Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Advent 2012 – The Jesse Tree

jesse tree button 

Advent is almost upon us!  How did that happen?!  I hope you are all more on top of your holiday planning and gift buying/making than I am… oh my.  I’d forgotten just how much time caring for a newborn takes.  Totally worth it of course (but I do miss blogging)!

I’ve had about a dozen emails in the past few days asking about this year’s Jesse Tree packet.  Thank you all so much for reminding me to get this together!  I needed that little push and it is nice to know many of you use it.

Thankfully it was super-easy to put together this year.  Last year Advent had 27 days – the maximum number of days possible for any year.  So this year I am re-publishing the pack of ornaments, prayer cards, and Scripture references we used last year.  You will have 4 extra ornaments, etc. because Advent is only 23 days this year (it begins on Dec. 2nd).

I’ve included a schedule specific for this year (click on the image to download it):image

This is the schedule my family will be using.  We have taken out the ornaments for the second, third, and fourth Sundays as well as the ornament for the prophet Daniel.  All the other ornaments will be used in order, showing the lineage of Jesus and the history of his plan of salvation (from the creation of the world to his birth).

However, if taking out 4 different ornaments/cards makes more sense for your family, feel free to make up your own schedule!  I feel it’s important to keep in all the people that were Jesus’ ancestors, so I take out the Sunday ornaments and then begin taking out prophets until we’ve reached the correct amount of ornaments for the particular year we are in.

Click the image below to download the pack of ornaments, prayer cards, and Scripture references.


Have questions about the Jesse Tree?  Please feel free to leave them in the comments.  I will do my very best to answer them!



Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Good News!

We are homeschooling!!  We are going to try it out with Kindergarten - I am so excited!  With a new baby the flexibility of homeschooling will be so convenient.  We'll be officially starting in October, so September will be a busy month for us - adjusting to our "new normal" around here and planning lessons, ordering last-minute curriculum and maybe, just maybe, even getting organized (just a little, please?).

Just wanted to share the good news with all of you who know just how much this is an answer to my prayers!

Have a beautiful day!
Nicole :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Joseph Daniel – born at 5:48 on 8/13/2012. :)  He weighed 8lbs, 8oz and was 21.5 inches long (just like big brother in length).   He is perfect and so, so precious.  We are so blessed!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Website for Free Printables

Hello everyone :)

Just a quick note to let you all know I've set up a new website (Google Sites) for all the - over 100! - printables I've created over the past couple of years.  It is much, much more organized than the blog page that you had to scroll through previously.  I hope you find it user-friendly!  The url is, and there is even a cute little button for it over there in the left sidebar.  I've named it Learning by Heart since that's the title I've used for all our learning posts. 

In other news, I've been on and off of bedrest with this little one, who is due sometime this month.  Currently I am on strict bedrest (again, after being off for 2 weeks) with "mild pre-eclampsia".  So, this seemed like the perfect time to get a little computer/blog work done and what-do-you-know I actually finished this website project! :) 

I have a couple of other exciting news items to share with you all (including baby's arrival at some point), but want to get all my ducks in a row first.  Enjoy the new printables website and let me know what you think of it!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Independence vs. “parental proximity” (a false dichotomy)

Since publishing this post about feeling possibly called to homeschool and yet potentially not being able to, I’ve received some emails from those of you who find yourselves in a similar situation.  My heart goes out to all of you, and this post is for you… to encourage you, comfort you while your convictions are questioned, and (if you want) to give you ideas of what to share with the people in your lives that, well, may simply think you are crazy. ;)

The general consensus amongst those of us in this situation seems to be that, hidden behind the ever popular “socialization” worries (which can be pretty easily refuted), is this idea that we really just don’t want our children to become independent… we are anxious, hovering mothers, who can’t “let go” of our babies. 

This frustrates me to no end because if all the people in my life truly knew what an introvert I am, and how much I value time to myself as well as peace and quiet, they might have an idea of just how hard it is for me to do what I am convinced is best for my child.  I am a very selfish, self-centered person, and it is a daily struggle, battle even, to do what I see as my vocation, and do it well. I am convinced, however, that joy and peace are found in doing what I feel is right instead of simply what I feel like doing.  The first path is based on thoughtful discernment, and the second is the one really based on emotion.

Sometimes our feelings about the education of our children do come out sounding emotional… due to an overwhelming sense that something just isn’t right, and the inability (on my part anyway) to spit out logical information in a detached way, without using that terrifying phrase, “I feel”.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be detached emotionally from any topic that affects a member of my family… but I don’t necessarily see that as a weakness, just as part of who I am… if mothers weren’t the heart of their families, after all, where would the world be?  It doesn’t mean that everything we say and believe, while having an emotional component, should be completely disregarded as emotional drivel.  (I have to say I’m blessed to have a husband who listens to me {when I finally spell things out for him instead of hoping he can read my mind} and isn’t disrespectful in the least, but I know that isn’t the case with everyone’s husband or extended family members.)

It’s hard to be in a place where your motherly intuition is telling you what your child is and isn’t ready for, which style of education might be best for them, and which lifestyle might be best for your family; and yet to be misunderstood and not taken seriously by those around you who tend to see you as a hindrance to your child’s growth instead of seeing you as an advocate for the healthy growth of each individual child.  Personally, I think much of this stems from a general misunderstanding and lack of respect for the importance of motherhood in society today .  But that is another (very opinionated) post for another time. 

I like the encouragement David Guterson gives in his book, Family Matters: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense, as he comments on the affects school has on the parent/child relationship: 

“[The intuitive sense of parents that something isn’t right] is part of the growing alienation they feel from their children, who gradually become estranged from them as they become ever more deeply immersed in the universe of their school peers – an alienation parents erroneously conclude is a ‘natural’ part of their children’s growing up, a necessary prerequisite to their independent adulthood.  This distance, though, is far from natural, and the dismay parents feel about it ought not to be repressed.” (emphasis mine)

I recently came across a book titled, The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, by Rachel Gathercole.  In it she discusses this idea of “parental proximity” and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it might be a good thing! Perhaps our current culture doesn’t understand because it views the family unit itself in a rather poor light.  I want to share some of what I’ve read with you, as I found it very encouraging and interesting. 

So enough blathering from me.  I will simply share a few quotes with you…

Rachel Gathercole quotes many homeschoolers – parents and children – in her book.  I think this quote from a homeschooling parent about peer dependence is a good one to start with… Independence from parents at too early of an age doesn’t necessarily lead to independence, but simply to dependence of another sort:

“… I believe the decay of family unity is at the heart of many of the social problems our culture is facing today.  Our culture is in a hurry to rush [little children] off to school, where they are placed in a room full of ten to twenty other little children with only one or two teachers.  Then parents are shocked and horrified when these same children, years later, have become completely peer dependent and cannot identify with their own family.  But peer dependence is the natural outcome of [this type of] education because a child has a real and intense need for relationship.  When that need for relationship cannot be met by an adult (a teacher who is working with many students), then the child will turn to the only other available person, the peer in the classroom.  Consequently, a child comes to value the opinions of his school-age peers more than those of his family… Our children are starving for meaningful relationships and will engage in all kinds of unhealthy activities and behaviors to fulfill that innate need for intimacy.  What a tragedy that we have divided the family for the sake of ‘education.’  Strong family relationships and unity are at the heart of healthy communities – the latter cannot exist in the absence of the former.” – Amy, homeschooling mother of three, upstate New York.


“School socialization, ultimately, is really just training for a school environment.  Family and community-based socialization, on the other hand, is preparation for family and community living (in other words, for real life).” – Gathercole, p. 178


Regarding independence Gathercole writes:

“The idea that early and abundant independence from parents is desirable may be part of an overall societal pressure on kids and parents toward early, forced independence… More and more research is showing, and parents are discovering, that strong attachment bonds between child and parents, not forced independence, creates happy children and healthy socialization. 

The idea that the kids need freedom from their parents at a young age seems based on the premise that parents are a ‘crutch,’ to be cast aside as soon as physically possible.  However, many homeschoolers believe that children need their parents directly available to them for much more of their childhoods than conventional schooling allows.  They want to teach their children what they consider to be healthy social skills, rather than send them to learn whatever skills they might happen to learn from their peers.  And they want themselves and their children to experience the closer family relationships that homeschooling seems to encourage.”


“First [children] must watch their parents model years and years of good decision-making, and they must observe their parents making the careful decisions that they believe are in the child’s (and whole family’s) best interests.  In this way the child can learn firstly, that he is worthy of taking care of and should thus take care of himself, and secondly, that just as his parents make decisions with the whole family’s best interests in mind, so, too, can and should he make decisions that take into account both his best interests and the best interests of others.  The family is the perfect, naturally-designed situation for learning these things.”


“… As kids do reach an age when they can handle and need greater independence, homeschool parents – who have already spent a great deal of time with their kids – are generally very willing to give them a healthily increasing amount of freedom and independence.”

Healthy independence just happens when it naturally should happen.  It does not need to be rushed into or forced.

She also writes this:

“Of course, children do need to be exposed to serious and meaningful things, and this can happen while children feel completely safe, carefree, and not under pressure to rely on their own social savvy before they are prepared to.  Childhood is a time in life when a person can be free and observe, take in, and learn about the world while living under the blanket of safety of parents who are in control and protect them.  Indeed, this may arguably be the very reason children have parents at all.”

And one last quote from another homeschooling mom:

“We all want our children to be able to face life challenges, peer pressure, and all the evils of the world with strength and integrity.  They have a much better shot at this if they have the time and support to develop and grow first.  Children cannot make wise choices until they have the perspective and information about themselves and what’s in front of them.  When they are young, they are mostly influenced by their environment.  It takes time for them to be able to understand an issue to be able to make judgments about it and to act in their own best interest and in the interest of others.

At each age there are things they can handle with wisdom and things they cannot.  Our schools inundate children with things they are not equipped to handle.  I want my children to experience age-appropriate amounts of challenge and difficult choice-making.  I want to help them think it through.  I want to control, to some extent, the amount of exposure they face to the challenges of peer-dominated cultural influences, because I believe that our country is assuming that children should be rushed to grow up, and it is hurting them.  They are toughening up to it but at a personal cost.  And that will cost us all.” – Janice, homeschooling mother of two, Durham, NC


The entire book is well worth reading, by the way, and I hope the little bit I’ve shared here motivates some of you to read it for yourself.  You can find it here.  It would be an excellent resource to hand to someone who has honest questions about the socialization of homeschooled children.

Have a beautiful day with your beautiful children!
Nicole :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Books, Please – Chapter Books

Have you ever heard of someone who would write the first of a series of blog posts in January, and then not write the second post until June?  I mean, really, who would do that?  Someone that disorganized should not have a blog in the first place.  Sheesh.


So… a while back I wrote about our poetry sessions at breakfast.  I haven’t done the best at keeping a poetry book around (we usually get them from our library, and somehow it’s hard for me to stay on top of…. kind of like blogging), so this has been an on and off thing for us lately.  M has actually been asking for poems in the mornings, so hopefully that will give me the motivation I need to pick something up, like this.

In this article about the importance of reading aloud to children, Andrew Pudewa points out that we sometimes forget about the importance of listening as part of communicating.  We teach children to read, write, and speak correctly, but we overlook listening. 

When you think about it, it seems obvious that language is learned by listening… the human brain is simply geared that way.  Children will learn to speak their native language by hearing it spoken.  They will pick up on correct grammar, vocabulary, etc. naturally.  Listening is the primary means of learning to speak correctly.  Reading is something that has to be taught, and communicating clearly can not be taught solely by good reading skills.

“In fact, it’s an interesting observation, but many children who become early readers, independent readers—good readers--often do not store complete and correct language patterns in their brains. Good readers read quickly, silently, and aggressively. They don’t audiate (hear internally) each word or even complete sentences. Generally, comprehension increases with speed, but speed decreases language pattern audiation because good readers will skip words, phrases and even complete sections of books that might hold them back. And to the extent that children don’t hear (frequently) a multitude of complete, reliably correct, and sophisticated language patterns, such patterns are not going to be effectively stored in their brains.” – Andrew Pudewa, One Myth, Two Truths

So it’s important to read good, quality literature aloud to your children, even if they are super readers! 

I want to share some of our favorite chapter books with you, and hope you’ll share yours in the comments section. 

I try to pick out well-written, wholesome, and developmentally-appropriate chapter books for us to read together as a family.  Think Little House on the Prairie types. :)  Although, interestingly, Little House doesn’t hold M’s attention yet… perhaps he doesn’t get that same little thrill from reading about sweeping out the house and airing out the mattresses as I did when I was little. :)  Maybe in another year or two? 

Keep in mind that audio books are an excellent way to get in some story listening too.  They are wonderful for car trips and quiet time.  We will read a chapter or two of our current read-aloud book at lunch and/or bedtime; then at rest time (when it happens) M listens to an audio version of a different book – sometimes he will keep resting in order to listen to an entire book (up to 2 hours!).  See – that makes you want to keep audio books around, doesn’t it?

Our absolute favorites:

I’ve noted the age that M was at when reading these books, just as a basic guideline for appropriateness.


        (age 4)

The Story of Doctor Dolittle and The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting (1920 and 1922)

The idea of talking to and understanding animals captured M’s imagination right from the start.  There are some hilarious parts in this book, and it is no wonder it is a classic.  Warning: some negative racial language is used, and you’ll want to read ahead and determine how you will handle this (edit?  read as is and have a discussion?).  It’s a shame because it is such a wonderful story.  I think more recent editions have been changed slightly to avoid this… I’m not a fan of editing classics, but in this case it might be for the best.  These are books that shouldn’t be left unread simply because of a few politically-incorrect sections.  You can also find these complete books online (ready to load to an e-reader) here, and there’s an audio version!


  (age 3) (This image links to a set of 5 of Burgess’s books, but there are a LOT more!)

The Thornton Burgess series about animals.  These were all written between 1910 and the mid 1950s.  Burgess wrote a couple of picture books, but his chapter books are what M loves.  These are actually the first real chapter books I read to M.  They are wonderful.  Some of these are available as online downloads, here.  These make great jumping off points for unit studies about animals, forests, and that sort of thing too!


(age 5)

The Enchanted Castle, by Edith Nesbit (1907) – full of magic, in rare places a bit dark… I found I had to edit parts that would disturb M.  Overall well worth reading.  M used the enchanted castle in his pretend play for weeks while we were reading this.  Download here.


(age late 3, 4)

The Littles (first published in 1967) – a cute series by John Peterson (look for the chapter books, not the easy readers!)


(age 5)

The Rescuers, by Margery Sharp (1959) – super exciting adventure.


(age 4)

Stuart Little, by E. B. White (1945) – funny little adventure and story about friendship.


  (age 5)

The Boxcar Children, a series by Gertrude Chandler Warner (First published in 1924) – there are so many books in this series you will never run out of anything to read!  These are about adventurous children who love to work and are always polite, and they solve mysteries. :)  Exciting and character-building at the same time.  These also come as audio books, complete with voices for each character (check your library).  There is a more modern series about these same children (different author), which are also very good, but we prefer the originals. 


(age 5)

Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1916) – great story about a little girl learning to be independent (if you are a fan of Montessori, you will love this book!)  Download it here.


(age 4)

Hank the Cowdog Series by John Erickson (1982).  There are a LOT of these also.  Hank does not have the best grammar, but he is hilarious and we all laugh at these books. 


(age 3)

Beatrix Potter books (published beginning in 1902) – wonderful stories; you can download them here, and some are available as audio downloads. (age 3)


(age early 3)

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne (1926) – very loved, gentle stories about childhood.  Great vocabulary too!


(age 5)

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (1934) - this is what we are currently reading, and there is a whole series to explore.  These are magical and imaginative, and much better than the movie (which M has never seen)… although the movie is great too, don’t get me wrong!  I’m so glad we found the books, though!

Which chapter books does your family love to listen to?

Have a beautiful day!

Nicole :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kindergarten Blues

We are looking into registering M for kindergarten this fall at the private school associated with our church.

I can not stop crying.

A little word of advice to any husbands out there:  If your wife is very, very pregnant, and her first child is also getting ready to start kindergarten – this might be too much for her, especially if she is unsure that this is in his best interests.  Don’t send her out to get info, tour schools, or sign registration papers on her own.  She just might not be able to force herself to do it.  Regardless of how much you might think you are on the same page, there is no guarantee that a mama in this situation is not going to just flip to another page or switch to an entirely different book altogether.  And if she’s pregnant, don’t expect to get many coherent thoughts out of her when she’s in the middle of crying.  She might be the most practical, articulate, logical-thinking woman on the planet, but when you’re talking about taking her heart of our her chest and handing it over to someone else, you are not likely to get the most objective of responses.

I’m just sayin’.

So.  I’m not sure what I want the point of this post to be… maybe it’s just an opportunity to vent (code for: ramble on and on while I indulge in self-pity and defensiveness), or an attempt to think things through on virtual paper so I sound a bit more coherent than the usual “wah, wah, sob, sob… my baby!” that I’ve been doing of late.  If you can stick with me, your comments are welcome!

First of all, I believe with all my heart, that parents have a very serious God-given responsibility when it comes to the education of their children.  It is such a serious responsibility that they need to take time to figure out what their own thoughts, beliefs, and philosophy of education are, and then diligently seek out the best way of giving their child this sort of education.  It’s more than just saying, “Well, he’s six years old now, time to go to school!” and then sending him off.  It’s more than basing the decision of where to send him on something as simple as “do they have half-day or whole-day kindergarten?” or “do the start and end times work for our family and transportation?”.  These things might be important, but really, they shouldn’t be the whole basis of decision. If we are going to be held accountable for the education of a child’s mind, heart, and soul – and we are, I believe – then we’d better be pretty darn serious about the details of it.

(I am talking here, of course, about parents who have a choice in educating their children… unfortunately so many parents do not.  Thankfully we find ourselves in a current situation where we are able to choose to send M to a private school, public school, or home school.  I know the fact that we have a choice is a blessing in itself, but there’s still a responsibility to make the best choice possible.)

So, if and when we have thoughtfully (and prayerfully) made the huge decision to delegate this responsibility of educating our children to someone else, it’s our right to know what that someone else is going to be teaching them, the style of teaching, and various other things. 

I was disappointed to learn that the particular school we are looking at uses computers and other screen technology, quite often, to “teach” 5 and 6 year olds.  I just don’t see how this is the best way for children of such a young age to learn.  Why is everyone impressed with technology in schools?  Does it help the child learn to think or is it simply glorified worksheets and busy-work?  Isn’t it likely that most small children will become so enamoured with the computer itself that the actual learning of the material will take a back seat?  And shouldn’t children be doing more hands-on learning activities anyway? Any technology they learn now will most likely be obsolete by the time they need to prepare for a job.  I just don’t get it, especially given the damage (yes, damage) that this sort of impersonal education can do to someone of such a tender age. 

I’m a big believer in intuition and instinct… and intuitively I have a problem with government telling my family that we must now send our child away for several hours a day for the next 13 years in order to educate him.  (By the way, I’m not crazy for thinking this way – there were many parental protests when schooling first became compulsory in Massachusetts in 1852.  Little by little those voices were ignored and quieted and now society simply sees this as the "way things are”, but compulsory schooling and our current system of schooling in institutions is a pretty recent development.)  Let me be clear – I am pro-learning!  Learning is what childhood is all about.  Learning takes guidance and direction by someone… but ideally that guidance and direction is geared towards the individual child – his abilities, needs, interests, etc.   Individuality – the dignity of each person’s uniqueness – is highly disregarded in today’s society and nowhere more so than in schools where children are lumped together and taught the same thing at the same age - things decided by people who do not even know them.  Teachers do their best to get to know the children and help them learn, but there are so many handicaps blocking their way that it’s difficult for even the best teacher to achieve this for each and every student.

Anyway, back to government being involved… I was happy to learn that our potential school has developed and uses its own curriculum… and then disheartened to learn that this coming year they are switching over to state standard curriculum and will be doing state standardized testing as well.  My heart sunk at this news.  And the person hosting our tour wasn’t able to give me the names of any of the curriculum that will be used (it’s weird, apparently, that a parent might want such precise details of what their child will be learning).  Perhaps the teachers themselves would be able to give me more information, but I’m not sure we’ll have the opportunity to be in touch with them about this before making a decision about registering.

Standardized testing leads so often to “teaching to the test” instead of really focusing on helping each child learn.  I’m not a fan, at all, of such things… or homework or multiple choice questions or a host of other things either, if you really must know. :) 

Learning to think… this is what we need more of today.  Andrew Pudewa makes a beautiful statement in his talk about Freedomship Education (which you can download here), in which he discusses a classical education – developing character, knowledge, and skills - the kind of education men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and other great men early in our country’s history had (before compulsory schooling).  Andrew Pudewa says:

“We want to raise children who know how to think, and who have the knowledge, the wisdom, the character, and the skills to be able to speak the truth in a world of liars during a time of crisis.”

(This is a great talk to listen to, by the way… he also talks about the history of compulsory education, it’s real purpose [which is not teaching our children to think on their own], the problems with standardized testing, multiple choice tests, etc.)

So, where does one find a classical education today?  There are one or two schools around that would provide this for M, but they are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e!  And at least one of them is for older children only.  Thomas Sowell, an advocate of classical education, points out that parents seem to be more qualified and capable of giving their children a good education than professional teachers:

“It is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master's degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student-- which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.

Nevertheless, we continue to take seriously the pretensions of educators who fail to educate, but who put on airs of having "professional" expertise beyond the understanding of mere parents.” – Thomas Sowell, “Amateurs Outdoing Professionals”

Sowell discusses all sorts of educational problems in early elementary schools in the first part of his book, Inside American Education, if you are interested in a good summer read.

So here I am, where I’ve been a million times before, as you long-time readers know – face to face with my admiration of homeschooling.  It comes down to this… wanting peace for my family.  And the idea of homeschooling brings me more peace than any of the other options I’ve considered.  And I’ve considered them very, very hard – praying that God would either give me peace about sending M to school, lessen my desire to homeschool, or just out and out give me information to prove me wrong.  The opposite of all of these things has been happening – I feel less peace about sending M after learning more about this particular school, my desire to homeschool is growing, and all the information I’m finding is making me more and more certain that conventional schooling is not the road to go down for the best education for M.

The heartbreaking part of this is that with current circumstances (my husband has reservations about this, and I do feel he should have the final say so we can be sure we are doing the right thing) I have to be open to the idea that this is not God’s will for our family at this point in time.  But I feel so conflicted about doing something I don’t believe is the best for my son, thereby not being the best mother I can be and am called to be.  What’s a mama to do in a situation like this? 

Here’s the idealistic little picture in my head of a unified education, where learning is not a separate activity, done somewhere else, among other people, but as part of the whole of a child’s life:  a child in a one-on-one setting, with a nurturing grown-up’s arm around his shoulder, teaching him to read, to solve math problems, to love God, to love his neighbor, to learn about the wonders of nature via science, to learn about the creativity in his heart via art lessons, to learn about history, music, chores, being polite, everything under the sun (!)… along with a lot of affection, firm discipline, encouragement, guidance in all things related to mind, heart, and soul, all in a real-world setting of family and community (versus an artificial environment where everyone is the same age and treated as if they are all at the same developmental stage)… a holistic education of the entire individual, by someone whom God has placed in a position to really know and understand and deeply love that particular child – the way He loves that child – as an individual.

And, to me, that sounds like a mother doing the work God has given her by entrusting these little souls to her and her husband. 

I have to wonder if, when God created families, He thought it would be best to take the children away from their families several hours a day in order to educate them – or did He place them in their particular families with the intention that education would, for the most part, happen there?

And it’s an idealistic picture, yes, I know that.  And I’m pregnant and emotional, and not the best at dealing with reality right now – yes, I know that too, which is why I’m thankful to have a more objective husband.  But I’ve been on this road for 5 years now and looking back I can clearly see how this dream has developed and blossomed in my heart and maybe my current state is just an honest admission of what I’ve wanted to believe and say all along.  Barring any major change in our circumstances, having a baby will keep me at home for another 5 years.  I’d love to have both of my chicks nestled under my wing (I’ve had to let too many of them go too soon – maybe that is part of this too?), all of us learning together… and there are some practical and financial advantages as well.  Taking advantage of homeschool groups would be a large part of this too; I have no desire to suffocate my children or prevent them from being part of a larger community.

Am I being too overprotective?  Too controlling?  Hm.  Perhaps.  But I do know that someone is going to be in control.  If M goes to school, the system will be in control of what is being taught; teachers will be in control of whether he is learning as well as how he learns (so often you hear, “teacher wants us to do it this way, not that way, despite the fact that that way might be correct too, which I’d have to say undermines the intelligence and authority of the parent who might be just as correct); other children will be in control of his socialization (social skills should be taught by mature adults and older children, I firmly believe), and their actions and words will control, at least in part, how his personality develops – monitoring may be done by an adult, but the real learning of social skills will be taught by his peers.  It seems to me that if someone is going to be in control of these things, and we know someone must be, that someone ought to be the parents.

Some quotes that sum up my feeling about this “overprotective” issue:

“If you were going to grow tomatoes in Canada, you do not take the tomato seed and go outside and stick it in the ground, do you?  No.  What you do is get a little cup, maybe several little cups, and you carefully select and control the soil, control the amount of water, light, and heat it gets.  You don’t do all this, then stick it outside in the back of the pickup truck behind the barn.  You keep it inside on the windowsill or in a greenhouse area and you carefully control all the elements around that little seed as it grows.  You know where it needs to go, but when do you do that?  You do it when the plant is tall enough, the trunk is strong enough, the roots are deep enough, and you know the place where you are going to put it is safe enough, you take that seedling and put it outside where conditions are not under your control anymore.  There are going to be variables, but at least that plant has been prepared adequately to handle those variables.  When it all comes together you get a great plant because you did it all when the roots were deep enough and the stem was strong enough.” – Steve Moitozo – from 10 Myths of Socialization (free audio download)


“We are not home educating because we fear the world.  We are not building an impenetrable fortress within which we will shield our children from the onslaught of the enemy.  Rather, our goal as Catholics is to nurture our children, like young plants in a nursery, so that they will stand tall for Christ.” – Kimberly Hahn – Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

There.  Venting done.  For now. ;)

I am simply unsure of where to go from here.  I pray for the strength to trust that all things will work out for the best, despite the possible heartache of.going against my convictions… it’s a tough place to be for this mama.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Catching Up… a rambling post that you should probably skip if you value your time

Hello there, friends. :)  I am back from my fall off the edge of the earth.

I *just* remembered that I have a blog.  And that I have a lot of unfinished projects pertaining to said blog.  And that it’s always after I prematurely announce said projects (migrating printables to new site, opening Etsy store, upcoming blog posts, etc.) that life takes over and everything is left half done.  Sigh.

Will I ever learn?!

I have not forgotten that I am pregnant, although I may be in denial about how much energy it takes to grow a baby and how having a body twice its normal size can considerably slow a person down.  And I may have forgotten once or twice that I have a husband and son.  Apparently pregnant me is not all that big on reality… preferring instead to escape into a good book or barring that, escape by being just grumpy enough to scare everyone away for a while.

I have been about as stellar of a wife and mother these past few months as I have been a blogger.  

mother's day - kissing baby (M kissing Baby – my view from above… this happens all the time, proving that M is much, much sweeter than his mama, and that I do not deserve such a blessing.  I love that boy.)


The first 4 to 5 months I was miserable and somewhat depressed – for a variety of reasons:

  • Going cold turkey off of all caffeine
  • Going off my tiny little sleep helper (and mild anti-depressant), also cold turkey
  • Hence, not sleeping!  (A big one for me, just look at my blog title.)
  • All day “morning” sickness and fatigue
  • Lack of activity because we weren’t sure how much I should be doing (I was on some sort of bedrest my entire pregnancy with M… and strict bedrest – no sitting up, lying on left side all day – the final 3 months)
  • The messy house that resulted
  • The lack of social interaction that resulted
  • Beating myself up for not being totally joyful despite all the above circumstances – what kind of mama am I if I’m not happily sacrificing anything and everything for a new baby?  (Now this is NOT at all what I would say to someone else in the same situation – sacrifice is sacrifice and not pleasant by definition – but this is what I said to myself… because I am crazy that way.)

I was given the okay to do more about a month ago (we are currently at 29 weeks), and things have brightened up since then.  We did take a trip to Missouri to visit my family prior to that (in which I did nothing except sit on my mom’s couch and eat home-cooked food), and since being given the okay to do more I’ve felt better.  But I can’t do all I want to – I get tired!  I’m huge and I move much, much more slowly!  I’m temperamental and emotional and you’d be surprised at how much time goes by during a good crying session, or how much time the endless apologizing takes up!  My feet swell up in the middle of productive times and I have to go lie down and put them up instead of actually accomplishing something – curse those feet of mine! 

But, I’m back on caffeine and that makes things a little better.  No sugar, no salt, hardly any carbs (I’m borderline gestational diabetes, and have had some bouts of high blood pressure)… so you are not going to take my one cup of weak coffee away from me.  No.

Maternity clothes have been the bane of this entire pregnancy.  My tummy will tolerate no elastic.  Frankly, it complains about anything other than ultra-soft woven cotton or knit fabric.  So, dresses would be my friend, wouldn’t you think?  Except they are so expensive!!  And the ones from when I was pregnant with M fit my expansive middle okay, but there is no space, at all, for the girls, if you know what I mean.  Or, as M says, pointing a wiggly finger in the general direction of my chest, “those round things that have gotten so big”.  (Indeed they have, M, and thank you for noticing.  But please stop trying to cop a feel every time you stand next to me in church.) 

SO… I have been sewing up a storm, and neglecting everything else.  Snipping tight-busted-dresses into halves and making them into soft-waistbanded skirts, altering other skirts so they have soft waistbands… sewing some things from scratch, and even drafting my own patterns.  Whew.  The energy that was going to go into creating baby things for my store (and my baby) has been re-directed into a desperate attempt to clothe my growing self.

I’ve learned a lot, and have been frustrated a lot, but I have a working wardrobe and that is what matters.  A wonderful friend sent me a fancy dress and two extra skirts plus a couple of t-shirts, and I think I am set until the end of this here thing, unless we have cold weather because I have no pants that fit.  But I’m not thinking about that. 

Busy, busy, busy, I’ve even made two pairs of dress pants for M, which he decided to outgrow within 2 weeks, thankyouverymuch. 

Wanna see some of what I’ve been up to?  Of course you do!

collage-001 Starting at the top, going to left to right:

  • cotton dress, fully lined, made from a maternity pattern which had to be altered 10 times in order to not look like a tent.  However, I LOVE how it turned out.
  • quick dress I made from a t-shirt and cotton fabric – no pattern, just wrapped that fabric around my waist and gathered it to the t-shirt – love this one too!
  • no pattern skirt made from soft, soft microfiber fabric with a knit waistband – sooooo comfy
  • another comfy skirt made from a dress I cut in half, with another comfy waistband.
  • skirt from my friend that I altered to have yet another knit waistband (can’t see it in the pic, but it’s a wonderful long, soft, slinky skirt.
  • shirt from a pattern that I altered to have a gathered neckline – so cute and simple, and LONG enough to cover my tummy; why are maternity shirts never long enough??
  • another long shirt made from the same pattern as the pink dress
  • an attempt at capris – fully lined – from a pattern I drafted myself using measurements.  They are far from perfect.  Pants are a hard thing to get just right.
  • shorts sewn from another pattern I drafted myself – love them.  Flat-front waistband with elastic in back, I wear these every day.  They really need to be washed.
  • A little nightshirt for M from the softest knit cotton ever.  Also drafted this pattern myself – with raglan sleeves, which were super easy.
  • Current project – more shorts for myself
  • Next project – maybe a dress, maybe another top
  • brown dress pants for M
  • black dress pants for M

And all of that within about 3 weeks.  Are you impressed?  :)

Hope you are having a wonderful spring/ beginning of summer!

Have a beautiful day!
Nicole :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Daffodil Craft

When we were dating, my husband always gave me daffodils on St. Patrick’s Day.  I love them; they just yell spring! to me.  We are far from having real daffodils yet, but M and I decided to whip up some pretend ones to brighten up our kitchen. :)

This little craft was taken mostly from this post over at Silly Eagle Books.

Cut several leaf shapes from yellow tissue paper by folding the tissue into several layers:IMAG0381

Draw and cut circles from contact paper:IMAG0383

Poke a green pipe cleaner through the center of a circle, bending the end into a little nub on the paper side. IMAG0384

Peel away the paper and place six petals around the sticky contact paper: circle:IMAG0385

Wrap another pipe cleaner (we used yellow and a sparkly orange) around something to make the trumpet part of the daffodil.  We used a small peg doll to wrap ours:IMAG0387

Attach the trumpet to the flower by twisting the end of it around the end of the green pipe cleaner “stem”:IMAG0386  

Voila!  Sunshiney daffies:IMAG0391


Have a beautiful day!
Nicole :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Wall Collage


Apparently the Powers that Be heard all my complaining about snow and cold and took pity on me because March has been out-of-this-world beautiful!  We’ve slept with the windows open a few nights, have had several late night campfires, and have even brought out the sunscreen!  And technically it is still winter.  Winter!  Until tomorrow of course.  But still.  Winter here normally lasts well into April. 

This little project was all M’s idea, and actually took place a couple of weeks ago before all the nice weather, right when we were starting to get a bad case of cabin fever. 

It started off as a simple flower art project.  We were going to try blowing watered down paint onto flower shapes with a straw. IMAG0346



But that was really hard work!  We obviously didn’t have the paint watered down enough.  I thought we were both going to hyperventilate by the time one flower was done.  :)  So M decided to paint the rest with a brush.


We made the centers of the flowers pop out a little bit by adding them on top of two layers of mounting foam:IMAG0359


Pretty flowers:IMAG0369   IMAG0368


But that just was not enough spring inside the house.  That evening M made big plans to decorate the closet doors (this closet is in a little nook off of our living room) with a giant springtime collage.  At the time it was covered with coffee filter snowflakes – which were getting pretty old and boring – blah!

The plans were all his, and he did all the cutting and taping.  I simply drew a few shapes for him to cut, all according to what he wanted.

The rainbow was made by layering half-circles of color:IMAG0367  

Top of closet doors:IMAG0370 
Bottom half:IMAG0371

There are even a couple of butterflies. :) 

I love looking over at our closet doors. :)  Such a happy space made by a happy boy!

Have a beautiful spring!
Nicole :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Easter Printables

Have your plastic Easter eggs made an appearance in your home yet this year?  I love bringing them out about now; love how they brighten things up a bit with their pretty colors. :)  I crave color this time of year.  Crave it.

I’m in the process of going through all of my printables and moving them to a site where they can be a bit more organized and just… prettier than the current printables page.  I found some Easter-themed printables and thought it would be fun to post a little reminder about them.

One of M’s still-favorite games to play with our plastic eggs is our Easter Chicks in Eggs game.  imageimage I made this for him a couple of years ago and it is still a lot of fun – for him and the grown-ups around here. 


Another favorite when he was 2 or 3 years old was this Easter Basket file folder game (I have to say I’m really looking forward to re-using some of these handmade activities with our new little one!). image This is a fun way to work on one-to-one correspondence and practice counting to 10.

I also want to share this little Bunny Shapes Craft with you.  image I made this for M a couple of years ago, but for some reason never shared it on here.  He went through a phase where he loved putting little animals together with shapes.  This is a fairly closed-ended activity, but it’s good for shape recognition and learning to follow directions!

Have a beautiful day!
Nicole :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Learning by Heart – Outer Space


The mother’s heart is the child’s classroom.” – Henry Ward Beecher

{M is 5 years old}

Goodness.  It’s been a while since I wrote up one of these posts!  We’ve been “doing school”, but it’s been sort of a haphazard here and there these past few months, and my motivation for writing about it has been null.  I’ve been lazy on many levels since late November… M had the flu, then I had the flu, then there was the first trimester of my pregnancy in all its miserable glory, not to mention Christmas thrown in somewhere along the way… and well, we got a little off track to say the least.  And the house is messy, maybe even dirty – and while I have no desire to actually clean anything up, still I feel guilty blogging when there are so many other things that need doing. :)

Yet here I am.  So I guess I’ve succeeded in pushing down those guilty feelings. ;)

Anyway.  M is totally into outer space these days, which I think happened about this time last year too.  This time he’s all about the planets and the sun.  He reminds us of the little boy in Jerry McGuire, with all the interesting facts he spouts off at random times… “Did you know that if you could go to Jupiter, you’d get instantly squashed flat because it has so much gravity?”  “Did you know that without the sun we’d all be dead and frozen?”  “Did you know that if you could get close to the sun you would instantly burn up and melt?”  I think it’s safe to say he’s entered that phase where the morbid is  utterly fascinating. :)



We read the books in the carousel below.  His favorites were the Magic School Bus – Lost in the Solar System (audio version), and the Cat in the Hat There’s No Place Like Space.


I also picked up the video version of the Magic School Bus: which was a big hit!  This was the first time we’ve checked out Magic School Bus items and I have to say I was very impressed with both the video and the book.  I know I’ve heard nothing but good about them, but I’m happy to say they both exceeded my expectations (and I’m very picky when it comes to what M is allowed to watch!).

Most of our learning came from these books and the video.  The rest of what I’ll share was mostly for fun and to feed M’s interest…



We made homemade moon sand.  I did not get a good photo of the items used in the sand because M was always so busy playing with them.  They are all either buried in the sand or awaiting their trip to the moon in these photos:IMAG0059

I used a Space Toob: , which was a big hit (and which you can get for a reasonable price at Michael’s if you use one of their 40% off coupons).  I also added in a couple of scoops just for fun and M used a wooden ball for an asteroid.  He really enjoyed having it land on the sand and make craters (his idea!):IMAG0049 You could use large rocks for pretend asteroids too, which would be a bit more realistic. 


Tan Grams:

We worked together to figure out how to use our wooden tangrams to make a rocket on the fridge:IMAG0191


M received a telescope for Christmas and we used it to look at the moon one very beautiful full-moon evening.  We also caught sight of a couple of planets (which just looked like big stars with this low-power telescope).  All very exciting stuff!  It was neat to see the craters on the moon enlarged.IMAG0163Shots of the telescope at night didn’t really turn out very well, but here you can see him spying on the neighbors during the day.  Heh.  He said he was looking at a tree, but I’m pretty sure it was the neighbors. :)

M loves a pack of outer space flash cards I picked up at Target a year or two ago.  I pulled out the ones with pictures of the planets, and he decided to line them up in order on our window sill.  He memorized the order of the planets, and I didn’t even know it until I saw him doing this!IMAG0084

I made up some little planet name cards with pictures, laminated them, and he traced their names with a dry-erase marker, then matched them up to the appropriate flash card.  You could just use these to place in order, if you don’t have pretty flashcards.IMAG0107 You can download the cards here.

Next, he decided to copy the planet names down in his handy-dandy, never-far-away notebook. :)  (This little notebook is going to be a treasure when he is older!)IMAG0108



M made a rocket from a paper towel tube (similar to the one in this post, but not nearly as pretty):IMAG0315He lobbed it around the living room until Daddy came home and made him stop.  I am sooo much more lenient about this sort of thing because busy boy equals resting mama and there’s quite a bit I’ll allow in order to make this happen these days!

We also made little straw rockets to blow around:IMAG0319Wish I could’ve gotten a shot of this in action – I even enjoyed playing with these!  You fold a 2” length of paper in half lengthwise, tape it shut except for about 2” at the end, cut the open end into strips, fold the tip into a point and tape, then insert a straw and blow the rocket into the air.  Very fun! 


Linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up.  Check them out for some great homeschooling posts!

Have a beautiful day!
Nicole :)



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