Friday, July 29, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday


With our new school year, I launched another Grand Idea, about which we are unanimously excited. On Fridays, our penmanship work will be writing correspondence to pen pals! The children are allowed to use my fancy stationery, which is always appealing. To make this more affordable, I purchased the note card grab bag from Trademark Catholic Stationery: 40 cards (with envelopes) for $4 on sale, which is 10 cents apiece (see here).

Besides practicing good penmanship, the children are learning the physical layout of writing letters, and about the niceties of correspondence the old-fashioned way.

The children may pick any friend or family member to whom they want to write, and they may write about what subject they desire. (Oh! And maybe in the future: letters to the editor of newspapers, letters to politicians, and so forth!)

I am excited to think that, as the children pick different people to whom to write each week, we will start receiving letters back and there could be a steady stream of correspondence. (Just since last Friday, we already received our first letter written back!)


Mary (7) is currently learning to play the Noona Concerto and this turns out to be the first song that inspires our 12-month-old to 'dance'! It is precious how he spins in circles and 'sings' "aaaaahhhh . . ."


We are continually trying our latest thing, seeing what works. I share this success: after the children failing to do their simple morning routines for years and years, they fixed the problem within a couple of days, and it's lasted two weeks so far--while I employed some good humor!

I seek a bare minimum: children wake up, get dressed, make their beds, leave no clothing on their floors. (I'm not even seeking teeth brushed, hair brushed, or other niceties!) These habits were requiring me to watch each child like a hawk, remind a half dozen times, and every time I turned around to help/nag/force one child, the other three children (not counting the baby) dashed off to ignore me further, until I was losing my peace every single morning. It took so long to 'herd these cats,' it was really hard for children waking at six to be ready three hours later for school, and now I need us to be starting at eight o'clock instead of nine.

I needed to put the monkey on their backs.

We informed that that we've been paying an allowance, and yet the children aren't doing their basic personal care chores. From now on, I would not be reminding them (the 5-, 7-, and 9-year-olds) or saying anything. Each morning, at some point at my convenience, I would pop into their bedrooms and do an inspection without their being present. If I saw a bed unmade, I would make it, and if I saw clothing on the floor, I would put it away: I would say nothing, but I would make a note to deduct twenty-five cents for each job they paid me to do. I would let them know later that they paid me to do the work (if I didn't let them know that, then no lesson would occur).

I could not believe it, but within a couple of days, the children were doing everything on their own.

That first 24 hours, I thought I'd gnaw off my own tongue in my attempt to BE QUIET AND STOP NAGGING. By the end of the first week, each child was waking on his or her own, I'd hear a quiet pitter patter of feet, and a few minutes later, the child would arrive downstairs already dressed, with bed made, and no clothing on the floors.

I inserted much good humor by saying at the evening dinner table, "Now, kids, tomorrow I want you to leave some clothes out, or don't make your beds! I'm saving up your quarters so I can go to Starbuck's and buy myself a treat. You aren't giving me enough opportunities to take your money!"

Sometimes these systems need to be set up just for a temporary period--some weeks or a couple of months--in order to exchange bad habits for virtues. Everyone just needs a new carrot and stick in order to change habits, and then those habits are laid down, behavior runs more on 'auto pilot.' I'm very pleased with how this one worked out!


Thomas (12 months) is now my fifth Climber. Either we produce genetically predisposed Climbers, or I'm the common denominator here and I'm doing something (wrong?) to produce all these Wild Monkeys.

He isn't climbing because I'm failing to supervise: he climbs right in front of me! If I clear the area, Thomas just finds a chair or any other piece of movable furniture and shoves it over to what he wants to ascend, so he can climb.

Thomas doesn't even need my rescuing often, as he can carefully climb down from almost everything.

Climbing in the pantry and shaking popcorn kernels

Repeated daily activity of trying to eat glue

'Singing' to us


Miscellaneous Moments

When I need to put Thomas in the high-chair to keep him safe and occupied while I cook, often I give him a pile of shredded cheese or sunflower seeds to keep him busy. I love watching his slow-and-steady pincer grasp at work.

We are really enjoying our first foray into IEW with Geography-Based Writing.

Margaret (5) is doing so well with her reading, and has recently begun reading actual books found on shelves around our house. I love to watch a child's amazement at being able to read a pretty copy of "Little Bear" or signs while out and about or instructions while we cook!

Reading her phonics lesson

During school, Thomas turns the printer on and off a zillion times until we unplug it.

The girls came up with a generous scheme this week: In a catalog, they found a gift they thought Joseph would like (and they're right), which is on sale for $2.99, so Mary counted out $1.99 from her jar and Margaret $1.00, which they presented to me, asking me to order the gift for him. Heart melt!

I'm enjoying drawing Joseph close for reading time at the start of our day: I've been beginning our school mornings by reading Margaret one Bible story and half of a Treasure Box book, and Josey joins us for this reading. Then he scampers off while I teach the rest of Kindergarten to his big sister.


Family Books of the Week (in progress or completed)


We've wrapped up our second week of school, so I'm experiencing the highs and lows of emotions that accompany that. As probably all homeschooling mothers know, it is a real task of discernment to try to figure out (1) what is the right amount of work to assign and (2) what is the discipline required to make the children do it. Little work and little discipline? Tons of work and tons of discipline? Something in between?

I keep writing and re-writing a paragraph about that problem, but I'm just going to give up. You know what I mean. It's been a tearful week as I try to figure out the balance.


Meals of the Week 

. . . shared to show that "My career is homeschool mother, not gourmet chef!"

  • Saturday
    • pan fried chicken, cooked cabbage, corn bread, homemade vanilla ice cream
  • Sunday
    • chicken, (frozen) sweet potato fries, (boxed) mac and cheese, homemade vanilla ice cream
  • Monday
    • I forget what we had.
  • Tuesday
    • hot dogs, (frozen) French fries
  • Wednesday
    • Chris and big kids: pizza at church during a talk on sacred music
    • So Mama took the other kids to Cici's Pizza
  • Thursday
    • Spaghetti and meatballs, green salad, garlic bread, strawberries
  • Friday
    • Fun picnic on a red-and-white table cloth in the back yard: Italian bread with (meatless) sandwich makings, hard boiled eggs, deli potato salad, barbecue chips, strawberries, black grapes, and blueberry muffins.


Bonus Reading

Both of these pieces are so good today! Please, I recommend them!

"Why Children Annoy You and Homemaking Is Boring"--Be prepared to be convicted!

"Homeschooling: Remain in the Cave"--Read the helpful synopsis blog post and then listen to the 45-minute talk the priest gave at a homeschooling conference. (I need to listen to the homily about once weekly!)

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.


  1. I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog through Seven Quick Takes a few months ago. Seeing other families in the trenches is refreshing -- good, the bad, and the blessed. :)

    The notecards are a great deal, and letter writing is a lovely idea! Thank you for sharing the link.

    Ugh. Your description of mornings herding cats out of pajamas could have come straight from my house. We haven't ever given an "allowance," but I'm considering starting one just to pay myself out of it when they don't do their chores. :)

    It's difficult because I want them to help because they are part of the family, but I also want them to see how hard work pays off. And I don't want to have to deal with keeping track of another household system.

    If you looked up "triumphant" in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Thomas the Climber there. Doesn't he look pleased with himself?

    Have a lovely weekend!

  2. Thank you for the lovely links. I really enjoyed reading them.

    I found reassurance hearing about your mornings - it feels a little similar in our household. Some days there is just desperation in finally dragging them out of their pjs. I have been known, on occasion, to just start school while some children are still pj clad but find that leads to stinky attitude so my rule now is you need to be dressed to get breakfast. Glad to hear your new system is working for you, I may need to institute something similar for my 6 year old (though she struggles dressing herself because she can't do up the buttons on her dresses).

    I was interested to hear about your new Grand Idea for penpals. We are an Australian Catholic homeschooling family from country NSW, about an hour from our Nation's capital Canberra. Catholic Homeschoolers are a reasonably rare species in our parts! - though I reassure myself with the sentiment expressed in Catholic Education: Homeward Bound that we should not think of ourselves as the only Catholic homeschooling family but simply the first....already we have had another veteran Catholic homeschooling family move into the area. Which is all to say I wondered if you might like to exchange some mail with our family. We have a 6 year old girl (April Birthday), 4 year old boy (May Birthday) and a 1 year old girl (May birthday) so we line up reasonably well with your younger set. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to exchange some overseas mail - and do a little geography into the the bargain.

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