:: at the end of 31 days :: a gift for subscribers

what a wonderful month i’ve had getting to think + write in the quiet, dark house, getting to know a few new readers, getting a package ready for Sarah, our giveaway winner!  i hope that this month has created a little space for you to think about listening to your own voice first, trusting your hunches, being willing to try things out + make adjustments.

jpeg306to celebrate the end of this month focused on intuitive homeschooling + to help us shift attention to the coming holidays, i have a little gift for you.  i’ve edited my series on keeping advent into a handsome pdf with beautiful black + white illustrations made by Gertrud Mueller Nelson.  it prints up nicely–perfect for tucking in your bag to read in a quiet moment.

when you subscribe to the blog using the button in the sidebar, i’ll send you the file.  it won’t come automatically because my blog’s not sophisticated enough for such things!  it will come straight from me…after i get notified that you’ve subscribed…and i finish making dinner.  so, it might take a day or so, but it will be on its way soon enough!  i haven’t quite finished editing, and i want things to be just right.  but it will be ready in the next week or so.  you can go ahead and subscribe now, and i’ll put you in the queue.  if you are already a subscriber, you are already first in line!

please feel free to leave a comment or send an email (address in the hello there! tab) if you have any questions.  i’ll leave you with links to a few of my favorite 31 days series.  peace keep you!

simple ways I streamline common tasks in our home


planned serendipity

when your daughter starts asking about ancient Egypt and the next time you go to the library you happen upon Mummies Made in Egypt…when your son says he’s interested in knights, you find him some Playmobil knights on ebay…when you’ve been checking out books on hand lettering and you discover your favorite book’s author teaches at Creativebug and there’s a free trial and there’s a line drawing class and the final class is on hand lettering!  that’s planned serendipity.

sept 13 002sometimes i think we homeschoolers just barely countenance all the little rabbit trails that we follow. but the thing about those rabbits?  they’re not simply wandering the forest aimlessly.  they don’t just hop down any ole trail.  they smell something.  they’re on to something.  trust your nose, trust your hunches.

put yourself in the way of inspiration.

  • look up more books by authors you love.  look up the authors of the blurbs on the back.  look up other books in the series or by the same publisher.
  • plan your week around other people doing inspiring things.  every Tuesday Harmony Fine Arts hosts Sketch Tuesday.  every Friday you can read so many good poems if you make the rounds of Poetry Friday.  every Monday Lori from Project Based Homeschooling publishes a new Tip Sheet.
  • keep an eye out for books or supplies that might be of interest.  don’t go overboard.  hoarding is the opposite of serendipity.  hoarding comes from a scarcity model–we’ll never have the right supplies at the right time.  serendipity speaks of abundance–what we need will come when we need it.  planned serendipity helps make sure you’re in the right place at the right time.
  • honor the rabbits and their trails by building downtime, rest, and free space into your days.  if you can’t follow the inspiration because it’s not on the schedule, you might try putting it on the schedule!

it counts.  even if it’s not a part of the curriculum.  even if you just happened to find the book.  even if you weren’t planning on studying it.  it all counts.



women who inspire :: Julie Bogart

an easy way to add a bit of poetry into your homeschool is to institute a weekly Poetry Tea.  just imagine gathering the children to a table loaded with cups of tea with milk, a little something sweet to eat, and a stack of poetry books.  you might read some favorites, then they might want to get in on the act too.  sounds wonderful, right?  we’ve got Julie Bogart of Brave Writer fame to thank!

Brave Writer

Julie is the author of a writing curriculum.  but there’s so much more to her work.  her blog is bursting with good parenting advice.  she knows what it’s like to homeschool; she’s got 5 kids who she homeschooled for 17 years.  she knows what it’s like to be at home with children every day.  her eyes are open to the specific kinds of struggles homeschooling mamas can have.  but she also has eyes to see the beauty in this world. she posts pictures of the trees changing color outside her windows, her squat tea pot, and her kids home for a visit.

besides her blog, these are my favorite places to get a little bit of Julie wisdom:

  • she’s got 12 or so podcasts.  GOLDEN!  her voice, her sense of humor, her perspective.  the podcasts are hosted by her oldest son, Noah.  hearing bits of their interaction is just wonderful.
  • you can sign up for free, daily writing ideas to be sent via email.  because we don’t yet have a houseful of writers, we don’t necessarily use them in our homeschool.  but often when i read them, i find more general homeschooling helps or ideas for my own writing.
  • this year Julie collected her parenting pieces into a book called Gracious Space.  each reflection ends with a “sustaining thought.”  and i realized that that’s often what Julie’s writing does for me, it sustains me.  it gives me a scaffolding to understand my experiences.  she gives me a little phrase or image that i can tuck in my pocket for the hard times.


Shakespeare in storybooks

in our town there are two companies that perform Shakespeare free in the park.  for us this is the perfect introduction to the pleasures of theater performance.  there hasn’t been a big outlay of money, so we don’t have to stay till the end to get our money’s worth.  and it’s ok to take the wiggly toddler for a walk around the grounds.

july 2011 101

we choose which plays to study based on what’s being performed the following summer.  this year we’ll be studying the Scottish play!  but no matter the play, the approach is the same.   we begin with story.  we begin with lush illustrations and retellings of the famous plays.  our two favorite resources are All the World’s a Stage and The Random House Shakespeare.

All the World’s a Stage is written in rhyme that’s sometimes less than inspiring.  but we focus on the illustrations by Anita Lobel.  in a single page she highlights most of the characters and major plot points.  it’s an amazing feat!  it’s also a great way to review or even quiz yourself!  The Random House Book of Shakespeare Stories again has beautiful illustrations, and the retellings are perfect for reading aloud.

we start with story, but that really is only the beginning.  we also color + draw + play the plays!  there are plenty more recommendations and resources over at the Shakespeare for the Young pinboard.


the intuitive homeschool in action

as we’ve traveled this month together, we’ve thought about the formative work of our surroundings, the importance of tuning in to our children’s needs, how journaling can help us listen.  i even shared some practical tips that have helped our days together run more smoothly.  but what does it really mean to homeschool intuitively?  what does it look like?


for us, one thing that it means, is that our days are soaked in good words.  poetry + story form the true spine of our work together.  anchored by a bowl of hot oatmeal with brown sugar + milk, we share a poem each morning.  we might listen to The Writer’s Almanac, read something from the American Academy of Poets, or from our favorite collection called A Poem for Every Day edited by Susan Moger .  after the reading, we’re mostly finished.  we might talk about some of the images, Nicolas might comment on the rhymes or alliteration because he has a wonderful ear.  someone might make an illustration.  but above all, we enjoy the poem together.

a few weeks ago i stumbled into a wonderful conversation on Twitter about the place of poetry in the homeschool.  Sally Thomas asked why there couldn’t be a poetry-centered curriculum, and Melissa Wiley replied that that’s what they had.  while i had never conceived of our poetry work as anything other than a fun add-on, as i thought about it more, i realized that our homeschool really is held together by the poems + stories that we read + write.  that’s what gives our days shape + definition.

for you it may be different.  that’s why it’s important to listen to your own voice first.  find + follow your path.


sabbath rest

now come along to some quiet place by yourselves, and rest for a little while…july 13 119

casting down imaginations

and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God

and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

for God hath not given us the spirit of fear

but of power + of love + of a sound mind.

II Corinthians 10.5, II Timothy 1.7

plan…to plan

nov 10 017

using your intuition and the motion of the spirit to ground your homeschool is going to take time–a dedicated place in your schedule where you can brainstorm, journal, draw, take a walk, or just sit + ponder the best course for the coming days.

until recently i have been hesitant to block out teacher planning time.  i can make a few copies + put books on hold anytime, right?  but in the push of life, things that can happen anytime often don’t happen at all.  having dedicated time to plan (books to read, resources to track down, meals to eat) has meant that i am more ready to meet the day-to-day challenges.  it has also sent a powerful message about the importance of the work i do.  yes, learning happens all the time.  yes, we just happen upon deeper, more interesting connections that i never could have planned.  but our learning is also something that i intentionally make a space for.

we settled into a sweet end of summer rhythm.  each Saturday morning, Andy would walk with the children down to the farmer’s market.  they would listen to some music, have a snack, and pick up our CSA.  then they would pick up our library books + head home.  they would be gone just over an hour, so that meant i needed to use my time well.  but if i got busy, i had plenty of time to get a better sense of what our coming week would hold, and i usually had time to draw as well!  as the seasons shift, we’ll have to come up with a different plan.  but now that i’ve seen how helpful it is for me to do a weekly review, it’s time that i want to make space for.


one more day to enter the giveaway…i’ll be putting the poetry zine together today!

beauty every day

Rahima Baldwin, who wrote You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, says that the two habits of mind that are most powerful in a child’s spiritual development are reverence and gratitude.  just recently i returned to a resource that i think can shed light on some ways we might begin to nourish such habits.  it’s called Small Ceremonials And Everyday Altars by Lesley Austin. you can sign up to receive a free copy of her ebook at her website.


Lesley talks about surrounding the everyday tasks that we do with small reminders + bits of beauty that can transform the mundane into the holy.  she made pill boxes out of matchboxes, adding a bit of beauty + whimsy to the sometimes onerous chore of taking medicine.  likewise, the altars grew out of the nature table displays she created with her children in their homeschool.  candles, fabric, shiny glass, leaves + feathers–these have all found a home in the simple altars i’ve created.

last night Mabel + i were watching an episode of Nature about crows.  the birds were preening each other and she observed that so many animals preen to show affection + care.  i said that’s why i help brush her hair.  i also help because there are still places in the back where she has a hard time reaching + rats multiply!  but it reminded me that i want the physical interactions i have with my children to be a true laying on of hands.  our touch can carry our love in real ways.

these small practices can open doors.  they can bring a sense of peace to our days.  they can remind us of our important work.  they can make straight paths for our feet.  as our children watch + participate, their own facility for reverence + gratitude will grow + bear fruit.


make sure to enter the small things with great love giveaway!

(singing) practice


we’ve been thinking about the the ways writing + drawing can shape our days.  but what about song?  music can powerfully change the the feel of our homeschools–brightening or quieting as needed.  when is the last time you sang with your children?  is it something that comes naturally or is it something that you leave to experts?

i think i fall somewhere in the middle.  i have no formal training, but a girlhood spent at hymn sings + camp meetings firmly planted a desire to sing inside me!  Andy often plays guitar for us, and i sing hymns with the children at bedtime.  we also learn seasonal hymns–“We Gather Together” at Thanksgiving, carols at Christmas.  i gathered together some of our favorite hymns into a booklet you can print called Family Hymns.  it comes with Gertrud Mueller Nelson illustrations, so even the youngest child can find + request their favorites!

The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music by W.A. Mathieu helped open the world of music to me.  it tuned my ear to hear the everyday music around us.  in the back of the book there are approachable practices that can add depth to your music practice.

we also have a handful of tin whistles around for people to pick up and work with.  they are a perfect beginning instrument–simple, inexpensive, but true instruments none the less.  there’s even a Jesuit to teach you how to play!  i’d love to hear how you make your life sing…


women who inspire :: Melissa Wiley

a homeschool mama who also writes children’s books…what’s not to love?

Melissa Wileyto sweeten the deal, she lives in my home town.  and Melissa Wiley’s two youngest children are almost the exact same age as my oldest two.  this means that book reviews–and there are many!–are often right on target.  but many of my favorite posts are simple descriptions of what worked that day: the park was hot, so they retreated to the shade and built Roxaboxen.

indeed, it was in her posts on Tidal Homeschooling (especially Radical Unschooling, Unschooling, Tidal Homeschooling, and the Wearing of Shoes That Fit) that i first encountered the term classical unschooling.  that one had me scratching my head at first, but Melissa described it like this: classical refers to the what, the content + unschooling is the how or the method.   i almost called this series “the classical unschooler.” but i liked connecting these ideas to the more Ignatian idea of the motion of the spirit in our hunches + longings.  you can read more about the idea on the intuitive homeschool pin board.

Melissa meets the bumps in the road with the kind of grace i aspire to.  she’s open + smart + interested…and she’s often on twitter in the afternoons when things here are naptime-quiet.


we really like Melissa’s recent early readers.  Inch and Roly Make a Wish is full of magic and wonder even though it’s built on a limited vocabulary.  Fox and Crow Are Not Friends is surprising + funny + the mama bear outsmarts them both!  do check out Melissa’s writing–both on her blog and in her books!  you won’t be disappointed.

Untitledmake sure to head over to the giveaway page…i’ll be picking a winner on Sunday, so i can get the package out to the winner by the end of the month!