Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What To Read this Lent through Pentecost

This is your yearly reminder to read The Divine Comedy. ;)  You would expect nothing less from me, but why? 

This impressive literary classic is more than you might think.  Yes, Dante writes a image of Hell,  but in the as Dorothy Sayers' quips to only read the Inferno, is like knowing Paris by the sewer system. I couldn't agree more.  It would be as to acknowledge your shortcomings this Ash Wednesday and not work on them in Lent. This book is Dante's sharing of a personal Lenten journey. 

Lent is a time to face our own personal humanity and work on our journey to heaven.   Lent is the time when we acknowledge that we sometimes get lost and need to find our way back to God.  This is exactly the journey of The Divine Comedy.

In Inferno Dante examines the sins we are guilty of and more importantly gives us a lens through which we can examine our own culpability in those sins.  In Purgatory, we are asked to repent and get our hearts right for Heaven. In Paradise are inspired by the eternal Love and life examples we are given. 

What can a man from 700 years ago know of a woman's struggle or a millennial's challenges?  You would be surprised how universal the challenge of being human truly is. 

So, it matters not the translation you use, but the effort you make in personally reflecting.  I invite you to journey with me this Lent and Easter season through Hell and into Purgatory and finally arrive in Heaven.  Starting on Ash Wednesday, we will read about a Canto a Day until we finish on Pentecost.

Notes for those ready to take up the challenge:
I personally love the Anthony Esolen translations from Modern Library Classics: Inferno; Purgatory; and Paradise.  They are easily read and have a wonderful poetic quality like the original.  I also appreciate the footnotes being kept to a minimum. The Longfellow, Musa , Ciardi, and Hollander translations are all very good as well.  They are also often found free or cheaply on Kindle. 
I also want to encourage you to not get bogged down in the footnotes, only read if you feel you need to. 
I will be creating an group on FB that is for those who want to join the Canto conversations.  Contact me on FB if you want to join!  A Canto a day only takes about 10-15 minutes at most!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Four Lessons from 2016

Although we are over a month into 2017, I think it is important to constantly learn from your own experiences. Overall, I learned I need to take care of myself. As moms, we all hear that we need to make time for ourselves, but making time is hard. For myself, I don't need vacations away from my kids or husband, but small time where I know I am nourishing my own soul. These four things made the biggest difference in my year. 

I must make time to read for me! Books and audiobooks are just a joy for me! I love sharing books with my children, but I need to read what interests and inspires me as well.

I have found endless encouragement for reading at the Potato Peel Book Community. It is a wonderful community of readers who love good literature and not what is currently on the Top 10 list. 

I also love listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast. There is no judgement about what you like to read but great suggestions for all types of readers. I love hearing why people read, what they want different in their reading life and the reading struggles we all face. 

Between the Potato Peel Book Community and What Should I Read Next, I find myself constantly inspired to continue to read and encouraged in my efforts.

Related imageArtistic Expression
I need to be creative in some way. I love to paint, but it is time consuming.  This year, I taught myself to crochet. I now have a portable, artistic hobby that allows me to create while watching movies, listening to kids read, or at meetings.This is a total life changing win for me!

Challenge Myself
It is constantly important to challenge yourself. For me, planning, being consistent and organized THAT is the challenge. 

I was fortunate enough to participate in a Homeschool Boot Camp run by Pam Barnhill. I realized there that for me, my own planning and consistency is the key to success for myself, my kids and homeschool. Therefore, consistent is my word for the year! Challenge accepted! 

Encourage Myself with Instagram Gratitude
Instagram can help you see your own world a little differently. A few days distance with a filter and those crazy moments of life are beautiful! I love looking back at my own feed, because I have Instagram for me. It's a way to journal my life and how I see it. It helps me see beauty around me. I grown in gratitude and appreciation for my own life, looking at my Instagram past. 

A I look at 2017, I'm excited to continue with these and learn even more! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017


When I first read about choosing a Word for the Year, I thought it was a little odd or confining.  I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, so this word seemed like a different resolution.  Yet, this Word of the Year concept was one I kept running into.

I kept thinking, "No, I am working on too much to confine myself to one word and for a year."  Then, I realized there was a simple word that embodied all the areas which I needed to work on: Consistent.

Webster's definition of consistent is a person, behavior or process unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time. 

That is what I want to be! 

A parent who is consistent in my love and support, expectations, standards and reactions.

A homeschool teacher who is consistent not only in the execution of my lessons and philosophy, but in the standards and availability of assistance.

A homemaker who cheerfully does those daily chores with great love.

A wife who makes time for our relationship and value it above all others. 

A woman who nourishes my soul with reading and writing, improves myself with exercise, and makes time for the laughter and blessings of friends. 

In all of these areas, I will try to be consistent. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Searching for Heros

I was recently listening to Carole Joy Seide on The Read-A-Loud Revival Podcast.  She was talking about some history books that may seem out of date.  It was an interesting perspective I haven't considered before. 

In it, she said she didn't mind that the books weren't considered historically accurate because they were beautiful and focused on the heroic values of our ancestors. 

I admit that I agreed.  I found myself nodding in agreement to the idea that if we "tear down" those heroes our children have no heroic ideals to live up to. 

I often struggle with this when considering Columbus.  It makes me cringe when friends claim there is no historical reason to study him.  Despite my growing up with the image of Columbus as a hero, I am no longer naïve to the many atrocities which the age of exploration brought with it.  I also do not want to raise children to be adults who are naïve to it. 

As I thought about it more, I realized we read "the great classic books" and our children hear of flawed heroes often. Are we as parents are less hesitant to discuss the virtues and flaws of fictional characters, than of real people.

Columbus for example is not a villain, neither is he a hero.  He is a man who was brave, gutsy or gritty as we might say today.  Did he have flaws?  YES!  What can we learn from that?  Well, for one thing, we cannot judge yesterday to today's moral standards.  But isn't that a reminder for us to not look at what the world around us may consider ok, such as raping and plundering, but to follow what we know to be right. 

I am not arguing about Columbus, what I am saying, is ask your child to examine their heroes.  Although admiring heroic virtue is important, it would be shame to have your children think that any hero could be "perfect".  Everyone has flaws.  Everyone struggles with their flaws and mistakes.

Painting the world through the lenses of rose colored glasses is beautiful, but it can backfire.  Once your children are older and learn the reality, will they question other Truths you have taught them?  Will your child cling to the fictionalized hero and excuse their mistakes? Or worse see the errors as Just because they are the actions of a hero? 

Keep the dialogue open about these topics because this will allow your children to come to you to discuss the people in their lives that might seem like heroes or villains at times. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Everything Stays on the Tray!

Moon Dough on the tray!
When my youngest was two, I became so excited by the idea of sensory bins. Thank you Pintrest!  I made the colored rice, the mood dough, and bought the kinetic sand. All three kids were so happy!  It was quiet and I read. 

I thought it was the answer, until I noticed the mess on the floor and table.  I didn't think the hour of clean up was worth the half hour of read aloud. 

A few weeks later, I was reading about Montessori methods.  I noticed the trays they were using for their works. Although I could not see my children doing the same works, I decided to apply the same concept and re-vamp sensory bins.

I use a container similar to this for moon dough, water beads, and kinetic sand.  This is just the right amount to play with and it stores easily, as they stack. They also fit nicely on a tray. 

I have a cheap, plastic tray for each child, that they must use in order to use a sensory bin.  My trays were about $1 at Ikea but I have seen them at Christmas Tree Shop, Walmart and other retailers priced similarly.

Kinetic Sand with some tools is a favorite!
My youngest has understood from the age of 3 that everything has to stay on the tray.  Yes, it bears repeating and reminding a million times.  Everything stays on the tray! 

If, I see the sensory items straying off the tray, I remind them.  If it continues, they loose the sensory bin for a few days.  Although that happened at the beginning it hasn't happened recently.

I am now a super, cool mom when I give my child Kinetic sand, water beads or Play-doh at the kitchen table!  This is really just how to squeeze in extra reading time with toddler! 

The kids are used to using the trays now, so they use them all the time, on their own. Mom win! 

A few weeks after using the trays consistently, I added in the child sized broom and dustpan as part of the clean up routine.  Honestly, the amount on the floor is minimal and it reminds the child to clean everything up when they are done.

I was so convinced of the ease of sensory bins that  I gave water beads, moon dough, and colored rice to a friend for her toddler. Unfortunately, I forgot to give her the trays! I told her about them, but I did not purchase them for her. She left the sensory bins on the porch for her daughter to play with and it was mess!  (see first photo!) 
Who wouldn't want to dive into waterbeads?

The amazingly brave mom persevered and tried the last colored rice sensory bin on a tray. It has been a success! Now there is a happy mom making dinner and a happy toddler playing near here! 

People of all ages love the feel of sensory bins, so train them now to use trays and it will be a joy for years! 

Just remember and repeat: Everything stays on the tray!  Then, enjoy a good half hour of quiet kids!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Celebrating Reading with The Green Ember

For all of you fans of The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, and reading in general, you will understand the excitement of throwing a party to celebrate a book.
I originally got the idea from who else, but Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival.  Members there have access to a guide on planning a party for celebrating books and reading.  I had read the guide before we ever read The Green Ember.  I kept meaning to look at it again but the kids came up with so many ideas, I never had to. 

Posters made by my 7 year old and 9 year old.
Easter decorations "dressed up" as Pickett and Heather.

My real motivation in having a party was to inspire my son who doesn't love reading.  He LOVES The Green EmberHe cannot wait for Ember Falls, the sequel, to be released.  To keep his interest high, we will celebrate while waiting, lest the enthusiasm wanes. 

All three kids were thrilled about having a Rabbit with Swords Party! Their ideas were incredible!  This brainstorming lasted several days and I must say, it was my favorite part.  Imagine a more creative and magical book narration infused with some logistic and trouble shooting. 

I wanted some of my children's friends to have a shared experience of loving a book, so they were invited.  The one stipulation to the invite was that you must read the book to attend.  I was amazed that 4 families got the book just to attend the party. 

I held the party at a local park because I wanted easy clean up and space for the kids to play.  I also knew that would limit my clean up and set up time. 
Felt sashes with inflatable sword, star seek and patches!
Birds of Prey

As each child arrived they were given an inflatable sword and a sash with belt.  This was a huge hit because they all felt like they were in costume!  Those sashes were my favorite part.

Around the park, we had hung orange balloons with brown construction paper wings taped on, as a way of simulating The Birds of Prey.  Although we had planned a Helmer obstacle course around those balloons, that did not happen.  Instead, the kids ran at the Birds of Prey, swords drawn,  screaming the oath!  It was like being in a real battle from the book, at least that is how the kids described it. 
Can you feel the excitement of fighting a Bird of Prey?

We each made a star seek with grosgrain ribbon and popsicle sticks.  They didn't soar, as they kids hoped, but throwing them downhill, helped create that illusion. 

Heather and Pickett relay
My favorite game created was a Heather and Pickett relay race.  A team of two ran to a roll of toilet paper.  There they wrapped "Heather's arm".  They ran back to where they started with the toilet paper to wrap Pickett's leg. Then, the two ran together, all bandaged up, to the finish line.  Need I say that this was a huge hit?

To my horror, most kids had never played pin the tale on the donkey before.  Of course, we had The Green Ember version of my own making, pin the sword on Pickett.  
Pin the Sword on Pickett

After each game, the children received a patch like Blackstar (aka: a home printed sticker).  These were added to their sashes with much pride. 

I kept the food simple.  There was rabbit food of carrots, broccoli, and berries.  We also had peaches with honey on a sweet bread.  For a main dish we enjoyed cheese and bread from Lord Rake's quarters, also known as pizza. 

In all reality the party was simple. We had an idea to have a King Cake with a green ember inside, but instead we gave everyone a green ember at the end.  If we had more time, money or energy, we might have done some guild activities, like planting seeds, making a stained glass window for Light Hall with tissue paper, or spinning a story. 

The purpose was to make reading more magical and create a shared love of literature amongst my children and their friends.  In that, we were totally successful! 

We now have friends who can't wait for Ember Falls to be released and already asking when that party will be!

While they are waiting, some kids have hung their sashes proudly and begun to read on their own, the books which inspired the festivities!   MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

This post contains affiliate links, but as always that does not influence my content or honesty. If you use a link I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you, so thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Shakespeare Inspiration!

Inspired by the AMAZING webcast Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival Membership site hosted last night with Ken Ludwig, I have to write about enjoying Shakespeare with children. 

For those of you who don't know who Ken Ludwig is, his resume is long and distinguished to put it mildly. What makes one fall in love with him though is his passion for Shakespeare! 

In 2014, his book How to Teach your Children Shakespeare  was published.  Since then, the number of children learning and quoting The Bard at home has exploded!  Ken has taken a topic, which for some parents and educators, has seemed dated or unattainable and shared hands on techniques for making the greatest playwright of all time come alive for the youngest children. In an age when the art of memorizing by heart has been all but lost, Mr. Ludwig shows how to memorize the most famous of Shakespeare's words.

As you can tell, I am a fan of the book.  My children say their favorite thing we do is memorize Shakespeare.  Why? 

"It's fun to say!" - daughter, 4
"Everyone is so impressed!" - son, 7
"It sounds better than anything else!" - son, 9

Who can argue with that? 

Already a fan of the book and comfortable with Shakespeare myself, I was uncertain if the Read Aloud Revival's webcast would even be worth my time.  IT WAS!  It was worth the membership price for the year!

If you ever have a chance to hear Mr. Ludwig speak about Shakespeare, take it!  His deep love for the words and stories was mesmerizing; every word and motion, cadence and inflection, was a passionate endorsement for the extrinsic value of the Bard for everyone. 
Ken Ludwig
Ken Ludwig

To say Mr. Ludwig is inspiring would be an understatement!  He not only shared his love of Shakespeare but many practical resources for parents on how to impart that same love to their children, as he has done! 

I wish Mr. Ludwig would create an online Shakespeare course for everyone!  He truly could light the world afire with his love of Shakespeare!

But, how do you teach Shakespeare to children?
I will give an example from our own experience with A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I always wanted my children to love Shakespeare as I do, but memorization of it was not something I even contemplated.

We listened to Jim Weiss's wonderful retelling in Shakespeare for Children, as an introduction. By listening to an award-winning story teller, like Jim Weiss, explain A Midsummer Night's Dream, even my daughter who was three at the time, knew the story and characters well.  I also picked up a few story versions from our local library.  As I was not overly impressed with their retellings, I just left them around for the children to look at the magical pictures. 

We are fortunate enough to have Cincinnati Shakespeare Company near us!  Each summer they do free performances of  A Midsummer Night's Dream.  These productions are not only magical because of the lovely outdoor settings, but laugh out loud hilarious!  Of course being outside, allows for younger children to wiggle around and for everyone to enjoy a picnic dinner while watching.  Last year, my kids said seeing this show was a highlight of their summer!

This year we added Mr. Ludwig's memorization of Shakespeare to our together time.  A few times a week, we said a few lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream, as outline in How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. They have learned 4 passages this year and recite them constantly!

I have heard many times, "I can't wait to see A Midsummer Night's Dream again this summer and hear how they say this."

Be still my heart!  Who can argue with any of that? 

This post contains affiliate links, but as always that does not influence my content or honesty. If you use a link I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you, so thank you for your support!