Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What To Do With A Toddler?

One of the most popular questions that I get asked about homeschooling is "What do you do with your toddler?"  Well, the question should really be worded: "What does our toddler do with us?"  I am laughing because this could have lots of meanings!

I also say this because I have had the opportunity of homeschooling with toddlers from the very beginning of our "calling" to this endeavor.  I must admit that it did stress me out in the early years.  But this year I barely gave it much thought to have our 2-year-old among us. (She wasn't walking at the beginning of our last school year)  Of course I am going into this year knowing that it will be challenging at times but for the most part I know it will be a joy to have a little one along side and to watch her mind develop so quickly.  Here are a few photos of our first 2 weeks:
Nothing like having Daddy for a play mate once in awhile!
Playing the Cootie game was a hit!
~Big sister joined in on a little break~
We discovered that Angel Baby would rather build than color!
~This is right up 1st Grade Brother's alley!~
It has worked well for all of us to rotate offering a little time with our blooming toddler.  
~Each sibling rotates spending time with Angel Baby so Mom can have individual time with other children~
I rarely get complaints since they get a break to do a fun activity!
Then I get my own time with our precious toddler for story time and other "as needed" situations.
This is Angel Baby's ALL TIME FAVORITE!
~I filled up the bathroom sink with dish soap bubbles and she played for at least 30 minutes!~
Having fun with a big empty box is always a treat!
~Playing the piano with biggest brother is the best! Witnessing our 16-year-old play with a 2 year-old  always touches my heart~
This is one of those special moments....
A picture is definitely worth a thousand words...
So that's a day-in-the-life of our toddler!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Let's Talk About Love

Neighbors and Friends
I've been thinking about love quite a bit lately.  Not romantic love but the love that God asks us to have for our neighbor.  You know, the Second Greatest Commandment...You shall love your neighbor as yourself?" (Matthew 22:39)
My pondering began with this profound post by Christine, followed by another beautiful post by Anne.
Then I was reminded of many of the incredible ways that Mother Teresa talks about love as we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of her birth.
I've come to realize what a barrier that our judgements (of one another) can be to love.  As Mother Teresa said:  "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
These were the words from Christine's morning reading:

"But how is this government of the tongue to be practised? The very detailing of the evils will implicitly at least suggest the remedies. Listen to an hour of conversation in any Christian company. How much of it turns, almost of necessity as it would seem, on the actions and character of others! The meaning of judging others appears to be this: the judgment seat of our Divine Lord is as it were already set up on the earth. But it is empty. It is waiting for Him. We, meanwhile, unmannerly and unbidden, keep ascending the steps, enthroning ourselves upon His seat, and anticipating and mimicking His judgment of our brethren. To put it in this way brings home to us the wretchedness of what we are doing. It will also surely assist us in endeavoring to cleanse our conversation of so much unnecessary canvassing of the motives and actions of others. Yet, for the most part we have gone far along our road in devotion and done ourselves many an irreparable mischief, before we bestow half the carefulness on the government of our tongue, which it not only deserves, but imperiously requires."

~ Rev. Frederick William Faber, Growth In Holiness,72.

We stopped to verbalize our admiration of the children in our neighborhood.  The circle of children who   enjoy playing and exploring God's world around us are made up of devout Catholics, Mormans, and Non-Denominational Christians.  On each side of these 3 faiths live 2 Hindu families that live peacefully and lovingly among us.  Personally, I feel blessed.  The children model what Jesus has taught us in Matthew 22.  They show love, friendship and compassion towards one another, without regards to their religion.  No they aren't perfect but the occasional personality conflict affords a great opportunity to talk about Matthew 22.  It serves as a good reminder to us as parents at the same time!

Mrs. G and I have a healthy relationship and mutual love for Our Lord.  Though she is not Catholic, I love her still the same.  She strives to do the work of the Lord and I respect her greatly.  I am grateful that we can discuss our differences, yet agree on seeking and giving the same love that Our Lord is asking of us.  I think this might be a rare blessing...

From the depth of my soul I am secure and blessed by our Catholic faith but also realize that as Christians, we are responsible for our love.  I admire Mother Teresa for her eyes of love.  She didn't look at race or religion when she picked the dying off the street.  She didn't question or judge their lifestyle or the reason why they lay dying.  She saw each person made in the image and likeness of God.  But this is difficult in our world lacking of Mother Teresa's.  Let's face it, this kind of love is hard to come by and live by!  Too often we see weakness in ourselves and others and we are quick to judge.  And there goes love, out the window.

One again, Mother Teresa has wise words: "Sometimes, in the church, there is a struggle when we see one another's weakness.  Unless we have trust, it is impossible to live a pure and holy life.  We must have respect for each other.  We must realize that if God chose me, he chose you, too.   If he trusts me, he trusts you, too."

Though we all know this isn't easy, love is required and our heaven depends on it.

"Be kind and loving with each other, for you cannot love Christ in his distressing disguise if you cannot love Jesus in the heart of your neighbors." 
~Mother Teresa~

I am updating this post to include a beautiful link that Anne recommended to a lovely Christian Woman named Sarah Mae and her Warm Cup of Coffee.  Her recent writing about love was absolutely perfect!  She said the words that I wish I would have said myself...Thank you, Sarah Mae.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sharing Love

As I mentioned in my last post, we were making some Mother Teresa Pies for our Associate Pastor.  He worked with Mother Teresa in India for 35 years through the Brothers of Charity.  He joined the Brothers of Charity when he was only 16 years old!  We wanted to shower him with some Mother Teresa Birthday Blessings and thank him for his service to God and all of us.

Turns out that Father C. was hosting 6 brother priests at the home of one of our parishioners.  She was delighted to have us drop off  "surprise" desserts!  We were blessed, in turn, to be able to join them all for evening prayer.  {Just sad that oldest son had to stay home with Angel Baby since she was sleeping!}  Thought I'd share a few photos of our celebration...

We made Banana Creme and Vanilla Pies this time....
Hubby helped design this one...I like how he did the Sari draped to the side...
(I am not patient with details like hubby!)

~A photo of the group and 3 of our 5 children~
We are looking forward to a talk that Fr. C. will be giving about his time with Mother Teresa.  He will be speaking on her Feast Day~September 5th.
God Bless all of these wonderful priests who come from afar to serve Jesus here in America!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blessed Mother Teresa~Her Light Still Shines!

Happy 100th Birthday Mother Teresa!
August 26, 1910 ~September 5, 1997

Blessed Teresa is being honored World Wide this Thursday!
Though she is no longer present here on earth, her light still shines among us...
We've been talking a lot about Mother Teresa this week and how we can serve one another, beginning right here at home.  We have read that Mother Teresa used to say that we don't have to go to Calcutta to serve the poor but we can start by looking at our own family and those who are right around us who need love.
Her words still ring out to us today:  "There is a terrible hunger for love.  We all experience that in our lives--the pain, the loneliness.  We must have the courage to recognize it.  The poor you may have right in your own family.  Find them.  Love them."
Ultimately, we are all called to be beacons of light and love around us, right here, right now.  As we all know, it's not easy but it's necessary.

I thought I'd share a couple of craft ideas and this fun birthday dessert to celebrate Mother Teresa's wonderful life...And her feast day is coming soon too, on September 5th!

This is a very easy dessert that our kids LOVED helping with!  
~It's Vanilla Jell-O Pie (we added food coloring) with Fresh Blueberries & Whipped Cream~
*You could also make it in chocolate*
~Check out my post over at Catholic Cuisine for easy instructions!~

*We are making one of these desserts as a surprise (Shhh) for our Associate Pastor who served (personally) with Mother Teresa as a young man in India!  The kids are SO excited*

Here are a few craft ideas for this week or for her feast day coming up!

This is an easy Mother Teresa Beacon of Light Craft
I bought this plain glass candle at the Dollar Tree and used these supplies:
Oh, and I forgot to add the blue glitter to the supply photo!
The blue and white represents the colors of the Missionaries of Charity.  
This was a super easy craft!  Now the candle adorns our home altar/prayer table until Blessed Teresa's Feast Day, (September 5th) reminding us to be lights in the world.

This is also a fun paper plate craft to remember Mother Teresa.  We just used paint and paper plates!

Some of our other favorite Resources:
The Fifth Word
Mother Teresa 
Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa By: Demi
Thirsting for God 
Glory Stories
Waltzing Matilda

"All we do is but a drop in the ocean, but if we do not do it, the ocean will be one drop less."
~Mother Teresa~

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Madness, Sprinkled With Roses

Today was a "Monday" alright.  I don't know about other home educators but Monday is almost predictably our toughest day.  I'm not sure what it is but the mood is hardly ever quite right.
It's one of those days when the kids are resistant to each other, to me, to school and to put it politely...  No "perfect" kids or Mom around here!   I always contemplate "skipping" Mondays but then I figure that Tuesdays would become the next "Monday".  Do any of you have this challenge at your house?

At the end of the day, I am still praising God for 3 glorious gifts....

1~ It was a feast day and I  He had some nice things planned, being the feast of St. Rose of Lima.  We ended up having a nice discussion about how we should not be so concerned about what we look like on the outside (like beautiful St. Rose) but we should work on who we are on the inside and the beautification of our soul.  On a morning when I was calling everything into question, God provided, as always.  Just as Mondays are always rough, He is always with us.  And what abundant blessings we receive through the saints as they light our dark and muddy paths, just when we need a glimpse of heaven to keep us going!   Making a wreath of roses with cupcakes, in honor of St. Rose of Lima, was rather cathartic in this sense.  I think it would be safe to say that we had St. Rose Cupcake Therapy today.

2~He gives us treasures through our children.  I was sitting with 3 of the school children having a serious discussion about writing personal narratives.  Calmly and quietly (out of the blue) our angel baby 2-year old walks over to our table from her play area and says "Knock, knock..."  We all stop talking and I reply:  "Who's there?" She responds with "Cargo."  And I say: "Cargo who?"  (Admittedly not expecting her to say anything that made sense) Then she says "Car go beep, beep!"  And she ran off down the hallway making roaring and beeping sounds like a car.  The rest of us laughed one of those deep-belly-good-for-the-soul laughs since everyone swears they never taught her that!  I choose to believe that God knew that we all needed a good laugh in the middle of our Monday Madness.  It was not a coincidence that He used a precious child to deliver His message~a treasure for the day!

3~And finally, He gives us the gift of grace.  I have learned that His gifts of grace come in all shapes and sizes throughout our day.  In this case it came in the form of some extra "quiet" time in the afternoon since all children earned 3 behavior strikes, leading them to private reflection in their rooms!  It also served as a healthy time-out for Mom...Hence my praise for the outcome of our Monday Madness, sprinkled with roses. *wink*
And how appropriate this quote:
"Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace.  The gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase."
~St. Rose of Lima~

Here are some photos of our Saint Rose of Lima Cupcake Therapy!
*Be sure to check out Catholic Icing for some beautiful Rose Cupcakes*
Super Boy (1st grader) takes the helm with the frosting...Wild and wooly!
Princess (3rd grader) is very careful and meticulous...
Army Dude (6th grader)..Let's get this thing done!
~Our final wreath of cupcake roses~
Dear St. Rose of Lima, please pray for us!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Queenship Crown Cookies for Our Lady

At our house we have learned to celebrate special feasts (and many other things) around a Firefighter schedule!
We don't have much of a choice if we want to do certain things all together as a family.
Since Hubby is on duty all weekend, he will miss Sunday's Mass and Queenship.
To include him, we celebrated the Queen of Heaven last night!

We were all pooped after a busy 1st week of school so I was looking for something easy.
I bought these large cookies and used a cookie cutter as a guide for the crown decor... You could probably do the same thing without the cookie cutter!  I just used frosting and sprinkles that I had in the pantry from our May Crowning celebration.
These were perfect visual treats (especially for our little ones), following the Glorious Mysteries,  specifically the last two!
So we began AND ended our week with soul food:
Most importantly~The Eucharist!
.....Followed by Chocolate Chip Cookies, an earthly delight.

It was nice to come together in prayer as a family, all 7 of us (since hubby is not with us on a daily basis), reflecting upon the things we are thankful for... Especially this feast of Our Lady's Queenship and our goal of heaven.
I think it will be a new tradition to begin our school year at the Assumption, followed a week later by the Queenship.   It is a good reminder that Our Lady walks with us and reminds us of our goal as she is the Queen of this hopeful destination.

"As sailors are guided by a star to the port, so are Christians guided to heaven by Mary."
~St. Thomas Aquinas~


Monday, August 16, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things About Our First Day of School...

"When you seek truth you seek God whether you know it or not."
~St. Edith Stein (Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.~

These are a few of my favorite things about our 1st Day back to "Home" School...

~1.  A heavenly banquet to begin the school year....

~2.  Followed by an earthly banquet at our favorite breakfast place...

~3.  Flowers for Our Lady who always leads us closer to her Son....
"We should submit our reason to the truths of faith with the humility and simplicity of a child."
~St. Alphonsus Ligouri~

~4.  New School Supplies..Love them!  

I'm a pushover when it comes to school supplies...But this year I was on a budget.  I was able to find most things at the Dollar Tree.  However, I don't care for their crayons so I went to Walmart for those.  Crayola Crayons were on sale for 25 cents.  Now that was a bargain I couldn't refuse!
*I found these little buckets at the Dollar Tree and decorated with stickers, (already on hand) scripture, and glitter glue*
~These are all 4 buckets, prior to being filled~
The top rim of the buckets had a rough edge so the glitter glue ended up peeling off the top.
I ended up adding more stickers and still liked how they turned out.
~I thought these holy erasers were so cute from the Dollar Tree~

Each child received about 10 items, including a holy card...

~5.  Home made (Jumbo) Chocolate Chip Cookies!  (Actually made the night before)
Oldest brother (High School Jr.) does not educate at home but he's back home before we know it!  Our days move quickly around here...

 ~6.  A clean and organized School Room...

~7.  And did I already say Home Made Chocolate Chip Cookies?  Mmmmmm, Good for the Soul.
Older brother thinks they are heavenly!

 ~8.  A little God-incidence...

...3 days before we started school, I found a wall decal at the Dollar Tree, inscribed with our "Family Motto!"  It was placed proudly in our School Room.

~9. Handprints!

I love Handprint Art!  This is always one of the first pages of our Learning Binders so we can see where we are that year and look back to see how far we've grown.

This year we made American Flags with our handprints.  I think I might have to borrow them for school room decor before they go into the Learning Binders! (Yes, even 2yo made one)

 ~10. Sweet smiling faces are my final favorite.  They brightened my first day of school and will shine on forever in my heart!

"...For myself, I think the greatest happiness of this life is to be released from the cares of formalities of what is called the world.  My world is my family, and all the change to me will be that I can devote myself unmolested to my treasure."
~St. Elizabeth Seton~

God Bless all of you and your families!
~Immaculate Mary, please pray for us and hold us close to your heart~

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our Learning Place

~Welcome to our Learning Place!~
Our Learning Place...
Begins with a Learning Base,
Filled with Learning Spaces,
And sweet Learning Faces!
How's that for a silly rhyme?  I think I'm a bit punchy from my school planning. Well anyway, here we are preparing for another school year to begin!  We have been working hard this summer to organize and purge our home from as many "things" as possible.  So why does it feel like we still have way too much "stuff"?  I suppose when you have a large family and you add home education on top of it, the piles of papers, books, and clutter are inevitable and rather never-ending....  However, since we started educating children at home about 6 years ago, I think this summer yielded the best results for getting ourselves "set up" for the new school year.  I know the orderliness will ebb and tide but it sure feels good to start out right.  It's been worth the time it has taken to get things organized!  You can view a previous post (with photos) as we were cleaning and working toward this goal.
I know it's fun to take a peek inside other places, so enjoy the tour!
This is a view of our wall of resources (wall opposite from the window in the above photo)
~Hubby built these shelves last year to help us organize all of our learning materials~
(Wish I had taken a "before" picture)
Being a new blogger (as of Lent' 10), this is the first time posting photos of our School Room/Learning Base. My husband designed this room the first year we started schooling at home.  We had a large cathedral ceiling in our downstairs living room.  Hubby came up with the idea of making a room over the living room with all of the extra "space" way up there.  It was a long 8 months of messy (stressful!)construction but it's been a space that's evolved into a cozy room upstairs that's been put to great use!  Not only did the construction end up carving out our School Room (Learning Base)/Play Room,  it also produced a small office, (hubby and I share) and a bathroom, all within one area!  The whole place is extremely functional.  We just added the shelves a long the wall last year, as seen in the photo above.  In the process of the original re-model, we were even able to save the top (2) windows and converted them from decorative to operable (opening & closing) windows within the learning base and office.  This is a view of our backyard from the learning base window.

Now you may be asking "What is all of this Learning Base business about?"  Yes, it's a school room and a play room but it's mostly a Learning Base because that's just what it is...A Base.  We don't even come close to spending all of our learning time here during the day.  It's definitely a school room of sorts but the truth is that our learning, even within this room, is much different than a class room.  Yes, we do some of our learning here but as most home educators know, we rarely stay in one place!  At our house, we end up moving all around, (inside, outside and around different rooms) depending on the time of day and what's going on with babies, toddlers, teens, etc.  For example, our bed (Mom & Dad's) often ends up being the cozy reading place for devotional readings, our 6th grader prefers the dining room table to spread out and complete his math assignments, the back patio is a good place to paint or watch birds, and we often do craft projects around the kitchen table!  Regardless of where we travel through the day, we begin and end our day in the Learning Base, hence the title of Learning "Base".  I must admit that the terms "School Room" and "Play Room" come most naturally around here too but I just wanted to clarify the purpose and use!"
  • Regardless of what it's called, we start out here in this Learning Place each morning with prayer and spiritual reading (Bible or Saint). We created a shelf that serves as our prayer table in the learning base. (Different from our home altar in our living room)  We also store bible, saint books, rosaries, etc. nearby for easy access (key to success!)  
  • The prayer shelf is elevated so we kneel in prayer at the foot of the cross...

~This is a close-up of our Family Prayer Box, kept on the prayer shelf~
(It's just a shoe box decorated with Catholic wrapping paper)
In here, we place all of our prayer intentions and lift them up in prayer each day!
We have found this an extremely useful prayer tool.
It has provided an active opportunity for all of us in our family prayer life...
Mostly, it helps us "remember" to write down the names of people whom we promised our prayers and to actively pray for them!   We review the names each week and call them out loud.

These resource shelves are located to the left of the prayer shelf...
I keep all most of our saint books and devotional reading here.
You may notice that all of the toddler puzzles, games, and manipulatives are on the top shelf...
This keeps dear angel baby from getting into them 24-7 and makes them "special" for learning periods!
~This is what works best for our family~
I keep a little step ladder in my office to get things down, as needed.

  • Each child has their own work station.  Hubby built in 2 desks for our kids to rotate through.  Each one has a cork board, drawers, and cupboard to store their books.  They can also use this area to decorate with their art work, holy cards,  and favorite things.  It's been wonderful to have this base work station for all items to come from and go back to!  ("Ideally" each day)
This is Princess's 3rd Grade Learning Space

    This is Army Dude's 6th grade Learning Space
  • Currently we have 3 children schooling at home and a toddler to keep busy.  We set up tables for the 2 youngest children (1st grade and toddler) to use as their learning spaces and to store their books, etc.

  • The children's artwork, coupled with reflections of our faith tend to make up the decor of the room, as you may have noticed!  It's nothing fancy but highly functional, as previously mentioned.
**However, I am SO excited about this little decal that I stumbled upon at the Dollar Tree that reflects our "Family Motto!"  What are the chances of that?  Definitely a God-incidence and the newest addition to our Learning Base this year!

Divine Providence in the Dollar Tree once more!
So, as we move about our day, we always have a base to come back to, store our books, and prepare for the next day.  Like I said before, this is the 'ideal' we strive for!
And the tour continues....
Within our Learning Base we store an American Flag for our morning flag salute.  Since both hubby and I served in the military, we are a very patriotic family!
*Note that we DO have television in our learning base since it also serves as our play room.  Notice the(embarassing) large collection of children's videos and dvd's* However we have strict guidelines for television and electronic games during our school week.  We keep the television covered, as in the photo, and it is off limits during the week, unless a special occasion or need arises!
This is the door into our small office....Peeking in, you can see the small size. 
~Entering the office...This is a picture of my work area, finally tidied up!  The statue of St. Anne with our Blessed Mother (as a child) is one of my favorites and serves as my constant inspiration for home education~
~This is the view from our office window~
My Favorite!
**I truly enjoy admiring our Mary Garden and fountain from above**
I recently started this liturgical filing system, by month...
The labels are not very pretty but it has been very helpful for organizing things I have printed out and collected for feast days and other liturgical celebrations.
To the left of my computer is an area where I file other "misc" things...
Directly behind my desk and tucked in this little space is my resource area where I keep an extra bible, concordance, catechism, books on home education, parenting, etc.  This is a work in progress!  I would like to clear the area on top and make it more of a reflection or meditation table.  Not sure if I'll get to it before school starts!????
Moving back in to the learning base/school room...This is our Paper Station!  
~It has helped us to have one area to keep different kinds of paper to choose from~
"Exciting," right?  Oh the little things that bring us joy!
And a few more misc. photo angles...

Well, this is the end of the tour...Hope you've enjoyed a peek into our world!
~Now just looking forward to the sweet faces to fill our spaces~
Click here to join in or take a peek at other fun school rooms!

Not Back to School Blog Hop
Thank you to Lena at JOYfilled Family for sharing this information!
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