The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.
~Autumn, Emily Dickinson~
I, of course, had plans at the beginning of the summer for us to do one hike (and in some cases, TWO), per week but as is the case with best laid plans, it didn’t happen. We did manage to get in a few really good hikes, though, in July and I’ve found my new, very favorite hike of all in Colorado. It’s not a bad little climb, doesn’t take too long, and the views at the top (when the stairs are open, which apparently they are not right now) are amazing. It’s totally worth it if you’re planning to visit the Denver area any time soon.
B turned 9 in August which I still can’t wrap my head around….he’s still 3…right? “No,” he keeps reminding me. I kept telling him he was actually turning 6 and when his number shirt arrived (we get him one every year), I presented it to him upside-down which his serious little self did NOT find amusing. 🙂 He’s been impressing all of us with his insect-care skills by keeping a praying mantis alive in a cage in his room. He somehow found it a few months ago when it was barely the size of a fingernail and has been caring for it ever since. It’s now about 2-inches long and has been fascinating to watch, especially when it’s feeding time.
We started our school year (including C’s kindergarten!) the first week of September with a full week of lessons and then a hike on Friday with our co-op. When we started co-op in 2017, we had 25 kids… this year we only have 12 as three families left the co-op due to moving and other reasons. It’s been so good to be back with our friends, but there is definitely a mourning aspect to it as the group just isn’t the same. Otherwise, the school year is going well. I made a few changes to our schedule from last year, mainly because we changed our language curriculum and because C joined us more formally this year, and they’ve actually made our school days a lot better. I’ll share more in my Term 1 recap post.
C has been doing so well in her kindergarten and even asks often if she can narrate. I really had no idea going into it how she would do, especially as she was still struggling with naming the letters of the alphabet when we ended school in May. But it all eventually made it into her head and she loves doing copywork as well as math. I forgot how gentle MEP Reception is. It’s so perfect for a kindergarten year.
Life is quiet these days, though still busy. September was expensive with a bill for new tires for E’s truck and a sudden need for a new dishwasher after we woke up to a kitchen floor full of water. We tried to fix it ourselves and thought we actually had, but then it just started all over again. So I’m hoping to do a no-spend month in October….so far so good. 🙂
We did have a tiny bit of excitement in the form of an explosion near our house. One of the giant ranches that surrounded our cul-de-sac was sadly sold to a land developer a while ago and they’re now preparing it to build more houses. We got a notice back in August that they’d start blasting to clear out some of the rock that permeates our ground. We kept waiting at the appointed time to hear something, but never did, until a few weeks ago when there was a sudden ENORMOUS explosion. It was a little surreal as we were all inside and didn’t quite know what to make of the EXTREMELY loud boom and our house shaking at first until B looked out his window and saw a GIANT plume of dirt in the air. Needless to say, the blasting company made some miscalculations and the explosion that was supposed to occur under the ground happened on top instead. The fire department is now involved and there’s an investigation going on but I don’t think there was much damage to humans or property, which we can be thankful for.
Oh yah…and I turned 39 in September. This decade has been a very hard one. Maybe my 40s will be better?
Also, just a little heads up that this is the last System Status post that I’ll be doing, at least for a while. Many of the things I post here I also publish in other places… the books I read are on Instagram (or Goodreads) and I’ll do a reading re-cap post at the end of the year. Most of the other things can be found in the newsletter I send out with every new post. I’m not sure if I’ll regret this, but I think it’s probably best for now as these posts do take a lot of time and I’m not even really sure anyone besides me finds them interesting. ☺️
And now on to the updates….
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I loved her book, Life After Life, and I’ve looked for that same literary magic in her other books but just haven’t found it yet and this one was no different. I most likely won’t continue reading the Detective Brodie series.
A Light in the Window by Jan Karon. Mitford book #2. These books are so good when life just feels overwhelming and I need a little escape.
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. Read for the Back to the Classics Challenge “classic by a female author” category. I think I was hoping for something akin to Miss. Pettigrew Lives for a Day (which I loved!) as the description of it felt the same way, but it wasn’t. Still not a bad, quick read.
Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan. Another quick read. I love books that are about books, especially old books that have mystery surrounding them. I really enjoyed Sloan’s other book about the same character (and bookshop), Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and this one was also very good, though way too short!
Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. Read for the Back to the Classics Challenge “classic from a place you’ve lived” category. I grew up in Minnesota and will always consider it my “home state” even though I’ve lived in Colorado longer. There were many places mentioned that I recognized and remembered, but as it was turn-of-the-century Minnesota rather than late-twentieth-century Minnesota, in my mind, those places were shuttered and decaying (especially the train station in the Cities….was it the old Milwaukee Road building I remember from my childhood?) rather than fancy and modern. The majority of the story also took place on the western plains but I grew up all around the Twin Cities area. Still, it was a nice trip back and contained an interesting, though very slow-moving, story.
Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I underlined and commonplaced many things in the first part of this book, but then when he took up his dialogue between Christ and the Disciple, it resonated less with me. There were a few instances in which he had lines that reminded me of Charlotte Mason’s observation in the Introduction of Ourselves, “That the soul of a man is infinitely great, beautiful, and precious in itself we do not venture to think; partly, because religion, for the most part, teaches a self-abasement and effacement contrary to the spirit and the teaching of Christ.”
B and I also finished The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (which I loved and B said he didn’t really like, though he has developed a sudden interest in archery…) and Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (which was my well-loved copy that is nearly 30 years old).
I’m currently reading Holiness by Andrew Murray, Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien, Emily Carr by Maria Tippett, and Home Education with my Charlotte Mason book group. I’m reading The Green Ember with B (and sometimes C) before bed and B is reading The Courage of Sarah Noble aloud during our lesson time. If you’d like to follow along with my book-reading adventures, you can find me on Goodreads.
Book challenges update:
Goodreads Reading Challenge – 24/36
Back to the Classics – 6/12
Modern Mrs. Darcy – 6/12
Modern Classics Challenge – 4/12
In July we binged season 3 of Stranger Things in just a few days. The story is good, the characters are good and it’s not too scary….which is good for this HSP girl. But I think we mostly watch it for all of the 1980s references. 🙂 They’re perfect.
On a whim, and because it’s free on Netflix, we also watched IP Man. It probably sounds weird coming from an introverted, pertty nerdy, homeschooling mom, but I have always thoroughly enjoyed karate movies…. I think it comes from watching Kung-Fu Theater with my dad as a kid.
Brandy Vencel mentioned VidAngel a while ago on Instagram and how she used it when watching Back to the Future with her kids, so I decided to give it a try. One of the first series on our list was The Man in the High Castle which we stopped watching only a few episodes into season 3 due to questionable (and completely unnecessary for the storyline!) content. We were finally able to finish it! The story is so, so interesting and the characters have so much depth….I wish they didn’t have to include all of the other garbage.
When we were still waiting for fall shows to start, we decided to give Umbrella Academy a try. It took E a while to get into it, but I liked it right away and we’re both ready for the next season to come out. It’s a little violent and the language is rough at times, but the story and characters are very engaging.
My Fresno friend, Meg, and I resumed our Monday night iMessage dates to watch Poldark “together” this last Monday. This is the last season for the show and I’m not too terribly sad about it. It’s been a fun thing to look forward to watching with a friend each week, though. 🙂
And finally, E has been working a lot and traveling some lately, so I’ve been watching Father Brown at night per my friends Mariah and the aforementioned Meg talking about it. It was also slow to start, but I really like the character (played extremely well by Mr. Weasley), who I didn’t realize was created by G. K. Chesterton!
I’ve mentioned before that I have the fashion sense of a slug so I need some help when it comes to clothes. I also don’t have a whole lot of money to spend on my wardrobe, so my normal habit is picking a few random things that look good on thredUP twice a year and calling it good. The problem with this plan is that I usually end up getting several random pieces of clothing (mostly hiking clothes) that don’t look good together, so I end up wearing one or two outfits over and over again because I can’t manage to put anything else together, and the rest of the things I buy collect dust in the closet. I tried Stitch Fix a few times, but it was hard to justify the expense, especially if I didn’t end up keeping anything. Thus, with some of my birthday money and because I’m really tired of feeling frumpy when I go out, I got myself a copy of the Putting Me Together Fall Casual: Starter Kit Wardrobe guide. I did not go into this lightly as I’ve gotten capsule wardrobe guides before that ended up being a bust in terms of most of the outfits not being “me” at all. I followed the site for a few months to see what her style was before I finally decided to try it. Once I got the book, I looked through her clothing item recommendations for building the outfits and was able to find several of those specific pieces on thredUP for much cheaper than at the store, which made me very happy. So I got myself a new fall/winter/spring wardrobe for just about $100. Not too shabby. (And if you click on my link for thredUP, you can get $10 off your first order!) I’ll add a little disclaimer here to say that while I’ve been happy with the things I’ve purchased at thredUP, I have not been happy with their clean-out bag process. If you’re looking to sell your old clothes, I’d recommend a local place like Clothes Mentor first so you can at least say yay or nay to what they offer you for your stuff and keep the rejects.
Speaking of clothes, our laundry situation has been an issue for a while. When we moved into this house, we got a high-efficiency washer and dryer which was awesome because I had only used cheap washer and dryers my entire life, but also not awesome because there are things about HE washer and dryers that I didn’t know. Like your clothes can start to smell. I cleaned it with bleach (which I don’t normally use). I did not keep clothes in it for long periods of time. I left the door open when it wasn’t being used. But we still had funk. I also tried several different EWG A-rated detergents, but most of them were either unscented or the scent didn’t make it through the dryer stage and I really like nice-smelling laundry. So I caved and got some Method detergent thinking it probably scored better than most detergents since it was all green and natural, right? Wrong. Not only did it not score well, it also didn’t smell very good either and it was expensive. So I did more research and found Grab Green Lavender and Vanilla Laundry Pods. I’m compromising a little as the scent brings it down to a B on EWG, but it’s better than the D that Method got. It also smells amazing (and the scent lasts) so we have no more funk, it works very well, and I can get it through Amazon Subscribe and Save. (Grab Green’s Dishwasher Pods also work really well!)
Last but not least, after fighting it for a while, I recently joined the ranks of Ibotta users after a few months of going way over our grocery budget. This app gives you discounts on items at different stores and all you have to do is add the discounts to your account and then scan your receipt and/or the barcodes of the specific items. I was surprised to find the grocery store at which I shop (as well as a few others that I go to on occasion like Sprouts and Target) on the list and quite a few coupons either for specific products that I use or similar ones. It’s not a huge payout, but every little bit helps and it’s very easy to do!
The Kind of Mom I Want to Be (18 Gifts for My Children) “There are few neutral words or actions. We either speak to the benefit of their hearts— or we don’t. We put people first— or we don’t. We reflect grace— or we don’t. We repent— or we don’t.”
13 Comics That Will Make Introverts Say ‘Same’ #3 for me, all the way.
How to really measure the success of your homeschool plan “We are homeschoolers, so we have chosen a different path. Mostly because we think it is a better path. Which means we should not be burdened by the expectations of the public school system, our neighbor, or the inlaws. Having thoughtfully made these decisions in advance, we can be confident that we are making good choices and confront the naysayers with purpose.”
A Revisit “Pretty much anything you read, or do, isn’t going to make more difference in how your kids ‘turn out’, than you having an optimistic, joyous outlook on life and spreading that joy and optimism to them. Also-showing love in many ways every day.” I’ve been reading this blog for years and I absolutely love her wisdom and authenticity.
Minimalism isn’t all or nothing “Minimalism is not black and white – I mean that literally and metaphorically – and people should feel free to interpret it as they please, based on their personal interests and aesthetic. For example, a person should be able to identify as a minimalist while living in a brightly colored space, decorated with a handful of funky bohemian furnishings.”
Recipe verses Thought (Planning Post) “Miss Mason left no recipes behind her. She believed in thinking persons, therefore she bequeathed certain principles based upon truth itself. Every parent and teacher is free to apply these principles in ever fresh practice according as new needs and difficulties arise.” An excellent reminder as we go into a new school year as to why a Charlotte Mason education is not about just doing what everyone else, or even one other person, is doing, but thinking through our plans and deciding what is best for our homeschool based on Ms. Mason’s principles.
The Best Homeschool Techniques “Too often we get blindsided by our day and other people’s responses when we really shouldn’t. We wake up and start the day assuming – expecting – people will do as they’re told, learn their lessons, do their work, and get along. When our expectations are not in line with reality, we’re doomed to frustration.”
Why Our Charlotte Mason Preschool Is Different This Time Around “This time around, I’m going to worry a little less about what other people think, and focus more on what the Holy Spirit has for our family. In the past, I too often made decisions based on what I was “supposed” to do rather than what I was called to do. In our Charlotte Mason preschool this time around, I’m learning to pray and trust rather than discuss and worry. I will give myself a little more grace, knowing that my children are always learning, just through the life we have together.”
Claiming Quiet in a Loud World “So, if you have ever been described as quiet, introverted, or perhaps even the dreaded “shy” – know that it’s okay to be those things. Know that your voice is needed, and that it can be heard in ways that come through without trying to be something you are not. Know that there is strength in softness. Know that while being assertive and speaking up can be important, you don’t have to shout and be at the front of the room all the time to make your voice heard. Know that you can make a positive difference in the world by being who you are right now.”
The Evolution Of A Charlotte Mason Homeschool Schedule “…not only do no two schoolrooms look alike, but no two years in my schoolroom looked identical, and over the years, the change felt dramatic!” I love this post. There really is no such thing as a perfect homeschool schedule.
Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat Colorado (and those-who-like-to-travel) friends! Registration for the 2020 Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat is now open! This will be my fourth year attending, my third year helping, and my first year speaking as I will be offering immersions on picture study! If you find yourself feeling worn out and tired of the homeschool routine right around February, I can’t recommend this retreat enough! It is a time of community, motivation, education, and reflection, and I’ve always come back refreshed with new ideas and ready to tackle the rest of the school year. If you’re planning to be there, I’d love to meet you!
On the Blog.
2019 Reader Survey Results (including information why I’m not able to make picture study aids for modern artists)
In the Shop.
I added a few new things in the shop this quarter including a hooded sweatshirt and a new mug design. And last quarter I announced bags, but then my printer stopped offering the specific ones I was using, so I went back to the drawing board and they’re available again!
The hummingbird feeder fell off the window for the last time in early September and suffered more damage than was salvageable this time around (the suction cups got weaker and weaker as time went on), so I’ll have to get a new one for next year (I’m leaning toward this one as it’s more lightweight and prettier).
I mentioned last time that I thoroughly cleaned the feeders after we observed many birds with mycoplasmal conjunctivitis and kept them down for a few weeks, but we’re still seeing birds with this disease, though not quite as often. I have yet to see any Juncos, but we’ve had such warm temperatures (until this week! I had to turn the furnace on this week…) that I’m not surprised. They should be coming back soon. Otherwise, right now we’re getting mostly House Finches and Eurasian Collared Doves. In early August, I put peanuts out as I had observed a few Magpie babies in the area, but they didn’t notice so it sat there for several days. This gave a completely random and never-seen-before White-breasted Nuthatch an opportunity to graze as usually the Magpies and Jays clean out the peanuts in about 15 minutes. We haven’t had a nuthatch since our old house (the Red-breasted kind), so it was neat to see one again. Eventually the Magpies and Jays caught on and cleaned it out again, but every so often we hear a Nuthatch call, so they’re still around.
Very occasionally we’re getting Mountain Chickadees, still, but they don’t come often. I’ll be switching from safflower to our regular seed in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll start seeing more of them.
And there you have the state of me. 🙂