What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing”… Is there, then, not need for more “Mother Culture”?“Mother Culture” Parents’ Review – Volume 3
I went out at night alone;
The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
I bore my sorrow heavily.
But when I lifted up my head
From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
Burn steadily as long ago.
From windows in my father’s house,
Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
Above another city’s lights.
Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
The faithful beauty of the stars.
~ Winter Stars by Sara Teasdale ~
“The faithful beauty of the stars.” This line has stuck with me as we go into another year of restrictions and uncertainty, and I find a lot of truth in it. Our house is situated in such a way that the back patio opens directly east. As soon as we step outside at night, our eyes immediately go to the three reliable stars of Orion’s belt before wandering up to the warm glow of Betelgeuse. Knowing that others have done the same thing for many centuries, amidst wars and famine and sickness and government instability and all of those things, is comforting. Aside from the awe it inspires, I truly have found the night sky to be comforting in the last few years.
We haven’t gotten any snow other than a smattering of centimeters spread out over November and December. Our local amateur weatherman says we’re in an “extreme drought,” which is apparently one step above a “severe drought.” Aside from the serious repercussions this means for our farmers and water supply, it also means that we haven’t had a nice big snowstorm this season, which is disappointing. Just a few days before Christmas, it was a balmy 60 degrees, and we had the windows open. I tell the kids that I grew up in a place where we didn’t see the ground from November until March or April, and our eyelashes froze when we went outside. I’m not sure they believe me.
Life has been quiet but frantic, and it doesn’t seem like those two adjectives can co-exist. With the quietness has been an undercurrent of frenzy. Busy-ness. But we mostly stay at home, so it doesn’t appear that way. We did manage a last-minute trip down to the Great Sand Dunes in October only to find mask mandates (which we expected), limited people allowed in the visitors center, and everything wrapped in plastic… except the products in the store. So many things make very little sense these days. Still, I’m happy we went as it ended up being our last trip for the year, and the kids enjoyed it. I’m hoping, SO hoping, that we can get more in next year.
We managed to get through our first term of school, finishing that at the end of November, and then struggled through the first three weeks of term 2 in December. I’ve said it in the past, and I mentioned it to her again recently, but I am once again tempted to do what my friend Dawn does and take the whole month of December off. Maybe we’ll try it next year.
Our nature group also ended in December, and I’m looking forward to the new one starting up again in late January or early February. This was such a great thing to be part of this year, and I am thankful for opportunities like this.
On the business front, I planned out my 2022 product release calendar in December, and I’m hoping to offer at least three new Picture Study Aids as well as print versions of Copley and Monet in the new year, which is exciting.
And here is what my fourth quarter looked like:
The Cross by Sigrid Unset. An event four years in the making finally came to an end this quarter and I finished the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. I felt like some kind of Norwegian horn should’ve blared somewhere (akin to the horn that sounds when the Minnesota Vikings score a touchdown :)) after I finished the last word. My favorite book of the three was the first one because it was the least confusing and the least sad. Even though it included her very bad youthful mistakes (to which many of us can relate), the second book was flat-out confusing, and the third book was just sad because it marked the “end” of her motherhood. Not that we ever really stop being mothers, but it was the end of her day-to-day motherhood as her sons were all grown up and living lives (and making youthful mistakes) of their own. I did really love who she was at the end, though. There were many times when she was not very likable to me, but I think those times were redeemed in the second half of the final book.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This was mentioned in an article I read, and I have mostly enjoyed Patchett’s other books (Bel Canto especially), so I decided to dive in. She has a way of making characters extremely believable and real. They are never all bad or all good, but always a mixture, which I think is why they’re believable. Of course, some of them are more bad than good, as was the case in this book. At any rate, I appreciated how some of the step-siblings ended up becoming life-long friends. Obviously, their childhood was awful, but the way they came out of it was (mostly) a good thing.
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason. I read this with my Idyll Challenge group over the last several months. As this was the second (and a half?) time I’ve read it, it was interesting to see what I had highlighted or underlined in the past and what stood out to me this time. I think it’s still my favorite of her books, though we’re tackling Formation of Character right now, and that has been extremely interesting so far. We’ll be finished with all six books in August.
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. This was recommended by Andrea of the Ancestral Kitchen Podcast. I underlined whole sections of it and agree with so much of what Hayes says about the evolution of our society from being creators to consumers. It inspired me to stop that evolution in my own family and embrace more of the creator or producer side. There were other aspects of the book that I disagreed with, but I feel that her overall message was a good one.
The Street by Ann Petry. I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge “Classic by a BIPOC Author” category. This was so, so well-written and wholly engrossing and so hard to get through because it was just so sad. I kept hoping that something would change and that someone would cut Lutie a break and that maybe it would have a happy ending. But a happy ending wasn’t the point of the story.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. I like to read a lighter, fluffier book in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as a sort of literary vacation. This year I was looking for something like Miss. Pettigrew Lives for a Day which I read a few years ago and absolutely loved. I do like L.M. Montgomery but haven’t ventured much out of her Anne books so when I saw this suggested on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of “10 comforting classics to read after you run out of Jane Austen novels” (most of which I’ve already read), I decided to try it. I absolutely loved it and devoured it in less than 24 hours. This also filled the Back to the Classics Challenge “Classic by a Woman Author” category.
For the kids…
The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown. We listened to this on our way home from the Great Sand Dunes, about 3.5 hours from our house. The kids decided they wanted to climb to the top, so we were there for several hours and left late, so we started this on the way home. I ended up getting it from the library and reading the rest by myself before handing it over to them, and I thought this series was very good.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is listed as a free read for AmblesideOnline Year 5, so I read this with B at night. I remember having this as a book report read when I was in Junior High, and I ended up copying a friend’s (who had watched a movie instead of reading the book). Thinking back, the teacher must have known since we were both inaccurate in similar ways, but he never said anything. This was such a simple read that it seems silly now that I didn’t read it in junior high (see mistakes of youth notes above). I wouldn’t say I liked this as much as Kidnapped, but it was entertaining.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. B and I read this for his Term 1 Shakespeare play. I read this in high school, but it was fun to re-visit the characters and read the “real” version versus the Nesbit or Lambs we’ve been reading the last few years. Also, “though she be but little, she is fierce” has to be one of my favorite Shakespeare lines ever.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. After almost 5.5 years of making our way through AmblesideOnline readings and my second time reading this book, it remains one of my very favorite books, if not the favorite. I love this story, the characters, and the subtle lessons for children and grown-ups alike.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham. I pre-read this for B as I found it suggested in many places over the last year or so, including the AO free reads list, the Sabbath Mood Homeschool living science books list, and at the Living Education Retreat back in July during the graduates’ panel. It was a great story, and we both liked it.
A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla. I picked this up at a library book sale several years ago but never got around to reading it. Now that I have two voracious readers on my hands, it’s been very challenging to keep up with their reading. I happened to see this and read it in about an hour before handing it over to them. I was surprised at how much I liked the story and plan to get more Bulla books.
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle. This was another pre-read for B. It’s actually listed as an AO Year 2 free read, but the content was a little more violent than I was comfortable with, and I even debated handing it over to B because of that. I think a goal in the new year is for me to get through Tending the Heart of Virtue, as I believe it addresses things like this. I also read in several other places that it’s just a good book that teaches good lessons for children, so I did end up giving it to B.
The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. I read this with C at night and it was a cute story.
I’m currently reading Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, and Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason with my Idyll Challenge group. With C, I’m reading Pinocchio, and with B, I’m reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
2021 Book Challenges
Goodreads Reading Challenge – 52/33
Back to the Classics – 10/12
Literary Life Podcast 19 in 2021 Reading Challenge – 10/19
Reshelving Alexandria 2021 Reading Challenge – 7/12
Well-Educated Mind List – 8/87
On the Blog
Simple Ideas for Including a Sabbath Week in Your Homeschool We’ve included a Sabbath week (or six weeks on, one week off) in our homeschool for the last two years, and I’m so glad we made this addition!
God With Us: Advent Art Devotions Volume III I released the third volume of my yearly Advent Art Devotions in October!
Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat 2022 We still have space in our Charlotte Mason retreat in Colorado Springs! Nancy Kelly will be our plenary speaker, and, among other workshops, I will be leading a picture study immersion.
Jesse Trees, Advent Wreaths, and Other Holiday Traditions for Families(+ free holiday printables!) Here I shared all about our Jesse Tree and Advent traditions and offered free printables!
Homeschooling from Freedom (instead of fear) “Since I started homeschooling from a place of freedom instead of fear, what others may think about this non-traditional choice of ours doesn’t phase me anymore. What might cross the minds of friends and family or even random strangers at the places we visit in the middle of the day on a Tuesday doesn’t enter my mind. I obviously don’t want to cause offense, but I also know I need to follow the path that’s right for our family regardless of how others take that choice, and I am now confident in that decision.”
Charlotte Mason Picture Study: Sandro Botticelli A free Picture Study Aid for the AO Term 2 artist!
Our Favorite Picture Books for Winter I attempted to slow down a bit during the month of December and rounded up this little list of books that we love to read together.
Living Art Books for Picture Study I’ve been slowly working on putting together a living art book archive and released it into the wild this quarter.
2021 Reading Challenges Recap My annual reading challenges recap!
I’m not much into making new year’s resolutions, but I do like the feeling of starting things fresh on January 1st. Following a tradition I started a few years ago, I’m sharing some of my favorite resources for productivity, healthy living, and organization.
YNAB (You Need A Budget). According to my account history in YNAB, I have been using it for ten years now, which says a lot about how much I rely on this little program. I began using the desktop version after my old budgeting software wasn’t cutting it for my needs anymore. I love how YNAB helps me keep track of where my money is going, offers easy ways to see trends, and helps me figure out how to make reasonable changes. If you want to get into budgeting or are looking for an easier budgeting solution, I can’t recommend it enough! Here’s a little overview of how their system works.
FreedomFiler. I have been using FreedomFiler for filing all of our household paperwork since before we had kids. My filing was pretty haphazard in my 20s, and it was impossible to find anything, so I was so thankful for all of the direction this system provides. It offers workflows and questions to ask when filing documents, as well as pre-printed file labels and clear instructions on how to use them. It also recommends how long to keep certain documents and how to move important documents that need to be kept longer, like taxes, to longer-term filing. It’s an excellent system for keeping your paperwork organized!
FlyLady. I used FlyLady’s cleaning program several years ago but switched when I found another one that worked better for our needs at the time. However, with homeschooling, home businesses for both my husband and myself, and a larger house, I found that the other cleaning program wasn’t working for us either. So this past year, I switched back to FlyLady with a few modifications, and it’s been a game-changer in keeping our home clean and slowly more organized. In case you’re curious, here are a few things I do differently:
- Scrubbing the kitchen sink: This is a foundation of the FlyLady method and one of my favorite parts. She recommends doing it every night before bed, however, I usually just do it whenever the sink happens to be empty (usually after breakfast) and not every day.
- Daily swish and swipe: I only do this three times a week in the morning, rotating through our bathrooms. I do the kids’ bathroom first, the guest bathroom next, and the master bathroom (which is the least used) last. I do keep toilet cleaner in the bathrooms, but no all-purpose spray so I just grab a spray bottle and microfiber cloth on my way to clean them. I always follow up with this awesome, amazing, incredible way of keeping toilet brushes clean.
- Cleaning supplies: I like to keep my cleaning supplies simple and natural and I use Sal Suds plus a few drops of Germ Destroyer for all-purpose cleaning. You can see a list of all of my favorite cleaning supplies here (I also buy some through Azure Standard as well).
Chores. On the note of cleaning, we recently gave our chore system an overhaul as I was finding myself frustrated with the amount of work I was having to do around the house, including a lot of cleaning up after the kids. I got these chore cards through an e-book bundle sale I was part of last year, so on a whim, I printed them, and the kids helped me laminate and cut them out. We then went through all of them, pulling out the ones that didn’t apply to us (no pool in our backyard), and the kids chose the ones they wanted to do. So far, it has worked well, and I am no longer unloading or loading the dishwasher three times a day (B took that over) or scooping litterboxes every other day (the kids split that up). We’ll re-visit the cards at the end of every month to see if any changes need to be made.
Grocery Budgeting/Meal Planning. I use Plan to Eat to keep track of my recipes, meal plan, and make grocery lists automatically (you can see how I have used it in the past here). This year, I also made more changes to my grocery shopping and meal planning in an effort to save money and time at the grocery store (especially with food prices rising as they have been). I’ve been using Azure Standard and Costco more while also cutting back on my weekly shopping at Natural Grocers. This system has continued to work very well in saving a lot of time and money. (Tiffany of Don’t Waste the Crumbs is also offering her annual Meal Planning Bootcamp soon if you want to get started with meal planning!)
In the Shop
My productivity in the shop slowed down a bit this quarter, and I only released one product. I do have plans for more in the new year!
And here are the Patreon printables offered in the fourth quarter. In October, the extra printable was a recipe card, as this time of year always makes me want to bake. In November, I offered a “Thankful” banner to decorate for Thanksgiving. And December’s downloads included a special mystery gift just for subscribers.
Obviously, these are not pictures of birds. I was bad about filling the feeders again this quarter, so we haven’t had many avian visitors. C has taken over filling the feeders as part of her chores, and I’m hoping she’ll be more consistent than I’ve been.
We do have pretty regular visits from three different squirrels in our neighborhood. One is obviously a female, one has a damaged tail, and we’re not sure about the third. The kids like to put food next to our patio door, so we get a great close view of each of these little mammals.
And now to dive into 2022. I hope you all have a wonderful year!