Plans for Kindergarten and the First Day of School

Of all the ways I had imagined the first day of kindergarten for my child, never once did I imagine it would NOT involve dropping him off at a school that no matter how close to my home would feel a million miles away with people who no matter how nice, would still be strangers in charge of my child’s welfare for the better part of his awake hours for most of the week.  I certainly NEVER imagined it would be anything like today.
But what a beautiful,
                      fun-filled day it turned out to be.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect first day of kindergarten for my kid.  Thank you, God, for speaking to my heart and giving me an overwhelming sense of what you wanted from me (and for not letting me be too stubborn to listen), and thank you for my husband and my family who have made the decision to homeschool so easy and have been so supportive.  I’d do it even if no one else thought it was best because I believe it is the right decision for Alex, but it sure helps to have that support when things get tough.  
Like when you suddenly realize (five minutes before school starts) that you forgot to buy the phonics program.  
Or when you suddenly realize that after going on and on about how important the Fine Arts are, you forgot to schedule them anywhere into the week.
Yeah.  ‘Cause I do stuff like that.
So before I forget anything else, like say, my mind, I’m going to jot down what we are doing this year. If you feel so inspired, take a little peek and see what’s in store for my kiddo in the wonderful land of homeschooling.

Plans for Kindergarten 2014-2015

For our literature, field trips, activities, art and poetry, we are using Wee Folk Art as our primary source of plans.  We’re adding a few extras here and there and our book list is always growing, especially now that Alex reads so well and so frequently on his own.  From time to time we love to throw in a craft from Catholic Icing too.
I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely adore Charlotte Mason’s approach to education, and I am just in love with her habit-training program, Laying Down the Rails.  It is much more structured and thorough than many others out there, and I think the time and effort will pay off as we see his character taking shape.
For math we will still play our math games from Right Start Math, but we are trying out Miquon Math for a change.  Aunt Stacie introduced us to the Stuart J. Murphy MathStart series of books so we’ve added those in too!
For part of our geography and part of our science we are using Expedition Earth and Expedition Earth Animals Unit Study and we are in love with how hands-on it is!  (If I had more than one or two kids I think this would be pretty time-intensive, but one of the benefits of homeschooling just one is that I have only one to focus on so we are doing this in its entirety.)
We’ve moved on from Get Set for School to Handwriting Without Tears and while he still struggles a bit with holding his pencil and writing letters, he LOVES the activity book and I think we’ll make some good progress this year.
Remember that little bit about forgetting to order the phonics program?  Seriously – who does that?  Poor planning aside, it just so happens that I had Saxon Phonics sitting on my shelf (because I’m kind of a homeschool materials collector) and we’re going to give it another go, mostly because, well, we have IT and not something else I’d rather use.
For the other part of our science we are doing a year of nature with Charlotte Mason’s Outdoor Secrets Nature Study.  It’s so beautifully written and so charming – the early years go by so fast, and I want him to enjoy the beauty of what’s around him in nature.  And…he loves nature, so it’s a win-win.
For our Catholic education this year we are using Allelu! and again, if I had multiples to educate this would be a bit harder in a homeschool classroom because it is a bit time-intensive to fully use the program, but it is fun, interactive, and presented in a way that I think will interest him.
On our shelf for this year we also have:
And a number of things I’ve probably already forgotten or haven’t thought of yet.  I like to add stuff in at random.  (Apparently I leave stuff out randomly to, but I really think we have so much, we won’t miss what we don’t know we don’t have this year.)  And the great thing is, there is always next year!

First Day of School

Homemade vanilla bean ice cream in the making- to celebrate the first day of school

A little glimpse into the schoolroom

First Day of Kindergarten for Alex!

A few pictures of Alex’s first day of school

The best part of the day?  Daddy’s vanilla bean ice cream (recipe courtesy of Pioneer Woman)

It was to die for and I’m not even an ice cream fan!

"Snow" in Austin and a little bit of EVERYTHING else…

If you’ve ever wondered what snow in Austin, Texas looks like here is your chance to get a good look…don’t miss it.  I swear it is there.

Now for a little bit of everything else from the past month or two.  Warning: they are not organized in any way, some are completely random, and I’m certain I’m leaving out something important – like say, Christmas.  I keep waiting for time to sit down and write up some great posts on what we’ve been doing, but life is happening and there is never enough time to think, let alone compose something.  So instead, this is what you get.  Messy.  Crazy.  Just like us!
Making Poinsettias

Alex petting an iguana

My boys dressed up for Christmas Mass…
(one of my favorites from this past year)

Studying the presents under the tree

New Geopuzzle to put together

Our “Happy Birthday Jesus” Cake for Christmas Day 
(see, I did find a couple Christmas pictures to include)

Christmas Day dinner – look closely at my child…

Look closely again…notice a theme this year? 

And because we are hardly ever in pictures and I love this guy, 
here we are, ready to fall asleep after that huge dinner of prime rib

Viruses and Germs – one of my least favorite topics!

I put this one in because Alex walked right up and said, “Look, Mom.  DNA code.” 
like we have been studying DNA, which we have not.

Snow and ice in Austin wouldn’t be as much fun without
freezing a few action figures to excavate the next morning.

The boys at Alex’s first hockey game – The Texas Stars in Cedar Park

Finally, here it is – photo evidence of BOTH boys on their FIRST ice skating adventure!


It’s funny how our moments throughout the day can so clearly shape our attitude and feelings. Today couldn’t have been a more perfect example.
I started out with a headache at 8 a.m. so I was feeling pretty proud of myself when Alex and I finished grocery shopping at 10 a.m.  The headache had grown into a dull throbbing pain and I’ve been getting some pretty bad migraines lately so I thought a quick stop at McDonald’s for a coke (the caffeine) on the way home would be justified. For those of you who know me, you know the one thing I haven’t been able to give up is coke. But that’s another argument for another day. My point is, Dustin and I have had tons of experience with coke in the car – one might say we’re kinda experts in the field.
Unless the sweet McDonald’s employee gives me a torn cup…without a lid firmly affixed. The result – one large coke covering 65% of my car’s interior. I kid you not. I think it exploded! And then Alex spilled chocolate milk and said HE was angry at the mess.
I paid a dollar to NOT drink coke, spent thirty minutes cleaning the car, and then had to shower since I was soaked from arm pits to knees. You would think I’d learn a lesson here, but no. There’s more.
As I’m finally fishing up my second car cleaning this week (if you want to see my car clean come now!) and ready to scrub the sticky off my legs, my sweet, big scardy-cat of a dog pees her way across the entire family room floor. And she’s a pretty big dog. With a bladder the size of Lake Michigan. And I just used all the cleaner on the car.
I decide after all of this, and I still had a headache by the way, an easy dinner was in order. I got out my brand new bag of rice, added it to my steamer, and found BUGS. In complete defeat I tossed it all down the drain which promptly backed up into both sinks and the dishwasher.
Then I had to wait for Dustin to take the drain apart.
Some time later as my headache began to fade (thanks to a McDonald’s coke – I took my mama with me on my second trip) I realized that some days God just doesn’t want us to be worried about all the little things because –
I’ve spent the past weeks trying to check off my list things I have put off for months but now isn’t the time. Truthfully any other time I would have gotten a good chuckle out of all the crazy things that happened, but not today. God could see I was missing the big picture and he spoke through the familiar voice of my mama tonight when she reminded me that tomorrow is a new day and we get to start all over again.
God, I need a big do-over so help me do it right. And if all else fails please let there be coke in the fridge and a restaurant gift card in my purse!

The Christmas Tree Farm

We’ve discovered the exception to the well known phrase “everything is bigger in Texas”…Christmas trees.  (I feel like I have to give Texas a break though – we do live in a perpetual drought – how big could we really grow trees here anyhow?)  I thought we’d wait a week into December to give our tree the best chance of staying alive until Christmas, but that meant all the good ones were taken and we were hunting through short trees.  
In cold weather.  
In unseasonably frigid temperatures.  
In “Texas style” winter clothes.
Did I mention the wind?
I did ask myself about a zillion times what in the world I was thinking (this was my idea) as we walked across the fields hoping to find the perfect tree.  Eventually we agreed we’d settle for a decently shaped tree that was about six feet tall.  Then we decided we’d take a decently shaped tree, any height.  Seriously, at one point when my toes went numb and I couldn’t feel my fingers I wanted to grab the saw and cut down the next tree I came to, which just happened to be a tree that was about two feet tall and sparse.  Talk about your Charlie Brown tree.
Just as were considering purchasing one of the beautiful pre-cut noble firs that had arrived the day before, Dustin spotted a nicely shaped, five foot tall Leland Cypress.  It’s not an evergreen.  It doesn’t reach the ceiling, but the boys cut it down together and I am absolutely enamored with our little tree.
This year wasn’t about the perfect tree – the right shape, the right size, the right type of needles.  It was about a memory from my childhood and the start of a new tradition for us during Christmas.  Because there is so much more to Christmas than what they try to sell us on TV or what we try to convince ourselves it should be.  My only goal this year is to put aside our expectations and focus on what matters most – preparing for the coming of our Lord during Advent, and celebrating his birth during Christmas.
I had a moment where I thought our adventure to cut down a tree would turn into a huge disappointment, leaving us feeling cheated of what we expected to come home with – but God has placed a child in our lives who cares more about the process than he does about the product – and the process is exactly the tradition we set out to begin.  It might just be the most beautiful tree we’ve ever decorated.  
Cutting down the tree

Alex helped cut down the tree

Ready to take home

Wrapping the tree for the trip home

Putting up the train around the tree

First Day of School!

We started our first day of the new school year yesterday.  We had fun trying out our new curriculum, but I did hear at the end of the lessons, “when will it be time to study the animals, Mommy?”  

Really?  Again?  Seems like all we’ve done is study animals in school and out for the past year.  I’m standing by my prediction of the zoologist career pathway for now!  (By the way, he was very proud of the fact that he wrote his own name on this sign with the little “dots” like I used on my letters…)

After school we made a quick stop at Dairy Queen for a blizzard with M & M’s and then off to the library to pick up some books.

And finally we spent the afternoon outside, playing in the sandbox.  

In case you hadn’t noticed, we had a LOT of rain here in Central Texas this past weekend, and it left us with quite a few muddy spots in the backyard.  Alex wasted no time at all stepping right in and covering himself in mud.  Too bad you can’t see what the back of him looks like!

It was a pretty good start to a new year!  Now to keep up the momentum…

Because we are all THAT Mom at some point…

Dear Mom in the Pew (click here to read letter)

I’m THAT Mom.  The one to whom this letter is addressed.  The stares and snide comments don’t bother me.  But it’s nice to read such a beautiful letter filled with understanding that comes from someone else having been that Mom.

Church is God’s house.  And God has issued the invitation for all of us to join him.  
He doesn’t ask us to come but leave the children behind.  In fact, the disciples tried to do just that and Jesus told them to let the little children come to him.  My son might not always pay attention, but he is always listening.  He sees what is going on around him.  He sees that his Mom and Dad value church and place importance on spending time with God and celebrating the Mass together.  As a family.  Because what are we as a family, if we aren’t first a domestic church?  And who are we called to be, if it isn’t disciples of Jesus, on whom Jesus himself placed the responsibility to raise up in Faith the next generation of Catholics?

Our children may not be sitting still, paying attention now, but they will learn from those who celebrate the Mass with them, as they are raised up by the community to which God has entrusted them.  Each noisy, crying, talkative little child in church is a future saint, another warrior for God, and in today’s culture, don’t we need all we can get?

Saint Valentine’s Day

Because Auntie, Uncle, Joseph, William and Andrew were coming to Austin on St. Valentine’s Day so they would be here for Alex’s birthday party on the weekend, Alex decided it would be fun to do something nice for everyone.  I found these cute little St. Valentine’s Day cards over at Catholic Icing and Alex signed his name on the back.

Then I found this ridiculously cute idea on Catholic Cuisine (and felt really excited we didn’t have to give candy this year!).  Daddy and Alex share little Clementine oranges all the time, so it was a big hit. 

We also read Robert Sabuda’s St. Valentine and really loved the art work in the story.  If you haven’t read it yet, you can get a copy at Amazon.

A Crown of Thorns

I fell in love with this idea because it is such a vivid reminder of what Christ suffered for us.  Each time during Lent that we put others before ourselves, we get to remove one thorn from the crown.  By Easter, all of the thorns should be removed, and the crown gets decorated with flowers and becomes a celebration wreath for our prayer table.  
Deeply Meaningful.

Bury the Alleluia

I grew up never knowing about this tradition, and when I first heard of it I brushed it aside for other things.  But this year I felt really drawn to the idea that we could make something tangible that would remind us that during Lent we as Catholics do not say Alleluia.  Alex is very much a hands-on learner, so being able to put his hands on the letters, form the word, and put each letter in the box himself was something that really captured his interest.  We “buried” the box and he is already anticipating Easter morning when we can joyfully exclaim ALLELUIA and bring the letters back out to celebrate.

The credit for how I chose to do this goes to Lacy over at Catholic Icing – I thought her idea for painting the letters and box to be re-used year after year was perfect!