tea, I am tired and achy. The title of today's post is from this coming Sunday's Gospel, which I read aloud for everyone today after our Morning Offering and before reading the saint from the Pauline series. Jay did "Medievel Battle Math", and we put it in his notebook. Joy-Beth and I put her "BIRTHDAY" acrostic poem in one of her notebooks, she looked up words in the dictionary, she finished a Calculadders sheet. Maggie did K-12 and more science. JB and J and I had an interesting time learning about the French and Indian War. We are really trying to journey our way to the "War Between the States." The girls cleaned their rooms and little man cleaned the family room. We are on target for "Friday Floors". My way of "mending the nets" before going out for another "catch" tomorrow is to jot down some learning notes:

*shoot for reading the upcoming Sunday Gospel with the children every Wed. morning (Thurs or Fri would work)

*do more acrostic poetry and poetry copywork for our notebooks

*make Jay's family fun with Faith notebook

*beef up Joy-Beth's math

*talk to Maggie about tidal learning and encourage her to "swim" with us more in the high tide

*plan an American History tea party for some friends: red, white and blue plus President's Day

*don't forget Classical Music for Kids that I bought through Adoremus

*look in "A Continual Feast" and "A Year with God" for some Lenten inspiration

*do not overshedule our weeks (today's blessed quiet time -- and, all the learning that went on -- was the fruit of having less to do this past three days, not more)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Some of what we do; and, who does what...

We love Catholic Heritage Curricula's motto: "Educating for Eternity". Like all Catholic home educators, we think in terms of the "Four Rs". We begin each day with the first "R", religion. Mom prays with her Magnificat, all of us make a Morning Offering, then we have a morning meeting after breakfast, where we read aloud from the Pauline series on the saints and feast days. We alternate the household chores and do some gardening. We make a Holy Hour every week. Catholic Mosaic and similar picture books (like Jan Brett over Christmas) inspire all of us. We study and read Sacred Scripture, the Catechism, history and literature together and separately. We all keep notebooks and enjoy decorating them with stickers, drawings and photos. This fall we worked through Ancient Greece and Rome (some on Egypt). This winter we are going back to U.S., concentrating on our states and capitols, the Colonial Period, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. We love Geography and are always looking at maps, atlases and globes. We read some poetry and would like to fit some Latin in to our week.

The whole of our day encompasses this first "R" as well as the traditional "Three Rs": "reading, writing and 'rithmetic." We love science, history and geography and often study these subjects as they relate to the feasts and seasons of our liturgical year. Here is some of what each child does:

Maggie is my math and science student. She also knows her faith as I wish I did at her age. At 11, she is, and has been for some time, a "tidal learner". She whizzed through Saxon Math up to Algebra and now is working with Teaching Textbooks, the book and DVD. She likes Dr. Jay Wile for science, taking nature walks and going to TORCH coop classes. She is doing K-12 for 7th grade language arts, along with lots of "extracurricular" reading. She has read extensively from the lives of the saints and about Catholic scientists. She read Catherine and Bernard Scherrer's The Joyful Mysteries of Life. She has gained a good understanding of what it means to be human and a practicing Catholic. She plays the clarinet and the guitar and is frequently in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. She is a blessing to her family.

Joy-Beth is 10 and loves to read and write and we begin with My Catholic Speller and various approaches to math and science, including coop classes, some worksheets and homemade flashcards and games. Joy-Beth has collected almost all of the Pauline series on the saints. She writes creatively and shares the family passion for history. She listens to music, watches some t.v. on her computer, and sings and plays the guitar. She has fun collecting Webkinz. She can be found blogging here. She is a blessing to her family. She works hard in the house and the garden. This fall she attended a babysitting seminar at our regional hospital.

Jay is 6 and loves to draw and notebook. He plays with his Legos, is not at all interested in reading alone, but loves to listen to mom read (Grimm's fairy tales is a favorite.) His favorite subjects are art and history ("studying war is fun," he says...) He and Joy-Beth play Webkinz. He works hard in the house and garden. He is a blessing to his family.

We love to discuss life and learning and often use the Internet, the local library and our library and computers here at home to research various topics, from hermit crabs to Alexander the Great. The girls kept journals over Christmas, and I hope to spend more time this winter fine-tuning age-appropriate writing skills. Dad is very involved with faith formation, caregiving and education. He also mows the lawn and takes all the animals (5: Tanner, Tyler, Trouble, Kittie and Tabby) to the vet! Did I mention that he makes all the money and then turns around and pays all the bills! Without his encouragement, Mom would not be able to juggle all the balls that make up an environment rich in prayer, learning, work and fun! Without Him who is Love, none of this would be possible.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jewett's Maine and "Why do you read blogs?"

Far too many days have passed without my taking a little afternoon siesta, so, with my husband home from work today, I indulged in some reading in bed and then a big afternoon siesta. Sarah Orne Jewett's Country of the Pointed Firs does just what a good book ought to do: it captivates the reader. (As an aside, I prefer to be captivated in a wholesome, edifying way. I love quirkiness and humor, but nothing pointlessly dark or dirty.) Artists often talk of "losing themselves" in their work; this feeling spills over to the receiver of the artistry. I was lost listening to the virile storytelling of "Captain Littlepage" in Chapter 5.

I went to bed thinking about a question another homeschooling mom posed at her blog, "Heaven, not Harvard" (click: here for the link); she asked, "Why do you read blogs?" Indeed, why? Why write them? How is blogging better than publishing your life or work or business on a webpage? The first blog I read somewhat regularly was Amy Welborn's "Open Book," which I have not looked at in some time. I was, at the time, feeling called to home educate our children. So, I started reading some blogs by Catholic home educating moms. I have always been an avid reader.

On the writing end, I think blogging a form of journalism. Clearly, it is more personal and few of us get paid for it! We who take the time to keep this online journal called a blog are very often motivated to touch the lives of others. I think our "payment" is often in the form of enrichment, edification, and entertainment -- laughter is good, good medicine! Erma Bombeck would have blogged; I'm sure of it!

I do not have a funny style and don't tell stories like I'd like to....I do care passionately about what I do. I love my family and cannot properly express what a gift it is that the good Lord would give us this time to grow, worship and learn together. As usual, I have more thoughts swarming in my head, but I gotta sign off for now. Here is a very "unschooly" quote from the quirky and capable "Mrs. Todd". This reflects my own concern regarding too much rigor in our planning/scheduling.

In Chapter 8, she says, "I must say I like variety myself; some folks washes Monday an' irons Tuesday the whole year round, even if the circus is goin' by!"

P.S. I think blogs are more engaging than webpages, but, then again, each serves different purposes. I have seen them work nicely together, as is the case with love2learn.net.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Snow in Georgia and Happy 10th Birthday!

Maggie attends a Catholic girls' club up in Cumming, Georgia, once a week on Wednesdays. This week, Jay and I were waiting in the van for Mags and some friends. I mentioned to my son that the sky sure looked like a "snowy sky". He will turn 7 next month and has never played in the snow. Sure enough, as we drove some of the girls home, we saw a flurry or two. Steadily, the snow increased. As the sun set, we went out on the deck with the dogs and stuck our tongues out and looked up as the sky was pouring flakes of various shapes and sizes down upon our happy, chilly faces.

We ate some cheese and crackers, and it kept coming down. Beautiful! The children piled on hats and gloves, had a snowball fight and built two snowmen (we even had carrots for the noses!).

Then, joy upon joy, it snowed again yesterday on Joy-Beth's 10th birthday. Thank you, Lord. I had seen Jay making snow angels and building snowmen for the first time in his life. Since Joy-Beth entered the "land of the double digits" on the 19th, her father and I allowed her to invite 9 girls (including her sister) for a not-so-much-slumber party. We marvelled at the fact that it had never snowed on her birthday. Snow is so rare in Georgia. We go years in a row only seeing an occasional flurry; and, here in the course of a week, we had two snows with enough snow cover for sledding and snowmen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shooting the Moon

I am still thinking about the "leisure/'what is school?'" question that I posed in the last post...

I stole a moment, before I began writing, to look at some old photographs taken of Sarah Orne Jewett's Maine of the late 1800's. I bought a beautiful hardback edition of The Country of the Pointed Firs off the Internet (Half.com) for $1 plus shipping; and, it arrived a couple of hours ago! Joy-Beth, Jay and I are working our way through Seton's two clear and compelling history books on American history for children: How America Began and How America Grew.

Last night, I attended a most inspiring talk by one of our TORCH (go here for a link to this wonderful group) mothers, who has educated her eight children at home for the past 14 years. She and her husband draw on the sacramental grace of marriage to create the "domestic church" that all Catholic families are called to be. Since I was not raised in a Catholic home, it inspires awe in me to see what is possible when we participate in all seven sacraments. We can truly shoot the moon! We should always strive to be who God has created us to be, to be the best version of ourselves. We have no excuses to settle for less than the best, as our Lord has given us all of Himself. He has given us His Most Blessed Mother. He has given us the Vicar of Christ. He has given us our Guide and our Rule, the Church, which is Him alive in the world this minute.

I was particularly touched by some of Patty's exhortations as I have, on many occasions, received the grace necessary to be what I could never be "on my own steam." The gift of home education has only come to our family through God's steady and merciful grace. I have always been intrigued by philosophy, but it was not until I became a Catholic, at the ripe old age of 33, that I realized that a true love of learning can only be possessed when all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are present. What happens when the Holy Spirit is missing? Secular culture for one. People can be very intelligent, but we are a ship with neither rudder nor captain, without God as our Guide. We are adrift, ready (and often willing!) to be blown around by myriad temptations. It is my experience that the more intelligent the person, the more temptations abound. An intelligent person ought to be aware of his need for guidance and grace. So often, this is not the case.

My point is that learning is not just a gift we possess, but it must be accompanied by the grace that we receive from our Creator. Creatures these days are all too ready to worship themselves. Humans want to invent their own religions; they want God to belong to them. The opposite reality -- that we belong to God and His Divine Will -- involves humility. Last night, I saw and heard from a very beautiful, humble child of God. My heart is so full of gratitude and love for all that God has done for me and my family. He has brought the most amazing people into our lives.

Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace. Amen

Friday, January 11, 2008

Knowledge, Leisure and What is "School"?

I just changed the "wallpaper" on my computer desktop to this graphic drawn by artist Mary Englebreit. She calls it "Knowledge". If you click on the link above, you can download it for free. We have a busy weekend with Joy-Beth going up to a sleepover in Buford, Georgia, and Jaybird and Jerry are busy with scouts tonight and in the morning, as they are racing in the "Pinewood Derby". My inlaws and I had such a good phone conversation yesterday evening. I am one fortunate Catholic mom to have my inlaws so very supportive of our decision to educate the children here at home. Somewhere (maybe someone will read this and comment) I read that school comes from a Greek word, schole (I think), which mean leisure.

Now, the implications of this are many. Please hang on and I will write more after I drink more coffee (:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Second Cup

If you click here, you will see this wonderful book we read yesterday by Jerry Pallotta; the artwork and the text are so enriching. Our winter term is off to a good start. Today, later this afternoon, we go back to our clarinet and guitar lessons after a big break. Yesterday, Joy-Beth and Jay used some of the money they received as gifts for Christmas to purchase some more furry friends here at Casa Sullivan. Joy-Beth has a new dwarf hamster named "Winnie" for Winter, and Jaybird has a good-looking black and white guinea pig, which the children named "Oreo". We are also reading Mary Fabyan Windeatt's lively book, King David and His Songs: A Story of the Psalms (here). I am really looking forward to the arrival of a book order from Adoremus books and also some used books from Ebay and Half.com by Ebay. With the new year back in swing, I hope to try some new housekeeping strategies: the "Tuesday Tackle" and "Friday Floors"....this is inspired by Holly Pierlot's book, A Mother's Rule of Life. I also want to try to write everyday.
Thank you Lord for this new year 2008. Please grant us the grace to do your Holy Will in our thoughts, words and deeds. Amen

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sullivan Family Update

I wrote the following on Christmas Eve and was able to mail it to many friends and family. I ran out of cards! So, I am posting this on my blog:
Christmas Eve 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for taking a few minutes to help us count our blessings. Our beautiful Advent season flew by all too fast this year.

Welcome Christmas! Here is a “Sullivan family update,” from the youngest to the oldest:

Jay is 6 and self-described as “fun and nice”. He draws often and well and spends hours building with Legos. He is outgoing, loves people and animals, and has been asking nonstop if he can open his Christmas presents.

Joy-Beth is 9 and true to her name; she is a joy. She loves to read. She writes creatively, writes in cursive, helps Mom re-arrange furniture, composes songs on her guitar, and plays with her siblings and friends.

Maggie is 11 and is blossoming into a lovely young lady. She is a terrific cook, good to her friends and an intellectual powerhouse. She plays the guitar and the clarinet. She advises Mom on the latest home education curricula and trends.

Sara is 41 and can be found blogging on the Internet at “Those That Wonder,” an online journal. http://thosethatwonder.blogspot.com/ Home education is a fit for now for her and her family. She does her best to be active in her neighborhood and parish. She loves to read, write, be outside; and, most of all, watch her children grow and learn.

Jerry is 44 and our hero. After three years of hard work and sacrifice, his work on an Internet security software product is truly making waves in the computer industry. He loves music and plays guitar. How he finds time to care for us, two big dogs, three cats, two cars and a big house is a testament to his faith and love! He is his wife’s greatest blessing on earth.

We survived a few bumps in the road -- more blood and stitches with Jaybird, for one. As those of you who know about some of our past “adventures,” this year has been so very peaceful and uneventful. We had a lovely week at the beach in September, and we love our friends here in Georgia. We miss those of you who live far away, but keep you close in thought and prayer.

May Christ’s Peace and Love be with you today and through Eternity. Have a blessed and happy Christmas season and 2008!
The Sullivan Family