Monday, January 22, 2018

{This and That}

cloud shadows covering the fields

It's already late January -- how did that happen?!

My mental space right now is primarily occupied with CM West :: Conference in Old San Juan. Just 2.5 weeks left! I am really looking forward to it even though I have a to-do list a mile along to handle before then. (And a term to finish, and exams to write... ;))

This week my goal is to finish up a first draft of my talk so I can spend the last couple weeks pulling visuals, making handouts, and checking all the organizational tasks off on my list. I'm hoping to get some quiet time next Saturday to make that happen. I'd appreciate your prayers!


Baby Update: Damien just started pulling up to stand and can now cruise along the furniture. I'm not sure why, but I seem to birth early movers!

The other side of that is he started sleeping through the night as well! So I'm back to a (flexible) Mother's Morning Basket. I have found it challenging to get up not because I'm overtired, but because when I set my alarm, I wake the baby too. And I don't wake naturally at 6am, which is what I'm aiming at. So I haven't quite worked that out yet, but I'm getting there!


Last week was my turn to curate @charlottemasonirl, and I rounded up some lovely posts on the topic of exams and paired them with some of my favorite quotes from the archives. If you are looking for some inspiration to commit to Term 2 or end-of-year exams, or if you are wanting to deepen your understanding of how this assessment tool can help you as a mama-teacher, the posts are archived (in reverse order) here!

(Also, this week's topic is Schooling with Babies and Toddlers -- something near and dear to my heart. You can always follow along, whether you are on Instagram or not.)


My third student is reading The Children of the New Forest this term (actually, she's listening on Audible and reading along in the text), and I'm remembering how much I love that book. I appreciate stories with great sibling relationships, and this novel has that plus examples of good decision making in difficult situations, the formation of virtue, adventure, and more.

In a search one day, I came across some fun illustration pages for the story, done in comic form in the 60s.  Click over to see more!


Over the break I collected all the places beyond my personal pages where I have been invited to share online: guest posts, podcast interviews, webinars, and such. If you're new to the CM community or to this blog, you may not have seen some of these -- you can check them out at the Find Me Online! tab. These posts and interviews are on the topics dearest to my heart: schooling with little ones, nature journaling, poetry, more nitty-gritty Mason topics, and more.

That's all for today! What are you up to during these winter days?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Twelve Days and Beyond

Welcome back! It was been a delightful break from this space as we celebrated the wonders of the season.

I love that the Church gifts us twelve days to immerse ourselves in the beauty and joy of Christmas Day.

Our family finds it pretty simple to celebrate through the whole Twelve Days -- I think it's because we have kept our tone in Advent penitential and preparatory. We don't do Christmasy things during Advent if we can at all help it. We bake cookies, but we don't eat them. We buy gifts and wrap them up, and there they sit. We wait on parties, on outings, on fancy food, on even decorations.

This is not the only way to observe the season, of course. BUT when you have spent Advent as a Little Lent, you need more than one day to feast afterward! It's a welcome stretch of delight in the Word made flesh.

That said, our Twelve Days is nothing all that complex. Little special gifts of activities or outings. Plenty of time for family and rest.  During those Twelve Days, we do all the things everyone else was doing during December: singing along to carols, hot cocoa, Christmas movies, crafting, reading under covers by the fireplace, baking together. (A friend recommended this post, and I was very heartened to see that Auntie Leila's celebration so mimics our own. A lovely post with rich and simple ideas.)

In the past we have done an Epiphany party, which is such a perfect time to invite friends over to celebrate! Lots of cultural traditions to draw on. This year, we did a couple outings to visit nearby family and opened a small gift each day. Our theme was card and board games, and we found a few real gems. (The favorites so far are Bold and Qwixx, both new to me but lots of fun!)

We moved the kings a bit each day, journeying along with them. We read Christmas poetry and continued our Messiah readings.

Another wonderful reason for the Twelve Days -- you aren't "behind" if you don't finish up your Morning Basket plans before Christmas! ;)

Then Epiphany arrived, the end of the Christmas Octave. This year Gianna gifted the family a lovely Epiphany ornament that we hung up that morning, and we had our Procession of the Three Kings and a fancy dinner and house blessing. It all felt festive.

And the rest of the world left Christmastide behind. But we didn't! From Epiphany to the Baptism of Our Lord, we are still deep in the season. And beyond that -- for the rest of January, we celebrate the fruits of His Divine Infancy.

When the rest of the world has packed up and moved along, we are there keeping vigil with Our Lady, pondering the audacious humility that is the Incarnation.

We go back to school, to work -- and we aim to maintain childlike simplicity in the world, where we're called. We maintain a Christmas spirit in the context of everyday life. We look to the model of the Divine Child as we encounter the challenges of our vocation. We ease back in, hopefully maintaining the lessons of humility and simplicity that we have learned, to "ordinary" life.

We begin to pack up the decorations; like Christ, we take on a new flesh, and our home does too. By Candlemas, we're officially turning our eyes toward Lent.

The cycle of feast and fast in our lives as Catholics blessedly mimics the ebbs and flows of the natural world and of salvation history. Through the liturgical year, we enter more deeply into the human condition as we remember: nothing is eternal this side of heaven, everything changes but God.

When we know that, when we aim at emptying ourselves to allow the light of the Divine Mystery to shine through us, we can elevate the ordinary to extraordinary.

"But it takes the presence of children to help us to realise the idea of the Eternal Child. The Dayspring is with the children, and we think their thoughts and are glad in their joy; and every mother knows out of her own heart's fulness what the Birth at Bethlehem means. Those of us who have not children catch echoes. We hear the wondrous story read in church, the waits chant the tale, the church-bells echo it, the years that are no more come back to us, and our hearts are meek and mild, glad and gay, loving and tender, as those of little children; but, alas, only for the little while occupied by the passing thought. Too soon the dreariness of daily living settles down upon us again, and we become a little impatient, do we not, of the Christmas demand of joyousness."

"But it is not so where there are children. The old, old story has all its first freshness as we tell it to the eager listeners; as we listen to it ourselves with their vivid interest it becomes as real and fresh to us as it is to them. Hard thoughts drop away like scales from our eyes; we are young once more with the children's young life, which, we are mysteriously made aware, is the life eternal. What a mystery it is!" (Charlotte Mason's Parents and Children)

"And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it." (Luke 18:15-17)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Keeping Company :: Winter 2018

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the quarterly Keeping Company check-in! I'd like to introduce you to some exciting examples from keepers around the web as well as what has been kept in our home over the past few months.

Before I get started, I wanted to remind you: I'll be talking about keeping at the CM West retreat next month in Northern California. Will you be joining us? There are still some spots left if you'd like to come.

And whether you're going or not: I'd love to hear what you would want most to learn about keeping from a conference talk. I asked the same question on Instagram and got some wonderful answers that have helped shape my speaking plans so far. I welcome more suggestions!

From the Community

Speaking of Instagram, the new @keepingcompanycm account has been humming along. Now that it's the New Year, I'll be back to daily-ish shares there.  (Remember, even if you're not on Instagram, you can still read along. Just click over to see what we've been up to!)

A couple months ago I did a round-up of Books of Firsts. The variety of formats was fun to see.






We also had some wonderful holiday-related keeping that I have bookmarked for Lent/Easter. (Did you know Lent is on Valentine's Day this year? That's not long from now!) Any of these ideas would work for liturgical keeping no matter the season.




And I think Abby's Winter Term plans are absolutely gorgeous and so inspiring. Truth, goodness, and beauty indeed!


There were some stellar blog posts shared as well over the past few months!  Let me repost just a few:

Melissa has all kinds of notebooks going in her home, but for this time, she has collected Mason's words on teaching reading for us and shared their morning time chemistry keeping.

The ever-faithful keeper Amy gives us her weekly glimpse into commonplace book. My favorite from this link-up was Brace, Compel, and Do Right. Just the motivation you -- and your kids -- need for new habits in the coming year!

Carol shares science journals, nature notebooks, and architectural sketches as she rounds up and remembers.

Melanie offers a stunning tribute to her daughter and granddaughter and captures fall on the page.

Starting the Conversation

The kids have been enoying their Weekly Paintings. The process of considering, culling, and representing has been beneficial both as a thinking exercise and as a way to develop skills that will scaffold other kinds of keeping. That's all happening in the context of an assignment that is enjoyable and works as a form of narration. Often I am surprised at what they choose to paint for the week's work. I am getting a different view into their minds.

Xavier came and asked me for a notebook one day so that he could start a commonplace. (Melt.)

I have been thinking about keeping goals for 2018. In past years, I have made goals for nature journaling, commonplacing, and keeping things like maps and century charts. Thankfully, those are all deeply-ingrained habits now! This year I'm turning my sights toward my Book of Centuries. I bought one for myself (and my children) mid-fall but haven't done more than pencil in a few events so far. I felt like I needed some quiet space to get started. I have had that during this break! So my goal is to make my first few entries in January and continue that every month following. Anyone else just now getting started in a personal BoC? I certainly wouldn't mind an accountability partner. ;)

What goals are you making for your notebooks in 2018?  Please share! I'm going to round up some thoughts from moms on Instagram making keeping goals too.

The Link-Up

:: For BLOGGERS: Leave a link to any blog posts related to CM-style keeping in the comments section of this post all quarter.  I will be sure to click over and read so I can highlight them here in the next edition!

:: For INSTAGRAMMERS: Tag related photos with #KeepingCompanyCM.  You can also follow my new account: @keepingcompanycm. I will be re-sharing daily on that account from posts tagged!
:: Any posts about CM-style Keeping are welcome.  Your post can be as simple as a photo of your commonplace book or your kids' drawing.
:: You can grab the button over there on the sidebar if you'd like to add it to your post or site.

Thanks for your participation, friends!  Happy to be in community with you. :)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Tale of Two Hikes, Redux

I told you about the Tale of Two Hikes almost exactly one year ago.  We did a very similar combination again just a few weeks ago -- our Friday nature study outing with the kids, as usual, and then a hike with just moms the next morning.

First, Friday: a beautiful day at the county park!  Sunny, cold, plenty of fall finds.  The place is starting to get green again, a fuzzy layer of new growth covering all the fields.

Photo credit: my friend Sarah

Saturday: a few of us moms did a loop up into the foothills.  It was foggier than it has been since last winter.  The clouds completely filled in the valley like water.  Stunning.

Halfway up we came upon a cheery grove of toyon bushes.  Felt like Christmastime!

The fog cleared on our way back down and home.

See how green?  Just a month ago, that was ALL brown and dry.  December is lovely.

Monday, December 18, 2017

{This and That}

Hi friends!  We're in the home stretch of December, and I have a few posts I want to get up before taking a little Christmas hiatus.  This week I'll be sharing a bit about the Science of Relations inspired by my seven-year-old son, as well as some snaps from our most recent Moms' Hike following a lovely fall morning at the county park painting leaves and seeds.

We have one last (light) week of school to finish up before break, and then we'll be off for two weeks to enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas through Epiphany. I have a list of projects I'd like to work on during my time off: facing my fear of writing in my new Book of Centuries (ha!), working on my talk for CM West, cleaning up some of our storage spaces, and prepping for Term 3. We're on Week 19, and with January busy with conference prep, I know we'll be on to our last term of the year before I expect it.


I hope you're having a fruitful Advent so far!  We are keeping our traditions simple this year, sticking with our tried and true.

I adjusted our Morning Basket to accommodate some Advent devotional practices.

We are reading a Christmas book each day, playing Advent hymns, lighting our wreath (most days ;)), praying our novena, preparing our hearts for His coming.

You can read more about how our family observes Advent here, in this post from many years ago. Every year I plan to add something new (Jesse Tree! Christkindl!), and every year I feel like doing so will disturb what little peace I have. :)  So for now, we stick with what we know and love.


Damien is five months old now and on the move: scooting around, rolling both ways.  He'll only be "worn" facing out in the carrier/wrap, and he adores attention.


There was a thread over on the AmblesideOnline forums about crafting gifts for siblings, and I took that opportunity to pull our annual Christmas crafting posts into one place in response.

I thought I'd share those here too in case you are looking for simple projects to do with your children this year: here's 20152014, and 2013!


We have about ten spots left for CM West :: Conference in Old San Juan, so if you're hoping to join us, head on over and get registered!

I'm over on Instagram asking what you'd like to hear about keeping, my conference topic for this year. Feel free to add your feedback in the comments section here too!


It has been quite chilly lately, which I am loving, but it has me thinking back to our last few warm-weather visits to the beach just last month.  Through fall, we always have an increase in shore birds here, and this year was no exception...

Whimbrels, godwits, gulls, and plovers (or are they sanderlings?). Always fun to watch!


We enjoyed a simple observance of St. Nicholas Day, with the obligatory sweets and treats and some special devotions in honor of this patron saint of children.

Each child got a book to add to our Christmas picture book shelves.  Most of these we have already read and loved...from the library. But this year I was blessed in finding used copies of some of our favorite out-of-print selections to have for our own:

The Story of the Three Kings (this one is totally new to us)
The Nutcracker, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Ilse Plume's Twelve Days of Christmas (we enjoy her The Farmer in the Dell)
Cooper Edens' Twas the Night Before Christmas
Jan Pienkowski's Christmas
B is for Bethlehem, with illustrations by Elisa Kleven (illustrator of another of my favorite books, Snowsong Whistling)
Christmas in the Barn and The Little Fir Tree, both illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Besides the oranges, candy sticks, and chocolate coins, we had a few other goodies tucked inside: some more needle threaders, a little craft kit of snowflake ornaments to make for extended family, and such. We also received a family gift of The Lord of the Rings hardcover set, beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee. And Mommy got a spill-resistant mug since she's toting a baby around whenever she's drinking her morning coffee these days.  Wasn't that awfully thoughtful of good Saint Nick? ;)

(Want more Christmas reading suggestions? Years ago, I posted my Top Ten Christmas Picture Books for Littles here. Not exhaustive, but we still love all the books on that list!)

(And I love my mug and am planning to get another -- maybe this one? Anyone have it and love it?)

(One last random note: I was looking back through my archives of prior St. Nicholas Day celebrations and oohing and aahing over the chubby faces of my much-littler kids. Where does the time go?)


And as for our St. Lucy's Day observance, which we have kept faithfully for years...that didn't happen. I woke up sick and spent the day managing school and lying down whenever possible.  That's life -- there's always next year!


I'll be back soon -- have a great last week of Advent!