7 Things I'm Changing In Our Homeschool

Friday, May 25, 2018

Next weekend is the big Catholic homeschool conference in Minnesota (and if you're around you should come and tell me and we'll hang!). Last year I was just feeling it out, but this year I feel like I'm a woman on a mission! So while I prep my dream lists for the used curriculum fair, I thought I'd write down seven things we're changing in our homeschool next year due to lessons learned this past year.

Staying home more

It seems to obvious, you need to be HOME to homeschool, but when I only had preschoolers/toddlers it made more sense to leave everyday. Once I had a kid who needed to sit down and *do* school I realized that we need to be more intentional about what times we will be home.
I have kids on the extroverted side (and so am I) so we won't be staying home all day every day, but we need a few hours blocked off Monday-Thursday if I want to get school done without tears.

Utilizing the car time

This was our first year owning a car, and I'm slowly making my peace with driving being a necessity now, but it's such a time suck! I'm thinking about using that time for good by switching some of our schooling, like music and some history, to be "car subjects". 
(Crazy? Who's done this and want's to send me ideas?!)

Then there were two

Therese is turning 4 this summer which moves her into "real school" in our house. She'll have her own books and syllabus to do. It's still very gentle and low key, but it is another layer of complexity to add a kid to the main homeschool day.

Homeschool in the kitchen!

Even though we do have the space for a school room, I liked the idea of using that room as a library and using the eat in kitchen space as our school room instead. This past year I found I was having to leave the school space all the time. To get a bottle for the baby, pour a cup of coffee, set the crockpot, etc. If we're already in the kitchen, it's that much easier to keep everyone on track while still getting done what needs to get done.

Activity boxes rock

This past year I got some scrapbook boxes off Amazon and made activity boxes for Therese. They were intended as an easy way for her to entertain herself while I was working with her brother. But they were a huge hit with both of them! The sewing box and play dough box were extremely popular.

I'm bringing them back this year, but with a little bit of a twist as the kids are older. As part of my school prep (maybe once a month instead of weekly) I'm planning to change up the boxes to include materials that we are currently learning about. So there might be a nature exploration box, a sensory box, a science experiment box, a go-outside-and-use-me box (for messy stuff/nature exploration). Lots of ideas!

It's the meal prep of kid activities.


Minnesota is a wonderful playland of resources for homeschooling, and I intend to take advantage of it! The park district near us hosts homeschool nature and science classes, there are free forest school meet ups, Y homeschool sports classes, etc. I'm not a huge fan of co-ops personally, but I do like the idea of using classes when it works for the kid and the family needs.
Those schedules won't be released until later in the summer, so we won't be deciding on those particular classes until then.

Monday is Too Late

I'm going to have to prep for the week on the weekend. I wanted to hold off doing work on Sunday, day of rest and all, but waiting until Monday to do things like print off the weekly checklist and gather materials just made for a stressful start to the week. Sunday evenings are what has worked best so I'm going to admit that's what I should do.

What lessons did you learn from the school year? Any changes you are planning to make?

Women We Won't See

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When women play the comparison game, I’ve noticed something lacking.
The women seen as “having it all together” have their own weak areas ignored by others in order for this idea of them as “put together” to continue. The women who are self proclaimed “hot messes” don’t often show their strengths to others. I think this is a combination of women choosing to limit what they display to the world in order to fit in, and others placing a woman in a particular category and holding her to it.

What this, oh so conveniently, does is flatten women. It removes her dimensions, her complexity. Because the comparison game only really works on caricatures of women, not on women themselves.

This is why the comparison game is so objectifying, but the thought processes that make it possible might even be considered healthy. Women tend to see mostly the positives in others, and the negatives in ourselves. When this acts as an incentive to learn new skills and grow, it’s great! But the comparison game grows out of the negative mental narrations that are stifled from action.
This plays out in mental narrations like this:

"She manages to homeschool AND show up to mass on time. Why can't I get my one kid's shoes on?"

"That family had a whole pew of kids sit through mass THE WHOLE TIME. Yet every Sunday is a wrestling match in my pew."

These mental narrations can only happen because we block out all the things that other person doesn't do/doesn't do well, and cognitively emphasize all the things we perceive as lacking in ourselves. We don't notice that the mom who is on time and well organized does not have kids wearing well coordinated outfits and the dirty dishes sit in the sink until after dinner.
We get in the habit of picking on our personal weaknesses, and ignoring those things that come naturally.

"I could never do that." That is the phrase that seems to closely follow the comparison narration.

In most contexts where I have heard this phrase, it has been uttered as a way of displaying humility, as a socially acceptable form of self-loathing, or as a way to place the person(s) who do such a thing in an othered category.

It's a truth and a lie. It is true that you might actually not have the skills to do said thing right now. You might have no inclination to do said thing (and if it's not a matter of faith and morals, don't feel like you need to do it!). But the "never" is the snag.

There is a spiritual danger to this thinking.

The Devil would love for women to believe that they can't. That they are not capable of living out their chrism while mothering. Of growing skills. Of confronting those things in themselves that are raw and tender.

Refusal to see the whole person is a refusal to live as the Body of Christ. A refusal to be Church.
We have to cut out the comparison game because it pulls us apart internally, it pulls us apart from each other, and ultimately it pulls us away from closeness with God.

How have you seen the comparison game play out in your own life? Does this resonate with you?

Amelia Hill House is now a Home!

Friday, May 18, 2018

As of last Saturday, we are officially the residents of Amelia Hill House!
I've been meaning to put a house update on here, so here's a peak at what some of it looks like with furniture. 
Note most of what you don't see if probably covered in boxes and packing paper.
And some of what you will see is covered in boxes and packing paper...


I adore our dining room! While it's a little annoying to carry food from the kitchen and through the living room, it's much more enjoyable to eat a meal and NOT see all the dishes and things that need doing in the kitchen.

The view ain't bad either.


I could easily see the library being one of our longest term projects currently in the house. I have yet to unpack any of the book boxes, but I did fill up that laundry baskets with library books so there's that.

When we were moving in the narrow stairs proved to be a challenge. Most of the bedroom furniture managed to squeeze up there some how except for this piece. Matt's dresser. So it's living in the library. It's a little odd but with Jack and Jill entrance to the downstairs bath from the library and the kitchen, it might work ok. For now.


But everyone loves the downstairs shower!

We thought back to everything we've loved about different showers in hotels, and picked those things. They were good choices!
It's the one room in the house that is completely updated, and it was worth it.

Long term items to find for this are some sort of storage, an actual towel rack (because that's my quilt rack), and a cool mirror for above the sink.


Having a front porch was important to me in a house. But this is Minnesota, so a 3 season screened in porch is going to do nicely.
Matt found some wicker furniture on Craigslist, and I love them! 

At some point they were painted, and I'm mostly sure it's a close match to the shade of green we used for the kitchen cabinets.

I haven't gotten around to doing much with the guest house yet, but I wanted to show a little bit of it's cute little kitchen!

The guest house was put into it's current form in the 1950s, and this kitchen is all original vintage stuff - in excellent condition due to being so lightly used.


This house has an abundance of outdoor living areas! In addition to the porch we have:

The stone patio

Wouldn't this look cute with that globe lights strung across?!

And the wood patio!

I still need to put the kid's slide back together, but I think this will be a sweet spot for summer dinners. Lots of potentially flowering shrubs growing all around it, but no idea what they might be yet!


So I was playing with Felicity on the floor of the nursery yesterday and I noticed a very loose corner of wall paper under the window. Now in our previous rental houses I would have had to hold in my curiosity, but NOT ANYMORE! I embraced my home ownership, and found this cute vintage wallpaper underneath.

The current wallpaper came off extremely easily so I went ahead and took it off in the whole room. Most of the walls had significant prior damage that had been attempted to be covered up with the upholstery fabric of wallpaper, but one wall is in almost pristine condition.

I'm thinking that it's worth saving this cute little vintage survivor! Clean off the remains of the old wallpaper glue and clear coat it.

My big remaining decision is to paint the remaining walls either the same shade of white used in the background of the vintage paper or to use a shade of blue from the design.
If you want to vote, there is a poll in my instastories until tomorrow (because polls are fun!)

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

Last Week of Packing! (And Then We Never Do This Again)

Friday, May 11, 2018


The final countdown to moving has begun!

Tomorrow the truck comes and we move into our (hopefully) forever home.

Then I get to enjoy my pretty kitchen! I'm so I'm so pumped for counter space y'all!


My goal has been to pack a box or two everyday. In reality, I go through off packing days and days when I pack up 5 boxes. There still feels like an infinite list of packing and cleaning tasks to work through!


With our last move, we were spending a good week in hotels and we had professional packers come in and pack and load the whole apartment in two days. 
This time around, we are largely packing ourselves and only moving locally. That means we are spending many many more days living among boxes than we did in any of our previous moves.
And I hate it. It stresses me out to feel like my environment is NEVER put to rights or clean.


Solution: leave the house strategically! 
We have been making good use of our Y membership. Breaking up our time in cardboard box land. The kids get essentially a Park day (they have an outside play structure) with more kids than we can find at the park before schools let out, and I get a workout. Lots of win!
Felicity has become the official living baby doll of the kids spot. When I come to pick her up, she’s often sitting in a bumbo chair surrounded by adoring preschoolers all wanting to show her a toy and get her to laugh.

My favorite picture I've taken of Felicity sitting up!
She's a big fan of the "sit and put one thing into another thing" game.


Children’s adoration has been a blessing during our packing time too!
While it’s always a wiggly squirmy hour, I don’t feel bad about it when it’s an hour specifically for small children in the adoration chapel.

But babies do like to find the best/worst timing to develop new skills.
This week little Felicity has learned how to roar. Like a lion. She waited to display this new skill until we were praying a decade of the rosary during adoration, and the squirming had come down to a minimum.
At first I was mortified thinking it was my bigger kids who know better. Then I see some of the big kids just about to fall over in silent laughter, and I realize the huge sound is going from the little baby tripod sitting on the floor next to me.
She was quite pleased with herself.


Things I have learned about my kids in this time of packing:

- John will carefully fold and pack clothes for HOURS. Happily and precisely.
- Therese is now capable of hauling built dish pack size boxes up the stairs from the basement.
- Felicity will fall asleep on my back, if I wear her long enough, despite herself. Those generations of nomadic people genes kick in at good times!


My parents and one of my sisters fly in today to help with the move!
We have always lived multiple states away from immediate family, so getting to go through a big life change with immediate family present hasn’t happened since our wedding day.

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.
Who else is moving right now/soon? Tell me all your cute kid stories because they make this process much more fun!

What It Means To Be Parenting Friendly in the Workplace

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I was at a career expo for people in the theater industry this past weekend. After months of auditioning, and feeling stagnant, I wanted to learn where are the miscommunications happening? What am I missing that casting directors and hiring directors are looking for?
My second goal: find someone on this green Earth who is pursuing theater work while parenting small children!

Many women in theater take the 10 years (or more) until their children are in school to return to work. I tried that for a year, and it's not working for me. I do much better with both/and instead of waiting for a "someday" that may very well never show up.

The working world is not set up for both/and, it's an either/or game. Whether it is acknowledged or not, parents face well-meaning, but never the less prejudicial, beliefs about their abilities and availability.

When I was graduating from college, I was in my third trimester with my first child. I decided to run for some of the alumnae positions. It's mostly emailing the class quarterly, and compiling and sending updates to the alumnae association for placement in the alum magazine - not a difficult job. I lost out on the vote, but that didn't bother me as much as the reasoning behind why some people did not vote for me.
Women would actually tell me that they didn't vote for me so I wouldn't have to choose to spend time away my baby. As if I was not capable of understanding both the job description and the implications of my huge belly when I put myself forward.
Note this was a WOMEN'S college. To say that they should have known better would be an understatement.

It becomes more apparent to me as I spend more years at this parenting while trying to interact with the world thing, that the greater culture has NO IDEA what I do. None. At all.
Which explains some things about well meaning attempts to be inclusive to parents, and mothers in particular, fall flat.

A huge hurtle to having useful and effective work environments for parents is that each parent is working with a different set of parameters. Some need to be able to pick kids up from school, some need lctation rooms, some need flex time, some need site based child care. Often the same person will need all of these things at different points  in her parenting life.

The typical American workplace is not so great with evolving needs. I’ve found many individuals aren’t so great at evolving needs. It’s much easier to say “do x, y, z and you are parenting friendly!”. It’s not that simple.

What I think *does* make a workplace parenting friendly is a self-aware workplace.
If a mother has to continuously inform HR that the lactation room is not up to code or that she is being given more work than she is being paid to do, that workplace sends the message that her work and needs are not valued.
It’s not the job of parents to educate each and every employer on how to not be a jerk to working parents.
It’s not my job to teach other women not to be patronizing and diminutive to another woman just because she’s a mother.
Frankly, I’m frustrated to be hearing that the working world is still in denial that parenting is a necessary part of the continuation of the species, but here we are. Because, really, this comes down to having respect for human life and the importance of the work of parenting AND the work of the economy.

This is not just a discussion for parents who work your typical 9-5 job! What about you parents who are freelancers, community leaders, or gig workers? What has been your experience?

Suddenly, the House Has a History!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When we started looking for a home, it was my hope that it would be a "house with a history". At the time I just meant something with some charm and personality. We were lucky to find a house on the west side of the Twin Cities older than 1950 - the house was stated to have been built in 1901 on the official documents.
There wasn't much chance of finding out much about the original family. Records were spotty, and most of the houses around us were built in the 1980's so not much chance of local family records.

Then my husband called me after a day of painting at the house. The contractor had thrown a bunch of papers next to the sink from drawers in preparation for painting cabinets. One of them was an envelope marked "History of this house by a relative".

Inside were a collection of notes and letters written by the granddaughter of the original owners to the previous owner in 2009. They have information about the original family and the changes to the layout of the farmhouse and outbuildings over the years.

Using the information in the letters, I could track down a lot more history about the house than we could have ever had otherwise!

The original owners were Albert and Clara Schmidt. They had five children, four daughters and a son, Elmer. Elmer took over the farm when he married, and he and his wife ran the farm as truck farmers. His wife, Gertrude, eventually sold the farm maybe sometime in the 1950s, to a woman who restored much of the farmhouse. The family still owned some of the surrounding land, but they started selling off plots about the same time.

Clara is the woman seated on the far right. This is a picture of her with her natal family (it appears to be only siblings.)

The house is almost certainly older than we thought, but it's unclear exactly how old. The granddaughter says it was built in the early 1890s, but the other notes say approximately 1875.

It certainly involved many more outbuildings than exist today! The only remaining outbuilding is the wash house/ice house that was converted into what we now have as the guest house.

I found some aerial photos that show the recent transition of the area from rural to suburban.


I didn't find aerial photos in the database for later than 1971, but an historical map from 1985 shows the area completely covered in new builds.

The part of the letters I found super interesting was the original layout of the house.
The floors in what is now the dining room, living room, and library are original.
What we are now using as a library had been a downstairs bedroom for the previous owners, and was originally a parlor used just for visitors.

We have since taken down the giant sliding mirror doors (they were likely added during the 1980s renovation), but the floors and likely the light fixture are original. At some point we will be adding lots and lots of bookshelves in here to become the library.

Just off the dining room is what is currently set up as a laundry, but that was the main bedroom originally.

Our living room was the kitchen! Where is now a sandstone fireplace, was a four burner wood stove and a red handled water pump. The current kitchen was put in in the 1950s and remodeled in the 1980s (which explains the surprise asbestos floor and 80s wallpaper in there).

Suddenly it makes sense why the floors in here aren't as fancy as the ones in the adjoining two rooms.

We still have original doors leading out to what is now the garage and just for show upstairs. The letters say there used to be decks from those doors, which would probably have been lovely with the lake right there and no surrounding houses back in the day.

The door to the old upstairs deck is straight ahead. The whole upstairs hallway and stairwell have barn wood on the walls. I don't know if this wood came from the old barn, that was next door, or someone else's barn. You can still seem some of the red paint on it!

I'm hoping to find some more old photographs, maps, and other history pieces to the house. As we have renovated we've found some treasures, like cast iron light switch covers and an old horse shoe in the cellar, that I intend to save as part of  the home's history.

It's been a treat to know more about this place we intend to call home!

She’s Probably Not Doing That *AT* You

Friday, April 27, 2018

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.


If you somehow haven’t heard by now, the third royal baby was born! Yea babies! We got our first picture of Kate stepping out of the hospital with babe in arms.
And the internet went “OMG SHE’S WEARING HEELS?!” Cue memes about how real women postpartum. You know, not LIKE THAT.

Lots of people shared it. They probably felt good about themselves, they represent “real women”.

This seems amazingly hypocritical.

The same people who talk about how we need to be open to others, and everyone needs to do what works for them (“Do what you gotta do.”), made a meme to make fun of a woman doing what she has to do!
So empowering y’all.


“We’re not being mean, we’re just saying our experience wasn’t like that.”
What about women who DO have experiences like that?


“We just want to point out that women shouldn’t hold themselves up to unreasonable expectations.”

Who gets to decide what is reasonable? Why can women not be trusted to discern a reasonable that might be different from your own? Is anyone seriously watching what a royal does and think “oh man, I wish I could be doing that too!” without also realizing the drastic difference between her day to day and that of a British royal?


The message seems to come down to “don’t let us know if you are doing well”.

Let’s say 90% of your day was struggle. The baby was colicky, plans fell through, you’re achy, everyone in whining. But you managed to eat a good meal and get dressed today. Why should the focus go to primarily the struggle and not the success? Don’t we tell women to focus on the positive?
For that matter, why does Kate not count as a success when she used the help and resources she has? Last I checked we wanted to encourage women to use their resources.


It gets creepy.
You know what posts do the best on social media? The ones about what is going wrong in my life. The ones about darkness. The ones that show me at my worst.
At some point it feels like people are scrolling through looking for someone doing worse than themselves so they can feel better about their own lives.
Even if that works for you, it’s a little messed up to need someone else to be doing badly so you can feel better.


I don’t think the problem is unrealistic expectations anymore. I think we have a problem, especially among women, with needing to be the same. Policing that sameness and displacing anyone different into a box of “other”. 

I’m one of those “others” most of the time. I don’t experience many things in what seems to be the manner of the majority. 
I don’t get morning sickness, I do well under pressure, I like to have a tidy home (or at least 20 minutes from clean) most of the time. I am almost always on time or early, and it does not make sense to my brain that people might not mean what they say.


I’m not unobservant. I notice that my being like this can make people uncomfortable. There are a lot of assumptions about what I “must think” without anyone taking the time to ask me.

I don’t care if your house is messy, I truly didn’t notice. It’s not my stuff - it doesn’t bother me.
I can empathize with you when you have hard pregnancies even if I haven’t experienced that.
I understand that my experience might not be everyone’s experience.

But I want to be allowed the social space to share my good!
Is not the point of having community not to glorify the good and support each other? I think we can do that without putting other women into a box marked “not one of us”.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...