One Small Square: Tundra


Rachel found the One Small Square: Tundra book at the library and said, “Mommy, can we get this one?  This one looks good.”  And so we did.  Mother of Divine Grace does  not do a formal science study for Kindergarten or First Grade, reasoning that getting them to read, write, and understand basic math is a hurdle in and of itself, especially while chasing after other small children.  Which is all true, to be sure.


Allison, of course, wanted to do a diorama too.  And wouldn’t you know, this all came about the morning after Steve took the carload of recycling out!  Thankfully, I found a small box and all was well.  She cut out her flowers and sun herself, as well as drew the flowers.


However, whenever Rachel has “compared schooling notes” with her public school friends, she laments over the lack of science.  She has no idea what science is, exactly, but knows emphatically that “It sounds fun.  They learn about birds and rocks and animals.”  So we happily added Nature Study back into our daily plan.  I had been intending to make Nature Study part of our homeschool once I got our rhythm and general plan with MODG nailed down, and I honestly love Nature Study, too!


Allison was delighted by her flying snow goose.  Each girl picked out the animals she wanted to add to her diorama.  Allison also has a caribou, three lemmings, and a snowshoe hare(I assume it’s named Rosie).


We read a few pages from One Small Square: Tundra each day, and talked more about anything on the page Rachel or Allison had interest in.  I did find a BBC: Earth video clip of an arctic fox catching a lemming and she got a kick out of that.  We finished the book two days ago, and worked for the past two days on a diorama.  I had Rachel pick what season on the Tundra she wanted to depict.  She selected summer because she wanted there to be flowers, but that morphed into spring because both girls requested baby animals for the diorama, too.


Rachel, of course, then also wanted an airborne snow goose.  However, she also requested a mommy snow goose, baby snow geese, and pond to accompany the flying father.


Blessedly, Patrick took a long nap today (so, like, an hour) and I was able to sit with the girls and draw and cut and help them paste their animals into their dioramas.  We were just about finished placing Allison’s flowers when he woke up.  Since the wind chill was 0* F when I woke up this morning it seemed a good day to work on our tundra study.  Next week we will begin One Small Square: Pond.  And they are already excited to do another diorama.


Rachel’s diorama includes the aforementioned snow geese, a ptarmigan with chicks, a snowshoe hare turned brown for the summer, two lemmings, as well as a few flowers that she did totally on her own.  She was amazed at my drawing skills and wanted to know if I had taken lessons!  Quite flattering.

Art Study

Mother of Divine Grace includes Art Study as part of their Kindergarten program.  We do it about two times per week and it generally takes 2 – 10 minutes.  The syllabus includes all sorts of ideas for how to “study” the art pieces–matching, describing in many ways, telling a story about the piece, etc.  Occasionally, observation skills are built by having the student copy the piece.

Here is “George Washington on a White Charger.”


Here is Rachel’s rendition.  She worked on this for 25 minutes straight!


On a side note, I find it galling (to put it mildly) that Donald Trump is now in the same lineup of Presidents that includes George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and FDR.  How is it that Republican Party has gone from Abraham Lincoln to Trump in 150 years, anyway??? Every morning during our intercessory prayer time, Rachel prays that God changes Donald Trump’s heart so that he is nice to people.


Switching Horses Midstream


MODG Kindergarten plus a few extras 🙂


Well, I dithered and prayed and researched and finally selected the loosely-guided curriculum that we started back in September.

And it was fine; we read lots of books and it was Catholic and the FB support group was basically awesome and I discovered many new “living” Charlotte Mason resources through those wonderful ladies.

But it wasn’t a match made in Heaven.  It was a great place to start, and a great way to see which way we needed to go from there.  Sometimes, you can’t find the answer till you start.

For me, Mater Amabilis was a mix of too much to do, and not structured enough.  There was literature, 2 history books, 2 geography books, 3 religion books, poetry, music, Nature Study, phonics, handwriting, optional foreign language, and math to be juggled and metered out each week/day.  For Kindergarten.  There was no suggested daily break down of tasks, and a few of the books we just plain didn’t like.  At all.  And it seemed, poking around on the FB group, that that was  a recurring theme throughout the grade levels.

So we indeed “switched horses midstream” and started Week 1 of Mother of Divine Grace’s Kindergarten program after the New Year.  At this point, my plan is to just keep at it, taking a break for moving this summer, and transition to First Grade sometime in the fall.  And it is great.  For me, it has the perfect amount of structure, but is easy to switch out resources or change the pace in a particular resource if I feel that fits our needs better.


This is a blank book for Rachel’s Bible illustrations and narrations; she will add to this for years!


For instance, I spent 45 minutes one night at the end of November perusing the Internet for the lyrics to a Christmas song for us to learn and a simple Christmas poem for Rachel to memorize.  With MODG, Catholic hymns and classic poems are provided and integrated.  In the syllabus it says “Have your child memorize the title and author of ‘Rain.'”  Well, it took her a few days to get that down straight, but now, 10 days later, she has the entire little verse memorized.  We may not complete the memory work perfectly, but we do work on it everyday.  The syllabus is nicely structured but is easily deviated from if that’s more your style.

For MODG, our day generally includes
Morning Time
Daily Prayers: Morning Offering, intercessory prayer, 1 decade of the Rosary (we just say 5 Hail Marys not 10)
Classic Picture Book;
and every other day or so we do Art Study)
Math (finishing MEP Reception level then will move to Abeka Kindergarten Math); Handwriting (we are continuing on with Memoria Press’s New American Cursive versus MODG’s recommendation of Writing our Catholic Faith since cursive is very important to me, plus we had already started it and have had great success with it)
Religion (Reading, alternated with illustrating and narrating Old Testament Stories from Golden Children’s Bible)
Phonics (I am shocked, but we are really enjoying Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we do this after our chapter book read aloud time every night right before Rachel goes to bed)

We are also going to do Memoria Press’s Kindergarten Crafts book, which corresponds with different classic picture books, and I will read out loud Nature Study books and we will take once Nature Walk per week–this will all hopefully occur on Fridays, since MODG is set up on a Mon-Thurs schedule.


At this level, Rachel illustrates the particular Bible Story, and then dictates her narration which I write down on the opposite page.  I write almost exclusively in cursive, which is one of the reasons I adamant about teaching cursive to all my kids.

We didn’t do school today


Rachel took the white board and dry erase markers and carefully copied out the print and cursive letters from her alphabet chart that hangs next to her seat at the little table.  I am actually really impressed both at the initiative and legibility!

We didn’t do school today.  Or yesterday.  Or Monday.  I generally aim for 4 days per week of “school” but sometimes…recovery from a long trip, snow, or a sick sister get precedence.  I took these pictures of Rachel’s projects today, though, to remind myself that learning is happening, even when I’m not directing it.



This “snow castle” is from Tuesday, but Rachel built a structure similar to it today on her own in the yard


Rachel dressed herself and then Patrick up as elves and Steve was King Gnome and I was the Elf Queen. Even better, she put her “fancy” shoes back on the shelf when she was done without being prompted!


Rachel invited me to create this scene with her on Allison’s dresser


I asked her to make a card for her friend’s upcoming birthday, and she did…with sparkle.


Unprompted, Rachel unpacked her crayons and watercolors and painted the mountain we see from our dining room window, half covered in snow with the “glow of the sunset on top, see, Mommy?”


We read 4 chapters from our latest Read Aloud book. I love this one as much as she does!



Every night as I am cleaning up from dinner (or after if I forget!) I pack the girls’ lunches.

Yes, we homeschool, and my kids use lunchboxes every day.

This has been a lifesaver.  We often go out in the mornings after Patrick’s brief micro nap, and invariably the laundry needs moved along, Patrick needs to nurse, and dozen other things need doing, too, as soon as we remove our multiple layers and sodden boots.  So now, lunch preparation is one less thing in that rush.

Basically, the girls now eat the lunch, and I generally pick it.  I will ask them if they would like this kind of sandwich or that kind of sandwich, or do they want this stew for leftovers or not, or do they want carrots or peas for a vegetable, etc.  And sometimes, it’s a complete surprise when they open their lunchboxes!  I even include the necessary silverware.

Because we DO homeschool, and we DO eat at home, I DO make allowances.  As in, I will, upon polite request, dump out the noodles and cheese and heat those up.

This has been a game changer for us!

Now the hardest part is finding space in the fridge for two lunch boxes amidst the cauliflowers, yogurts, and leftover stew, which is what Patrick and I will have for lunch.  The girls elected to have cheese slices and pretzels tomorrow.  And I snuck in some carrot sticks.

Camping: the ultimate Nature Walk

At the beginning of the summer, and thus the beginning of camping season, Rachel told me, “Mommy! The most fun thing about camping is s’mores.  And the other most fun thing about camping is that you get to spend ALL DAY OUTSIDE!!!!”

We managed probably…10 separate camping trips, for a total of maybe…18 nights camping this summer.  I think.  I didn’t keep track.  But I did make sure to take lots of pictures of our last camping trip.  Our go-to campground at Ft. Abercrombie was closed for the season, so we headed to Buskin River instead.

Flaming yellow cottonwood leaves; dark green spruce needles; crisp blue skies and crisp autumn air!  Family, hugs, winter coats, grumbling at mommy’s “just one more try for a picture!”  S’mores, dollies, bicycles, and fairy houses. Followed by a chilly hike at Near Island, before home.  Now we get to let our trailer hibernate for the winter!

A day…

Not every Kindergartener gets to hold their baby brother during morning circle time.

Or wear a princess dress for handwriting (while mommy folds laundry and sister builds magnatiles).

And not many Kindergarteners get to go barefoot at recess.  Or pick enormous dandelions.  Or identify toadstools.  Or parade around the neighborhood with dolls and parasols.

(Not pictured: a huge fight about who was going to carry home the parasols, strollers, and dolls from barefoot, sunlight delight recess.  Hint: it ended up being the same person who folded laundry during handwriting).

September 2016 Nature Table

This is our Nature Table for September, complete with St. Michael and the dragon.

2016-09-29 18.46.45.jpg

We often collect things on our Nature Walks and add them to our Nature Table.  Sea glass, spruce cones, sticks, bundles of dried grass, rose hips, leaves, seeds, bark, and interesting rocks (and uninteresting rocks) have all been carefully placed on our display scene at one time or another.  Also included in our little tableau are things that I have sewn, crafted, or collected, such as the toadstools, pumpkins, apples, and little figures here.  I have also started painting Catholic Saint peg dolls, and put these up to correspond with that saint’s feast day.  At the end of every month, I unceremoniously dump the found natural items in the yard and switch out any others that need replaced with the next month’s treasures.


Wax Leaves


Once a week or so, I try to have us do a “natural art” activity that incorporates items we have found on our Nature Walks.  Yesterday, we walked around our area of base searching for pretty leaves.  It has been a dry fall (for here) and we just got our first frosts this week, so the selection wasn’t abundant, but we snipped some multicolored samples and headed home.

Then, we melted paraffin in an old pie tin over a pot of boiling water.  Carefully, the girls and I each dipped leaves in the paraffin and set them on a sheet of parchment paper to cool.  This should keep them preserved and colorful for a few weeks, at least.  I made a little leaf hanging, and then tied leaves onto some yarn to form a garland for the mantle place.  At first, I couldn’t find the pie tin so we used a Longaberger pie plate covered in aluminum foil but that was taking forever to melt the wax in.  Cheap, heat conductive aluminum is best for sure.

Rachel had an absolute blast doing this craft, and Allison didn’t complain the entirety of our walk despite her insistence on not wearing leggings under her dress.  Patrick camped out on my back in the carrier while we dipped, and lunch was served only 30 minutes late.  So, all in all, a successful nature + art experience!

Nature Walks

We try to go on a Nature Walk around base (we live on a military installation) at least once per week.  It continues to amaze me how much there is to see so close to home!  Sometimes we just wander; sometimes we head to a particular little field or copse of trees.  Sometimes I have no goal other than to be outside; sometimes I have a specific tree or plant or view I want to show the kids.

The first Nature Walk we ever did was about a year ago, to this same stand of trees.  I remember being terrified.  Rachel and I walked, and I pushed Allison in the stroller…and there we were.  With 45 minutes before we needed to go home.  And I thought, “Oh, my goodness.  What am I DOING???? What are we going to do for 45 minutes?  Stand around and look at tree bark????”

Well, we walked the few steps up into the spruce grove, and the girls had a great time.  On later trips, we would bring digging toys and buckets, but for this first visit, we had nothing with us but willingness to explore.  The girls swung on the rope swing, and dug in the dirt with sticks, and balanced on the roots, and Rachel climbed the cottonwood tree that guards the entrance.  We picked rose hips and pretty grasses.

I’m telling you: I only managed to drag them away with the promise of grilled cheese for lunch.

Not all Nature Walks go that well.  Some are just awful–it’s rainy and windy and I had zero patience getting everyone out the door.  But most are good, and some are fantastic.  It is amazing what there is to see when you have the wondering eyes of a child to guide you.