Summer Fun: A Cut Above {guest post by Allison Gringas}

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Summer can be a great time to work on children’s academic and fine motor skills. A really fun way to accomplish both of those is with activities that help improve scissor skills. Scissor skills are an important part of every child’s early childhood development. Although most of us recognize that fact, we don’t always realize why children need scissor skills. Aside from the obvious use of scissors, there is also a relationship between scissor skills and writing, and then between writing and reading. Research shows that children who struggle with scissors, will often struggle in correctly forming letters, and children who can’t form letters correctly may have trouble reading. Unfortunately this can lead to frustration, and some children develop a dislike of not only writing, but also reading.

Some Summer Time Scissor Activities…

Clay Play: Part of the success of cutting and writing, is the strength of children’s fingers. One of the best materials for working those finger muscles is clay. The clay takes much more strength to manipulate, therefore providing children with great opportunities for finger muscles — a great warm up for cutting. Want to add a summer twist, play with your clay in the summer sun, as it melts kids can squish and smoosh it. If you are using colored clay swirl and meld together to create new colors or a tie-dye effect.

Play-Doh Cutting: Kids new to scissors or you are not ready for little pieces of cut paper everywhere – try Play-Doh with a pair of plastic scissors. Keeping scissors straight, and applying the appropriate pressure to cut through paper can be incredibly challenging for some children. The amazing thing about play dough and plastic scissors is no matter how you cut, you succeed! This is another wonderful outside activity, perfect for downtime in the shade when it is really hot outside or perfect for occupying hours during a rainy day.

Play-Doh Line Cutting: Want to create ‘lines’ for your child to follow? I use cookie cutters, and instead of pushing all the way through depress half-way. This leaves an ‘outline’ for children to follow with their scissors to practice cutting along lines. Give a plastic knife and let them create their own outline to cut.

Basic Cutting: 20140602cuttingGive children leftovers from when you wrap gifts, such as scraps of paper, ribbon, cards, envelopes and some scissors and just let them cut to their heart’s content. Worried about clean up – sit them in a wading pool (with or without water) or on a blanket. Cutting ribbon into water seem like a big mess – not when you end play time by handing out sieves to collect the scraps!

Cut and Collage: Want to use those cut up ribbon, cards, envelopes and paper scraps? Give children white glue and a cardboard (use a side of the cereal box), and let them create a colorful collage. Transform into wall art but gluing a cardboard frame to the top of the collage – which also provides more blank space for adding all those cut pieces!

Snip and Weave: To reuse holiday or birthday cards, with your child make small snips (cuts) around the edges of the card. Then, give your child yarn to weave or wrap around. The weaving helps to develop fine motor skills necessary for both cutting and writing. Variation: Use hole punch to turn old cards into lacing cards. Summer Twist: Purchase flat sponges that expand when water is added (found in educational supply magazines, or find thin sponges at the door store – after children have finished cutting them in to desired shapes, give them a bucket of water for a wet sponge fight!

Paper Trail Game: For older children, put them in the charge of creating a cut paper (ribbon, yarn) trail for you or younger siblings to follow leading to a hiding spot. What about the mess? Give the finder a basket, and have them pick up paper pieces (you can even get creative of how the pieces are to be picked up) as they venture down the path. Try chopsticks for pick up – this also increases their fine motor skills and strengthens their pincher grasps.

In my 15 years in providing childcare and teaching preschool, I never met a kid that didn’t like to play with scissors. However, this love can quickly turn to frustration and discouragement when lines are introduced. Practice really does make perfect, and summer is the perfect time to provide children that practice.

Copyright 2014, Allison Gingras, M.Ed.

This is a guest post from blogging friend Allison! Allison Gingras is a Catholic blogger, inspirational speaker, and radio host. Allison founded Reconciled To You (RTY) ministries in 2009 to share the wonder and awe of living the Catholic faith, and to encourage others how they can do same. RTY accomplishes this through radio, day retreats, presentations, social media, books, blogs and Apps. Allison’s radio show, Catholic 24/7 offers inspiration through your radio, computer or smart phone. Her faith sharing book: “Three Persons, One God: Growing in Relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, encourages people to reconcile their idea of who they believe God to be, with what is taught through Scripture and Tradition. Allison has also developed the Words with Jesus App, Seeking Faith retreat series, and Social Media BLINK series on Catholic TV. For more on Allison and RTY, visit www.ReconciledtoYou.com

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Wrapping Up a Year, and Looking Forward

fyi this post does have a few links to an affiliate, who happens to be running a sale for May 20-31. More details within post.

 

It is May 19th 20th (now that I’m wrapping up the post), and my kids are very excited to know that we will be done with our official school year in after this week and next. I have been feeling the spring fever for awhile, but I don’t actually feel ready to wrap up the year! I feel like there are things to finish which won’t be finished, but when I take a moment to actually look at where we are, we’re doing great.

To *actually* take the moments to reflect on the year…that is what I need. To write down what worked, what didn’t, what I wish we had accomplished but can still do next year. To lay some basic plans for next year, and to chat with the kids about their goals. After all, if I’m doing this homeschool thing in part to allow more time for these inquisitive kids of mine to follow their interests, then we need to talk about those and plan for learning about them! We’ll need to make book lists, brainstorm project ideas, and make a bucket list of field trips.

It will be so satisfying! Sitting and chatting with my kids, getting ideas from my husband, making my lists…what a sense of accomplishment for finishing a 4th year of homeschooling, and to me, it is exciting to look forward to another year with exciting plans in place.

All that will wrap up our official year.

The learning never ends. This summer–ten to twelve weeks of glorious lesson-plan free days–will be perfect for engaging the world and exploring and learning in relaxed, hands-on, fun ways that our typical days just don’t leave enough time for.

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I’m so excited!

I don’t know about you, but I love to write my lists and notes in darling notebooks and on well-organized, simple pages. My favorite lesson-plan notebook was a small spiral-bound book I found at Target, and the months spanned not a Jan-Dec year, but a July-June year. PERFECT! And now it’s time for a trip to Target to find another. It was just the right size for planning the lessons for my kindergartner and preschooler.

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To keep all my master plans, I found (at Target again! Their designs are so lovely and fun) a 3-ring binder to hold my wish-lists, basic daily plans, attendance record, reading logs, calendars, activity ideas for each month, and more (I love my pages from Pam at EveryDay Snapshots).

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I am a big fan of doing master plans this way for the simple reason that I can’t commit to a single system, ever. If I bought a nice bound planner (which I have done before), I’d be stuck with what I had already in it, and couldn’t rearrange pages or add things in and out as I needed or wanted. But with a three-ring binder and handy-dandy hole-punch, I can put in all the pages I want, move them around as the mood strikes and make it suit my whims (which, by the way, are many).

 

In a nutshell (or I’ll never finish the post), here’s what worked and didn’t work this year. Next time, I’ll share what I’m looking forward to for next year!

Worked: (this section does contain an affiliate link to Latin printables. Keepin’ it honest.)

Saxon Math has proven to be a consistent and solid winner for each of my kids year after year. We had a bit of a love-hate with Saxon for my oldest, but came back to it through 3rd and 4th grade, and we’ll be sticking with it.

RC History (also known as Connecting with History) is so fun! If you know about Story of the World, but have been seeking a Catholic twist, RC History is what you’re looking for. We started with Volume 1, and are plugging along. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that there are literature suggestions for each learning level (more than enough, by the way, so if you can’t find a certain book or aren’t as interested in a title, you won’t be missing out. SO many good options), love that the books are suggested as family read-alouds, love that the units are broken down into weeks of learning, weeks of study with the timeline and famous people, weeks of choosing and preparing for projects, weeks to do the projects. This history program is RICH in content. Can’t wait to get into Volume 2 next year.

Little Angel Readers is a phonics and learn-to-read program which was suggested a few times to me, and I decided to go ahead and test it with my Kindergartner this year. It’s been amazing. A-ma-zing. We’ve taken it at a slower pace, to suit my little guy’s needs, but now he’s becoming a quick and confident reader. We’ll finish the first set of books through the summer and maybe into the fall before moving on to the second set. I love the workbook that goes along with the reader, and the easy-to-read pages and stories as you progress with your child.

Prima Latina You guys. I can’t even begin to tell you how *fun* it is to learn Latin with my daughter. All kinds of works make so much more sense to me now that we’re learning Latin. My 9yr old probably thinks I’m a crazy lady for how excited I get when I learn these words with her. And to make Prima Latina even better are Pam’s Latin Printables, especially the Race to the Colosseum game. So much fun. Prima Latina is simple to use and follow, which makes learning Latin easy (so far).

Morning prayer and read-aloud time has been a game-changer for us. A few years ago, I read about the idea of a morning basket, and have struggled to make it work. I didn’t know what to use each day, if I wanted to vary each morning’s theme, how to follow through, how to transition from the basket work to regular work… This year, I make my own version which has been working fabulously (maybe even well enough that next year I can try to do more with it and vary what we do each day). We gather to prayer together, usually a short prayer or reflection, and then we sit together on the couches while I read from the chosen read-aloud for the month. It is perfect for us! That way, after breakfast, we all say a prayer together and then we’ve knocked out reading. Reaching is so valuable, and if I left the family read-aloud until the afternoon or bedtime when Daddy is home, it would never happen.

Brave Writer is a program that has been on my radar for a few years, and I finally gave in and purchased it earlier this year. We are slowly working into the lifestyle of Brave Writers, but so far, it’s great! The Tea Time idea is part of Brave Writer, and so is the Friday Freewrite, in which children have a set amount of time to write whatever they like about a topic, not worrying about spelling or grammar, to just get ideas and thoughts on paper. I am really excited about what we will all learn about writing as we progress with Brave Writer.

Being flexible is always key to our family’s homeschool life.

 

Didn’t Work:

Memorization I know, I know, I know. Memorization is a big thing in classical homeschool…and I just am not that great with keeping up. It’s one of my goals for next year to add memory work into our morning time after we finish our read-aloud, so hopefully we’ll do better.

Trying to do the same subject at the same time with all the kids I thought I would be efficient and get math done all at once with all 3 kiddos. Nope. Not possible with an early reader and writer–I (duh) had to be right there with him, so that meant the girls weren’t doing math unless I’d started them already. What did work is starting and finishing with my Kindergartner before moving on to my older girls. Once he was done and then off playing with his brother, the rest of the day moved smoothly.

Starting without prayer definitely puts a weird funk in our day. I’m serious. Our days are more peaceful, productive, and enjoyable when we’ve taken the time to gather and begin in prayer.

Learning the recorder was sure a grand idea, but I had no follow-through. It was always left for last, and that meant by the time “last” came around, I was done, the kids were scattering, and it was no fun to get 4 kids together to try to play the recorder. I’m pretty sure paying someone else to teach music and instruments to our kids will be a better idea, at some point.

Being too detail oriented and not enough big-picture focused Don’t get me wrong, the details matter, but does it matter in the long run if we read every single option for history? Does it matter in the long run if we do every single suggested math problem? Does it matter in the long run if I skip a few “formal” days in favor of sunny days outside? It matters that I see how each moment enhances my kids’ learning, and if one more math problem drives us all to tears and banging heads on desks, then the learning is past and the struggle is winning. Struggles like that aren’t worth it. Seeing the big picture matters.

 

Ready to wrap up your year and look ahead to next year? If you are interested in the printable planning pages I use, go check out the store at Everyday Snapshots. Pam is running a sale from today (May 20) until May 31, for 25% off. Use code SEASON14 when you checkout. For some great tips on using the printables and making the most out of them, see posts here which give examples.

Books with Kids: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Welcome to month 5 of my “Books with Kids” series! It is hard to believe that May is not only here already, but in full-swing. Last month we finished reading a biography of Saint John Paul II, just in time for his canonization. It was a great read, and I highly recommend it.

This month we’re moving into fiction and fantasy, with “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. LionWitchWardrobeWe have read this as a family before, about 2 years ago. The second time through is even more exciting, and it’s hard to put down once we start! We stop every now and then to discuss the themes of choosing right over wrong, and how easily we can fall into sin from temptations (poor Edmund, he keeps telling himself it is too late to turn back, thinks so much of the Turkish delight that he forgets how sick he felt after eating the whole box…). I just love how imaginative C.S. Lewis wrote the story, and how detailed his descriptions are; we are all drawn right into the story! On days such as today (we’re having another spell of winter weather!), it is not hard to imagine trudging through a wintery, snow-covered land.

For this book study, I hope to enrich our reading with more than watching the movie as a treat once we finish. A quick internet search pulls up dozens and dozens of resources for unit studies, crafts, and recipes. Here are a collection of my top searches, from which I will be gathering ideas and using the premade studies. No need to reinvent the wheel, eh?

Home Scholar Books has a very thorough collection of unit studies, with links to science project ideas, Biblical connections, and more.

Free coloring pages to download and print can be found at Oncoloring.com.

Educator’s guides, values’ based activities, and quizzes can be found at the C.S. Lewis Foundation website. These look promising. I will mostly likely use the discussion ideas to deepen our understanding of the themes, but not do all the classroom activities.

There is a lapbook style unit study at Confessions of a Homeschooler. It’s not free, but for the low cost, may be worth buying.

This duct tape sword and shield look easy, fun, and customizable for reenacting scenes from story.

Here are some copywork pages with C.S. Lewis quotes if our study turns to include more than the story but also the author himself.

For those who like to color and play with dolls, there is a darling Lucy paper doll printable.

A very nice map is available at Narnia Web.

And, who can resist trying one of the main sweets of the story, Turkish Delight? It may have been enchanted by the Witch, but this recipe claims to be  “non-evil” and delightfully tasting. Worth a try! Or, you might find a box of the sweet confection in stores such as World Market. We have even seen it before in TJMaxx.

Art project ideas:

Diorama, painting of the wood and lamppost, design a shield, design a dress, design and build a castle. The possibilities are nearly endless.

We are up to chapter 12 already–they keep asking for more! It’s great to read a chapter and have the kids so interested they want to keep going. If you have read this before and have ideas for discussion or activities, please do share!

Tea on Tuesdays

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Here we are again! After whirlwind Mondays–the day I perpetually over-plan just in case we are really on the ball with hitting the books–Tuesday rolls around and I’m ready to slack off. It’s nice to have a plan in place already for something fun, special, and worthwhile to wrap up Tuesday afternoons. It’s been just about a month since we started adopting the Brave Writer Poetry Tea Time into our own homeschool routine. I’m holding out hope that one day soon all 4 of the big kids will enjoy the poetry just as much as the tea and treats. 😉

This week, I am even prepared with a treat! We are going to have my version of gluten-free Nanaimo Bars. I’ve had this recipe saved on my Pinterest boards for.ev.er (2 years, actually). It looks so tasty…but I’ve never had them before, so hopefully anyone who has had them, won’t be upset that I’ve changed the recipe up a bit. I subbed gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies for the graham crackers, and used half a box of vanilla pudding in place of the custard powder. So far, it’s looking great. (and, it is great. I couldn’t resist a sample while cutting the bars for the pictures.)

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The bottom layer was so tasty as I licked the spoon! I can’t wait to share this with the kids later today.

In the last few weeks, we have recited the poetry we’re learning from The Harp and the Laurel Wreath, and I have read a few other poems I’ve found using my tablet. Last week, each child chose a poem from a list of silly poetry and read it aloud for us. It is so rewarding to me to see how excited and enthusiastic my young boys are to participate! Especially my wiggly Comedian–he is so proud to recite his rhymes (such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider), and excited to “read” new poems with me. This week, I’m prepared with a book of poems I checked out at the library. It is a collection of pieces of Shakespeare’s works, talking about the seasons of the year. I’m looking forward to this; and I think it will be fun to read since in the last 10 days, we’ve had nearly all the weather for each season!

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Tea on Tuesdays

tea on tuesdaysYou guys. I spent Lent drinking mostly water, and a few smoothies for breakfast, and a glass of wine now and then with Fence once the kids were in bed. I think it was 2 glasses, total. Normally, I’d love to enjoy a nice cuppa chai, hot or iced, with milk and sugar…But I gave it up for Lent.

It’s not Lent anymore! ALLELUIA! I can indulge once again with a nice cup of tea.

Not only that, but we’re starting up a new FUN and TOTALLY AWESOME weekly shindig in our home school. It’s inspired by the Brave Writer approach to writing and literature. Go forth and check out Brave Writer you home schooling mamas. Some great things are there.

To get to the point: there is a fun suggestion from Brave Writer to have Tuesday Teatimes (could be actually any day, but the alliteration is too fun to pass up, plus Tuesdays work for me) to sit down, enjoy some tea and treats, and read poetry together. We all need some relaxing time with a cuppa tea or coffee or cocoa, right? Why not make one day a week when we share that with our kids, and enjoy some classic poetry, silly poetry, new or old or even composed by our kids poetry together? It can be so refreshing! The time to literally break from the rest of the routines and tasks and to-dos, sit and connect with our kids is so rewarding and fun. I know how spent I get in the day–believe me. Come 4pm some days I’m ready to turn in my time card and check out for a while, but you just can’t do that as a mom of any kind, homeschooling or not. BUT! setting aside the workbooks and grading and checklists and dishes and laundry and all the other things for even just half an hour is so needed, for us and our kids.

So join me! We’ll be having Tea on Tuesdays as regularly as possible starting today. Comment with your favorite poems and recipes and ideas for making your teatime enjoyable.

This week, we’ll be reciting the poems we’re learning, plus I’ll read one of the poems written by Blessed John Paul II when we was Karol Wojtyla (for non-Catholic readers, Karol Wojtyla was his name before he became pope).

Printables Winner Announced! plus, discount code

{what follows in this here little post is a follow-up to my last post, an affiliate sponsored post. I only promote things I already love myself, because I want my readers to have a chance to check out sweet homeschool, faith, and family living items! All opinions are totally 100% mine from my own experiences. No bribery allowed. Just my 2cents offered to you earn me a few cents to spend here and there and keep my homeschool running smoothly…at least keep it running happily if not always smoothly!}

 

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Well, the giveaway for a set of printables from Pam’s shop at Everyday Snapshots ended yesterday. Lucky elizaraxi is the winner, by commenting and sharing on the original post. Please email me for further instructions. Congrats!!

Don’t worry if you missed on entering the giveaway, there is still time to score a great deal on the printables. Pam is offering my readers a 30% discount using the code GINA2014. Head on over to check out the planning pages, the Latin game, and more! The discount is good through April 17, so don’t delay!!

Homeschool Planning, Racing to the Colosseum, and a {Giveaway}!

I don’t know about you, but when spring rolls around, I get excited for new beginnings.
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New growth on trees, new seeds planted waiting for the end of frosty mornings to be transplanted to the garden, renewed excitement about our homeschool and new plans to get through the final months…

I get crazy with spring cleaning, decluttering (as much as possible with 5 children!), and planning for a great last few months of homeschool while starting to look ahead to next school year. Each year that I have homeschooled my children, my planning has looked a little bit different. This year, I’m feeling ahead of the game and not only have I considered what we’re doing next year, I’ve purchased some books (partly because we’ll need them before this year is up), and I’m working on preliminary plans based on a set of goals I’m creating for each child.

Recently I’ve been reading a new-to-me blog, Everyday Snapshots . Pam is a homeschooling mom and the mind behind some great tools for homeschool families. I wish she and I could sit down with our kids playing outside, and spend a lovely afternoon together! Since we can’t, I’m going to share her blog and a few her homeschool helps with you. It’s my hope that you’ll enjoy what she has to offer just as much as I do! I am an affiliate for Everyday Snapshots, so this is my upfront FYI that if you order from her store, I do make a percentage back and the specific things I am reviewing were offered to me free of charge. I will also honestly tell you that I would pay for these things, and because I think Pam’s printables are so great, I am sharing them with you.

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First up: a game for families learning Latin! Race to the Colosseum is a simple and fun game to help practice all those new words from Prima Latina.13759550914_a49425b909_b

Last week, my 9 yr old and I set it up for the first time, and enjoyed it so much we played about 7 rounds in a row. I printed our game on cardstock, so I am not going to laminate all the cards but you certainly can do that. In fact, I can’t wait to finish up here on the computer so we can go play Race to the Colosseum again! You don’t have to have completed all the lessons to play the game–you can either not use the cards of words you don’t know yet, or use them for an extra challenge! This game is going to be a keeper in our house, for several years with each of my kiddos learning Latin! Thanks, Pam–this is making Latin more fun! I am certain we’ll be playing through the summer for fun on crazy-hot afternoons, and to keep our Latin vocabulary fresh in our minds!

Next up: planning pages. You will first want to go over to Everyday Snapshots and grab the free pages Pam has designed. Got them? Good! Now, read on for my thoughts on the expansion pack. The expansion pack is JAM-PACKED full of planning goodness! When I downloaded it and started opening up the pages to see what was inside, I was practically giddy. It was like Christmas for my planning-crazy mind. (yes, I do get a little carried away sometimes, but come on, ladies? Don’t we all love some great planning pages?)

There are pages in here that are good for ANY family, not just homeschool families, also! You could use the Family Skills Tracker, the Chores Checklist, the monthly pages–and more!–in your home binders.

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This Family Skills Tracker is up on my fridge, so I can add skills and note progress as we go. An important goal for me is to teach my children all kinds of helpful and necessary home-keeping tasks, and starting now is the best time! This tracker will help keep me on track as I teach them.

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I like this page, with the months-at-a-glance from July 2014-June 2015. It gives me a quick way to see the year, circle our tentative start-date, cross-out no-school days, and see when holidays fall. This will be at the front of my planner! Another of my faves–so far–is the Morning Time Agenda page, which helps me keep all the most important things in order: our prayer, memory work, read-alouds, and other things I hope to accomplish all together before my kids split and do their own thing.

From monthly planner pages to daily schedules and weekly schedules, the Plan Your Year pages have your homeschool planning needs covered. Here comes the fun part: Pam is going to give away one item from her store to a lucky reader!

To enter, head over to Pam’s blog Everyday Snapshots and sign up for her email updates. You will want to be in the know when she releases new printables! Then, share the giveaway, and finally comment here (in your comment, be sure to tell me if you shared and signed up for her newsletter). You will be given one entry for each, for a total of three entries. Please be honest! The entry period will run for 4 days, ending on April 14th. I will post the winner (using random.org to choose) on April 15th.

For all my blog readers, Pam is also offering 30% off until April 17th! What a deal! Use code GINA2014 when you checkout to receive the discount.

 

 

 

Homeschool Life: Writing and Journals

“I hate writing!!!”

Any other homeschool moms out there hear this from their children? Left feeling like a failure because you just *know* your kids are creative and have neat things to say/write, but can’t get them to put pencil to paper?

I was/am that mom.

Miss T, my oldest, has an incredible imagination. Given a blank notebook and new pencil, she’ll fill it within weeks, or less time even, with pictures and stories and dialogue. Ask her to write 5 sentences about a given topic, and the battles begin.

In her defense, she’s improved greatly…but writing is a least-favorite task for my kids when it comes to school-work. And yet they can dream and write to no end in a journal! It makes me think some of our homeschool writing time should be spent in fun, loveable journals.

This weekend, Simple Homeschool is having a giveaway for some journals that look fabulous. With different themes and colorful options, I think my kids (and I!) would love to use these journals. There is even a mother-daughter journal from Gadanke, who is the journal-maker. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ordering a few of the mother-daughter journals for my girls and I.

{My Mom and Me} – Mother Daughter Journal

 

So why am I bothering to tell you about another blog’s giveaway? Because I think it’s just that awesome, and I think it will be a help to our family when it comes to writing, and I love to pass on great ideas. If you and your kids love journals, love (or hate) writing, I encourage you to go check out the giveaway, as well as the shop, to see if these might work for you! Even if you don’t journal, you might want to start just because these are so lovely and fun. Personally, I can’t wait to have one, flip through the pages and read the prompts, and use a fun new pen to get writing.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dumb Ox

I have to admit, I giggle like my kids when I hear St. Thomas Aquinas’ nickname. “The Dumb Ox”. Really.

If you know the saint, you probably also know why he was nicknamed such an awful thing…and if you don’t know why, I’ll tell ya. When he was a student, he was rather quiet in his classes, making his fellow students and professors think he must be not literally dumb, but rather close. They found him unintelligent and too quiet. St. Thomas was also slow and large, though not necessarily fat (at least in my reading). So, his peers called him “the dumb ox.” Poor Thomas. He apparently offered it up as a sacrifice, because he was a youth devoted to our Lord.

Turns out St. Thomas was no dummy. He was brilliant. He had fostered a strong relationship with Christ through prayer from a young age, knew he wanted to be a Dominican from a young age, and recognized his gift for memory and learning as one of his God-given talents. In fact, while he was kept under house-arrest by his family (who at the time resented his desire to be a Dominican), he managed to memorize nearly all of the Bible. Can you imagine?! I personally can barely even remember the words to songs, much less all the words found in Scripture. This gift for memorizing, and understanding, made him a talented scholar, preacher, and teacher.

Years ago, we chose St. Thomas Aquinas to be a patron for our year of home schooling. Actually, I asked my husband to do the picking, giving him a part in our home school journey. He chose St. Thomas because he is a patron of schools and students. What I knew about “The Dumb Ox” was little, except I knew he was brilliant and I was afraid he’s be an unapproachable saint for my children. I had no idea how, other than ending our morning prayers with “St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us”, we’d become friends with this amazing man of God.

This year, I decided to find a biography about him, and use that as a teaching tool. Turns out there is a sweet little book written by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, which is a great narrative of St. Thomas Aquinas’ life, easy to understand for children.
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We have been reading it this month, one chapter every few days. At the end of each chapter, I highlight a few points of interest or importance, which I *hope* take root in my children’s hearts and minds. There are great themes, such as obedience, trust in God, prayerful devotion, listening to promptings of the Holy Spirit, doing our best in all things, holy friendship, vocations, and joy in doing God’s will. Our patron saint *is* becoming a friend, gradually.

Today is the great saint’s feast day. We have been asking his intercession almost daily, as we begin our studies, and today we added a simple, short prayer to our morning devotion. It is found at the end of the biography, and is inspired by, if not composed by, St. Thomas.

“O Merciful Go, grant that I may eagerly desire, carefully search out, truthfully acknowledge, and ever perfectly fulfill all things Thy Name. Amen.”

I hope that my kids will follow some examples from St. Thomas’ life, such as doing their best in their studies, praying often and building a relationship with Jesus, and being joyful about seeking and doing God’s will, whatever their particular vocation might be in life. We have only one chapter remaining in the book, but I plan to go back to the story and the prayers often to encourage my young ones.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Tough Love

Parenting is hard. Having to raise children and train them, guide them, discipline them in hopes of them one day exercising their God-given free will in a saintly manner is tough! It pains me when my sweet babes are making poor choices, when they continue on the path to undesirable consequences. I can only imagine the pain our Father feels each time we choose a way different than the one He designed and offered us.

Lately, we have had a lot of tough love around our home. For whatever reason, our girls have found it funny (literally, tonight) to disobey. The privileges are running short around here! I won’t go into details of their poor choices, but they are five and seven…you can probably imagine myriad ways girls can find trouble, as we all have before. I find myself needing a system to deal with it, something more effective than what has felt like on-the-fly reactive discipline.

Last week, gymnastics was taken away for one practice time. Sadly, it might be a lost privilege for the rest of the season, which really breaks my heart. My girls are good at the sport, and truly love it. They have joined a mini-team, have special team leotards, and a mini-meet in two weeks. We have spent lots of time on this…I so much want to see them perform their routines. And yet, the lack of obedience, respect, and attentiveness to school work means they cannot participate. I pray they make good choices in the next few days! This is consequence I fear I might regret enforcing so rigidly.

My husband and I talked about a system to encourage good behavior. During Lent, we had a sacrifice bean jar. Each time the children did something kind, sacrificed something, did what they were told right away, etc, they put a bean in the jar. They loved watching their sacrifices add up. We decided to take the idea through the year. They each have a jar, marked with their initial, to collect pretty colored beads in for each good deed, obedience, kindness towards family, etc. we are hopeful this will encourage them. As they see their good deeds increase! I am considering rewarding them when a certain amount of beads are collected, as even more encouragement!

Something else I have considered is a list of rules or consequences for poor choices. These would be specific, like for talking back, refusing to complete a chore, not completing school work, fighting, arguing, etc. Each poor behavior would be followed with a predetermined consequence, always the same. I hope to make a list soon, and post it where we can all see it often. My girls will be reminded of what discipline they face,many my husband and I will be on the same page!

This part of love is tough! But I must remind myself that love is also patient and kind! What a delicate balance in raising our children to be saints.