What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing”… Is there, then, not need for more “Mother Culture”?“Mother Culture” Parents’ Review – Volume 3
Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?
~ A Winter Bluejay by Sara Teasdale ~
I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a good break! I was very much looking forward to our two-week break from school as we were all kind of needing a reset. Those three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are often a challenge and more and more each year I’m tempted to do what my friend Dawn does and take the entire month of December off. Maybe one of these years I’ll be organized enough to do it! Admittedly, though, there is something comforting in returning to our normal routine after a long break, even for something like Christmas. While I did enjoy the time off, toward the end of the break, there was part of me that was looking forward to getting back into the rhythm of our school days and having that intentional time with the kids each day.
Aside from getting a new hamster for B, we had a quiet fall and a quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas, which I think was probably the norm for many families given this new world of COVID. Restrictions have gone up again in our area, but thankfully, we haven’t been affected all that much with homeschooling and both my husband and I working from home. We continue to meet with our homeschool co-op group just about every other week as well as plan playdates with friends, for which I am very thankful! Hopefully we can continue all of this into the new year.
And speaking of that….here we are at 2021, which a large part of me is hesitant to declare a victory considering I thought 2020 was going to be a good year. Despite the trepidation of what this new year might bring, I do like the feeling of a fresh start and I do have hope that this will be a better year.
New Year Goals
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much into making resolutions, but I do like to revisit my goals each New Year. Maybe I’m playing with semantics. 🙂 Either way, I continue to return to the same tried-and-true tools I use each and every year (and a few new ones!) to make life more efficient and economical, a few of which I’m sharing below.
YNAB (You Need A Budget). According to my account history in YNAB, I have been using it since 2012, which says a lot about how much I rely on this little program. I began using the desktop version after my old budgeting software just wasn’t cutting it for my needs anymore. I love how YNAB helps me keep track of where my money is going, offers easy ways to see trends, and helps me figure out how to make good changes. If you are wanting to get into budgeting or looking for an easier budgeting solution, I can’t recommend it enough!
FreedomFiler. I have been using FreedomFiler for filing all of our household paperwork since before we had kids. My filing was pretty haphazard in my 20s and it was impossible to find anything, so I was so helpful for all of the direction this system provides. With workflows and questions to ask when filing documents as well as pre-printed file labels and clear instructions on how to use it, how long to keep certain documents, and how to move important documents that need to be kept longer like taxes to longer-term filing, it’s a great system for keeping your paperwork organized!
FlyLady. I used FlyLady’s cleaning program several years ago but switched when I found another one that worked better for our needs at the time. However, with homeschooling, home businesses for both my husband and myself, and a larger house, I found that the other cleaning program wasn’t working for us either. So this past year I switched back to FlyLady with a few modifications and it’s been a game-changer in keeping our home clean and slowly more organized. In case you’re curious, here are a few things I do differently:
- Scrubbing the kitchen sink: This is a foundation of the FlyLady method and one of my favorite parts. However, I do it in the morning after breakfast rather than at night as the sink is rarely empty before we go to bed.
- Daily swish and swipe: I only do this in one bathroom per day and skip it on the weekends. We have three bathrooms in our house, so I do the kids’ bathroom on Mondays and Thursdays, the guest bathroom on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the master bathroom (which is the least used) on Wednesdays. I also don’t keep cleaning solution in the bathrooms but just grab a spray bottle and microfiber cloth on my way to the bathroom. I always follow up with this awesome, amazing, incredible way of keeping toilet brushes clean.
- Cleaning supplies: I like to keep my cleaning supplies simple and natural and I use Sal Suds plus a few drops of Germ Destroyer for all-purpose cleaning. You can see a list of all of my favorite cleaning supplies here.
Grocery Budgeting/Meal Planning. I use Plan to Eat to keep track of my recipes, meal plan, and make grocery lists automatically (you can see how I use it here). This year, I also made some big changes to my grocery shopping and meal planning in an effort to save money and time at the grocery store. I’ve been making more use of Azure Standard and Costco while also cutting back on my weekly shopping at Natural Grocers (and taking advantage of free grocery pick-up and delivery from Whole Foods through my Amazon Prime account!). This system has worked very well in saving a lot of time and I’m hoping to streamline it in the new year to save even more money. A few other things I want to look into this year:
- Tiffany from Don’t Waste the Crumbs also has a Grocery Budget Bootcamp coming up in March that I’m interested in as I know I need some help in this area!
- I’d like to get into more batch cooking which is what Once a Month Meals was made for. I mentioned this a few months ago but life got busy and I never got around to doing it. I’m renewing that goal for the new year (starting with the new freezer meal plans!).
And here’s some of my mother culture during the fourth quarter of 2020.
I made up for my lack of reading in the third quarter and managed to surpass my reading goal for the year! I wrote about having the same goal (24 books) for 2021, but I decided to give myself more of a challenge and read at least as many books as I read this year (33) instead.
The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde. Subtle and not-so-subtle political commentary abounds in Jasper Fforde’s latest offering. This was amusing, though I didn’t enjoy it as much as his other books.
Scale How Meditations by Charlotte Mason. This was one of the “mentor” books I read during my morning time. I’m not sure if it was the format in which I read it or something else, but I didn’t find it as immersive as her other work.
The Voyage of the Dawn Trader by C.S. Lewis. B and I are slowly making our way through the Narnia books. I vaguely remember reading this one years ago, but it was good to re-visit.
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. Angelina Stanford compared this to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved, so I decided to give it a try. Not quite as magical as Guernsey, but a fun little read nonetheless.
Home Education by Charlotte Mason. I have read large chunks of this over the last seven years or so, but I never sat down and read it cover to cover until this year. The Idyll Challenge has been such a good motivator for me to finally get through all of these books in their entirety.
A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly. Another mentor book from my morning time. I’m making my way through the list of books that Richard Foster recommends in Celebration of Discipline and this was one of the first. I love the idea of an internal place of worship within each of us and I appreciated that he described what it’s like to have that center, but his explanations of how to get there were too abstract and I struggle with abstraction. I’m probably missing the point.
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Another Narnia book. With this one, we’re beginning the books in the series that I have never read before which is kind of fun as B and I are experiencing them for the first time together.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I originally started this one as we were going to have a book club discussion for it at the 2021 Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat in February. The retreat has been canceled due to COVID, but I decided to finish it anyway and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. This wasn’t deep or profound and didn’t contain any of Ms. Austen’s wit, but it was a quick and entertaining read. I recommend this if you’re an Austen fan and are looking for something lighter.
2020 Book Challenges
Goodreads Reading Challenge – 33/24
Back to the Classics – 9/12
Modern Mrs. Darcy – 5/12
On the Blog
God With Us: Advent Art Devotions Volume II I posted the 2020 Advent Art Devotions guide in October!
Charlotte Mason Picture Study Aid: Leonardo da Vinci A free Leonardo da Vinci Picture Study Aid is now available!
Charlotte Mason Homeschool Fourth Grade Term 2 Plans (and Term 1 Recap) We’re already through one term of the school year, which is crazy. I decided to make a few changes in term 2 that, so far, are going well!
2020 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Homeschooling Family (and Black Friday Deals!) There were a few fantastic Black Friday sales this year, including Yesterday’s Classics! I scored quite a few books thanks to their anniversary sale.
2020 Reading Recap A recap of last year’s reading challenges and the challenges I plan to participate in for 2021.
Around the Internets
Leaves Must Fall My friend Jennifer sends out periodic nature meditations to her email list with reminds and prompts to immerse yourself in nature. This is her most recent post, a reminder to enjoy the beauty of fall as well as a little background on why it happens. For those in the Colorado Springs area, she has also opened enrollment for her semi-weekly nature study school!
Small Things “I like to think of all the daily, tedious, and ordinary activities in any given day as ‘small things.’ Whether that is the meals to prepare, the habits to cultivate, or the lessons to teach, all of these are part of something not small at all, but something that is part of a much larger picture that we may not be able to understand or see the whole we are working towards. Charlotte Mason tells us, ‘Let us not despise the day of small things nor grow weary in well-doing.’ (Vol. 3, p. 23) She knows, and she lets us know in small ways throughout her volumes.”
10 strategies to read more books #6 is something I struggle with and #5 is part of general mother culture philosophy. ☺️
Not Knowing Everything Makes Me a Better Homeschool Parent “True education doesn’t come from teachers, from educators – it comes from all around the child. The entire world is a classroom ready to teach a child anything. We, the homeschool parents, are only facilitators, creating lifelong learners…. True education comes from within the child, from the desire to learn and know, the natural curiosity they’re born with. Education comes from the love of learning and the knowledge and skills to pursue answers. Education isn’t something a child receives, it’s something they harness. It’s our job to show them the ropes and get out of the way.”
Why Words (on Social Media & the Air Waves & to our Neighbors) Really Matter Right Now “What we say and how we say it matters, because we are the people who believe that is was the Word that created matter. Words create actual matter — for good or for evil –in the world. Ours is the God who wields words — and by the Word of His mouth alone the universal black splits and cells divide and light sparks and mountains rise and oceans come thus far and no farther. The breadth of this world was created by the breath of His Word (Genesis 1). When God pulled on skin and came into this world, He came as the Word: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1).”
Holiday Homeschool Plans || Prioritizing Peace in Our Home I love simple holidays. We have just a few Advent/Christmas traditions that we do every year and this has kept our holidays a truly restful time. I love Abby’s advice and ideas here. She also offered a little sneak peek at my Advent guide!
Homeschool Motivation: 10 Ways to Find More Homeschool burnout is real and I imagine will be even more of a challenge this winter as it seems like many places are going back to safer-at-home or lockdown status. When I feel burned out with homeschooling, starting the day with a good attitude is very challenging. Mystie offers some great ideas here for how to just that!
SS #81: Don’t Forget to Remember (Memory Work with Maria Bell!!) My friend Maria was recently on the Scholé Sisters podcast talking about Recitation. If this aspect of a Charlotte Mason education is an enigma to you, Maria is a wealth of information!
When you don’t know what to do, make tea “Based on my experience in England, I would add that whenever we’re feeling anything at all, we should probably make some tea and offer it to whoever is in the vicinity. A good cup, as George Orwell suggests, can make you feel wiser, braver, and more optimistic. And at the very least, if making tea is your default thing, then whatever is happening, no matter how scary, you will always have something to do.”
4 ways to protect our children’s peace These are all so important, but especially now considering everything that’s happening with global pandemics and elections. I struggle with 2 and 3, but I think 4 is the most important.
Principles Of Antifragility For Motherhood (Part One) Brandy raises several excellent points here about how to raise children who are not “fragile.” I loved what she had to say about technology (as our kids have been predominantly screen-free from the beginning), but I especially appreciated this: “If you want your children to be wimps that can’t handle adulthood, make sure they are always comfortable. Never let them face a moment of pain or deprivation — no hunger, no heat, no chill, no inconvenience. We assume coddled children grow up to be Veruca Salt. This might be true of a certain brand of coddling, but we can also make our children very nice but simultaneously anxious, weak, and unequipped to handle difficulties… This is not to say we expose them to life-threatening dangers. But a little fever never hurt anyone. Did you know you don’t have to administer antipyretics the second they have a small temperature? Being sick on the couch (or just bored) without a movie to distract them will not kill them. They can wait for dinner when they are hungry. They can take a walk on a summer day (yes in the heat). They can keep walking when they have lost all desire to walk.”
One-Pan Paprika Chicken with Potatoes and Tomatoes I made this a few weeks ago and it was a hit all around, which is a rare miracle in our family! (If you’re looking for weeknight meal ideas, I’ve got our favorites here and I update it often!)
There’s No Such Thing as ‘Quality’ Time “When you’re out of excuses for being busy, when you can’t defer or plan for some idealized future, you’re forced to just make do with what’s in front of you. The distinction between ‘quality’ time and ‘garbage’ time falls away and you’re left with what simply is… When you realize there is no such thing as ‘quality time,’ when you become okay with ‘garbage time,’ you end up getting the best kind of time there is. You get the moment right in front of you.”
Tour Jane Austen’s Home. I don’t see any trips to England in my near future, so I was happy to see the Jane Austen House in Chawton is now offering a virtual tour of her last residence!
Audubon Watercolor Birds Calendar. This will be the third year I’ll have this beautiful wall calendar hanging in my kitchen. Whenever I post it on Instagram, I usually get at least a few inquiries as to where I got it.
Welly Bandaids. These are fun little bandaids that have worked a lot better for us than other brands. I love the patterns and especially the tins they come in!
MyChelle Supreme Polypeptide Cream. I turned 40 this year and felt it was time to upgrade my facial moisturizer. I love the smell of this stuff which is subtly similar to marshmallows (and reminds me of my old favorite face cream from Burt’s Bees that’s no longer sold).
Back and Neck Massager. My husband got me one of these for Christmas and it’s amazing. Holding a Kindle while letting it knead the knots out of my back is one of my favorite things to do these days.
In the Shop
I’ve been venturing back into more design work lately as it’s something I love to do and it’s a nice change of pace from working on things that require more writing. I wanted a way to offer these designs exclusively to my faithful readers, so I decided to start a Patreon account back in October. I began with one tier that includes a monthly quote design download (which are not currently offered in the shop and I don’t have plans to do so any time soon) as well as early access to new products. I had fun making the first three months of designs:
I’m starting something new this month with a higher tier that gets these printable quotes along with other matching monthly productivity printables, like bookmarks, calendars, and habit trackers. I have plans to do other things in the future, but this is where I’m starting. As I mentioned above, both levels also get early access to new products in my shop here, so later this month when I offer this year’s Lenten Art Devotions (which sold out in two days last year), my Patreon subscribers will have the first chance to get a copy for themselves!
I’ve continued to make changes to our bird-feeding arrangement and took advantage of a sale at Wild Birds Unlimited to pick up some woodpecker cylinders. Within a day of putting it up, we started getting a hairy and downy woodpecker as well as a northern flicker on a regular basis each morning. The squirrels, which were few and far between before a few months ago, are also loving it, but I honestly don’t mind them so much. The juncos have returned for the winter so we have a lot of ground feeders right now which means I need to switch out the safflower for our regular blend as they like the millet that the other birds toss out of the tray. We’re also getting black-capped and mountain chickadees, Eurasian collared-doves, scrub-jays, blue jays, magpies, and once in a blue moon, Stellar’s jays and bushtits.
I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!