storytelling: ideas to help our students narrate well

If you have come across Charlotte Mason at all in your research about homeschooling– or if you would describe your own homelearning style as Mason-leaning– the term “narration” is probably one you are familiar with.

There are a lot more articles and even books that go into a lot more detail about what narration is and why it is important, and I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here.

The point of this post isn’t to take the time to define what it IS, but to remember what it is NOT. Narration isn’t just a regurgitation of the facts or plot-line of the story. It isn’t just us getting to see what the student knows–or doesn’t. I mean, it CAN (and probably should) include both of those purposes. But that is not all it is.

The purpose of narration is an invitation– and invitation for the student to make the information, the story and the lessons and impacts of it… his or her own.

Because there are ALL types of learners, it stands to reason that there will be all types of storytellers and all kinds of ownership.

A danger that we can fall into when we ask our kids to narrate is to accept– and maybe even encourage, because of time, energy, etc– that we get the “easiest” version of narration from them: basically, a simple retelling. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a retelling… but sometimes, some learners own stories in different ways.

I have found that my oldest isn’t a fan of simply retelling– she wants to create something. She will use figurines, peg dolls, playdough, etc. to create scenes. She wants to put on little skits and give lines to her smaller siblings (bless their hearts, ha!). A simple re-telling? No thanks.

I think it is hard for us as parent-teachers to come up with narration ideas on the fly if our kiddos are being a bit… hesitant. Sometimes all our children need is a germ of an idea and the freedom to run with it.

So, I’ve made up some bookmarks to print out and place in your books and read-alouds. Your child can choose off of the list or you can have a fresh idea rotation, come narration time! Several of the ideas I tweaked from the following post by Simply Charlotte Mason, but I intermingled several ideas of my own that we have done over here. ❤

Happy storytelling, friends! May we be encouraged by how the power of story and living tellings of them shape our students and ourselves!

build a long rope: how to memorize long passages

It is said that “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” (It’s a Chinese proverb, I believe.)

Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of memorization, no one can ignore the fact that we do have to remember something/be able to recall it to actually learn it, apply it, and create with it. That’s one of the main reasons memorizing takes its place as the base of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Being able to recall facts creates the ability for a student– for all of us– to be able to begin wrapping our minds around it, applying it to our lives and situation, analyzing connections, evaluating what we are learning… with the hopes that we can create something new out of it.

We can talk forever about how our current educational system might rely too much on remembering, or mistake remembering for education itself… and I actually have strong thoughts and feelings about that: as a teacher in a classroom for years myself (high school and college), I have definitely felt very frustrated about how pre-assessing and assessing and post-assessing whether or not students learned content was basically just memory-based– when learning is so. much. more!

But that’s not the point of this post. 😀

The point is: we DO need memory. Memory is the foundation for us not just to remember things, but to work and play with information and thought and art in our own heads: to “follow us” by simply being with us. Within us.

I have memorized A LOT in my educational journey. Not just for tests and quizzes, but for performance. Part of my undergrad and graduate degree requirements were me, myself, and I creating and performing 50 minute to 1hr and 10 minute one-woman shows. That’s a LOT of memorization.

But the memorization was just the first step. It was the first way for me to get that text in my head… to trickle down into my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I would be rehearsing the memory in my head, and suddenly I would get light-bulb moments about what the text really meant and how I could perform it. Suddenly, I would understand the characters in the story or the lines in the poetry I didn’t– and wouldn’t– without having it secure in my mind first.

Memorizing passage– classical and religious– is something we do in our home because I believe in the value of having thoughts, not just words, shape the hearts and the minds of my children.

So, how do you do it? How do you learn long passages? And to take it one more step… how can you get your students to do it as you use it in your home and homelearning?

In this very “amateur” video (because I don’t have equipment and a fancy home studio or anything. Instead, you get to join me at my kitchen table with a chalkboard in the background, ha!), I go through what I have done, what you can do, and how you can adapt the long-passage memory technique for little people and slip it into your morning time easily.

When you watch the video, you’ll completely understand what I mean by building “a long rope,” and how easy it is to actually do it!

Companion planting… with a twist

In our Gathering Wellness group* for the month of March, we have been concentrating on how to start a garden, seed prep, planting, and plant care for the season ahead. (Gardening is one of the best ways to practice reliance and cut the gardening budget while learning life skills… so a win/win/win!) Yesterday, we chatted a bit about companion plants: how some plants are great friends… and others aren’t.

A hack that my husband and I have used before in a small capacity and really plan to use a lot more of this year is the idea of companion SPRAYS… not just plants.

We’ve used essential oil sprays on our plants before, mainly for luscious green in our home and for pest-aways on our plants (Brian has such a cool story about cedarwood and roses!)… but I’m really wanting to step it up a notch this growing season.

What’s the idea behind companion sprays?

Well, essential oils are made from plants (I feel like I should say “duh” here, ha!)… so consider using oils in place of your companion plants. Companion sprays might work especially well with smaller plots of land or are doing container gardening!

Let’s look at an example. Say you want some luscious green beans this summer, but need to plant other veggies instead of transplanting a lavender bush beside your beans. (Don’t get me wrong, though… lavender is so great to have on hand, but that’s another post!) So, grab your Lavender essential oil instead, and let it do the work for you while you save soil space.

Here’s a guide to creating Companion sprays to use on the soil and leaves of the plant: Add 10-15 drops of the corresponding essential oil to a 4 oz. glass spray bottle. Top with distilled water; shake before each use. So easy!

PLANT …………… COMPANION PLANTS

Green Beans….… Lavender, Basil

Broccoli……………. Basil, Thyme

Carrots……………… Sage

Cucumber…………. Sage

Onion……………..…. German Chamomile

Potatoes………….… Basil, Sage

Tomatoes………….. Basil


I think we are going to try a Basil spray first, since it seems to be friends with lots of types of plants!

I’ll keep you posted as the season goes on!

If you want to check out a whole little e-zine on some of the other information about how oils can be used to encourage growth and troubleshoot problems in your garden, click the button below to read more. 🙂

  • Gathering Wellness is an interactive FB community where we learn about lifeskills, homemaking, and wellness together. To join us, just click here!

The Revolutionary War… “close to home” (with a free homeschool resource)

As term 2 of our school year comes to a close, I get the exciting privilege of planning our end-of-year home learning trip!

Our history with A Gentle Feast centered around the Revolutionary War this year. Initially, I had grand plans of driving up through VA and up into the Philly areas, hitting several of the things and areas that we had learned about: Mt. Vernon, Monticello, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross museum… even up and over to Valley Forge. My brain was in high gear, planning all the things!

But then something else happened to hit a high, too.

Hello there, gasoline… I’m looking at you. :/

Between the high fuel prices and planning a long road trip to Texas later in the summer for a family wedding/reunion, it looks like we will be postponing that long trip for the next time we hit this history rotation. (My younger kids will be able to appreciate it more at that point anyway. Three is a little young to appreciate being in the same room that the Declaration was signed in, I think. Ha!)

Fortunately, my family lives in a state that was one of the original 13 colonies… so I started to really dig into the Revolutionary war close to home. I knew of a couple of battle fields quasi-close by, and knew that Nathanael Greene and the Swamp Fox had been up and around our state… but for living in this state all of my life (and going to state schools growing up), I was incredibly surprised about ALL of the Revolutionary history here in SC. (Truth be told, my memories in school of war and our state all seemed to be about the Civil War and fighting against our country vs. being a major contributor to its creation, but that’s another thought for another time.)

So now, my brain is back into high gear, plotting at least 5 battlefields and museums within an hour of our house… and planning an overnight closer to the coast.

I’m a huge fan of journaling and recording thoughts, questions, etc., as they come up… and find that my 3rd grader still needs a few prompts to help her write out her observations. I went ahead and designed some pages for our days out and about for her to use to help document what she learns along the way.

For fellow South Carolina homeschool/homelearning families, I’d love to have you use the pages I created to document your own trek of learning across our state. Just download and use the pdf below!

I’m going to share a few super helpful links below if you are interested in plotting your own weekend field trips! (Click the images for more information.) The Southern Campaign Animated Map is great for a general overview/review… but the other links below are geared towards an Piedmont/Upstate focus of the state’s involvement. I’m hoping to do a part 2 of it with more of a midland and coastal focus, if/when we get around to doing that soon.


Piedmont/Upstate Areas of Interest

Ninety Six National Historic Site
South Carolina Museum of Revolutionary War History
Battle of Musgrove Hill State Historic Site
Kings Mountain National Military Park
Cowpens National Battlefield

the right instructions.

Wendell Berry once said, “You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much. But those are the right instructions.”

I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I just love where I’m at and what I’m doing. The moments seem light and joyful, and I feel perfectly placed in my life.

And there are days I don’t.

I can blame it on a lot of things: the news. My lists. The worries on my shoulders. Grief. Extra fighting from the kids. Exchanged sarcasm. The toddler climbing into bed because a storm ignited her fears… making us all restless. And squished. And sleep deprived.

But the fact of the matter is: the biggest hinderance to my own happiness is my disconnect to the command to give thanks.

You know the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” We just like to slap those words on anything tricky that we need some extra diligence for… but what, specifically, is it referring to? Paul is referring to being content— in every circumstance. He says that he has learned to do it, no matter what. How? He can do it “through Christ,” who gave him strength *to give this thanks.*

What do you need to give thanks for? What gives your heart pause, just thinking about hoisting it to heaven with gratitude on your lips? I can think of a few things that I feel are just too hard, too sad, too hurtful for me to be thankful for… but fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Helper to lift our offering high, and intercede with perfect words we have an impossible time finding.

Christ.

He will give us strength.

Strength enough to offer gratitude…

and in the doing, we are placed in the perfect position to receive His grace.

And isn’t that something we can be oh so thankful for? 💛

embracing grace in the grind.

For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:

It’s okay to let things go sometimes.

If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.

This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…

“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…

There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”

For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.

It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall. ❤️




If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂

examening your home

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it was talking about the Daily Examen– what’s typically considered a spiritual practice of reflection by asking & answering a pattern of questions at the end of the day.

As I was listening, my thoughts connected that idea to my goal for the month of February– loving my home and making it easier for my family and I to love being in it. I’ll be honest; I am so thankful for my home… but the daily-ness of all the daily tasks that are also housed here overwhelm me at times. I like to do things and then move on the next thing and for projects to be “done…” but there’s nothing done about the bits of food that reemerge on the floor, or the dishes that reappear in the sink, or the laundry that regrows in our hampers. And sometimes, those things make me feel like I can’t actually do what I WANT to do in my home and with the people in it.

So this month, I’m reshaping my thoughts around my home, and finding better tools for me to love it better.

As I listened to the 5 steps of the Examen, my mind tweaked the points a bit… and I wanted to share them. You know, just in case someone else needs to regroup and offer a reminder of a bigger, lovelier picture.

1) Think back to your day and find the love that you had while at home. Was it something specific about a space? An item? A moment you had there? The people in it? Find a moment at home that brought you joy, for whatever reason.

2) Show gratitude for that moment. Offer thanks for it.

3) Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings arise after that. It “makes sense” that offering thanks would/”should” bring a positive emotion, but that might not always be the case. I can be thankful for a moment, and still feel a shadow that someone or something wasn’t in it. That’s okay to feel and to acknowledge.

4) Take that moment and pray from it, journal about it, process it.

5) Look ahead towards tomorrow. That might mean just having hope that tomorrow can offer the same experience… or it might mean making a mental action step about how to encourage the same type of moment. (For instance, if you realized that your morning was super peaceful because of waking up to clean surfaces and no dishes, maybe resolve to do that more often. No guilt or commitment attached– just an observation and maybe a thought to try it again.)

Anyhoo, taking time to think big picture and reflecting is huge for me– especially when I sometimes tend to make lists that feel too large and daunting OR even make it a measurement of my worth. Here’s to noting the love for and in our homes, offering gratitude for it, and believing that we can have more of it in our moments. ❤

of mugs and memories and becoming.

This mug.

It’s from my college-teaching, single, pre-kid days.

It’s held countless cups of morning coffee, winter-day soups, and even a summer evening bowl of ice cream or two. (Or five. Or more. Ahem.)

It’s held pens and pencils and markers and a plant.

It was gingerly tucked away and packed as I moved offices and apartments and then houses, and came through them all— but not without a chip or two.

Gracious, isn’t this mug a symbol of life? Time passes, we hold things in and let things go. Our roles change. We move. We get chipped along the way. (Maybe even broken.)

We lose a bit of our shine, even. We get worn through the washing and handling of decades.

But there’s still beauty and worth in the worn— the gift of having memories, becoming memories, and showing up for so many kinds of moments.

Shiny and new might be nice… but there is nothing like having something faithful and familiar, that effortlessly provides comfort that only time and experience can bring.

Here’s to mugs, and memories, and sitting well with how time changes us into more comfortable, comforting versions of ourselves. 💛

L is for the way…

January is fading fast, friends.

It’s super crazy how fast the month has gone. The stores went straight from Christmas to Valentines two weeks ago, bless it!

And even though I’m not going to buy the pink-iced cupcakes on the endcaps at the store, I can still take a hint: it’s time to start preparing.

I’ll admit: we do like to stretch our holidays a little bit over here– even more so with this one, since we felt like Christmas fun was cut short. (Thanks, Covid.)

Anyhoo, I’ve gone ahead and compiled a week’s worth of activities and ideas. Use one or use them all– totally up to you! The underlines link up to videos, recipes, and suggested items to check out, in case you don’t have random craft stuff jammed in drawers like we do. Ha!

Want the actual links to work? Ha! Here’s a pdf download with all the clickables!

I’ll be bluntly honest; we might not do every thing I have on this little weekly calendar, but I do plan on doing several. A sure-thing though, is our “I love you” fondue. We have done that every Valentine’s Day for 3 years now, and we are keeping that for, oh, forever. (My husband and I don’t actually like to go out on the actual date because it’s just too crowded and all of that. Instead, we celebrate love together as a family on the 14th– and the hubs and I head out the weekend after, when it is a bit easier to find a sitter and a seat at a restaurant. 😉 #worksmarternotharder)

Here’s wishing you a day, a week, a whole month full of sweet moments and memories of loving well. ❤

memories > dreams

“It’s realizing that a great dream is not as good as a great memory. The dream can be had by anyone. The memory – must be made.” Eric Thomas

I will admit to the past couple of years being one of waving grief. With so much changing, and with the promise of normalcy being pushed back further and further, I’ve lamented the fact that maybe I won’t get to make the memories I want with my family the way that I dreamed. The Swiss Alps will be my own experience, and not a shared one. Florence, Italy will be my own words, and something I can share in snapshots and story snippets… not hand-in-hand. The Black Forest is some place I can tell my kids I’ve been, and the trees won’t be something we will see together.

It makes the world a bit sadder, and heaven a bit sweeter.

And it’s true— that my grief might all be for nothing and the cloud of COVID and all the junk surrounding it will lift, and we will have the most amazing field trip in the world when they are older.

But the point of this post isn’t really a lament… so let me get back on task.

The point of the post is exactly what the quotation says in the beginning… that memories made are more valuable, precious, deserving because they have existed beyond the walls of our imagination. We have made something real and weaved it in the fabric of our lives and our story— and the stories of the people that were with us.

Our little family was late to the mountains this year— we couldn’t escape earlier for several reasons. We bought apples in bags instead of picking them off trees. But that didn’t damper the beauty of the leaves around us, and the wonder of a random bamboo forest, the sweetness of fall treats, and the laughs over goofy pictures with street bear statues.

(On a side note, how are my children growing so fast?! I’m afraid to blink and breathe anymore.)

Here’s to dreams: that they become memories. But here’s to memories: that we make them in our backyards and slightly beyond… and delight in the simplicity and joy they bring to our moments.