The Coming School Year

Education of our children is a major concern of parents. We are our children’s first and primary teachers and have the responsibility before God to give our children the education they need to grow into good Catholics and good citizens. This weighs heavily on me every fall as I look at the new curriculum I have chosen and ask myself if I chose rightly. Home School is ever-evolving and I with it.

I have a teaching degree and classroom experience, but I have home schooled far more years than I ever spent teaching anywhere. I love it, the challenge and the freedom. As a teacher, the freedom to make every decision for my school is intoxicating. The huge museum in a nearby city is having a special exhibit? Pull out the planner, write in the day you will take the kids and go, then start preparing them with books at their level, and email the homeschool list the date you are going in case others would like to join you.

Home School is rarely done alone. We network, talking in person and through the computer, encouraging each other. I worry about the slow reader and my experienced homeschooler friends share stories about their own slow readers and how well they have turned out. One points out that you don’t have to enroll in the school system to request an evaluation for learning problems. Another shares the name of the private specialist they paid to test their son.  Home Schooling families work to help each other succeed.

This year we will be participating at the Community HomeSchool Center, and I have enrolled my older two in classes that I think will be good for them. I feel we need more community support than we had last year. The CHC is community. They exist to support parents and to provide services, like classes for children with special needs, and hands on science exploration. Two will be signed up for the hands on science which will save me having to collect the supplies for experiments and will supplement what we do at home. The younger will be taking a child oriented cooking class, while the older will be taking a supplemental class in math concepts and reading skills.

I’m still looking at co-ops.

I think we are going to have a very good year.

Dear Lord, Thank You for all the dedicated teachers in public and private schools, and thank You for all the parents who home school. Please bless ALL the teachers and their students. +Amen.

My Current Prayer Routine

Everyone Knows that prayer is essential for spiritual growth. We seek to grow closer to Jesus, to become better conformed to His plan for our lives, and so we incorporate both planned and spontaneous prayer into our days.  Prayer routines are as varied as the people who have them.

Some pick up the book, CHRISTIAN PRAYER, and pray the psalms for morning and evening prayer. Others use the full multi-volume LITURGY OF THE HOURS and pray some or even all of it. Some pray one or more Rosaries a day, and some spend a daily time reading in the New Testament, and others a daily reading in the Pslams, others choose to pray novenas, and more.  I used to keep a notebook in which I placed prayer cards of Saints, and printed out novenas, and kept a list of people for whom I was trying to pray by name. I’ve tried those, and many more plans but nothing has stuck until recently. Recently I joined a group of women online who were taking the Nineveh 90 challenge.  We set up private groups to support each other in this rigorous set of prayers and novenas. It wasn’t easy, but it certainly was fruitful!

My plans for my day include prayers for family members, the prayers for the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, and a handful of other, short prayers. I seem much better able to keep the routine if every bit of it is short!

I include prayers for all my immediate family members, using Habitica to keep track of them, prayers are listed both as Dailies, and a couple of prayers that are good to repeat, so as to refocus onto God in the course of the day, go into Habits. I blogged on the use of Habitica in a previous post.

These are some of the prayers I am using: The Creed, The Angel’s prayer from Fatima, several prayers for purity, and an evening examination of conscience with act of contrition for my sins. That last ends with a plan for one thing I can do the next day so as to avoid repeating one or more sins.

Of course, that act of contrition and examination of conscience is going to require its own blog post. For something so simple it is huge and complicated!

Dear Lord, please help each of us to grow in holiness and closer to Jesus. +Amen.


Travel Links

I return from the Vent Haven ConVENTion with great inspiration and a need to store the links that proved useful for my planned travels. proved to be an easy service to use when scheduling my flights. They were helpful in every imaginable way and patiently answered questions that came up as I added a TSA pre-check number so I could stand in a different line for security and not have to unlace the hiking boots I wear for foot support.  I was able to choose my seat on each flight too. This proved to be an excellent service.

Marriot  turned out to be another useful connection. Our ConVENTion was at one, but I have since found reasonable prices for other locations. Time will tell if I remain a fan of the company or not.

United Airlines: lived up to their reputation on baggage, but everything did get there! Surprisingly I found the seats comfortable, the staff very pleasant, and once I formulated the two personal item sized bags so as to carry my most valuable puppet with me in the cabin, there ceased to be a problem.  The BEST part was that once I had my itinerary from CheapAir printed out, with the TSA pre-check number on it, I was able, from the United website, to print my boarding pass 24 hours ahead and pre-check my big bag, paying the fee ahead of time. This helped keep my time at the airport much less stressful.   The Baggage page for United is the page where the size restrictions are located and explained. I found this information extremely useful!

This trip has been one of the best events of my life!

Beekeeping Revisited

Our lovely colony in our top bar hive is thriving. Calm is now the norm for me when opening the hive and refilling the feeder. You feed new colonies because they need the help getting started off well. This is because the new set up happens between big blooms, and without a lot of blooming plants close-by, the colony might starve before it can get things rolling.

I discovered the right sort of canning jars for the feeder at Tractor Supply. I did not know that Tractor Supply carried supplies for canning! This gives me plenty of jars for the bee feeders and I can make up bulk amounts of the feed, fill the jars, seal them, put them in the refrigerator, and speed up refills of the feeder! I am VERY happy with this.

Learning curve is steep. I know to leave the comb alone now that we know the queen is good and laying well. I have photos of comb!

Our colony is considered a very gentle one. There is no hostility at all when I open up the hive to inspect. A couple of puffs of smoke at their door to be sure, and easy work.

I’m starting to enjoy my forays into the bee yard. This is mostly due to our bees being amazingly gentle.

Now, I have found a couple of beetles between the roof of the top bars and the rain lid. I need to find out what sort of trap I need to place in that space to handle the problem. The little beekeeper squashed one of the beetles– so there is one less for the bees to have to manage.

Dear Lord, thank You for the bees. +Amen.

Puppetry and Ventriloquism

Ventriloquism is to Puppetry as Square is to Rectangle.  A Ventriloquist IS a puppeteer, but not all puppeteers are ventriloquists.

I am irked when ventriloquism and puppetry are separated out as if they were two different things. They are not. The misunderstanding comes from the time when the popular ventriloquists of the day used the hard figure or ventriloquist dummy exclusively, but ventriloquism is not limited to the use of these traditional style instruments. Shari Lewis’ Lambchop is a ventriloquist figure but is not a hard figure.

These days ventriloquists talk of hard figures and soft figures to differentiate between the types of puppets used by ventriloquists.

ANY puppet that is speaking and the voice is coming from a visible person who is not moving their lips and thus creating the illusion that the puppet is doing the talking IS a ventriloquist figure.

The puppeteer doing the voices in plain sight of the audience is a ventriloquist whether that puppet is the familiar dummy or a soft sock puppet.

Jim Henson was a great puppeteer, but he was not a ventriloquist.

Shari Lewis was a great ventriloquist who used hand puppets in place of the hard figure (I wish the American Heritage Girls would correct that part of their puppetry badge!).

I’ve delighted in puppets from childhood–who has not? In college I did more with puppets for use in education and found myself longing to be able to do ventriloquism. Years passed without puppets, until last fall when I suddenly got the wild hair to take an online class in ventriloquism.

The inspiration to pick up a puppet again is largely the result of being inspired by Habitica to revive dreams.


Dear Lord, thank You for puppets of every imaginable kind, and thank you for puppeteers and ventriloquists and classes. +Amen.

The Bee Keeping Home Educator

Kinesthetic learners do best when doing. Hands on, action, and linking this with the material to be mastered. This has been a huge shift in my understanding of my vocation as a home educating mom.

I’ve a bug nut. This is the kid who for most of her 7+ years has followed insects through the grass, getting up very close to see what they were doing. This is the kid who rescues bees from water buckets and places them on leaves to dry out and does not get stung.

This is the kid who needs to be channeled into pollinators and away from arachnids because mom is phobic.

Therefore this family now has a hive of bees.

Our first hive, first bees, and I honestly do not know what I am doing!

Of course, everyone has to have a bee suit. I have a white one, very thick layers of mesh, I can feel air movement through it but have not been stung yet.

The little bee keeper has a cute bee suit:

This is a really cute kids bee suit.

And this is part of the hands on style of education. Learning about insects, the environment, pollution, pesticides, plants, native plants vs invasives, native bees, other native pollinators, our food supply, simple basic economics…

Dear Lord, thank You for bees and all they do for humanity. +Amen.


The autoharp is an instrument I never tire of hearing or strumming. Not that I am a musician by any means, I love music, but my natural talent is meager at best, and my inclination to make time for practice is weak. However, I have persisted in collecting several lovely instruments and wanting to play them in spite of myself.

Enter Habitica. I wrote about this useful tool in another post here.

On the site of Habitica, there are groups called Guilds. I joined a guild for people who were struggling. The premise of this group is to discover ONE SMALL THING we could do to move forward some dream that we’d felt was too overwhelming or difficult. I decided to work on my dream of playing the autoharp.

All the autoharps were in cases, put away. One was waiting for me to get around to restringing it to a two key AE configuration. So I made a list of steps to get that done. Accepting that I was unlikely to get it done myself, I decided to send it off to a luthier who does these things. But even THAT was tough.

So here was the list I made for Habitica. Pull autoharp out of the closet. Contact Luthier. Email details of what I needed done. Find address of the Luthier. Locate string set. Locate new bar set. Print three address labels (inside, outside, and other). Pack to ship. Take to UPS store. SHIP.  As you can see, the steps are each small, each easy, but there were quite a lot of them(10)!

Practice happens when the instrument is easy to access. So I determined to find a place to safely have one or more instruments out.

I also needed to put them on stands. I found one stand, could not find the other stand, ended up buying two more stands. This was NOT a fast thing as I kept hoping to locate the missing stands.

Then I pulled an OS set up in BbFC out. I got the AE back from the Luthier. I pulled my Orthey chromatic out in its bag, and finally placed them at the head of my bed. Where they SAT.

Clearly, having them out was not enough to over-come whatever prevented me from practicing (mostly, time, “I ought to be doing…” and then I never practice).

So I added to Habitica a habit “touch the autoharp” and this was ALL I asked myself to do. It felt silly to walk past and touch the autoharp.

Next I added a habit “strum the autoharp” and again, for a month it felt quite silly to pass the autoharp, touch the strings and strum them in passing. But I did it and it felt good.

Third month, I added, “pick up the autoharp” to “touch the autoharp” and “strum the autoharp” AND I got credit for each autoharp I did this with– easy points, fast, and suddenly I was growing a HABIT of picking up and strumming on my autoharps every single day.

I added “tune an autoharp” and “play a tune” to my habits as well.

Current challenge to myself is to play the tune I chose on each autoharp, in different keys or the same keys, every day. I’ve been doing this for weeks now. I estimate that it has taken me 8 or 9 months to get to this point, however, this is more than in the previous eight years.

Nobody in the family can figure out the song yet. I figure, if I get good enough at playing that one song, somebody is eventually going to recognize it!!

Dear Lord, Thank You for music, for autoharps, for time to practice, and for the people who helped me see that I could take tiny tiny steps toward a dream. +Amen.

Home School Days, wherein I rant

What to do when your first grader is NOT an early reader? What to do when readiness is slow to arrive? What do you do when well-meaning friends and family fuss because it looks like this child is going to be behind? You take a deep breath and evaluate.

Learning style of teacher and pupil.  It is a constant question–what curriculum do I use? I used Seton for a very long time. It was not the first curriculum I tried back in the day more than twenty years ago when I first embarked on home schooling. I tried Kolbe (classical) and loved so much about it, but it was not a fit for us. Seton, an academically sound program, turned out to be just what we needed–then.

Now THIS member of our family is a little kinesthetic learner. Seton is more sit down, listen and read. Seton worked well for the auditory and visual learners. Not so this learner who only seems to absorb information through movement.

Evidence? Tell her how to do something– not going to go well.  Show her how, better, sometimes. Walk her physically through doing it–much much better right off.

It has NOT been easy. My entire teaching experience puts the emphasis on auditory and visual learning. My older children were auditory and visual learners. The younger children are appearing more and more to be the kinesthetic style of learner and this has been a challenge for me. I’m apparently slow to adapt, but adapt I am!

I’m hoping to do a series of posts on curriculum for the kinesthetic learner. This will be slow to come along as I am NOT finding this easy. Painful, actually. Still, there are several exciting discoveries we’ve made, and some really difficult activities we’ve entered into, and hopefully this will result in the learning that we want to see happening.

Meanwhile, I am getting really tired of hearing how she might be happier in a school, and how so and so was reading by now. Why is it that a school with a teacher who has NO MORE EDUCATION THAN I HAVE gets a pass when a late reader is taking more than just a few months to learn to read, but I who am more than qualified to teach (BA, education certification, MA) am not trusted to know what I am doing? Yes the kids are bright but that does NOT mean they are ready.

Dear Lord, thank You for the blessing of my children. Thank You for good home school curriculum. Thank You for people who care enough to drive me up the wall. Please help me be patient with them. +Amen.

PLANNER-a tool for keeping track

Planners are a tool that I have used for many years. I’ve gradually learned what elements in a planner work for me, and which do not work for me. Our lives are complex and a planner can help us keep track of the many aspects of our vocations. They are a good tool.

I have used Daytimers, Dayplanners, FranklinCovey, Erin Condren, and other planners. I learned something useful from each and every planner I tried. For ME, smaller is not better but the larger format (8×10) is too big. I use the middle size which FranklinCovey calls the Classic, and which is the most popular form of the Erin Condren.

I had a Daytimer, both a pocket size with monthly spiral inserts (did not work for me) and a larger ring bound (this I found bulky so not good either). Next I had a Dayplanner “week at a glance” that was 8×10 and set up for making appointments. Daily pages are too much waste, weekly spreads work, pocket is too small, 8×10 too big.

I switched to a FranklinCovey Classic in a spiral. Two page spread for each week and a section for the months. I liked the format, size, spiral, ease of use, ease of carry, the place for the pen on the cover I put it into, and the organizational aids in the leather cover. Very nearly perfect. SADLY, when I looked for a colorful version, FranklinCovey had several–all ring bound and I did NOT want a ring binder! The planner that worked ONLY came in bland.

I looked into the Bullet Journal. This is amazing, creative, and infinitely adaptable. I LOVED the idea. The FUTURE PLANNER pages in particular were a revelation to me. A place to put everything onto a calendar which I would LIKE to do, which I might do, but where it is still not nailed down as something I MUST do. Future planning is for me!! Pages for projects and brainstorming fit a need in me. However, you must make all your own calendar pages, drawing out what you want. This is great for those who love doing that sort of thing. But for me, I needed a pre-made planner.

I found lovely book bound planners with Bible readings and places to journal about those readings–but I was not seeking to replace my plan of life with a new one.

I found lovely notebook planners with lots of pages for tracking health, weight, diet, meal planning etc.. These might be perfect for someone else, but not me.

I found colorful and creative planners that were filled with good things mixed with religious ideas contrary to my own.

I found places to get pages to put in a ring binder–but I had already learned that I actually don’t LIKE ring binders.

A friend suggested Erin Condren. This planner is expensive but has a delightful colorful version, it has a vertical format option in three sections that you decide how to use. I call mine Day, Kids, and Evening. I place appointments in DAY,  homeschool or scouting in Kids, and evening club meetings and practices in Evening.  I use the monthly pages for future planning.

I also have a notebook (classic size) for my SCA projects. I have a small bound notebook for my Puppetry. I have another small notebook for Beekeeping, and this works for me too. Lots of room for brainstorming and taking notes, but I only carry what I need that day.

It was a LONG process of using and discarding planners. Most I attempted for a year, few made it that long.

My message is don’t give up, make lists of what you liked, and did not like, what worked for you and what was wasted paper, then keep trying planners and refining that list. The inexpensive Dayplanner and FranklinCovey actually worked for the entire year. Learn from each planner you use, and be bold in seeking out what you need.

This is my first year using the Erin Condren, project notebooks that are separate from my planner, a small pocket planner by my bed is my gratitude planner(this from a Michaels craft store), and Habitica at my computer. THIS is working.

Dear Lord, Thank You for all the creative options in planners that are out there. Thank You for making people creative. Thank You for helping me to find the right mix for my needs. +Amen.