I spent this summer thinking and researching about methods of education – reflecting on my own education, the way I naturally tend to teach my kids, and historic religious education approaches.  Then I compared these methods to what I’ve seen work and not work with myself, my kids, and others around me.

I see myself gravitating towards the historic approach of mentoring.  Taking my children under my wing and doing everything along side of them.  Presenting at the seminars this summer helped me to process and organize my experiences and research.  Two quotes replay in my head daily:

“You can teach only that which you have made your own, and this means that there is always the danger that your personal mistaken judgment of insufficient knowledge will be reflected in your teaching.” – Sophie Koulomzin, Our Church and Our Children

“We cannot teach what we do not practice ourselves.” – Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Liturgy and Life: Christian Development Through Liturgical Experience

If you think about it in terms of education throughout most of history, you find a Christ/disciple, master/apprentice, mentor/student approach to teaching.

It has left me thinking…quite a bit.  We are incredibly blessed to live in a time where information is so readily available to us but as great as any of the best books may be (don’t take this the wrong way – because I LOVE to read), they do not replace the actual experience learned by doing it along side of someone who has mastered it or at the very least has extensive experience with it.

I know God brought my big boys into my life for my salvation (and hopefully I will reach it one day) but there are times I think He also brought them to me so I could see a different perspective to learning.  A different way of thinking about education.

So, I’m playing around with something new this school year on my blog.  It’s my intention to give the highlights of our days once a week in  order to organize my thoughts into lesson outlines for myself.  I’ve been working on this post a little bit each day as I plan and think about what we are going to do the next day.

I’m continuing my approach of building our foundations by having the big boys work on the following tasks daily:

  • Silent reading, on their own
  • Math (Aleks)
  • English (spelling words taken from the words they misspell on any paper they’ve written on, handwriting, writing structure, speech, etc.)
  • Audiobooks, (it works REALLY well for us that the boys listen to audiobooks at night in order for them to settle down)
  • Lumosity (based on the brain research of neuroplasticity)

The following are our themes for each day after we finish our foundational work.  It has worked really well for me, over the years, build on to what we already do by tackling only one new thing at a time.  By picking one theme per day, we have the entire afternoon to really explore it and work on incorporating it into long-term memory.

Life Skills: Internet Safety

I’m big on teaching life skills to my kids.  I define life skills as anything that keeps them safe or prepares them for life independent from me.

Today, we covered Internet safety.  There will be follow-up lessons on it but this was a great introduction to the topic.  I found a site, Common Sense Education, that offers lessons on several aspects of our children’s digital world for three different age groups.  My boys loved it and it was free on a Mac or PC.  It covers cell phone use (my boys don’t have cell phones yet but I figure it doesn’t hurt to introduce the topic), sharing private information online, cyberbullying, how to search for topics on the Internet, giving credit to others’ work, and more.  


So, Symeon is super big time copying everyone right now.  His absolute favorite thing to copy is cleaning.  He’ll beg for a rag at co-op to help me wash the tables at the end of the day.  He gets a rag out of the drawer in the kitchen to wipe up his own messes on a regular basis but the other night, Les and I were in stitches.  He was telling Justin where he had missed dirt on the floor in the living room.



Saints of North America: Saint Herman of Alaska

The boys took turns reading:


We watched this video on a pilgrimage that occurs every year on August 9th to Spruce Island where St. Herman lived:



Grandma and grandpa were visiting for a couple of days so I let my boys spend time with them today.  They got their foundational work done early in the morning and then watched a mental math video from The Great Courses with grandpa and grandma.  Flexibility is the name of the game – life is definitely a marathon and not a sprint.  Besides, family is more important anyway, especially when all of our family live in different states from us.

Liturgy & Co-op:

We were working on assignments throughout the week with the big boys for co-op.

Justin has weekly homework for origami.  This is a really good class for him – he has to practice listening and following directions skills and also work on his fine motor skills.  It’s challenging for him but I think it’s beneficial.


Chris is taking a photography class and really getting into it.  I think, part of it, has to do with the fact that he knows I enjoy taking pictures so he sees it as a bonding experience with me and the other part of it is that he’s so visual like myself that it’s a natural thing for him.

The week before last, he was working on perspective and the rule of thirds:




This past week, he was learning about lighting:




Les taught Zach how to put together his timeline for World History using file folders:





Living in God’s Creation: Pokeberry Dye & Mosquitoes

Last week: I loved learning about natural dyes and stains with Niki when she was in high school.  I’ve been studying the plants we have in our yard with my boys since we moved in here.  We have black walnut trees and pokeberry growing in our yard that are used in the fall for natural dyes.



Our meager pickings because the birds got to the pokeberries first.  We are checking the green berries on a daily basis and waiting for them to ripen.

First, what’s the difference between a stain and dye?  A simple one.  Stains will naturally leave their color on a fiber although the vividness of their color tends to fade over time.  Dyes need a mordant (binder) that will adhere the color to the fiber and tend to keep their color over time.  An easy example of using a mordant with dyes are Easter eggs – you add vinegar (mordant) to the dye in order to color the eggs.

Secondly, aren’t pokeberries poisonous to people?  Yes, yes they are…so don’t eat them!  (I also learned that Black Walnut trees are poisonous to many plants as well, to the point they won’t grow in the vicinity of these trees…but that’s for a future post.)  We had pokeberries in our yard in Kentucky and I found some growing amongst our butterfly bush here.  As I was looking up how to use black walnuts (dark brown) for dyeing in my old books, I saw that you could use pokeberries as well for shades of pink, purple, and red.  I’m in! Am I letting my kids pick the berries?  Nope.  Les and I are picking them and we’re using gloves.  Have I researched this?  Yep.  As long as we don’t eat them, we’re fine.  All the photos I’ve seen in my books and online show the people picking berries without gloves – we’re using gloves to minimize any chance of danger to us.  Pokeberries were used during the Civil War era as ink for writing.  It will fade over time but it was effective given the resources at the time.

The other morning, I noticed that our neighbors have pokeberries growing in their front yard!  Um…can we have your poisonous berries please for a school project?!  Another one to add under the heading of “Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say”. So, we have a batch of pokeberry dye steeping in our garage in a special bucket now dedicated to our project.  It has to steep for several weeks before we can use it.  I’m hoping we’ll get to dye our shirts in October with our natural dyes from our backyard.

This week:  It was raining today so we studied about mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes here are vicious!  I REALLY want a huge flock of hens for a week and unleash them for free ranging in my backyard.  Zach, Gabriel, and myself suffer from the unmerciful wrath of these creatures which sparked today’s study of why some people are more appealing to mosquitoes than others.

What started as a search to figure out why Zach, Gabriel, and myself get significantly more bites when we’re outside, snowballed into knowing all about the mosquito – it’s life cycle, general infomosquito borne illnesses (Which taught us there is a mosquito borne illness called St Louis encephalitis!  But…don’t worry, we have already shared it with the rest of the U.S.  Basically there was a big outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis in the fall of 1933.  They think it was caused by a drought over the summer and bad sewage drainage.  It’s carried from bird to mosquitos to humans.)  So we studied about St. Louis encephalitis for a good hour then we moved on to the discussion of why eradicating a species has an effect on the ecosystem because the boys wanted to wipe out mosquitos altogether.

We did learn one helpful piece of information though.  Mosquitoes tend to be out at dawn and dusk because the wind is at it’s calmest then and the humidity is at it’s highest.  Mosquitoes can’t fly in wind higher than 1 mph.  A fan – I will be carrying a large portable fan with me all next summer if I’m outside.

Exploring Our City: Apple Picking

My intent had been to go apple picking this weekend and talk about the life of St. Euphrosynos.  But…I was given another opportunity to practice flexibility.  We’ll see if I can find time to go apple picking this week with the boys or not.

But…I’m EXTREMELY thankful Les was home this weekend.  I can’t recall the last time Les was home when one of our kids had the flu.  This may very well be the first time he’s helped me with sick kids all day and night.  I know he could have lived without the experience but oh my goodness I was so thankful for his help.  Both Gabriel and Symeon picked up the flu, I think from the toddler room at co-op, and it is a doozy!   (Worse than Arizona last fall!) The only reason I’m able to finish up this post right now is because I couldn’t fall back to sleep this morning after Gabriel was throwing up again.  He’s been throwing up since Friday evening.  I’m hoping Symeon is finally on the mend but I dare not give him any solid food just yet.

There was one point in the wee hours of Saturday morning where Les and I were both holding one of the boys as they were simultaneously throwing up in two separate buckets.  It’s bad enough when your kids get sick but it’s borderline a nightmare when you have two sick little ones and have to deal with it by yourself.  It was so nice that we could tag team it and just help our little guys feel as comfortable as possible as one person cleaned up and the other one sits with sick kids.

We have done sooooo much laundry this weekend.  We’ve lost count at this point.  For every one time we got the bucket to the boys in time, they also threw up on me.  Each time it was at least one towel and one blanket that was covering the couch…and an outfit for me.  There were several hours on Friday that Gabriel was throwing up every 15 minutes – to give you a glimpse at the scope of this bug.  It was bad.

I’m hoping this doesn’t spread.  We usually get a cold or flu (not usually both) once in the fall and occasionally in the spring so I’m hoping we just got it early this year.  I’ve kept the big boys downstairs watching movies in hopes they don’t get it.  We’ll see in the coming days.