Poetry memory: The Months by Sara Coleridge

This classic poem from the 1800s is a great way to walk through the seasons with descriptive language. I currently have my 3rd and 4th graders in our co-op memorizing this. The rhymes bounce between common and unpredictable, and the imagery really creates a sensory experience with each month.

The Months

by Sara Coleridge

January brings the snow,
makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes loud and shrill,
stirs the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daises at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children’s hand with posies.

Hot july brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasants,
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.

My thoughts on Among the Forest People… and free narration pages. 💛

Let me start off by whispering an admission that I hope every Charlotte Mason, living book loving, nature studying person won’t hate me for.

I really don’t like Burgess.

There. I said it.

I tried.

I really, really did.

But when I noticed my own kiddo’s interest dissipating, despite my attempts to enliven the words with pleasant readings, I knew it wasn’t just me.

I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

So for us, as a daily inclusion to our studies… it was not a good fit. For them, or for me.

(If you and yours love Burgess, PLEASE. CONTINUE. But if you don’t… here’s your permission slip to stop trying. 😂)

Meanwhile, I must say the Among the ______ Stories are, well, a different story. They are delightful (SHORT) reads that pass along curiosity and information about the habitat and creatures… as well as a bit of character training without being annoyingly didactic.

Because I’m starting afresh with my newest little formal learner, I went ahead and created some low-key narration pages for my buddy this time around. We all know worksheets are NOT a requirement… but some students do better with a visual and something for their hands to do that connect directly with what they are hearing.

So, here we are. 🙂

I’d love for you to be able to use and benefit from these sheets as well. They have a banner for the student to copy the title on to, and a handful of lines for you or your kiddo to jot down a brief narration. Some pages are just for coloring… others have a prompt or two. I deliberately choose black and white for ease of printing at home and cost effectiveness. (It adds up, doesn’t it, friend?)

If you like what you see, I’d love for you to check out my other Charlotte Mason-inspired studies and guides over on Etsy. Just click here!

Now… here’s your free Among the Forest People sheets! 🐿

Adapting for your kiddos… and free narration pages 💛

So my firstborn: she loves drawing. While I would read our stories, she’d draw away, creating portraits of her favorite characters and scenes.

My buddy joined us this year in formal studies… and he needs his hands busy. I’m totally fine with him doing his mad matter and blocks to listen, but he wants to “make a book” like his older sister (this “book” is a folder of all her drawings). I will welcome any and all drawings he decides to do, but in the meantime, I’ve made a way to capture his narrations and allow him to have his “book,” too.

The moral of the story: what works for one kiddo might not work in the same way for all of them. Their age, stage, and giftings might require some reconfiguring. But isn’t that the absolute beauty of learning alongside your children? 💛


Also, fellow #agentlefeast families, these sheets work with the history readings for cycle 3, term 1, form 1. You have the plans and will know what to do.

https://www.canva.com/design/DAFJ0ZoHxEI/Ims2b4kPMxJxi6IKV1I6wQ/view?utm_content=DAFJ0ZoHxEI&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=homepage_design_menu

a liturgy of preparation for a meal

I don’t know about you, but sometimes… I grow weary in well-doing. I’ve realized it isn’t actually the doing… it’s the reception of it. I feel like my work is worth something when it is received with gratitude and appreciation; but when my meals are met with whines or disenchantment, I mourn. And even get disgruntled deep down, because I feel like all of my good motivations and hard work— and good food— are just wasted.

Maybe that’s why this liturgy, found in Every Moment Holy, resonates so deeply. (The audio for this clip is not the whole thing, merely the beginning thoughts.) See, I need this prayer and reminder: that my meal planning and prep, my cooking and baking, my placing it on the table before my family is not just an act of service to them— but an act of worship to God.

And whereas one can argue that my children still need to work on thankfulness and the expression of it (they do 😂), I don’t need their approval of the main course or veggie side. It was and is worship— and God sees my work, even though He doesn’t need my meal to stave off His own hunger.

He takes and sees my offering.

And as the days pass, and I pray and cook, I have every hope that I am “an agent of a deep eternity, whose prepared meals might feed more than the body, nourishing also the hearts and hopes of those sometimes-weary souls who are well-served” by my labors.

Amen. 💛

the yoke is easy.

Last month, when we visited the Log Cabin Village in Ft. Worth, TX, we saw— and picked up— a yoke. As the woman explained how a yoke works, I had so many thoughts. I think part of the whole thought shift was the fact that I never actually thought of yokes as being something people carried— I always thought of them as something oxen were strapped with. But as I saw my husband lifting the yoke up and over his shoulders, the woman explained how carrying buckets of water was really hard on not just the arms, but the hands. The muscles would get tired, and the rough rope would dig into the palms and fingers, making it painful to carry water for long.

And it dawned on me— that the yoke doesn’t actually take the burden away, or make it “lighter” in pounds. But when the burden is wrapped around a yoke— the yoke shoulders the brunt of it. It makes carrying the same amount of water much easier. It saves the weaker joints and the muscles and skin from the extreme exhaustion of the task.

Another thing about the burden of carrying water is that it wasn’t optional— water was something that HAD to be found and transported. The burden wasn’t optional. Water was life, and finding it and taking it back to people and animals and plants HAD to happen.

Isn’t that the truth about life? There are burdens that we simply must carry. Daily. As much as we would want to skip a day or a week or even all of our lives— we can’t. The burden must be borne.

If our burden must be carried, why? Why do we insist on having it dig deep, in a way God didn’t design for us? Jesus is offering a way— the Way— to make our burdens easier to bear. The burden might remain, even in the same amount.

But with Jesus, we can rest.

He bears the brunt. He takes on our weight for us and in the doing, saves us from the acute, painful task of trying to do it all alone. 💛

Two Bad Ants: fun activities and the Big 4

Spring and summer is the perfect time to bring out those bug books and studies… considering we can observe them all around us again. (Guess we’ll be doing a mosquito study soon. Sheesh!)

It was on our agenda a couple of weeks ago to study ants… and as I was perusing the library shelves for some fun reads to include, I came across Two Bad Ants. What a delightful little read, and it led to really great learning and play… and curiosity! Win win win!

If you have read other learning posts of mine, you know I’ve been a classroom teacher for years– and that time has shaped how I wanted to teach my own kiddos at home. We are Charlotte Mason/Classical-based (eclectic a bit) in general, but something that I find really shapes learning time well– inside and outside of the classroom– is remembering the Big Four: imagine, encourage, educate, and enjoy. (Note: Charlotte Mason herself was not a huge fan of “lesson plans” as she believed the best education–even only education– was self-education. I don’t disagree. Think of The Big 4 as a framework to hang principles on, not a lesson plan to stick to rigidly or you fail, okay?)

With that said, let’s walk through the Big 4 with this book, shall we?


Imagine

What’s so amazing about fun, living books is that they foster imagination in and of themselves! We don’t have to “try” to make the imagination come alive. Children are born with curiosity and imagination; our biggest challenge is to not get in the way! Two Bad Ants is SO fun in this department. It forsakes familiar words with descriptive language in a way that can made the book a series of riddles for the kids to mentally answer (especially younger ones!), and the perspective of the pictures make the book so fun to “enter” in. As your kiddos are listening to the story, don’t be afraid to pause and let them get curious! My kids asked some really great questions here, like “why do the ants call the grass a forest?” and “how do we know they landed in sugar?” and “why did the ants fly through the black slits in the wall?” What great opportunities to ask them questions back and get them thinking to answer their own questions! You can even take time here to “imagine” being ants or seeing how height and angles change perspective. Crawl on the floor and observe what you see differently, now that you are lower than normal. How about standing on a stool or chair? What do you see now?  

Another way to incorporate imagination is to basically allow them to get creative.

Do they want to make up their own story about the ant?

Put on a play?

Design their own ant playground… which makes me think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids…

Draw an ant? Great! Let them! This book made my 9 year old want to grab our Natural History book and check out all the ants there before deciding to draw her favorite. Awesome!

encourage

When it comes to this principle, I take it different ways at different times. The main way I try to think of incorporating encouragement is seeing what the Bible has to say about what we are learning/observing. What does it tell us about the object we are discussing, or the character we see in the story?

The Bible actually does talk about the ants and what we can learn from them. It tells us to consider the ants and be like them. Why? (Ask your kiddos!) Because they work hard and prepare well. What are some ways we can do that? That question led to a lot of good responses, and their answers included some things that we do as a family and some that we can improve on.

Another way that I like to think about encouragement is making sure that I’m seeing where my kids are growing and improving and making a point to encourage them in that. This isn’t lesson specific, per se. But even as we doing some activities with the book, and the kiddos were asking questions, I make a point to use positive feedback: “What a great question! Let’s see what we can learn about that!” Or “That’s a good observation; you looked really closely to see that!” I want to encourage their effort without making it about me and my “pride” or happiness in it– although I am both proud and happy when they are giving great attention and adding to their own learning!

Educate

Of course, “education” is something that can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t have to plan or force it to happen. But in the “educate” category in my head is about me figuring what tools I need to give them and what goals I have for them. Basically, it’s asking myself what plates, napkins, silverware, and ingredients are needed for the “feast” that day. And just like every “feast”/buffet doesn’t have every single cuisine represented, I don’t think we need to feel the burden/obligation of making sure every. single.learning.moment has every single type of academic “food.” In other words– if I want to focus on science/nature during that time, I totally can without including fine arts and all the other things. 🙂

Here’s what I did after reading this book: I got out salt, sugar, and our little magnifying glasses. When my buddy asked how we knew the ants landed in salt, we used the book to answer that question for us– but then we decided to take a closer look at salt and sugar itself. It’s looks pretty similar when we look at it our “normal” way– but what if we take a closer look? At closer inspection, we can definitely see that salt and sugar AREN’T the same. We talked about the differences we could see with a little magnification– which ants would have naturally, being smaller and much closer and with different kinds of eyeballs!

We also did a taste test and observed those differences, too. 😉

Later that night for dinner, when we chatted about what we learned with daddy (hello, extra narration!), the kiddos were so excited to share what they learned– all on their own!

Meanwhile, I had plenty to jot down in my planner that day under “science.”

Enjoy

As I’m sure you can see, there were so many things that were “enjoyable” about what we had done so far that this “box” basically checked itself! Crawling around on the floor, tasting and seeing salt and sugar up close, and reading a fun book all felt and were enjoyable to my kiddos! However, you can always bump this up even more by pulling out any bug games you might have! We actually played a dice game called People Vs. the Ants. We played two variations of this: doubles and odds & evens.

We divided a paper in half and labeled one side People and the other Ants. The idea behind the game was that we are at a picnic and the ants are coming. If we win, we don’t have to move to a new picnic spot; and if the ants win, that means they took over our picnic and could eat all of our food. (Hello there again, Imagination!) Any time we rolled a double, we had to add them together, and that score was added to the ants side. Anytime it wasn’t a double, we added the score together and put it on the people side. Whoever got to 50 first, won! (We won, because we didn’t roll a lot of big doubles.)

We played it again with odds and evens. If the numbers rolled added up to evens, it was put in the People column, and if it added to an odd number, it was an ant score. (This game worked on head addition for my early elementary student, and my kinder boy is learning odds and evens, so he got to work on that, too!)

The kids got an extra dose of “enjoyment” because they love any kind of game… and I got something extra in the “math” section of the day.


Well friends, that’s it! That’s how I took this book and applied the Big 4 to it. If you are wanting to read Two Bad Ants and plug these ideas in, I hope you find your experience with them enchanting and delightful to your family… but more than that, I hope you see how the Big 4 are ideas that can be applied to any book and any day! They definitely help me to create an atmosphere of education in our home. 🙂



***
If you want to read more about the Big Four, go here, or watch this video that I recently did about it. 🙂


A little note: the amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means you don’t pay any extra pennies if your buy through them, but I might. Maybe. 😉

The Big 4: my education (and life) essentials

If you go back over some of my education-themed posts (in the essential learning section), you’ll notice “the Big 4” pop up here and there. As a recap, my essentials— a checklist, if you will— that I try to incorporate while we learn together at home are: imagination, encouragement, education, and enjoyment.

In this new video, I chat more about what each of those look like during my day, give an example about how I used a living book to weave the 4 together, and most importantly, the big picture as to *why* I try to place each one purposefully in our day.

If you want some sort of structure to your learning time that leaves room for wonder, try using these 4 in your own home. I trust you will find them a beautiful way to think about and shape your time together. 💛

A fun game and a video hack: ways homeschooling has been easier this week

If you have been here for a while, you’ve heard me talk about “the Big 4” that I try to place within each homelearning day (or each lesson plan I create when I teach). Those big four include: imagination, encouragement, education (the actually content of the lesson), and enjoyment.

Instead of going through what that has looked like for us so far this week, I want to share with you how I’ve “repurposed” some ideas to keep things fresh– and therefore, fun– for my kiddos this week.

Last week, I introduced a scouting game for my kiddos, incorporating fox walking with stalking/tracking. The basic premise is this: someone stands in the middle of a yard/space with a blindfold (or promise of keeping their eyes closed <<good luck with that one, ha!>>) while the other players spread out several feet away from both each other AND the person in the middle (who is the animal being observed/stalked). The observers must quietly walk closer and closer to the person in the middle, and the first one to read and tap the person wins.

However… if the person in the middle hears a sound but can’t identify WHAT they heard, they turn towards the location of the sound, and people in that area have to freeze. If they make a sound while they are supposed to be frozen, they have to go back to their original location. Once the person in the middle hasn’t heard anything for a few seconds, they turn back around. If the person in the middle hears a sound and CAN identify it, they turn towards the sound, and say exactly what they heard (a stick break, a nose sniff, whatever), and the person has to go back to their original spot.

I played this with my kids as a part of their nature study last week and they LOVED it! We played it several times, and whoever tagged the middle person got to take their place. Since we played it, they have asked SEVERAL times to play it again.

That led me to thinking… how can this game be used in other ways?

Right now, we are concentrating on the Revolutionary War in history and have recently studied Francis Marion– aka “the Swamp Fox.” If you are familiar with the warfare of the South during that time, you know that it was not the traditional “line up in a battlefield nicely and all agree to start marching and maiming each other at the same time” kind of warfare that had been popular up until that point. The Southern Theater did NOT have the manpower or resources that the British in the area had… so they got creative.

I think you might be able to guess how this game evolved from science to history.

Yesterday, we went out into the yard… but the center player wasn’t an animal being stalked. It was the British in a swamp in the South, hoping not to be bombarded by the rumored Swamp Fox. The “stalkers” were now Continental militia… sneaking up for a surprise attack.

This picture is one of a series of murals done about Francis Marion. To read more, visit here.

The kiddos LOVED the variation… and it made incorporating enjoyment into the day easier to be able to tweak a game their already knew instead of finding a new activity to introduce and have them learn from scratch. (More time playing + less time explaining = more fun.)

(Bonus: the game can be played practically anywhere with no equipment. )

The second thing that I started doing a few weeks ago and did again this week was not be afraid to make my own videos to simplify our routine. We absorb a lot of literature and also believe in the benefit of committing things to our memories. In an ideal day, we’d be able to cover the memory work altogether with the original books… but that’s not the way things are sometimes. Instead, I make playlists on youtube and also in Amazon music that I can connect via bluteooth in the car or can pull up to play/review while waiting somewhere.

In making playlists, I’ve realized something. A pet peeve of mine is not being able to find brief recordings that make playlist making easy. I don’t want someone speaking for 10 minutes about a poem before getting to the recitation of it. And I also don’t want someone reading the poem in a flat voice, as I want my children to love the listening of it.

Recently, I’ve found some poems and info harder to find… so I’ve made them myself. These videos are completely amateur. No fancy movies or graphics. Just me, sometimes only me, reading. Sometimes, I’ve drawn little pictures to go along with my words. The key for me right now is for them to accomplish the purpose I have for them without taking a lot of time.

This is hard for me, friends.

Because when I want to do something, I want it to be my absolute best. I do.

And these videos that I make just aren’t.

BUT they serve the purpose, and they are a tool that I can actually use– versus waiting on all the time and energy it would take to do them “right.”

Maybe I’m beginning to see (and agree) with G.K. Chesterton more, the older I become: that “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a short little poem for your young children to memorize and just need a simply reading of it, feel free to use this 30 second version of A Child’s Song.

It won’t win any production awards, but it might just help you get the “job done.” 😉

easier than you think: soup from scratch

One of my goals this year in a part of living more simply is just to learn how to do the “convenience” foods easily with the foods that I already have on hand… instead of feeling like I need a bunch of ingredients to get dinner on the table.

A small way I’m doing that is by relying less on “staples” like canned soup, especially of the “creamed” variety.

If I have to be honest, we haven’t used a lot of a creamed of anything soups for a while, because of the additives and extras that I’m not a fan of. For instance, to make homemade cream of mushroom soup, you need 4 ingredients, up to six if you want actual cream in it and add salt.

Let’s look at the ingredients of what is in one of the most popular versions of mushroom soup. I copied and pasted directly from their website.

WATER, MUSHROOMS, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, CANOLA AND/OR SOYBEAN), CREAM, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, SALT, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, TOMATO PASTE, FLAVOUR, YEAST EXTRACT, DEHYDRATED GARLIC.

That’s a total of 14 ingredients, and that’s not counting any extra anything that sneaks in with vegetable oil, the modified milk ingredientS (plural means more than one, the last time I checked…), and also whatever is included in “flavour.”

(I’m not even going to go down the rabbit hole of what monosodium glutamate is… but it’s better known as MSG, if that helps get an idea. And some people really might be surprised to find soy in a cream of anything soup.)

So, what do you need to make your own creamed soup at home?

Easy: Butter. Flour.* Milk and/or cream. And then whatever other ingredient you want to be creamy. So, chicken for cream of chicken soup. Celery for cream of celery soup. Mushroom for mushroom.

(I’ll stop insulting your intelligence now. Ha!)

Oh, and salt and pepper, if you want to season the soup specifically vs. seasoning it with whatever you might be mixing it with.

Let’s chat steps. They are super easy.

First, melt your butter. For a medium thickness, you’ll start with 2 TBS.

If you are making a celery of mushroom soup, you’ll add it and soften it in the butter before adding salt and flour.

Once the butter is melted and your vegetables are softened…
Add the flour. For a medium thickness, you’ll add with 2 TBS.

Use a whisk to prevent lumps. Once it is incorporated…
Add 1 cup of liquid. Most of the time, it will be milk. In the case of cream of chicken, it should be half broth, half milk… and then add the cooked chicken.

Add salt as desired.

If you want the soup to be runnier or thicker, you’ll reduce or increase the amount of butter/flour at the beginning before adding the liquid. The flour and butter will be in equal amounts to each other.

How simple is that?

And can I say HOW MUCH BETTER it tastes? My 9 year old taste-tested and just asked me to make the soup for dinner all by itself.

Maybe next time, E… this batch is already claimed for a one-dish meal for dinner tonight. 😉

* For people who are gluten free, you can totally sub a gluten free flour here, but you might have to modify the amount of liquid, as gluten free flours with coconut flour are more absorbent. And I’ve even used almond flour itself as a replacement, but the texture is more “gritty” vs smooth, and obviously the fat is higher than the regular flour counterpart. It is definitely a viable substitute for those want to a much lower carb or flour-free version of the soup, though.

embarrassment, empathy, endurance: why the show must go on… and why we should help it

Once, several years ago— before marriage and babies— I found myself giving a 50 minute long one-woman show to an auditorium with over 500 people watching me.  As if that wasn’t adrenaline-inducing enough, I had just stepped on the edge of my floor length skirt and felt the clasp in the back pull and undo.

That was fun.

I remember, continuing my performance, and simultaneously pleading for the Good Lord, in His mercy and goodness to prevent my skirt from completing its malfunction in front of everyone.  That I could just do my “job,” without something very important falling down around me.

It’s an extreme AND completely real example.  It’s one that I thought wouldn’t apply to me again very much at all in my life.  But, man, was I wrong.

Here we all are, aren’t we?  Just trying to do our “jobs”— trying to live and maybe tell our stories.  We don’t want any extra drama.  We don’t want anything more to think about because the job, though hopefully enjoyable , is still daunting enough.  But then… we feel something begin to give way that shouldn’t.  We suddenly shift into worry and doubt and fervent prayer because we know, that just a little bit more… just another inch… just one more slight shift… and we will be vulnerable in ways we never, ever want to be.

IF my skirt had actually fallen down that day… if that whole auditorium had seen me, standing there, exposed in my undergarments and embarrassment… honestly, what would have happened?  Okay, so I would have been completely mortified and would have wanted to claw up the floorboards of that stage in order to disappear… but besides that?  What would have happened?

I wouldn’t have died, no matter how much I would have wanted to.  I would have swallowed hard, and pulled my skirt up, made some comment to attempt to save face, and feel my cheeks grow hot.  My throat might have almost closed from choking down the emotion of it all… and I might have even had to excuse myself before going back out and continuing where I left off.

That’s what would have happened.  Because I needed to finish my job.  Finish what I started.  Tell the story that placed me on that stage in the first place.

I think, whether or not you have been on stage at all, you know exactly what it is like to be in the scenario I found myself.  Life has taught you to be afraid that something horrible is going to derail what you are doing— and what you are doing is plenty enough already, thankyouverymuch.  We are afraid to be left exposed and scrambling.  We are petrified of our jobs being harder, our lives more complicated.  We are scared of contingency plans and crisis modes and being distracted from what was **so carefully** planned, practiced, and rehearsed.  And maybe, just maybe, we are worried about what people would say and think as they witness it all fall.

Hardship is so, well, hard to even think about.  There’s a reason why those thoughts instantly drive us to worry— and hopefully and much better— prayer. The grand irony of it all is that we are just as much audience as performer.  We watch others live all around us, and don’t think for one second that they are worried about their own wardrobes exposing them, or tripping on stage, or forgetting their lines.  That they are just as afraid and vulnerable to messing up themselves.  They seem to have it all together as they go along, while we feel like we just stumbling by.  Honestly, shouldn’t we know better by now?

We know the truth.  The fact that we are all actors should make us the most empathetic audience in the world.  It is exactly because I know what it is like to imagine the worst case scenario (by almost being or ACTUALLY being in worst case scenarios) that I can lean into other’s experiences when their worst case scenario happens.  It’s why we can join others in the uncomfortable, and not let our own awkwardness keep us from doing what is right.  And what is right? Right is swallowing your own discomfort to make it easier for your friend or neighbor or fellow momma to pick up her skirt and her pride, swallow hard, and keep going when her world is falling apart.

Best of all, we don’t have to say and think anything beyond admiration and support— in whatever capacity we can.  

Life itself is a stage, someone brilliant once said.  

We are all players.  

And in this global cast, faith, hope, and love is the obligation for all of us.