Family Centered Home

{Making a Home} Quiet Time

It’s been a quiet span of weeks with restorations.  Several of those were spent waiting for windows to arrive.  Then there was a momentary flutter of activity as they were put in and trimmed.  There is still a dozen or so to order, but those will have to wait until the coffers are refilled.  The heating system is being installed this week – not the geothermal system we had hoped for, but one that will do the job economically and have us geothermal-ready when the time comes – the best possible compromise.

Our contractor ordered doors that were almost an exact replica of the originals, which I have begun to paint.  Light fixtures are gradually being procured and stored for installation after walls and ceilings are up.  We expect that to happen in about two weeks, after the heating and insulation are completed.  Then there will be furious rush to get lights and fixtures installed so that we can finally move in.

For now, we’re enjoying the beauty of this place, caring for our animals, planning improvements and crops.  We expect a pair of beautiful Shetland sheep, called Jemma and Susan, to be joining our growing farm family.  Hopefully, they will have settled so that we’ll have little lambs come early spring.  And we’ve got to work on making a quarantine pen for our new goats.

Our barn is filling up with equipment, too.  Not ours, but our friends’.  Hay and bedding straw are stacked high at the back.  The year is winding down now. We’re gathering in for the winter.

I am looking forward to sewing some beautiful Shetland wool blankets and woolly sleepers for my five youngest ones.  The yardage is on its way. Hats and vests are keeping my hands busy in the meantime.

I hope that your family are keeping well.  What projects are occupying your golden autumn hours?

Toward a Home Education: Tips for Beginners

I get a lot of calls from new homeschoolers.  And those are some of my favourite conversations.  Not because I have such a vast compendium of knowledge on the subject that I’m eager to share, but because they make me re-evaluate why we educate our children at home, and what our educational mission is.  Those talks are, for me, like a day of reflection, a mini retreat.

I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve relayed over the years, in a post.

One of the biggest concerns for new homeschoolers is curriculum.  Lots and lots to delve into there.  There are so many approaches, and infinite combinations of those approaches.

“So what do you use?”

I have used, over the years, lots of different approaches.  I’ve purchased pre-packaged curricula, utilized online resources, designed my own.  Homeschooling seems to have been a lot of trial and error for the first 15 years.

I am most drawn to Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Waldorf.  But there is so much to love about Montessori and Unit Studies as well.  I avoid the term “eclectic” because it sounds very disorganized to me.  The only approach that really doesn’t fit our family – very much to my surprise initially – is “school at home”.

Ingredients for a well-rounded home education a la Gadbois:

Saints * and scholars. Don't these little peggies look like they're chatting at a conference or in the narthex after Mass?

A home that is filled to brimming with good books for everyone from wee ones right on through adult.  Books you can sink your teeth into, books that are springboards for further exploration.  Picture books for small ones and good, classic literature for those a little bit older.  Books to read aloud, scholarly works, and books on faith.

Sacramentals and sacred art.  You can’t have too many, but have an eye to tastefulness in accord with your decor.  That can be tricky because there is so much beautiful sacred art to be had.  I tend to have widely varied taste when it comes to art.  My answer to the obvious visual clutter problem is to group types of art into different rooms – some very Victorian, others more primitive, soft colours, bold colours…  It helps it make sense and imparts a kind of visual harmony.

Good quality natural art and craft supplies.  What’s the big deal about natural?  You certainly can use other art and craft materials.  But for us, the natural supplies – beeswax crayons and modeling blocks coloured with natural pigments, real wool felt and natural fibre fabrics and yarns, wooden forms – not only feel more authentic and ‘in touch’ with God Who created the raw material, but also offer endless opportunities for learning.  Where did this wool come from?  What dye was used to make it?  What colour does this or that plant make?  What kind of a tree did this block come from?  Create, create, create.  Model it, draw it, paint it, make it.  I love main lesson books.  They are such precious records of childhood discovery.  And they can easily be combined with copywork and beautiful illustrations.

Music is so important to me, personally. I like almost everything.  Classical and sacred pieces are good bookends to the day, and during quiet study times.  We like to rock out to more modern music, ethnic pieces, and show tunes at chore times.  And there are children’s songs and lovely pieces to dance to as well.  Get a mix you like and pop it into a portable player. I really feel that music animates the mind, not to mention its excellent affects on the soul.  Music inspires discussions and explorations of cultures and eras, as well as maths, science, theory and so much more.

We get so much use from our collection of Great Books.

Primary resources, especially for high-school aged children.  The Great Books series as well as the Harvard Classics library have primary sources from philosophers, theologians, scientists, mathematicians, historians, poets, playwrites, and novelists.  They are scholarly, and often conversational.  There are one or two dry titles here and there, but that may be just a matter of taste.

Wellie boots and woolly jumpers.  Get outside and explore.  God is evident in his creation.  Nowhere else can we marvel at His handiwork as readily or profoundly.

People.  Don’t be afraid to approach someone who is occupied in some task that interests you.  Encourage your children to ask questions of even those engaged in seemingly mundane activities.  It uplifts the worker and enlightens the inquirer.  We are created to be relational and every opportunity to connect with another person is an occasion of grace.

Transportation.  Doesn’t matter what type.  Get a new perspective in a new place – 10 minutes or 10 hours away.  Explore your own or nearby community and take a lot of field trips.  Visit churches and talk to clergy, visit art and science museums, public parks, colleges, businesses, zoos, and farms.  Find a playground or nature preserve near you to meet up with other homeschool families, or to just cut loose and play in.

Homeschool support group.  Online, or real life, or both.  I have been involved in online homeschooling groups right from the beginning of our home education career.  I haven’t had much luck in the past with local groups, usually because our schedule conflicted.  But there are wonderful ones that offer all kinds of free or inexpensive opportunities for enrichment and fellowship for parents and children alike.

Local library. Hopefully yours is part of an inter-library loan system, and is as homeschool-friendly as ours has been.  The one in our new hometown also has a natural history museum inside.  That’s really neat!  There you can pick up books and magazines for review, or in lieu of amassing your own home library, which can be costly to establish and maintain.  Beware that most libraries don’t seem to circulate Great Books, Harvard Classics, or reference materials.  Ask your librarian to subscribe to various homeschooling magazines, give him or her some titles you’d like to see.  It’s also a great idea to request special borrowing privileges for homeschoolers – especially if there is a policy for local school teachers in place.

Computer. Perhaps you already have one, or possibly you use one at your local library.  They can also be a huge expense up-front and in maintenance.  I have seen them on Freecycle lists, along with other educational materials and furniture.  It might be worth checking out, especially if you live near a college town.

But the greatest homeschool resource is a curious, enthusiastic, loving, faith-filled parent.

Poor old Aquinas. He's loved an awful lot. This wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I said "books you can sink your teeth into."

{There are thousands of books here.  And they are loved by the entire family.  They are taken down, toted around, and sometimes left in the most interesting places – the basement workshop, the loo, and out-of-doors.  With seven of the eight old enough to help themselves, it can be awfully easy to lose track of a volume or two.  So, we have re-implemented the library check-out system we had several years ago.  You can download and print a copyof our library form for your house.}

*These sweet peggies are available from Catholic Folk Toys.  If you have favourite saints, just ask Tammy, she made all of ours specially for us.

 

Tutorial:: Waldorf-style Pocket Doll

I had a yen to make a pocket-sized dolly for each of my small children.  James is particularly fond of having something to tote around in his hand.  I think he really likes it.

Materials:

  • Pattern
  • Scrap of soft fabric (chenille, flannel, recycled sweater)
  • Wool yarn
  • Wool suffing
  • Flesh coloured knit (scrap)
  • Embroidery floss
  • Thread

Cut 1 on the fold just as it is. This is the back of your dolly.

Now fold the hood part down and cut another piece on the fold. This is the front of your dolly.

Slit both pieces to the marking. This will form your dolly's legs.

With your wool yarn, make a ball. Make sure to wrap tightly and evenly.

Keep on winding until your ball measures 4 inches around.

Cover your yarn ball with a nice layer of wool batting in order to make the finished base smooth.

Just like this.

Tie off the batting with cotton string. Wind it 'round a few times first and you'll get a nice 'neck'.

Cut a 5 inch square of flesh coloured knit fabric.

See how many gorgeous colours it comes in?

Smooth the fabric over the head base and tie tightly in place with cotton string.

Choose the best side for the face. Embroider eyes and a mouth about halfway down the face.

Using some embroidery floss or cord in your desired hair colour, wind several times around two fingers.

Tie 'round the middle with sewing thread.

Fold loops over themselves so that all of them are facing you.

Sew securely to the dolly's head. ETA: For a more secure head of hair, you could sew the floss directly into the head, creating loops around a finger.

Snip loops to create a fringe.

 

Set your dolly head aside and take up your front and back pieces. With right sides together, sew arms and legs, leaving ends open. Fold the hood with right sides together and sew the top seam. Leave the face and neck open. Take small hand stitches and make narrow hems.

Sew up the ends of arms and legs like purse strings.

There's little dolly's body all sewn and turned out. Use a knitting needle to poke out the point of the hood and adjust the hands and feet.

 

Make four balls of wool batting - two slightly larger - for hands and feet.

 

Stuff the balls into hands and feet, gather up tightly with thread and bury your knots.

 

Now place the head into the remaining opening, turning the body fabric under slightly. Pin the center top of the hood to the center top of the head. Sew open portions of the arms, and across the neck edge, adjusting the fabric snugly around the chin area. Tack the hood to the head and bury your knots.

 

You're finished! Now your sweet dolly is ready for his or her first cuddle.

 

{Thanks to my daughter Cat for assisting with some of the photographs when I ran out of hands!}

A Little Something


I think he likes it

 

{I’m working on posting the tutorial so that you can make your own}

Be Still and Know…

Grace.  In the midst of a very stressful time, He sent this grace.

Pigs in the neighbour’s corn, and out overnight.  A house restoration schedule we can’t seem to get a handle of.  A three-hour commute for chores.  Sales that have fallen through.  The waning of his work-year.  The return of a demanding school schedule.

And William and I were on our way to the veterinarian to collect some medicine to try to save a sick goat.

Worry has a way of charging me, like a surge of electricity.  My mind races trying to think through every possible solution to every possible problem, seeking ONE answer that will solve them all.

It was a beautiful autumn morning: crisp, windy, bright.  As we approached the causeway, around the bend in the road, my eye was caught by something I hadn’t seen before.  I drove on while it registered.  I stopped, incredulous.

A pair of swans.

“Trust in Me.  All shall be well.  Slowly, slowly.”

So I walked to the rail and watched for a time.  And let peace settle on my heart.  Allowed Him to gently remove the burden from my shoulders.  And left with a heart full of thanksgiving.

A swan song of gratitude as I die to myself – just a little – and let Him work.

 

It is believed that mute swans sing only once.  As they are dying. Sweetly, calmly singing themselves away.

 

 

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