Term 1 Favorites (2019)

Term 1 Favorites

January- March 2019  

As we near the end of Term 1, we have chosen our favorite books. Some are their favorites, some are mine, but we all loved each of them. Some are serious, some are silly. Some are new, some are re-reads. Some we will use time and time again. Some we have been using for what seems like a lifetime. From poetry to field guides, and everything in between, these are the books that we loved the most this term. Every subject and lesson isn't represented here, but the wide feast of our days certainly is. These are the books that come to mind immediately when we asked the question "What did we LOVE about Term 1?"


A Fine Dessert:
This book is beautifully illustrated, and any book that captivates my 5 year old's eyes while I read is sure to be a favorite of mine. It is a wonderful depiction of generational tradition and the changes of people over time, painting a picture of the ways in which we stay the same, even as we change.

How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the USA:
This is a fun "trip" across the United States, while pulling the thread of making a cherry pie. That thread kept everyone's attention, and allowed each child of different ages to be interested in the geographical location on the current page in different ways, for different reasons. We read this at bedtime, and it was a fun addition to our living U.S. Geography studies that will be read over and over.

Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

We simply adore the Poetry for Young People series, and Longfellow has been a favorite of both boys. The illustrations, as always with this series, are fabulous and the selection of Longfellow's poems is perfect.

What's the Big Idea Ben Franklin?

I love Jean Fritz. This biography, like many of hers, is short enough to be read as a picture book, yet long enough to be stretched out and read like a chapter book. We did the latter. This was our biography for the term. Sometimes, our biographies are longer, but as my 5 year old begins to participate and be drawn in to more subjects and more books, I am seeking to meet him where he is with a few books that are living and robust, but that is just the right portion for him. Jean Fritz is perfect for that, and we love this Ben Franklin biography. 

Sarah, Plain and Tall
This was our family read-aloud this term, and I dearly hoped that my boys would enjoy it. I was excited to share it with them, and they met my hopes with enjoyment, and for that I am thankful. It is perfect for a read-aloud, because it is short enough to take in small bites, and to not get to every day and still make progress. It is a short, simple book but Sarah never ceases to gain my respect and my admiration, no matter how many times that I read it. She may be plain, but she is resilient and that matters more to be than beauty. ;) 

Farmer Boy
Oh, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Farmer Boy was our literature this term, and although we've read several of the Little House series before, we started this round of going straight through the series with Farmer Boy (If you're a Little House fanatic, I know that this is controversial, and I don't care. :) ), and it was their first time reading Farmer Boy. They laughed at Almonzo, they admired Almonzo, and they wanted to be like Almonzo. They thought James Wilder was a faithful, wise man and they thought that farming was honorable work, and worth the effort. They had fun, and they were hanging on my every word as we reached the end and Almonzo decided whether he wanted to be a farmer like his father, or seize the opportunity to be something much more glamorous and exciting. Our moments spent reading Farmer Boy were my absolute favorite moments of the term. 

The Burgess Seashore Book

It is impossible to pick a favorite Burgess Book, and I think that our favorite is whatever one we are reading at the time. ;) But, right now, we are thoroughly enjoying the Seashore book. I am so thankful for Burgess' ability to help us form relationships with God's created things, so that we can enjoy them fully and be interested in how they function and why. 

Corn is Maize

We always love the Let's Read and Find Out science books (if you don't own a handful, you should get started on that right away!), and this one was no exception. Science presented in a living way is a true gift, and when it is history, culture, and science wrapped into one fun, interesting package then it is sure to be a favorite of everyone.

Mercy Watson

We started the Mercy Watson series, and laughed our way through the entire first book. They are picture books, but they are broken into "chapters" so they are good practice at "reading a chapter book" for my 5 year old, but don't let my 9 year old fool you because he loved it just as much. We are starting the second book in the series now, and we can't wait to read them all. They are silly, they are simple, but they aren't twaddle. They are just plain fun. 

A Pot O' Gold
This collection of Irish poetry, tales, and folklore is just simply delightful. We read bits of this each year during March,and we always enjoy it. I never stop laughing heartily at Irish Blarney, and I never get tired of this particular book.

Birds of Texas Field Guide 

We have many field guides, and we love the "gold standards" of the field guide world (Audubon, Peterson...), but we have a new favorite. We only own the Bird guide, but Stan Tekiela has an entire series of these guides for Texas (birds of prey, mammals, tress, cactus, wildflowers, sport fish), and I will be collecting them all. My 9 year old has reached for this guide every single day since we bought it. The photographs are wonderful, the index is easy to use, the information is presented perfectly, and Stan's notes at the bottom of each page are useful and enjoyable. The little map showing where the birds reside, and migrate to, in Texas is my 9 year old's favorite part, and he pretty much hasn't put this guide down as he observes the birds in our yard, and everywhere else. 

There you have it....our favorite books of Term 1. Spreading a wide feast is such a joy, and hearing what everyone loves the most reminds me that children TRULY are born persons, that ideas TRULY are living sustenance, and that the feast TRULY is worth my effort to spread before them. 

I would love to hear what you are loving most right now, or what you have loved most in your most recent term. What are you favorites, and why?

May all your days be spent....Delightfully Feasting 

Crystin <3

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Charlotte Mason Fatherhood: An Interview

An Interview With a Charlotte Mason Dad

I speak often with homeschool mothers about their husband's support and understanding of what their days entail, what philosophy they hold to, and what struggles and triumphs their days hold. A living education is, by definition, a way of life. It is a family affair. The roles of homeschool motherhood/teacher and homeschool fatherhood are distinctly different, yet both are parts of the dynamic playing out in homeschool homes and the hearts of homeschooled children.

Homeschool fathers are involved in homeschooling in a variety of ways on a wide spectrum of intensity. Some fathers teach some lessons, oversee planning, and discuss methods and philosophy. Other fathers simply pick up pizza on the way home so that exhausted mothers don't have to cook at the end of exhausting days. Homeschool fathers, whether actively teaching or simply drying their wives discouraged tears, are actively involved in the education of their children, as both learning and formation of character extend far beyond the specified hours of a homeschool day.

In the interest of seeing into the mind of a Charlotte Mason Homeschool Dad, I interviewed my husband and sought his perspective on what is happening within our homeschool. His answers provided insight, encouragement and hope to my homeschool heart. I pray that they do the same for both you and your husbands.

1. What do you know about Charlotte Mason?

I know that it is a teaching and learning method in which the child learns in a natural and practical way of life, through books, nature study, and delightful living. 

2. Describe the way in which your wife homeschools your children.
First of all, I would say that she homeschools through patience and interaction with our children in a natural environment instead of pressuring them with conventional schooling and drilling methods.

Second of all, she allows the children to be who they are, intellectually and spiritually, and gives them the tools they need to learn and follow up with what they are being taught.

3. In what ways have you observed your children thriving because of being homeschooled, in a living way?
They thrive by not being afraid to be who they were designed to be. Specifically, I have observed my son be eager to read where he was struggling before. (*Note from Crystin: Our 9 year old is dyslexic, and he began to hate reading until we adopted Mason's approach to reading. Now, he finds the effort to be worthy.)

My children enjoy school time instead of going through the every-day motions of public school.

They enjoy nature studies and are always concerned with preserving what God has given us to enjoy and have dominion over and not to abuse.

4. In what ways do you think homeschool fathers can be most supportive of their wives and their homeschooling efforts?
First, by listening and understanding that it isn't always perfect and it might not always look perfect or like you envision, but it is what a child needs to become who they were ultimately designed by our Creator to be.

Next, it's okay (and even good) to ask questions and be involved, but be sure to notice the progress and encourage the children and mother on a path that educates, but is enjoyable. Encourage her to educate them, but not hinder or complicate learning for them.

Lastly, enjoy all of the moments while you can.

5. In what ways is the education of your children different than the education that you personally received?
I was taught by sitting in a classroom with 20-25 other same aged, culturally similar children being given instruction by a teacher. If you were lucky enough to understand what you were being taught then you went on to the next grade, and if you weren't so lucky then you could go to summer school and attempt to pass through or you were just set back a year and put in a class and labeled as a "slow learner". They didn't have time to develop true knowledge.

This is all in direct contrast to how my children learn and develop knowledge.

6.What goals do you have, or things do you envision, for your children and their education?
I envision that my children will develop the knowledge and skills that it takes to be a well-rounded adult.Whether that be a "high functioning" adult (according to society) or simply a middle-class, hard working, blue-collar worker. They will be who God made them to be.

They will have good values, compassion for other people, and good stewardship over nature. They will be good stewards of what we were given by God, and be respectable men for their wives and children.

I ultimately want them to be comfortable and happy being who they are, and were created to be, and not have society dictate who they should be and what they should look like.

7.What would you say to a father who is reluctant to homeschool, or to a father that is questioning the Charlotte Mason method of education?
I would say that given the chance to be homeschooled will serve your children tremendously, and will create a positive environment for them.

We all want what is ultimately best for our children, and I can honestly say that this way of learning is better and that children are better suited for a parent teaching them naturally than being sat in a room and drilled. Natural learning is better than being told "this is what you should know and look like in order to be considered as having been taught."

Give your children a chance to demonstrate that they are intelligent, have knowledge, know their worth as a person, and that they have benefited from not just being a number, but truly learning.

There you have it: a look into the heart and mind of a (handsome) Charlotte Mason father. ;)
This task of living education is a family affair, and I pray that this perspective of a father blesses you as you go about the business of spreading a feast and delighting in it.

May All Your Days be Spent....Delightfully Feasting
Crystin ....and Wesley <3

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Plan Your Days: Monthly and Weekly Planning

Plan Your Days

Monthly and Weekly Planning

Hi, There!
As educators, mothers, housewives, employees, church members, ministers, friends, daughters, sisters (Oh, the many hats that we wear!) it can be downright overwhelming to keep track of all.of.the.things. Below is a photographic tour, and step-by-step explanation, of how I manage my life through monthly and weekly planning. I surely don't have it all together, but what I do have is a system that has been fleshed out over several years, and which I rely upon when I just don't think I can juggle it all. Here's hoping that it gives you ideas, inspiration, or even just encouragement, as you plan YOUR life. 

Planning Procedures
I keep a list of my planning procedures in the front of the planning section of my Home Management Binder (tour of that binder coming soon). I have used this system, with little change, for years now and I don't need the procedure list. However, it's important to have anyway. When a tired brain is planning for busy days, decision fatigue is avoided by having procedure lists.

  • Master Calendars
In my Home Management Binder, I keep a set of Master Calendars for the entire year and part of the next year. This is a Master Calendar because it is a calendar "rough draft". This allows me to (physically, by hand-that's important) write in any future events far in advance. It is the place where events get marked out when they are cancelled, and moved around when they are changed. Quarterly, I fill in all that I know for the coming few months, and then make a copy for the other locations in my life that I may need them- my Eagles (Eagles is the homeschool support group that I operate) binder and my Lesson Plans Binder.

Because these are master calendars, they allow for future planning. As you can see, the calendars of the current quarter are far more full than calendars in the future. They get fuller as times passes, and then they get edited and finalized before being copied into my planner.

  • Planner
Every month, I edit and finalize my Master Calendar and then copy it (physically, by hand) into my Planner.  I then color code every event.(You can see my color code on my Planning Procedures, listed above) I also color code my days with that day's primary color focus.
 (So, if I have two events on one day, the event that is that day's priority is the color that I use for that day's date. This helps me keep priorities in line when days don't go as planned.) 
This planner is from the Plan Ahead brand, and is the See it Bigger planner. 
 (See the notes below on why I prefer a simple planner rather than something elaborate,
 such as a Happy Planner. )

As you can see, I use stickers to satisfy my urge to go "planner happy". There are stickers for decoration, stickers to indicate things like birthdays, and stars on all school days.
  • Wall Calendar
I then copy only the basic events onto my wall calendar, so that I have a visual at all times of the major things going on.

  • Weekly Spreads
I then take the monthly events in my planner and put them on each weekly spread. This planner stays out on my desk at all times (unlike my master calendars, which are in a binder on my shelf, so both are necessary.)
Then, I schedule my school days for each week.

  • Brain Dump
Each week, I sit down to take the broad plan that I have into place and manage my hours to fit it all in. The very first, non-negotiable step in this process is to do a Brain Dump. This means that I (physically, by hand- are you seeing a theme here?) write down everything that has to be done, even things that I do every single week. I have my brain dump forms categorized by the major compartments of my life. (The week after I am typing this is started here for you, for reference, but it will be much more full when I sit down to plan.) Everything that is in my brain gets dumped onto the paper. Then, anything that isn't reasonable gets erased, and then either let go of or migrated to next week's brain dump form. This is vital to functioning without complete mental fatigue, to not over-scheduling, and to having reasonable expectations.

  • Weekly Plan Sheet and Daily To-Do Lists
I then refer to my monthly planner and my brain dump and fill in a weekly plan sheet, and color code it. This is a vital step as well, as it allows me to see where I have over-scheduled and over-extended myself. We tend to think that we have more hours in day than we actually do, and placing events and tasks into those hours in a visual way eliminates this problem. The color coding also allows me to see where most of my time is going that week, and to ensure that every color is on the page in its proper proportions.
                     (Example...no pink? No schole? Not an option. Must rearrange schedule.)
From this point, I can take my Brain Dump and place every single item into my planner as a To-Do list for each day. If it won't fit anywhere, then it isn't a reasonable expectation and it needs to be erased or migrated.

  • Command Center
I then copy a brief version of my weekly plan into my kitchen Command Center so that my husband can refer to it if needed and I have a reminder in the place where I spend the second most amount of time (first, office/schoolroom. second, kitchen). Then, I plan that week's meals from right in my Command Center.

  • Schole and Mother's Education
Next, I schedule out my SCHOLE and give myself reading assignments for the week. I use the Delightfully Feasting Schole Trackers for this. These stay in the Mother's Education tab of my Home Management Binder, which I pull out every day to track this and other things.

  • Phone
Finally, I clean out and update my podcast playlist for the week, and set timers on my phone for that week's events, school schedule, and anything that I need help making a priority.
(vitamins, 10 minute brain break, etc).
That's it...that's how I plan this crazy, wonderful, full life.

A Few Notes:
  • Paper VS Digital
This is a mostly paper system. If you are a digital gal, then not all of this system will appeal to you most likely. However, I would like to point out a couple of things- 1. Any digital planning involves looking at a screen. We all have different ideas of how much we should be looking at screens, but the evidence that shows how terrible it is for us can't be denied. I struggle enough with looking at screens for so many other things (some of them quite worthy things, and even some school lessons), so I don't want to be staring at a screen in order to plan and keep up with my life.
2. Physically writing things out (more than once), implants them in our brains and forms a connection to and ownership of them that typing them into our phones simply can.not.do. I can't keep up with everything digitally, no matter how carefully I place it into my device...because I wasn't created and wired that way. And, the truth is: neither were you.
So, whether you prefer digital or paper planning...consider which parts of your planning should be on paper regardless.
  • Easy VS Thorough 
This is a multi-step system that has been fleshed out over years. It definitely isn't the most direct and "easy" system, and it may not be for everyone.
But, again, I wanted to point out a couple of things.
1. Easy doesn't necessarily mean useful. You can have ease in your planning, but unless it's working for your life, then it doesn't really help you. If you're losing more time trying to figure out what to do when and scrambling about all day long than you gain by not spending it planning....then you probably need to be spending more time planning.
2. Most good things require investment, and I have found that managing a full life requires investment. I can invest time weekly to be a manager of my time, or I can have my time managing me all week long. I don't always choose well, and your investment may look differently than mine...but the truth is: a well managed life requires planning investment.

  • Simple VS Pretty
This system isn't necessarily the easy way out, but it IS simple. Yes, I know all about Eric Condren and Happy Planners. Yes, I am drawn to them. Yes, I love them. But, I resist the urge. Because, beautiful papers do not a useful system make. I can spend hours putting together a beautiful, fun, colorful planner with pretty pages for everything.... and then never use it. (Ask me how I know). Or, I can simply plan in a functional way. Stickers are a great way for me to add beauty to my system, without making beauty take precedence over usefulness. Far too often, when systems aren't working, instead of addressing the issues and habits within ourselves that are keeping us from USING a system....we just create a new system. We escape the reality of our bad habits by giving ourselves the illusion of being productive. Creating a new system FEELS productive. But, being productive actually comes through USING the system we have created.

So, find what works for you, and then repeat it over and over and over and over.

I hope this tour helps you in finding, adjusting, or inspiring what works for you for planning your life.

May All Your Days be Spent....Delightfully Feasting <3

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