It’s a good principle to remember: to take the time to really see what’s going on around me, to watch them with pleasure and simple enjoyment, to breathe a prayer for them – these are the things we as mothers can do to cultivate a spirit of love, contentment, and joy in our little plot.
And that’s what these weekly pretty, happy, funny, real posts help me to do.
~Pretty Sister ~
How good and pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters!) to dwell together in unity.
~ Happy Sister ~
At some point in the morning, a brother or two has been taking Geneva for a little walk down the road and back. They get some fresh air and exercise between subjects and I get a [more] peaceful moment to teach other or just take a breather.
I do so wish winter won’t come, because this arrangement is working out swimmingly.
~ Funny Math ~
The Proverbs 31 woman laughs at the days to come. Start today. Laugh at antics like this, in a “Ha, ha, you’re so cute, and yes, you are going to finish your math,” sort of way. Because the only other option is yelling and stamping. We must smile & carry on and push through, just as we’re asking them to.
Oh, and I’ve even been known to mark capitalization and spelling corrections on papers like this in addition to arithmetic errors. If they want to get verbose on their math page, they can pause and remember that their mother is an English major who will think that making them rewrite their snark correctly is hilarious.
Someday they’ll think it’s hilarious too, don’t you think? Someday?
I’m even tracking what I’m eating, too. I did, then I didn’t, then I did, then I didn’t, and now I am again. Homemade foods made of “a bit of this” and “tad of that” don’t translate well into calorie-counting systems, but if I downplay the calorie aspect of it and simply use it to track what I eat, the truth is that I pay more attention to what goes into my mouth and have a better awareness of whether I’m actually way out of line or if I have actually exercised enough and eaten well enough to have a treat.
I feel like all this effort should pay me back a bit more quickly and dramatically with greater scale-number results, but I do feel better with the increased daily walking that my Fitbit has encouraged.
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Since mentioning in my Wednesday with Words posts that I’ve started (again) deliberately choosing my current reads by category, I’ve had a lot of questions about it. So, I thought I’d break it all down and answer the questions in one place that I can easily refer to.
Also, I added two categories, so this is already an update to my previous comments in posts.
Multiple Streams of Reading
Brandy started it all, of course. My reading for the last year or so has been spotty and haphazard and I’d been wanting to get more intentional and deliberate about it. So when I saw Brandy’s post, I realized it was time to revive my practice of “multiple streams of reading.”
If all my reading is left to whim, then I tend to overload and binge in a certain type or simply flounder and read online instead of choosing a book.
But when I have a list of books I’m currently reading, then I am more likely to pick one of them up instead of opening a Pinterest tab.
And when I can have only one book in one category going at a time, then I have to actually finish one before starting in on another. This reduces my tendency toward book ADD.
Organizing My TBR Pile
I keep the books I’m currently reading in a bag so they’re easy to move around, easy to put away, and convenient to grab if I’m going out (because books are my security blanket).
I got the bag at Craft Warehouse. It’s the perfect size and structure for a book bag.
So, here are my categories and what they mean for me.
This is any God-related title, regardless of subtopic. I like myself some heady stuff now and again and I also love Puritan writers.
This is my “I will improve” category. I am not a natural science person, but I am trying to broaden my interests out of my own narrow little holes. The world is a fascinating place, and so I need to open my eyes a bit more. This year I’ll be focusing on Chemistry and periodic table titles because that’s what we’re studying in elementary lessons.
I was very tempted to break this category out into three or more categories (like ‘education,’ ‘history,’ ‘culture,’ etc.). But because this category includes the topics I would normally binge on, I need to restrict this category and finish one before I start another. A book falls under humanities if it is non-fiction and about humans: education, history, culture, sociology, literary studies, and memoirs.
This is my new category. I decided I did need a way to break humanities out after all. I need a way to include both a broadening humanities category and also have the option of keeping a book on one of my vocations going: homemaker, homeschooling, writing, productivity, etc. This category will tend toward including more practical titles, while Humanities will hold the more theoretical books.
Whether it is classic literature or a current novel, I think it’s healthy to read quality fiction. Well-written novels give us insight into people and cultures and society in ways that non-fiction simply can’t. Reading novels is a way not only to learn sympathy (something I’m weak on), but even insight into yourself and your own motivations and affections.
This category might not always be filled, but I wanted a way to allow a random library book into the stack without trying to decide which category it fit into. It might also contain an audiobook if I have a paperback going in the same category. One of the things I appreciated the most from Alan Jacob’s Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction was the encouragement to not resist reading at whim, and to always make room for it even while pursuing a reading plan. So, I am.
My other new category. Doug Wilson has shared his reading pattern, and one thing he does that I hadn’t thought of before was to have a certain stack of his favorite authors just cycles through rereading them. So, to my morning devotion reading time, I made a list of my top books that have been helpful to me in daily life and I will read just a short bit every day to help me keep my perspective and focus where it needs to be.
Yes, it’s what people want to know, because yes, it is hard. I do often wish I did less so I could read more. Right now, that’s not an option for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in some other season and it doesn’t mean I can’t read at all now.
So, the devotional category is read for 5-10 minutes during my morning devotions, which honestly does not happen every morning, but I’m trying to make it more regular. I’m sleeping through the night most nights now, so it’s a lot easier than it used to be. Right now I’m walking most mornings and I’m using the audio Bible during that time – listen to the Bible one direction then turn around and pray on the way back. I’m nervous about the turn toward dark, cold mornings, though; I don’t know how long this will last.
I have a childhood family habit of reading while I eat breakfast or lunch. Too often this has become reading online instead of in a book. I’m moving back toward books during this time, but sometimes this time is too crazy to lose myself in a book and sometimes my lunch and my husband’s lunch break coincide and then I chat with him instead.
During quiet time a couple times a week I make myself close the laptop and pick up the book I’m procrastinating – the book I’d least like to finish – and make some progress in it.
One of my books is always an audio book, and so I’ll get in a few minutes of it several times a week while folding laundry or cooking dinner. But not every day.
My husband likes to read in bed, and I tried that but I’m usually too tired and simply fall asleep. Sometimes I do read before bed, though.
Most of my reading lately has been on Sundays. I don’t do things on the computer on Sundays, so more leisurely reading is an option. Also, when we were sick I read a lot more. The leisurely pace of Sundays and sick days (especially when a day is both a Sunday and a sick day) opens up the time and space for reading, and are to be seized.
So, most of my times are little moments, irregular though attempting to become more regular.
It still adds up and it’s still worth it to be purposeful about it.
Shakespeare can be an intimidating subject to introduce. Isn’t the language archaic and the doesn’t high quality mean high difficulty? Actually, the language isn’t that difficult when it’s read (that is, interpreted) by an experienced reader. The profound themes within plots were created not as pure art, but also to entertain the masses. Shakespeare was the hot movie in his day, and he can still be enjoyed that way today.
You don’t have to wait for high school to do Shakespeare with your kids, and you don’t need to be homeschooling to study Shakespeare together. If you do any reading aloud or movie watching together, you can do Shakespeare together.
Shakespeare was written in order to be seen, scripted in order to be performed. Shakespeare wrote popular entertainment, not philosophical treatise. We can draw out deep themes and discuss grand philosophy using monologues and plots we find in Shakespeare, but we should never study Shakespeare to the exclusion of simply enjoying the fun of Shakespeare – Shakespeare was meant to be fun.
I believe that Shakespeare, the greatest artist whose medium was the English language, can and should be introduced to children. The deep discussions about betrayal, cowardice, truth, love, and piety can wait for high school, but the enjoyment of the plots, the characters, and the language doesn’t have to wait. Introducing children to the world of the plays will help them feel more at home and navigate those deeper waters later in a more knowledgeable and understanding way, because they’ll already know the lay of the land.
Last year my little group of elementary students ages 10-7 enjoyed three Shakespeare plays and this year 3 more are in the plan. Here are the five steps I use to put together a simple, enjoyable Shakespeare unit.
Step 1: Introduce the Play
The first step is to do basically a Cliff’s-Notes version of the play. When the plot and the story line are known beforehand, then our attention is free to enjoy the details without having to keep track of who is who.
But we also don’t want the introduction to introduce the idea that Shakespeare is dull. A plain enumeration of the characters and salient plot points makes for a boring introduction and a bad starting point.
So introduce the play with an engaging retelling.
Especially if it’s the first play we’ve ever read together or even if it’s just the first play of the school year, I like to start off with a little history lesson about who Shakespeare is and what his Globe Theatre was like in order to give us some context for the plays.
To introduce the basics of the plot, I try to find a beautiful picture book version. Lamb or Nesbit have popular collections of retellings from Shakespeare, but I actually do not prefer these. I’ve tried them so many times, and I just don’t like them. There is no virtue in language being archaic for the sake of being archaic. Though his language is more difficult for us, Shakespeare was plain (though punning) and bold in his day, and so I feel that modern adaptions tend to get closer to the spirit of Shakespeare than the Victorian-era versions.
Having thought about Shakespeare for most of my life, I have concluded that the best way to learn about his plays, his language, his themes and his stories with any real depth and integrity is to memorize a few passages from his plays so that you have them at your fingertips.
Memorization doesn’t have to be an ordeal. During the weeks you watch and read the play, simply repeat the lines you’ve chosen for memory.
I print the selections in large font, with the phrases broken up and each on their own line – plenty of white space makes it easier to follow and easier to see in the mind’s-eye for recall. Then before we read or watch or talk about the play, we repeat each selection 2-3 times, all together.
Easy. Simple. It really works.
Choose the best lines
Ken Ludwig’s How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare includes his choices for memory and is a helpful place to start. However, he doesn’t include a couple plays I like and some of my favorites aren’t included and some he includes are not my favorites.
There are no canonical “Right Lines” to memorize (well, except perhaps ‘To be or not to be”). It’s not something you can mess up. Pick lines you like, leave out speeches you don’t, and never be afraid to pick and choose.
In addition to “expert” selections like Ludwig’s, you can also look at sites like these:
Absolute Shakespeare’s list of famous quotes by play is a great place to learn those lines that show up subtly in a thousand contexts since Shakespeare’s day. This site is best for one-liners.
Shakespeare-Monologues.org is the perfect site to find speeches to select for memory work. Actors use this site to find selections for auditions. Here is their list of famous speeches for Hamlet. This site is best for extended monologues.
Step 3: Watch the Play
Shakespeare was meant to be seen. How many movie scripts make it into lit class? Not many at all; that Shakespeare does demonstrates his genius.
Which would you prefer? Reading a movie script or watching the movie made from it? Of course we’d rather watch the movie because the movie is the point of the script. In the same way, Shakespeare was meant to be acted and interpreted.
I absolutely love to watch multiple versions of a play and see how differences of inflection, of setting, and of context put completely different spins on the lines. This is the beauty of Shakespeare. None of them are “Right” (although some can be Wrong). Scripts allow actors room to interpret their characters and get into character, reflecting different facets of humanity as they do so. Is Hamlet’s ghost to be trusted? How that ghost is portrayed will affect how you feel about that central plot point. Shakespeare’s plays and themes are complex, as life and people are.
Always preview movies
Of course you, as the parent, should always watch a Shakespeare production yourself before viewing it with your children. You know your children and your standards, so you need to preview movie options in light of those. Violence, bawdiness, even nudity are all issues in many Shakespeare videos, and there are also many that make Shakespeare feel dull and confusing.
You’re going for an experience that will leave your children with a positive enjoyment of Shakespeare, so watch the movie options beforehand and try to find ones that will be a good fit for your family.
There are a number of movie versions that I enjoy that I wouldn’t let my kids watch, but here are some we’ve watched as a family:
Your mileage, of course, may vary. I’m not promising you or yours will like them.
If you can’t find a movie you can endorse in its entirety, sometimes you can watch brief clips on YouTube. Something is better than nothing: the kids need to see that Shakespeare was written to be done and not just endured.
Check for live productions
Movies are not actually the only way to watch Shakespeare performed. Before film, there was still theater. As an added bonus, many school or local groups will refrain from excessive violence or lewdness in their plays, at least in our town.
High schools, local theaters, and area acting companies are all likely places to find the occasional Shakespeare play. I have sometimes chosen the play we read in school based on what will be performed locally. Ask around and see if there are groups you don’t know about yet.
Step 4: Listen to the Play
Though Shakespeare wrote to be performed, there is still great value in reading his plays with their beautiful use of English. However, there’s more than one way to read a text.
Audio + Visual = read along
My favorite way to read Shakespeare with the kids is to give each one his own paperback (multiple copies can be found at the library or any used bookstore usually, or Dover publishes cheap editions without frills) and play an audiobook version while we all follow along. Hearing someone who knows how the lines flow read them helps immensely with comprehension.
If I have an unmotivated or non-reader, I’ll give them a coloring page to keep their hands and eyes busy while they listen to the audiobook. Dover publishes a book of Shakespeare coloring pages, or even a book of plain designs to color in is a good activity for listening times.
Having Shakespeare come in through both the eyes and the ears is a great way to foster success and engagement with young students.
Step 5: Play the Play
Of course the best way to engage with Shakespeare is to be the one performing it. There are several ways to do this without being a drama person (I am most definitely not).
Knowledge comes from doing
Personally, I am the sort very tempted to leave off the hands-on activities like this. I like the meat and acting out a scene or two seems like fluffy fun that can easily be dispensed with.
However, in this case, that is not true.
True knowing and understanding comes when we make the material our own, when we recreate or represent it in some sort of personal expression. In history or grammar that might involve writing or speaking, but the most natural way to add personal expression with Shakespeare is to be the actor the play is directing.
Be creative in the theatrical options
Although it would be valuable, you don’t have to have costuming and rehearsals in order to give your children the chance to act out Shakespeare. Here are some other low-key, low-commitment ways to add doing to your studies:
Duplo or LEGO scenes & characters (try recording it for your own movie production)
Illustrated comic book versions of selected scenes
Monologues dramatically delivered like at a try-out
Puppets – handcrafted, popsicle stick, finger puppets, paper dolls – can be recorded to make a movie.
Shakespeare for Kids: Sample 6-Week Plan
Week 1: Read Shakespeare biography & a picture book version of the play
Week 2: Introduce the lines to memorize, explain words, watch movie or clips or see a live production
Week 3-5: Repeat lines together two or three times, then listen to the play in approximately 30-minute segments.
Week 6: Act out favorite scenes either as a play, with finger puppets, or with Legos. Allow the children adequate time to prepare and practice together.
Have you read Shakespeare with your kids? What was your favorite part of the experience?
I’ve been preparing grammar lesson outlines for my writing class that starts this week. I’m using a combination of Our Mother Tongue by Nancy Wilson, The Mother Tongue by Kittridge and adapted and republished by Amy Edwards (I am using the teacher’s manual for lesson content and sentences to use, but not using the student workbooks), and Evan-Moor Paragraph Editing (grades 5 & 6). Can I just say, I love grammar. I could read these books for pure pleasure. Hopefully I can communicate that and pass on the joy of the logic of grammar to my 6 students.
Knox and Ilse are both enamored of the Pathway Readers, and I don’t blame them.
Hans’ favorite read this week was Brian Jacques’s Rakkety Tam, the seventeenth Redwall book. My almost-21-year-old brother was cleaning out his closet before leaving for college and passed on a couple Redwall books we did not yet have (the ones we do have were my husband’s first). The boys were very happy recipients.
I’ve never read any Edwards except for “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and selections of his resolutions. I love grammar and I love 17th & 18th century authors. I think English was at its height during this time.
I started my own independent study of Latin this week, using Henle. I already knew the vocabulary and declensions of the first lesson from Latin for Children Primer A. I can see even in the first section that LFC is modeled on Henle, so it was a good choice. If I’m going to be doing Latin with 5 children, I might as well actually learn it at my own level and not just barely be keeping up as I learn alongside Hans.
And remember how I said I loved grammar? Latin is logical study of grammar to perfection, so it turns out that I actually really enjoy it. The only thing that would make it better would be not having to memorize vocabulary. Sigh.
Anyway, the introduction “To the Student” was great prose, and pointed out the exact reasoning for Latin that brought me on board with it in the first place:
Latin will give you many things. It will teach you how to work intelligently and systematically; it will teach you what language – man’s most wonderful and useful invention – is; it will teach you to speak and write better. You will develop habits of concentration and correct thinking and many other habits which you will be able to appreciate only after you have acquired them.
Isn’t that the way with so many good habits? The use and value of them appears slight or nonexistent when we stand on the other side, just looking at them, but only after we’ve fought for them and learned them do we see their full weight and impact.
Every Tuesday we at Scholé Sisters put up a “feature” article. It’s a group effort, with one person doing the writing, then Pam doing the graphics and formatting, and I do the proofreading and scheduling. It’s a fun project, and every writer brings her best when it’s her week. This week is my week.
It’s so easy to be discouraged in our roles as homeschool mothers when we start comparing ourselves to classroom teachers and the classroom environment. They have no laundry rumbling in the background. No toddlers interrupt (or make messes they shouldn’t in the upstairs bathroom). Kids seem to behave better for someone else than for their mother.
That last one is true, and it is annoying. But it is also a hint of our strength: Our children trust us, know they are loved, know they are safe. They let themselves loose with us and it’s tiring to manage, but because they are open and not spending their energy on appearances, they are able to receive instruction better: even if it is often instruction about how attitude affects learning and how math answers don’t come to you when your mind is busy complaining.
Maybe more math instruction might happen in a classroom, but this is deeper life instruction that would be hidden in the on-our-best-behavior setting of the classroom, where the complaining is internalized and not let out in the verbal storm or grumpy face. It’s not masked at home, and so we can address it directly. It requires a lot of us – observance, patience, wisdom. But it is a gift – to them and also to us. It is being on the road of sanctification together, with the vehicle of math lessons, Latin conjugations, and narration prompts. It doesn’t look or feel deep and spiritual – it’s just life – and that’s the strength: it’s learning life together, learning work ethic together, letting the messy moments and humorous comments bind us together and pull us through.
It’s personal. It’s connected. It’s rooted and grounded in love.
The dictionary defines tutoring as to “act as a private teacher to (a single student or a very small group).”
The word comes to us from Latin tueri ‘to watch, guard.’
The contemporary classroom teacher, then, is a master of the material, showing it and attempting to make it comprehensible to their class. A tutor, however, is a watcher, a guarder of the way, shepherding the student along a chosen path – watching the student more than the material, bringing in the helps and materials needed to keep momentum, while traveling alongside.
There is nothing wrong with teaching, but the schools are right: teaching is not homeschooling’s strength. Homeschooling’s strength is in the depth of relationship and the insightfulness of personal guidance.
Sometimes it is because of that very depth of relationship and personal insight that we think we aren’t doing well, because we get bogged down in the details or in the morning’s shifting moods. But we can walk them through their moods, not let their moods run away with them, and in the process learn to see our own shifting and controlling moods that we’ve learned to mask and accept. If ours were as blatantly expressed as theirs, there’d be trouble. There is trouble because our kids see our moods plainly even if we think we’re coping fine.
This is a journey we’re on together, and we the mother-tutors are not always as above and ahead as we’d wish. That’s ok. We can connect with our children, relate with them, struggle alongside them. True instruction happens by modeling, so we cannot neglect our own moods, learning, or relationships.
So I tackled it over the weekend. I thought about completely re-envisioning it, but decided that was just Pinterest-envy talking. My kitchen cupboard shelf dedicated to supplies is perfectly adequate and handily located and out-of-sight.
It felt good to get it cleaned out and taken care of.
~ Happy Eleven-Year-Old ~
On Monday my husband taught our eleven-year-old how to mow the lawn – with the riding lawn mower. We have an acre lot, so even with a riding lawn mower, it still takes a good 40 minutes to mow.
My oldest was thrilled. With his hat and sunglasses, tooling along, he definitely looked older. This has been a fun year to see him grow take on responsibility willingly and capably.
~ Funny Four-Year-Old ~
So it was quiet time. My four-year-old had finished his book on the couch and started following about 4 inches behind me everywhere I went, chattering about this and that. Finally, I pulled a book packed with pictures off the shelf and said, “Here, Knox, I think you’ll like this book.”
“What is it?” he asked. “Read it.” I said. “No, what is it called?” he asked.” “Read it.” I said. “I can’t!” he protested. “It says ‘Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia.'” I told him.
“Oh!” he exclaimed, interested, “Is that Spanish?”
~ Real Pantry Cleaning Bonus ~
I didn’t intend to clean up the pantry this weekend, though it was on my mental “I should do that soonish” list. But, we went grocery shopping and as I looked at my bags and the shelf, I realized that it made most sense to do it before putting away the groceries I’d just brought in. So out came everything.
Taking everything out is a great organization strategy. This time, “everything” ended up including a forgotten (only 3 month old) chocolate bar!
It was a good decision to clean out the pantry over the weekend.
It’s good to look back over the week and see what was done, because the temptation is always to see the things that I didn’t do.