Getting ready… one help at a time!

So, it’s the middle of July… which means it’s time for all the homeschool mommas to panic prepare for the next school year. If they haven’t already.

I’ve piecemealed our 1st grade year and am SUPER excited about the line-up! I’m going to share what we’ve decided to brave learn this year in a future post in the next couple of weeks, but I’m waiting for the books to come in the mail and want to share those in the post, too. I don’t know about my kids, but MAN… I get excited about “unboxing day!” We haven’t had too many around here really, because we are just getting started in our homeschooling journey with our oldest in 1st grade. But I already know I’m going to be a curriculum junkie. Pair that with our eclectic homeschool style, and that means #allthebooks.

We definitely know that our daily routine is going to include an enrichment basket, language arts, math and science and social studies loop. (Don’t know what a loop is? Read more about what it is and its perks here.)

I also read The Brave Learner a few months ago– going to re-read it again whenever I get in a “slump” I think– and definitely want to incorporate the Brave Writer/Learner lifestyle in our homeschool journey. The Brave Learner talks about some amazing “big picture” ideas, like enchantment, the superpowers of brave learning, the capacities for learning, the ports of entry for learning, etc. But Julie Bogart, the author of The Brave Learner, lists several practices that can weave the “atmosphere of education” (a phrase borrowed by Charlotte Mason) in the home.

I found that I do well when I can see things all in one space, versus flipping through and remembering through our school planner. So, I made this easy tool for me. I could spend a lot more time and, oh, actually use fancy fonts and a printer, but I decided to use markers instead. Ha!

Here’s what I did!

I wrote down the Brave Learning practices, and put it in a dry erase sleeve (all praise to the dollar section at Target with school stuff right now!) on one side…

and our schedule on the other side. You can see that our Enrichment Basket actually will have a loop component as well with composer and art(ist) study, habit training, growth mindset learning, handiwork/lifeskill, and nature study.

Theoretically, by the end of the week, the Brave Learning side should be completely checked off by MOST of the stuff we do during the week through school and life. If not, I’ll have an idea by the weekend what we need to make sure we incorporate over the weekend. I can see (non-academic) 1 on 1 time being something that doesn’t happen too much during the week that the weekend can offer us.

The Daily/Loop side will help me keep track of the loop easier than glances through the daily/weekly parts of the assignment book. Besides, there is something nice about crossing something off, versus just writing it down. Or is that just me?

I tapped a small picture nail in the side of our Billy book case, rigged a whiteboard marker, and made a little wall station for our list.

Just this little task-turned-tool being complete makes me feel more ready for the year ahead.

How about you? What little tools have you created to make your homeschooling journey a bit easier?

Maybe homemaking is a bit like writing.

So, I’m in the middle (chapter 10, to be precise) of reading Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family. And by “reading,” I mean “listening.” Ironically, the only way I can read right now is to be read-aloud to myself. 🙂 I much prefer reading an actual book. I love underlining and circling and underlining and dog-earring. I love writing my thoughts and mini-essays in the margins. I process and remember so much better that way.

But after going through a LOOOOONG season of not reading much of anything besides board books and debate briefs, I decided a subscription to Scribd was a small price to pay for my own mental health and investment in mother culture.

I have no regrets.

There are lots of great parts in Read-Aloud that I wish I had pushed the “bookmark” button for, but didn’t get to, (alas, the downfalls of listening and driving…) but this one I managed to scramble and tap the small icon before it moved on too much past the thought.

Mackenzie is quoting children/YA author, Katherine Paterson, when she writes,

“When I write a story it is not an attempt to make children good or wise. Nobody but God can do that, and even God doesn’t do it without the child’s cooperation. I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.”

These three sentences sponsored several thoughts.

First, I have written Christian drama, adapted books for stage, and even dabbled in children’s writing myself–although I want to do more. I have personally felt the conflict of wanting to make the best decision for the story, and the expectations of a conservative Christian audience to insert clear black and white messages and even work in a salvation prayer or a character hug somewhere. But you and I know that life isn’t like that. It isn’t black and white. We don’t know all the answers. And I don’t know why writers are expected to inject all of that in a play that’s 90 minutes long, or a story that’s barely 10 pages (in the case of a child’s picture book). I mean, we aren’t all script writers for Full House, you know?

Second, I love the implication here that, just like we shouldn’t expect an author to shoulder the burden of “making children good or wise,” we CAN expect THE Author to do that. I believe that each story has the Gospel in it– Creation can’t escape it. Every time a story has good triumph over evil… every time sin has a consequence… every time a character struggles to make the right choice… every time a princess is rescued or ANYONE is rescued– that’s Gospel. That’s Truth. That’s the Story that is inscribed on our hearts. I believe God can and does use story–all of it– to impress Truth on us. That’s His Craft. His Business. His Work.

The third thought Paterson’s words provoked had absolutely nothing to do with writing and everything to do with parenting. Ah, parenting. You know. That 24/7 job that, at least for me, takes 98% of my brain’s CPU when its in problem-solving mode.

I very much feel the heaviness in my heart when my children do things they aren’t supposed to do. The problem isn’t that they are “misbehaving” or “acting their age.” Children do silly things, have maturing brains, etc., etc. I get that.

My thing is, so often, I have a hard time discerning if something is “just a phase,” or the beginning of a horrible character flaw and sin habit. The first possibility requires more patience than anything else. The second requires intentional consistency that is exhausting, but necessary.

Unlike bookwriting, parenting does have more of a goal and obligation of imparting goodness and wisdom in their children. It is the parents responsibility to take care of their specifically-given children, unlike an author that writes for an age-group of people they don’t personally know.

But here is where I think the quotation hits home. Literally.

Like a story, I can’t make my children good and wise. I can’t. Sure, I can *try.* Sure, I can encourage it and make choices that help deposit those things in the heart of my children. And sure, I can do my best to NOT GET IN THE WAY of goodness and wisdom taking root. But the burden of squeezing in all goodness and wisdom in my children in the 18 years I have them? I can’t do that.

But you know what? Making my children good and wise isn’t my job. Because “nobody but God can do that.” And Paterson is also right– God waits for cooperation. A willingness. He waits for me– and will wait for my children– to come to Him, after feeling the tug and persuasiveness of His Love and Truth and promise of Rest.

And that leads us to the end of the quotation: “I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.

Recently, I have been full of my own wonderings of “what should I do?!” as a parent. I don’t want to under-react or over-react, so I don’t know how to ACT at all.

But when I heard this quotation, it was like a little light went off in my head and heart.

What if I tried, in my home, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls. That was it. To offer rest.

So when drama happens? Offer rest.

When they are tired? Offer rest.

When they are sad? Offer rest.

When they don’t know what to do? Offer rest.

And we might think to ourselves, “how much rest do they really need? How ‘weary’ can a 3 year old be?” (Or a 6 year old or 10 year old or 13 years old or 35 year old… <<ahem>>)

But weariness affects our children just as much as it affects us. They have their version. We have ours.

And in our weariness, what do we want most?

Rest.

Rest.

And think about it. Isn’t it life-Rest and soul-Rest that draws us to Jesus?

So, it makes me wonder. What would happen if I stopped trying so hard to “make” my children good and wise, and instead, focused on making a home that invited them to experience True rest?

Wouldn’t I be inviting them to Jesus?

Wouldn’t I be ushering them to the One who CAN make them Wise and Good and Whole and Well?

And in focusing on Rest for them, an interesting thing happens.

I find that I can find Rest, too.

A Teeny Pea, a Test, and a True Princess…

We are on week four of our Fairy Tale/Wonder Story Summer series! I’m loving getting to re-read the stories I grew up with. I’m noticing that some of the stories I know best are actually variations– not the originals. #learnsomethingneweveryday

Before we jump into the week, let’s see some Mother Culture!

MOTHER CULTURE
Some thing that I have missed since being in college/grad school/teaching college is learning alongside people my age/maturity level. Ha! I do work from home, and of course I teach– my own kiddos and a homeschool high school debate course during the academic year– but I really miss the peer component. Our community does have a lot to offer in regards to classes and ongoing interest education, and I definitely plan on doing more of that as my kids get older and don’t need me as much/as often (for things, like, for food. Literally. #nursingmom).

In the meantime, something that I like to do is to find a theme of something I want to learn/teach/make/do myself, and then open my home and do it with my friends (and their friends… it’s an open event for acquaintances!). My husband and I have done a night of culture, where we offered homemade kombucha flights in all flavors and I taught myself to make cheese and let people taste-test it. That was fun! I’ve also done a handlettering class, a succulent learning and potting event, etc. I firmly believe learning is essential, and that includes for us moms and adults!

I’m pretty passionate about natural living, and using things on my skin that aren’t full of junk. I also wanted to make a fun theme because my daughter really wanted to invite some of her little friends over to the event, too. So, I did a little research, got out my natural tools/supplies/ingredients, and made an mermaid make-and-take evening, concentrating on 3 summer pamper products– bath fizzies (like bath bombs, but in a powder for that you can sprinkle in a pool/tub), whipped body butter, and lip scrub. We made it in lots of colors, had fun jars for people to use and customize their products with, and put out some snacks for everyone to enjoy.

E and I even decorated with some original ocean-inspired chalkboards. Along with mermaids, she is kinda into those creepy deep sea fishes that look like something out of nightmares. You can see her drawing of a hatchet fish below. It is definitely cuter than the real thing.

Moms and daughters went around and made their items and then all the girls destroyed played in my daughter’s room while all the ladies talked life downstairs. It was a great night, and helped fill that adult conversation lack that every momma of littles has. I made a resource that has our event’s recipes in it and emailed it out to those who came. If you are interested in seeing what we did and want to try your own momma/daughter mermaid make and take, click here to get the recipes we used.

Note: the bath fizzies make for a super fun science lesson. #homeschoolbonus

On a completely unrelated note, a new subject I’m researching as a part of learning more about health and wellness as it relates to food is Intuitive Eating. There may or may not be a post on that at some point. 🙂

Alright, that’s mother culture for the week. Next stop: our wonder story!

DAY ONE
As with all of our Day One’s so far, we read the most original version of the fairy tale to get a “baseline” for the rest we will enjoy through the rest of the week.

It is Hans Christian Andersen that has the original Princess and the Pea story… and it’s actually pretty short and too the point. The last line made E balk a little bit. It reads:

“So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it. There, that is a true story.”

“Seriously?!” She asked, at the true story part.

In her defense, no other story declared itself to be true so far.

We were going to do an art project that day, but decided to take an impromptu trip to a local dairy farm instead. We saw the cows up close, and visited their little dairy and veggie storefront. Jbuddy really loved the cows and wanted to get up close and personal… which sparked an impromptu learning opportunity about what electricity is, how it is in some fences, and we shouldn’t touch them. #noERtripstoday

With fresh veggies, cheese, and milk in hand, we had a full day and the makings of dinner. We took the long way on the country roads back home, and honestly, it was delightful. I’m planning on returning and scheduling a farm tour when I can weave it in.

DAY TWO
In keeping with tradition, it was fairy tale variation day!

We actually couldn’t get our hands on very many books about the Pea story, so I looked up the books I wanted to get on YouTube and we “read” them together via watching them online. It isn’t ideal, as I love to read and work from a hard copy when we go over the story together, but if it can’t happen, this work-around is definitely better than nothing. We actually came across online versions to watch as well, and I particularly loved How It Should Have Ended’s version. More on that in a second… 😀

We read Princess Pigtoria and the Pea. We both loved the alliteration, the fact that the princess was a pig, and how <<spoiler>> she decided not to marry the prince because he was a jerk and a half… and instead, married a nice common pig and opened a pizza parlor. (Can you guess which letter was used for the alliteration? #prettyperceptible

The second variation was one produced by Cool School. E thought this one was the funniest one, and she actually borrowed one of the lines from their version to put in her own. The voice of the princess when she finally appeared just cracked me up!

The third story was fun, as the point of view of the tale was from the PEA, versus the normally 3rd person narrator. This story, called The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be, gave E and me an excellent opportunity to talk about point of view and how each person in a story–and in life– have their own way of looking at things.

Note: E did NOT like the mother’s eyes in this story. I have to admit; it is an odd choice for a children’s book. #nopeasforeyesplease

And last, but not least, is my favorite version, The How it Should Have Ended for Kids one. It didn’t escape me when I read the original version and most of the more common variations that the princess had to be tested for her purity and worth before being allowed to married the prince, but yet the worth of the prince to have HER wasn’t really questioned. Although I don’t want to get into feminist theory with my 6 year old– both the pros AND the cons– I don’t mind her learning sooner rather than later that stories/messages communicate more than what you might notice at first reading/hearing.

Overall, I felt like this week’s versions gave us a lot of things to think about, and I can see how they gave her ideas– and freedom– to get creative on her own version by the end of the week.

DAY THREE
Remember that craft we were supposed to do on day one? Yep, it made it’s appearance here. #betterlatethannever

What was nice about this activity is we practiced math with it as well. I asked her how many mattresses the original story used, and she answered twenty. So, she cut 20 “mattresses” out, and we used them to discuss and practice skip counting by 4s and 5s and did some adding and subtracting before gluing them onto our bed.

She drew the princess with “super crazy hair” because she was tossing and turning all night, “and everyone knows that you get crazy hair when that happens.” In the end, she made a little video explaining her art and narrating the story to me using her piece.

She likes math and crafts, so she enjoyed making something so large. It’s now a mural on her wall in her bedroom. Ha!

DAY FOUR
As always, our last day with our Weekly Wonder Story is spent creating our own. This time, we took Babykins with us on our momma/daughter writing date. E likes it when it is “all of us girls.” We hit Target first and did some father’s day shopping… and decided to get some dollar sunglasses from the dollar section. This is the first time Babykins has worn a bonnet and sunglasses (let alone star ones), and I just think she looks so incredibly cute! #biasedbutidontcare

Aaaaaand lucky us, our Target has a Starbucks, so we did our wonder writing right there. 🙂 I haven’t shared any of E’s actual wonder stories with you so far, but I will this week. All ideas are her own; I have not coached her in any way.


The Princess and the Pea – An Original “E” Wonder Story


Once upon a time, there was a Princess. The Princess wanted to get married. She really wanted to marry somene. So she looked up the princes near her. But the 1st prince was too short. The 2nd prince was too tall. The 3rd prince she looked up was too furry. She found a 4th prince and asked him, “do you like dogs or cats?” The prince replied, “I like hamsters.” She didn’t like that so she said, “Next!”

She talked to a 5th prince. And she said to him, “Do you like dogs or cats?” And the prince replied, “dogs!” She liked that. Then the princess said, “You’re the one!”

Then she whispered to herself, “if he’s really a prince, I should test him to be sure. I’m gonna have him sleep on lots of mattresses– like 100, because the castle is super tall. Then I’m gonna put a pea under all the mattresses. He will feel the pea if he’s a real prince.”

Then the cooker names Baileywick cooked a delicious dinner made of chicken and pasta. Then after all that chicken and all that pasta, the prince was tired and said, “Where’ my room?”

Then the princess sighed, “It’s in the guest room,” and she said, “Baileywick!” And Baileywick came right away.


And Baileywick showed the Prince right where the guest room was.


Then the prince said, “Ooooooooooooh. I’m really tired!” And he went to go to sleep right away. So he climbed a latter. Up up up he went!


Then the Princess said to herself again, “If he is definitely a prince, he will feel that pea!”


And the Princess got a dessert and it was called a smoothie.


The Prince feeled the pea.


Then the Princess went upstairs to her bedroom and fell fast asleep and woke up in the morning. She called Baileywick and Baileywick came right away and made breakfast.


The Princess had breakfast with the Prince. She realized that he didn’t sleep a wink so he must be a real prince. So they got married right away and lived happily ever after.


I must admit, I love how she switched the roles of the prince and the princess. As a sidenote: I’m not sure what she meant when the 3rd prince was too “furry” except she saw a man with a lot of body hair without a shirt on doing yard work in our neighborhood the other day and seemed kind of shocked. Ha!

And that about wraps up our week! Hope you enjoyed another week’s worth of ideas and links and seeing how our Wonder project is working for us!

Next up: The Ugly Duckling!

This week was all about the Bears… 3 of them!

Long hair story? Check! Amphibian tale? Check!

Onward to carnivorous woodland animals!

But first…

MOTHER CULTURE
This week wasn’t a normal week, in the fact that there was both a national holiday AND a play date in it… so I didn’t get as much time to listen to podcasts or read as I wanted. Mainly, I spent a few minutes here and there in the Flip to Fun-Schooling book. I found the “Emotion and Discovery” part interesting, as I feel it details why story is so incredibly good at teaching: a well-crafted tale both expresses and fosters feelings while plot surprises and characters teach truth. I like the following excerpt (and found it to overlap an idea that I also enjoyed from Bogart’s The Brave Learner):

“When a child is discovering new information, try to help them to learn in an emotional way so they will have a stronger memory of the information. Toss out learning materials that are lifeless and dull; they are not worth the time and investment. If you must use dull learning materials, play happy music in the background, add colors to the worksheets, and eat a yummy snack… The emotional stimulation will spark memory. If your child is bored and dreads school time, something is wrong with the method.” (Sarah Janisse Brown)

I also spent time this week creating, since I’m participating in a craft swap during the weekend. Sometimes Mother Culture isn’t just fulfilling your own need for knowledge, but also your need to invest in your interests and creative side, too. 🙂

Alright, Mother Culture done! Let’s move on to our week!

Like I mentioned before, this week was different because of our schedule, so we had 3 days of Three Bear fun instead of the four days like the other fairy tales so far. But hey, 3 bears… 3 days. It works.

DAY ONE
This day, we read the original Three Bears story– which doesn’t even have Goldilocks in it! Instead of a cute little girl with golden curls, we have a old hag. Fun fact: Goldilocks didn’t show up in the story until 12 years after the first published version of the story was printed. Also, the three bears are still very different in size as “a Little, Small, Wee Bear … a Middle-sized Bear … and a Great, Huge Bear,” but were not Mama, Papa, and Baby Bear. They were three (presumably male) bears with no known relation.

Something that E found humorous but also judged pretty harshly was the fact that the old woman cussed. Now, the story doesn’t come out and actually give any words… but when the woman broke into the bears’ home and ate a bite of cold porridge, she “said a bad word” at it’s temperature… and did the same when she got to the middle bowl. When she ate the smallest bowl of appropriately cooled porridge, she ate it, but then said a bad word anyway, because the bowl was too small and she wanted more. Just saying that the woman said a bad word (without saying an actual one) was shocking to E, and sealed the deal in her mind that the woman was bad– as if peeking in the windows and breaking in a house didn’t make her suspect already. Ha!

On day one, we also went ahead and had our movie time. The past couple of weeks we have used Disney’s versions for the cinema portion of our fairy tale week, but since there is no animated feature-length one, we decided on The Faerie Tale’s Theatre version.

I had perused it earlier in the week, and was resigned to the fact that E and Jbuddy was probably not going to find it as enthralling as a Disney movie, but I was soooo wrong. They both didn’t move for the almost 50 minute live version of this tale! So there you go! We found the whole thing on YouTube and Amazon. You can definitely tell it is an older flick, not just because of the fact it looks very VHS-ey (I just made that an adjective, I think), but because John Lithgow has brown hair!

DAY TWO
We did a little variation of what we have done in the weeks past. Instead of doing different country’s/culture’s versions, we pulled a few modern adaptations to read and get inspired by!

I’ll go in reverse-favorite order.

I used my Scribd account to pull up the most modern of the versions, Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks! In this version, Goldilocks and Sam (the baby bear) are friends, and social media takes a strong front seat as the reason why Goldilocks broke into the house. She was dared to do so by Red Riding Hood, and uses selfies as proof that she ate oatmeal, sat in chairs, etc. My 6 year old liked the friendship twist to this story, and I see the merit in the talking about point of view (as the story was told by Baby Bear), but overall, I thought the moral tone and the actual tone left much to be desired.

On to a much better version!

I found Somebody and the Three Blairs to be delightful! The human Blair family takes the place of the traditional bears, and a curious bear makes its way into *their* home instead.

The swaps are clever and E enjoyed seeing the bear try and figure out the human surroundings while staying consistent to the Three Bear structure.

If you don’t have the book but want to hear the story, there are several YouTube clips available to “read” it, including this one!

Last, but not least, is Mo Willem’s version Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. E LOVES Mo Willem’s books, and definitely enjoys his collection of easy readers with Elephant and Piggie. She can read them on her own, and loves the comic-booklike speech bubbles. She reads the books like a play, and does her own character voices, even if she hesitant to read other books independently right now.

Personally, I find Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs to be brilliant. The illustrations have several jokes woven throughout the scenes, and the narrator is so incredibly funny (we’d expect nothing less from Willem). The thing I love the most: the moral. It is stated at the end of the story, when Goldilocks realizes she is definitely NOT at a bear’s house, so she escapes out the back door.

“If you find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”

THAT.

THAT!

Isn’t that a moral that we want our kids to know and believe and live by? At six, at sixteen, at 26, at 66??? It is never too late to leave something that is wrong and run towards what you know is right. I love it!

Again, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yourself, YouTube can help you out. This reading is great, because she actually points out some of the illustration gems.

I intended to do a Three Bears STEM/craft project on this day, but didn’t get around to it. If you want to, though, be my guest! I’d love to see the results in the comments! 🙂

DAY THREE
On this morning, Jbuddy wanted in on some Three Bears action and wanted something sensory… so I poured out some uncooked bear breakfast and gave him a scoop– after washing his hands, of course. 🙂 He loves being an excavator, and had a blast. Once he was done and moved on to another thing, E had to get in on the action.

We wrapped up the week with a Mommy/Daughter writing date. I wasn’t able to swing it last time, but was glad I was able to this week. We went and got a treat and drinks and played a game before doing the fun work of writing.

The game was actually to cement b/d identification, which she has down pretty well at this point. It’s an easy flash card-type game to do and is based off of memory. We had a stack of b’s and d’s, and then a bunch of cards with pictures on them, facedown. You turn up a card and the picture needs to begin with the same sound as the letter you have. If it doesn’t, you turn the card back over and remember it for when you have a different letter.

The game came from The Good and the Beautiful’s K LA book. I have two copies of the book the game came from: the beautiful one they sent, and the one I had printed off cheaply for her to do all the actual work in. The game’s cards would be MUCH better quality if I had cut them from the book that was sent, and not the cheap one, but it doesn’t matter. Note: if you are interested in The Good and the Beautiful’s LA curriculum, you can download it FOR FREE from levels 1-5, which is amazing! Even if you are looking for a strong supplement and don’t want to use the whole thing, you can’t argue with free!

After the game, we got down to writing. She decided that her name would be subbed for Goldilock’s… so I was a bit disappointed that the parents died by sentence 3. (Well then.) I have to give it to her… it definitely makes Goldilock’s a much more sympathetic character that way. The bears came home right after E ate the porridge, which caused her to bypass the chairs, drink Papa bear’s drink that was sitting on the stairs, before hiding in the bedroom upstairs.

Each week, there is a part of the story she is writing that I can’t help but almost laugh outloud at… that’s if I manage to keep it in. This week’s moment was when Papa Bear goes up the stiars by himself to check out the intruder situation, and realizes that someone has taken a drink out of his cup on the stair.

He gets angry and declares, “Somebody has been drinking my drink!” with such passion that Momma Bear comes and said (and a quote) “Come now! Take a deep breath, honey!” HA! (Note: if this were an accurate portrayal of real life, it would have been the Momma Bear’s drink that would have been drunk because mothersaren’tallowedtohavedrinkswithouteachchildtaking15sipsapiece. At least in my house.)

The story ends with Papa and Momma Bear carrying E to another person’s house that conveniently is her aunt. So E lives with her aunt and uncle and cousin and live happily ever after, the end.

You can see a pic of E being carried away from the Bear’s abode and eventually to her aunt’s…

So, even though we didn’t get all I wanted to done, it was still a great week! I have another awesome original E wonder story to add to my collection.

Next stop? Wonder week 4!

Pucker up! It’s Frog Prince week!

This is our frog after being kissed… Ha!

Rapunzel in the books, this part of a Fairytale/Wonder Story project brought all things amphibian!

Before we jump into what we did as a family this week, let’s talk about…

MOTHER CULTURE
These podcasts were a great reminder about why we as parents and educators should read stories and fiction to our kids– and not just bombard their little brains with facts.

Both of these men talk about the power of story- how a story possesses “a way of understanding what is true that you can’t understand any other way” (Peterson). SD Smith is the author of the best-selling Ember series, and I love the soundbite he gives about the purpose of his stories in this little clip.

Honestly, I have gotten out of the habit of reading fiction myself, as I’ve been concentrating on personal development reading, education materials, research for other things kid and home related. These podcasts reminded me that I need to use my Scribd account for more make-believe in my own reading repertoire.

I am also re-listening to Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It’s got so many great truths in there! If you want to give a summary a try before jumping in, watch this visual one. It breaks it down really well… but you’ll have to read/listen to the book to get all the quotables. And there are a lot!

Now onto the week!

DAY ONE
Just like our Rapunzel week, Day 1 was all about introduction. We read the most “well-known” version of the story as recorded by the Grimm Brother’s.

Honestly, the only thing E knows about the Frog Prince story is the snippets she has heard from her friends telling her about the Princess and the Frog (which we watch during our movie time on Day 3), so she was quite surprised that in the Grimm version, the princess gets so annoyed by the frog that she throws him against the wall.

E’s response? “Well. That wasn’t very nice.”

Nope, I didn’t think so either. And who knew a wall slam could turn you back into royalty… but better an unfriendly hurl to make you a prince than a beheading as in other versions, but I digress.

E wasn’t really sure why the prince wanted to marry the princess after she had broken her promise AND wasn’t kind to him, but that’s the Wonder part of this story, I guess.

She did think that the servant, Heinrich, at the end was very kind and was glad his heart wasn’t bound by metal bands anymore.

A Pebble Toad!

We decided to learn more about frogs at E’s request, so we watched “Reptiles and Amphibians,” a part of the Life documentary series on Netflix. (This corresponded well with a page in her funschooling book, asking her to watch something educational or a documentary to write about. Two birds, one stone!) An interesting tidbit: Did you know there is such a thing called a Pebble Toad? The thing is slate-looking, and when it is escaping from a predator, it stiffens and escapes by falling away like a small rock. Fascinating, yes?

DAY TWO
Culture story day! We read 3 different Frog Story versions: one from Hungary, one from Scotland, and one from England. They had some variety, but not as much as the Rapunzel versions. Something we did this week that we didn’t do last week was actually look up the countries that the stories were from and some iconic places from each. E especially loved the castle in Hungary, and we talked about whether or not the US has castles. The closest one to us is the Biltmore Estate, a 250 room castle in Asheville, NC… which we might have to visit this summer sometime.

#7 is my personal favorite. 🙂

While reading our three versions, E colored/designed some princess dresses in her Princess funschooling journal. When she was done, we numbered them and I took a picture of them and put them on facebook, asking my friends to vote on which one was their favorite. This poll comes in handy later in the week!

After we get done reading the versions, we discuss our favorite. Mine ended up being the Scottish version, as the daughter was selfless in giving up her golden ring to get healing water from The Well of True Water to make her mother better. E’s favorite was the English one, because she liked learning how to stop a sieve from leaking water and because the frog kept singing a song, calling the girl “my hinny my heart.” At first, we thought it was “heinie” and a little research revealed that a hinny is a variation of a mule. Who knew? E was a little disappointed, because the song is funnier when she thought it was heinie. Ha!

After we got done reading and designing princess dresses, we decided to play “Pin the Kiss on the Frog.” This, of course, required lipstick and our best puckers.

Our buddy, Jboy, and baby L were both down for a nap… so it was just E and me. We used a hair band as a makeshift blindfold, taped our hand-drawn frog to a window, and started planting our kisses to see who got the closest to hitting the mouth-mark.

I’m sure people can get fancier by printing out a poster frog and laminating it and having a legit blindfold, but eh. Sometimes one must fly by the seat of their proverbial pants, no?

We gave the frog two puckers a piece and both decided it was a tie. 🙂

Shortly after we got done kissing our frog, Jboy was ready to join us, so we did some table time. E played with a felt fairy tale set that I got at Target forever ago that I had tucked away… and Jboy played with pebbles. It would sound all put-together to say that I planned it to go along with the fact that there are pebble frogs or that the well is made out of rocks or that frogs are often in creeks, so that’s why we played with small stones.

But really, it was just because Jboy likes playing with pebbles and pretending cups and bowls are excavators. Just keeping it real here, folks. Ha!

DAY THREE
Movie day! So we AppleTVed Disney’s The Princess and the Frog as our last Frog prince version, like we did in the Rapunzel week. The kids loved making the living room a movie theater last week, so they did it again for this week’s feature length film. Not as many animals made it to the theater this time, but Baby L was delighted to get to play during the first few songs.

I hadn’t seen it myself, and I normally do preview things for the kids, but typically Disney movies I feel are still primarily safe. I’ll be honest; I probably would have made a different choice for a frog movie if I had realized that the voo-doo element was going to be so strong. I’m glad I was in the room to offer explanations and talk through some parts in the moment. Jboy was unphased by it, but E is sensitive to scary parts, and she did NOT care for the shadows and creepy music during those sections.

I don’t necessarily regret watching it though. It led to a Big Juicy Conversation about magic. What it is. How it shows up in fairy tales. How Mama Odie’s magic was different than the Shadowman’s. White/light/good magic vs. bad/dark. Of course the conversation wasn’t as in depth as one day I hope it will be (there’s a difference between 6 and 16…); but I do very much hope that these small conversations here and there are just foreshadowings of on-going lovely, deeper ones to come.

We finished our fairy time using our facebook votes from Day 2 to make our very first graph! It seemed a great way to use this first Math page in her journal. According to the votes, #4 was the winner by one vote, with #3 and #5 tying for 2nd. E felt badly for the “underdog” dresses, and used her vote for #6, while convincing me to use mine for #2. While I’m typically a “vote your conscience” kinda gal, I think it was okay to make an exception this time. 😉

DAY FOUR
So we weren’t able to sneak in a momma/daughter date for our writing time this week, but I’m really going to try and make that a priority if we can. Our time was still nice, although we were interrupted by siblings during the process. E’s ideas came faster this week. I’m wondering if it is because we’ve done it already, so she knew what was going to happen; but I did tell her in the morning it was Wonder Writing day, so to start thinking about how she wanted her version to go. Maybe a head’s up combined with experience worked well for her.

Like last week’s wonder, you can definitely see aspects of several versions weaved in, but… this girl isn’t afraid to spin all sorts of other things in, too. (Including an R2D2 sidekick to the magician!) Interesting thing: her Rapunzel story and her Frog Prince both has seismic activity in them. I guess her science memory work is subconsciously emerging in her fairy world. Ha! Poor Rapunzel had colliding islands, and the Frog Prince as an earthquake which creates a chasm from which the magician comes out. So there’s definitely some tectonic plate problems going on.

I will say that I loved seeing some of our white/black magic conversation from earlier sneak into her story. At the end of her wonder, no one kisses anyone to break any spells, but everyone turns back into humans because “black magic doesn’t last forever.”

Isn’t that true? Darkness and the curse that we are under in the real world won’t and can’t last forever. I love how that Truth emerges in the most unlikely of places… like a 6 year old’s quirky version of a prince-and-girl-turned-frog-and-back-again.

Now, on to our Wonder #3!

A Week of Rapunzel!

This week was our official start of Fairy Tale funschool and we had a wonderful time! (To read about the resources we are using, etc., check out this post.)

MOTHER CULTURE
Something that I absolutely LOVE from Charlotte Mason and echoed in contemporary ideas like Mom’s Morning basket and Brave Learner’s “awesome adult” chapter is the fact that enrichment for you as teacher/mom/fellow braver learner is so incredibly important.

So, whenever it applies, I’m going to include what *I* did to prepare/enrich myself before jumping into the week. 🙂

The weekend before we started Rapunzel, I road-mapped what we would probably cover when– but then I jumped into some amazing podcasts that I heard about to get me geared up.

My undergrad and Master’s degrees are in performing arts and English, so I’m not a stranger to the importance of myth and story to cultures, history, the arts, etc. But even with my degrees and background, these two podcasts by Angelina Stanford were amazing!

I HIGHLY recommend you listen to them! They are so thought-rich and inspiring!

There are a few more podcasts I have on a list for this coming weekend, and I’ll share them another time.

Now that we are done with the dose of Mother Culture, let’s move on to what we actually did over our 4 day week.

DAY ONE
E was super excited for Monday to come! We began the morning with a trip to the zoo– which wasn’t Rapunzel-related at all. But playgrounds, animals, and picnics with siblings and a cute cousin isn’t a terrible way to start summer/funschooling. 🙂

In the afternoon, we talked about what fairy tales are and that they HAVE to have a happy ending or they aren’t a true fairy tale. (That’s the difference between fairy tales and cautionary ones.) We talked about how they used to be called Wonder Stories which eventually evolved into “fairy tales,” as more and more stories included fairies and wands, etc.

These are some “Wonder Woods”– my version of Story Stones. I have a craft swap coming up in June, and all the talk of tales inspired me to make these for it!

Next, we read the “original” Rapunzel story, as found in Andrew Lang’s, The Red Fairy Book. It was the first time she had heard about the prince falling from the window and the thorns gauging out his eyes and how tears from your true love can apparently fix that. (A great quotation from her was, “I thought that you only got one set of eyes…” :D)

It was a good introductory day, and definitely set the stage for the week.

DAY TWO
I’ll have to be honest, *I* was sooo looking forward to this day!

We began the day by starting the baking process of “Rapunzel bread.” (Otherwise known as challah bread. We made this recipe from http://www.savortheflavor.com.

We wove in some math while using the scale to measure the ingredients in grams (versus measuring cups like we normally do) and decided to knead it by hand instead of pulling out the kitchenaid. Does that count as P.E.??? Ha! (Those pioneer women must have been beasts!)

It rose well, we beat it down, and then we followed instructions on how to plait it. E got the pattern down quickly (more math?)… and we think it turned out fantastically!

During the afternoon, we read three different culture’s versions of the Rapunzel story: the German, Filipino, and Italian adaptations. The most familiar was the German one… and the Filipino and Italian ones were so interesting and different! We had a great Big Juicy Conversation about how the versions were alike and how they were different, and then we voted on which one was our favorite.

We both picked the Italian version! The magic gallnuts that saved Petrosinella from the ogress made the story extra exciting!

Fun fact: Petrosinella means “parsley” in Italian, and is a change from the rampion from which Rapunzel was named. In the Italian version, not only did the mother steal parsley (which is why she had to give up her child), but the baby girl was also born with a sprig of parsley on her chest. Thereyago.

DAY THREE
We moved on from the written renditions of Rapunzel and decided to watch Disney’s Tangled to compare to the four different versions from Day 1 and 2. There’s enough funny physical humor in it to amuse J (my 3 year old boy) along with E. The baby even woke up half-way through and seemed enchanted by it as well.

E decided to get out pillows and stuffed animals and turn our living room into a theatre. So of course, we had to bring out some popcorn and make it official. I’m not sure why E decided to wear a cloth easter basket on her head during the Tangled debut at our home, but I’m sure it felt right.

It’s said that experts on Wonder Stories/Fairy Tales/Myths didn’t care for the animated versions, as they project the ideas that attractive people are typically good and ugly/unattractive people are typically bad, and generally ignore the tradition of the tales. (Angelina Stanford in the Myth podcast linked above gives an excellent example about how the dwarves– which typically represent wisdom– are dumbed down and made clowns in Disney’s Snow White. Tolkien and Lewis lovers might find this tidbit interesting: supposedly, the two friends bought tickets to see Snow White, went together, and didn’t like it. I don’t know about you, but the thought of the two of them going to the movies and talking themes, plot points, and likes/dislikes like people do now about Marvel’s Endgame just kind of blows my mind a little.)

I had seen Tangled a long time ago when it first came out (9 years ago?!?! Whatthewhat!), but the kids hadn’t– and I had forgotten about Eugene dying at the end. When we watched it, I was afraid that E would get upset because she’s typically sensitive to when characters she likes gets hurt, let alone completely perish. But she didn’t seem phased by it.

When Flynn cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and the way for him to get well disappears, E gasped, but recovered quickly and turned to me and said, “It’s gonna be okay, Mommy.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because see her eyes filling up with tears? Remember, they are magic!”

Of course, they were.

I loved seeing her take a common thread from the Rapunzel stories we read and apply them to this version, although the circumstances were different. Instead of restoring sight, the tears of Tangled’s Rapunzel restored life. (Another interesting sidenote: not every Rapunzel story blinds the prince. It is a plot point in Lang’s version and in the German version… which actually might be the same? Lang collected most of the fairy tales from the oral traditions of Germany, Italy, and France… so his version very well could be the German, as they are super similar.)

We finished up the day talking about what all the Rapunzel versions had in common and what they didn’t. (We did that some on Day 2, but she wanted to revisit it after watching Tangled.) Something E noticed about all of them were that they all had towers, they all had a villain, that the villain was punished (although I do disagree with that a little bit– in the Lang and German versions, it doesn’t actually punish the witch. The stories just kind of ignore her once Rapunzel and the prince reunite… but I’m not going to “correct” her observation), and that each ending had a happily ever after.

The other things like the iconic long hair, magic tears, stolen vegetables, etc., weren’t actually common among all the stories, which I found interesting.

DAY FOUR
This was our final day with the Rapunzel part of our fairy tale/wonder project… and it was my absolute favorite day with E during the week.

Day 4 ended up falling on Friday, which is music day for E and for Jboy. Most of our day was out-and-about, and frankly, a bit on the rough side. (I’m employing understatement here. Sheesh.)

By the time we got home and dinner was made, honestly, I was feeling D.O.N.E. (Anyone else been there?) E had been asking for some momma/daughter time and even though I felt like just hiding in my master bathroom, I decided to take my girlie and my notebook and head to a coffee shop to do our writing together. I figured it would give her the time she was asking for, it would finish up our week, and maybe the change in scenery would reset all of our moods.

It worked wonderfully.

I am just so pleased and proud of the Rapunzel version she came up with at the end of our date! We started with a treat– and coffee for me– and spent an hour or so letting her think about and brainstorm how she wanted her story to go. She talked it out, I wrote it out, and let her use the Rocketbook to illustrate it. If you haven’t heard of the Rocketbook, check it out! E loves drawing in it, and I love that I can directly send her drawings and handwriting to her homeschool file on Google Drive. And the pages? Completely erasable, so they can keep up with all her doodles. They are in black and white, so once we print the story and illustration out, she can color on it like a coloring sheet.

Her version of Rapunzel? Definitely imaginative, and I’ll be honest; there were several times I had to keep my “straight face” on. Particularly when the farmer (yes, farmer) sees the tower and says, “This is the life I need.” And a horse tries to throw her “calf” in the tower with Rapunzel, but it doesn’t work… and finally, the farmer’s neighbor man rescues her. At one point in the story, Rapunzel is eight, and a few sentences later, she is 25. The explanation? “She was 25 now, because time flies when you are having fun.” Ohmyhead!

We spent the last 20 minutes or so of our momma/daughter writing date discussing what’s next: the Frog Prince. She had some ideas to bring to the table, such as making a crown for our frog puppet and putting on a show and having another movie day.

She’s looking forward to next week already, and I have to admit…

I am, too.

Ever-fixed thanks.

I would like to say that “in everything, I give thanks.”

But both heaven and my husband know that’s not true.

I’m the solve-a-problem-by-preventing-it type… which means you actually have to pre-think problems in your head to solve them before they start. I am fairly decent at doing this for the day-in, day-out stuff.  Packed diaper bags.  Pre-snacked children.  Plenty of gas in the car.  Electronic tickets screen-shot vs. trusting wifi to open the email when I need them.

I’ve saved myself a lot of angst with this pre-thinking thing I do.

But you see, this Forethought Super-power comes at a price.

It requires I focus on the “bad” more than the “good.” The negative “what-if.”

And often, it’s hard to be thankful for bad.

This labeling of something “bad” assumes, of course, that you actually know what “bad” is… but can we all admit that we have a hard time knowing which is which sometimes?  Things that look bad on the surface can actually be good… and the assumed good can sometimes be bad.  And then there’s a whole bunch of morally gray areas in life that no one can really pin down this side of heaven.

It’s confusing.

But in this verse?  There is no question.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.

What He does is good.

We agree with that in the pews on Sunday and some people give a hardy “amen,” but can we all also admit that it’s hard to reconcile that with junkie stuff that happens?  When tragedy strikes?  When betrayals hit close to home?  When sickness sweeps in?  When fear takes hold?  When loved ones die?

I’ve never been one to question God’s power.  

But I’ll fully confess to questioning His Goodness.  More times than I care to admit.

But last night, as I read this verse, something struck me.

It’s easy to read the phrases of this passage all disjointed and disconnected… like David was just sitting there going, “this truth sounds good.  Oh, and this truth sounds good.  I’ll just smoosh them together in a verse, I think.”

That’s not the way poetry— specifically Hebrew poetry— works.  There is parallelism and cause and effect.  We see that all over the psalms.

So here we go.  

Give thanks to the Lord.

Why?

Because He is good.

Why?

Because *His love endures forever.*

We like to believe that the love on this earth is eternal, don’t we?  I say to my husband and my children “I will always love you” and I mean it more than I mean anything.  I can’t imagine the love I feel for them breaking.  My heart may break in the loving, but my love?  Surely, that will be steadfast.

We want that to be true with every fiber of our beings; but there are no guarantees with love or life.  Whereas I believe that love is a choice, and we need to choose it every day, and we will always keep choosing it… the fact of the matter is, we do stop loving sometimes.  We claim to love people, but hurt them.  We choose ourselves over the object of our love, and harm the bonds between us.  We break promises.  We break vows.  We break hearts.

But not Him.

We can always give thanks, not because He does good (He does).  Not because He is good (He is).

But because He, as Love, endures FOREVER. And forever, loves us perfectly.

With Jesus, there is no altering, when alteration finds.

There is no bending with the remover to remove.

He, as Love, is ever-fixed…