New: Morning Time Plans.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Over the past couple months, I've been spending every free moment I have on this project: 

This is a 36-week curriculum plan and each day is scheduled in an open-and-go format so you can feast on the Word of God and the finest of literature, music, and art alongside your children. These take 30 minutes (without the read-aloud portion) to an hour a day and can be done as an entire family.

This idea was born out of a gap I noticed in homeschooling curricula. While there might be a short Bible reading to begin the day, it had no connecting point with anything else we were learning. I wanted more out of our mornings: to dive deeper into God's Word and the rich truths of our faith, incorporating a Charlotte Mason-style approach of a "feast" of all things good, true, and beautiful. 

I'd love for you to visit Brighter Day Press to download the plans or try the first week for free!

The day we all came home.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Two of our children are too young to remember this pandemic, or what life was like before. I wrote this for them. 

Spring had arrived. Crocuses and daffodils had burst through their winter cocoons and the smell of fresh-cut grass wafted through the air. School children gazed out the window, dreaming of summer and popsicles and freedom. The world was spinning faster than it ever had. Families began their days in a tizzy and hurried out the door, running separate ways to their jobs and schools and errands and lives. 

And then one day, news came from the east. Startling news of a battle being waged against cells and viruses. At first, we heard about a few people we'd never meet suffering from a disease we thought we'd never know. But the next day, more news. The disease was spreading, spreading, spreading like a wisteria vine, faster and further than we thought possible. 

First China, then Italy.
First them, then us.

When it reached our shores, we closed our doors, hoping that by staying inside the disease would pass us by. Tucked inside our homes, we watched the television with wide eyes and small hearts. Soon enough, more doors closed: those of schools and businesses, tournaments and graduations. 

But then one day, we turned our televisions off. We walked outside and breathed in the honeysuckle air. We took time to notice the little things because now, we had the time: the way the ducklings crossed the sidewalk, the smell of a baby's head just after waking. Families dusted off board games. Neighbors stepped into their driveways, sharing toilet paper and bags of food. Restaurants might have been empty, but dinner tables were full. Teachers still showed up to work, but this time it looked different. Birthdays were joyously celebrated with air hugs and balloons and parades. We formed choirs and attended church together, defying the reality of apart. We saluted first responders as the heroes they truly are. We felt heavy for the suffering of the world, and yet we felt light. Even our planet breathed easier. Less pollution, less noise.

The day we all came home, something in us changed forever. We were 6 feet apart, but miraculously, we were closer than we'd ever been.

DIY with kids: Collage beetles!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Today, we're joining up with KidLab's "Beetle Week" to share a DIY project that's perfect for kids of all ages as we head into summer. We're creating beetles in the whimsical collage style of Eric Carle. This is a project that could stretch over a few days as you wait for paint and glue to dry, but only requires short bursts of concentration for younger children. And it yields SUCH fun results! We're basing our designs on Eric Carle's book, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

Liam's first grade year & A Gentle Feast review.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

This past year of homeschool has been *quite* the adventure! Moving across the country (and spending over a month in the process) threw us a curveball, but I'm more grateful than ever to be homeschooling. Instead of it feeling like a major disruption, we were able to plod along and keep making progress as we homeschooled on the road and in our new Texas home. What a gift! 

I wanted to write an update to review our curriculum choices from last year before posting about what we'll be doing for next year. 

You can find all our 1st grade curriculum choices here.

We have truly enjoyed A Gentle Feast. Julie Ross has done a phenomenal job boiling down the best parts of Charlotte Mason's philosophy into a curriculum and presenting it in an easy-to-digest format. We have especially loved the history book choices, the hymns, and the read-alouds. If you're brand new to Charlotte Mason-style learning, this is a perfect first step. A Gentle Feast guides you along with clarity and intention.

If there have been any cons for us, it's been a few of the book choices. Some are simply so "classic" (literally reprints from the 1800s) that they've been hard for us to connect with. For example, The Burgess Animal Book and The Little Flower Book - used for natural history - have been two of them. I definitely see the reason for her choices as they are consistent with Charlotte Mason ideals. But when I gave Liam the option of putting them down and using something else for natural history, he was more than eager to put them aside. If you've followed Ambleside Online, I'm sure you have encountered this style of book as the lists are very similar. I'm just finding that while we can stretch our tastes in some areas to include classic selections, Liam and Lanie do prefer a few things to be more up to date, colorful, and engaging than these classic texts.

One thing I really loved by A Gentle Feast was this book: Cycle 1 Language Arts. It includes copywork, dictation, grammar, spelling, free drawing - basically all aspects of what you would consider language arts - and was the perfect level for our first grader. I recommend it, even if you aren't using the entire curriculum.

If you're on the fence about using A Gentle Feast, my best recommendation is to choose which cycle you're interested in and download the booklist. It's $5 well spent to get a feel for which books you'll be using and if you think they'll be a good fit for your family.

Perhaps you're similar, but the longer we homeschool, the more I find it's hard to put Liam firmly in "a grade" that makes sense for him. He is right at grade level in some areas and above grade level in others, so I want to custom fit his education for how he will learn best. Overall, I think I'm needing a little more leeway to make my own choices for next year instead of an "open and go" curriculum, even though I did love many aspects of A Gentle Feast.

Next year (which will begin as soon as June if we're still in quarantine!), Liam will be in 2nd grade and Lanie will be in Kindergarten. Charlotte Mason does not encourage formal schooling for Kindergarten age, but Lanie is chomping at the bit to get started and is so eager to read, so we will do a little with her. I'm also blending some Classical education elements as I'm finding that's another philosophy I lean toward. More on that later. :)

Reading aloud has quickly become our favorite part of homeschool - and our favorite part of most days. Here are a few favorite books we've read aloud this year (among dozens!):
Poppy by Avi
The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo (loved by the whole family!)
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Currently, Liam's favorite series to read on his own are:
Imagination Station by Adventures in Odyssey
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M. J. Thomas
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne (which he is now reading to Lanie during rest time each day)

I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have specific questions in the comments section, or by emailing me at whitney@elmstreetlife. I'm more than happy to help if I can! I'll be sharing our curriculum choices for next year in the coming days.

A story of reading.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Would you believe it if I told you that toddler Liam wanted very little to do with books? (Pictures can be deceiving. ;))

I was a new mom, and I'd ordered all the board books with the best reviews on Amazon. But as soon as I'd sit down to read with Liam, he'd be way more interested in the nearest electrical outlet or scrounging through the diaper bag for a snack. He loved throwing books, tearing out the pages of my Bible, running away from me squealing, or just about anything except sitting down to read. It felt like a losing battle. But for some reason, I stubbornly kept reading.

I read Giraffes Can't Dance until every word was memorized. Even today, the words just dance on my lips and tumble out in rhythm.

Little Blue Truck
Big Red Barn
The Bear Snores On

Sometimes I read all alone in his room after he'd flashed a mischievous smile and run away, hoping someday he would understand how truly delightful reading could be and would want to stay.

In my shortsighted anxiety as a new mom, I wondered if he'd ever want to read with me... if he'd ever sit still long enough to finish a board book, let alone something longer. I waited patiently for the day that he would and just kept reading, reading, reading.

You probably know that Liam's boycott of books didn't last. He learned to read just before kindergarten and hasn't looked back.

These days, I set him loose in a library (with his very own library card, of course) and he's a bloodhound, sniffing out a trail to his favorite series. He laps up chapter books like water, drinking them in two a day. He sits spellbound for hours, traversing great distances and decades with his favorite characters-turned-friends. Liam's goal this year is to finish 200 chapter books and I think he'll be there by summer.

Reading has strengthened our family bonds more than I imagined it could. The two of us keep a weekly book date where we sip decaf lattes and discuss his latest reads. It's honey to both of our hearts, we kindred story-lovers.

Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of the dimpled toddler face that's since thinned out and can hardly believe it's the same kid. The one who ran away when I pulled out a book just a handful of years ago.

So mama, if you're there right now, don't give up. Don't you dare shelve those great stories in defeat. Keep reading, even if your toddler wants nothing to do with it. Read aloud. Read often. Keep making trips to the library and filling up your basket. Be patient for the day things change, because when it arrives, it will be magical.
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