How Marvelous! Your Marbling!

Project 1: Oil Based Marbling on Paper and Canvas

When you’ve been homeschooling long enough you find that there are activities that you really enjoy doing with your kids.  In my home school, with an 11 year old, I figure our time is limited, so I have us doing exactly those things we like doing.  What do I mean by limited?  Well, I never know when these days are going to change.  When will this whole homeschooling adventure end?  I’m never sure.  So, I feel like each homeschooling day is really a gift.  It’s a gift because I know these kids are all growing up and moving out.  I’ve actually seen it with my 20 and 22 year olds. They don’t stay young and little and curious forever!  They move on.  And, at some point, they join their own kind…they merge in with others of their own generation.  Kids, like baby chicks, eventually mature and join the hens in the larger flock.  When they join the flock, they aren’t  interested in all the art and the experiments and the nature walks.  At that point, you’ve done your job and they lift off into the great blue skies.  So, I savor these days like a mamma chicken taking a sunny dirt bath on a winter day.

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Raw art we enjoy and I’m making more time for it this year.  Enter paper marbling…

We’re on a mission to try every feasible way to marble paper.

Vivid color and texture were the original goals with these projects. But, as we learned with the shaving cream approach, the muted bubbly prints are nice too.  Either way, with paper marbling, the process is where the excitement is.

Project one:  Marbling with Easy Marble paint.  I grabbed three tiny bottles of these marble paints from Blick’s Art Supply.  At $2.75 a bottle, this wasn’t too expensive for several rounds of printing.  We printed onto card stock, drawing paper and mini canvases and I still have about 1/3 of a bottle left in each.  The oil based Easy Marble paints printed magnificently brilliant.

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Here are the basic directions:

Get a disposable tray. I recycled one from a recent buffet.

Have your paint bottles nearby.

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water color paper or canvas for printing

Tip:  You have exactly 30 seconds from the time you drop the color onto the water’s surface to print.  In fact, the sooner, the better. Otherwise, the paint dries into a glob.

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Fill your tray with a couple inches of water.  Now, this next step is where all the talent comes in… shake three or four droplets of paint from each bottle onto the surface of the water.  Gently stir or swirl with a stick and let your inner artist escape!  Your heavy paper will pick up this design and each one is totally unique!

We dropped the paint onto the water, stirring gently to swirl.  Next, we carefully placed the clean paper directly down onto the surface being careful to make complete contact with as much paint as possible.  The paper was lifted directly up and A LA Peanut Butter Sandwiches!  Marbled paper!  It was that simple and the ahhhh’s were worth any effort that was made to set this little deal up.

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In Project 2, you’ll see the results of our crazy shaving cream marbling adventure!  It started calm and ended wild!

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A Bizarre Realization

A Bizarre Realization

Face up, under the belly of my son’s car, my husband was elbow deep in a repair. Suddenly I leaned over the bumper and asked, “Hon, don’t you have one good adventure left in you? ”

That  was 9:00 Sunday evening, August 20th.

An hour later, my hubby came inside:  “Alright! You’ve got me,” he spouted.  “I guess I’ve one adventure left.  But, only one and we leave early as dog-dukers!”

That, my friends, is how we began the adventure to totality!  It was a quest to see the corona.  It was a journey skyward and westward.  It was a cosmological expedition that confirmed what we already knew and what we were yet to know.

Next morning at 7 am, we traversed the entirety of north metro Atlanta to access the 100% eclipse zone on the morning of August 21.  Now, that was an adventure in itself. With the help of a Spotify playlist, 3 1/2 hours later we arrived at the meadow of what was once Lake Hartwell.  This dehydrated field marks the border between Georgia and South Carolina and would be the perfect westward-facing location to view the sun and moon as they crossed paths.  It would also be in the bulls-eye, the 100% coverage zone.  We would have 2 minutes and 20 seconds to view the corona and just maybe, we would be lucky enough to see Bailey’s Beads.

Upon arrival, we gathered our ragged chairs, an umbrella and drinks and settled in for the spectacle not fully understanding  the magnitude of what we were to witness.   At about 1:10 pm, Anna broke open her solar shades and yelled, “Its starting!”

I fumbled in my backpack and found my own protective glasses.  After fidgeting a few seconds with the cardboard folds I managed to place them correctly over my eyes and look sunward.  Behold!  A large black sphere had entered the frame of the sun.  An Oreo-sized bite was missing from the right side.   OMG!  This is it!

Everyone got into place and some friends arrived.  We took measured glances at the advancing black moon covering the solar surface.  My camera came out.   Someone hummed “Black-Hole Sun.”

 

Ever so gradually, the light on that field reduced as the moon approached. Great white egrets flew across the darkened skies towards a dusky roost.  A  chorus of frogs started chirping their evening songs.   Dark shadows cast by human forms  were projected by the diminishing sun onto the dry lake floor.  The atmospheric color changed to sepia.

Then, it happened.  At first, there remained the tiniest sliver of sunlight.  Then, that the blackness slid over and the sun was blotted out of the sky!  The moon would have its say for the next 2 minutes 20 seconds.

Darkness and coolness settled over the field.

The protective glasses came off.

“The Corona!” someone blasted.

Comments ranged from “It’s a Corona, Extra Light!” to “Oh my Gosh!”,  “Wow!”  and finally,

“This is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”

Then, at the mathematically appointed  millisecond, the sun’s rays literally burst forth on the other side.  In a flash, the lake bed was ablaze with light and color.

How do I describe an event so brief and surreal?  A time when  clouds, life and the sun seemed to stand still?

I cannot do it justice.  But, there is something I can surmise.

A collective, “what just happened?”  appeared on the faces of all present.

What just happened was that we became aware, at that brief moment, that we are actually on a giant sphere that is being orbited by a smaller sphere and together these two spheres are orbiting an even larger, blazing sphere.   Humans are absolutely minuscule in this whole process.  Yet, we are in the hands of God and He controls the sun, moon and stars.  It was a bizarre, yet comforting realization.

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”  Amos 8:9

Then, we packed this adventure up and went home through the traffic to our mundane lives, pondering what we had just witnessed.

 

Cheap Field Trips # 2

Cheap Field Trips # 2

What’s gargantuan, gorgeous and gratuitous?

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion!  That’s right!  The Governor’s Mansion is absolutely free to tour and hosts regular visits throughout the year.  If you live near your state capitol, odds are you have a governor’s mansion to tour.  If not, a local public building or historic home will do. Many places offer free or discounted tours for youth.

In our home state of Georgia, the Governor and his wife throw open their doors and welcome the public to their beautifully decorated home at Christmas.  Living fairly close, we decided to check out the mansion one recent December morning and were pleasantly surprised!

After driving along a fabulous street with enormous and exquisitely landscaped residences, we approached the mansion on the left.  An attractive iron and brick palisade ran along the perimeter of the property.  Just east of the expanse of lawn and trees, we came to a small drive with a gate station attended by GHP officers.  Upon passing a simple inspection of credentials, we parked right on the grounds, close to the home.  It certainly wasn’t your Disney World parking lot with trams and a long wait. Instead, lovely magnolias and large oaks greeted us as we stepped from our truck and ambled past a school bus and a couple dozen vehicles.  The small crowd seemed to be moving toward the front door, and there, after a short wait of about 10 minutes, we saw the Georgia First Lady herself.

My youngest was decked for the occasion.

He looked up at me and asked, “Mom, who is the lady greeting everyone at the door?”

I whispered back, “That’s the Georgia First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Deal.”

“Oh!” he retorted with a goofy, surprised kind of smile.

When it was our time to approach the threshold of the home, my guy looked up and simultaneously, but cautiously shook the hand of the esteemed greeter. As a surprise, the first lady looked down at him and said, “I live in this house. Perhaps one day you will live in this house too.  But you gotta study hard and you can’t be mean, ‘cuz nobody’s going to vote for someone who’s mean.”

That’s a curious thing to say, I thought. But, certainly not untrue.

My boy nodded, smiled and quipped back, “I’m really mean!”

Now, I thought he was going to say something like, “Yes, Ma’m!” However, my children master the art of sarcasm quite early, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I was slightly concerned how she might receive this.

Evidently, she must be familiar with 10 year old boys because in the next second, she started up with a gleeful and endearing sort of laugh that seemed to last a full 20 seconds!

We stepped inside.

Once inside, my son thought a minute and then asked,  “Can we go back and take a picture with Mrs. Deal?”

I guessed that last exchange of dialogue and laughter convinced my boy that the two now shared a sort of bond.

“It couldn’t hurt to ask,” I said, thumbing in my purse for my iPhone.  I love a good photo opportunity and a challenge.

“Would you mind a quick photo?” I asked with slight apprehension, trying to cover my embarrassment.

She grinned. “Why certainly,” was her response.

This is how we began our lovely tour of the mansion!

 

Mrs Deal

 

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion was built in 1967.  It is an impressive, three story Greek Revival home with 30 Doric columns surrounding the porches. Each of the columns is made from California Redwood.  Once inside, we were hosted by volunteers who gave us little tidbits about each of the rooms, furniture and decorations.  In front of one broad fireplace, we ran into two lovely volunteers wearing colonial era clothing.  In the vast dining room, we took in the Federal period furniture and state chinaware.  We soon discovered that each room was decorated according to a different region of the state.  One tree was embellished with popularly grown Georgia products, like cotton, pecans, peaches and peanuts. Another was decked in Coastal Georgia ornaments such as shells and starfish.

After working our way through the first floor, we went down a flight of stairs and into the basement where we were greeted with cookies, punch and a local student choir.  It was a very festive way to spend a December morning.  This is definitely one trip we’d like to repeat!  It was really quite memorable and, best of all, it was free!!!!

Cheap Field Trips # 1

Cheap Field Trips # 1

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In the spirit of  stop-and-smell-the-roses, we’ve been making an extra effort to take cheap field trips this year.  Cheap could be free, or just cheap!  The best thing…these are fun little outings that get us off our routine and don’t require any preparation or great expenditure of funds.

I will be sharing these experiences in a series called Cheap Field Trips.

Cheap Field Trip # 1:  Visit a local Recreation Area

We happen to live near the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on the “beautiful” Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, GA.  There is a place called Powers Island which is an access point for folks “putting in” their canoes or rafts to float the river. Mr. Powers was a blacksmith and gunsmith here on the edge of civilization in the 1830’s.  He ran a ferry right from this island.

From I-285, I’d seen this parking lot and trail head for decades and never stopped.

“We’re going there today,” I told my youngster, one recent Wednesday in February.

Silence came from the back seat.

“It’s supposed to be in the 60’s today. We are doing something outside,”  I snapped, hoping he would catch the fever.

We pulled into the empty parking lot. The grey lot blended with the barren trees.  A solitary, work truck could be seen in a space by the restrooms, occupied by a man eating a sandwich from a wrapper.  His windows were up. A medium roar could be heard from the interstate a few hundred yards away.

“Hmmm. This does look a bit sketchy,” I thought as we unloaded ourselves from our truck. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it into my camera bag.  Then, I looked westward.  Through the dormant trees, the sparkling, greenish waters of the Hooch drew us thither.

The Chattahoochee

 

For these cheapie trips to be memorable, you’ve got to take a slow pace.  Don’t go on a cheapie trip thinking you’re going to get some exercise.  If you get fresh air, that’s a plus!  These excursions are about slowing way, way down to see and observe.

A rust colored bridge formed the entry point of the trail and drew us toward the island.  There, on the banks of this mighty waterway, we saw our first point of interest.

bridge to Powers Island

 

“What is flotsam and jetsam?” asked my inquisitive boy after I called out the words.

“It’s floating stuff that has come to rest between these downed trees,” I gestured toward the logs forming the clog.

“Flotsam are things which float up…like things that have washed away from the shoreline and into the river.  Jetsam are things which have been flung off boats and float from the river to the shore,” I continued, pulling out my zoom lens.

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basketball heaven

“I can sure tell people like to play basketball and tennis in this town,” he deducted.

“What about football?  See that black one over there?” I pointed.  He tip toed lightly across the colorful trash and grabbed it. The treasure secured, he squeezed it, heard the leaky hole and then threw it back into the pile.

This multi hued wedge of trash kept us busy for a good fifteen minutes.  There were a bazillion water bottles, every sort of ball, numerous plastic toys, various sized cups, some milk jugs, and a few unidentifiable things.  A pungent, earthy smell hovered over the place.

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Not far from the trash heap was a rock island that needed exploring.  I took a picture and then my guy said, “Mom, you come out here.”  I hesitated a minute and then this middle aged mamma hopped the swift current to make it safely to the rock, camera equipment and all.

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Then, we saw the trees.  They were mammoth!  Who would think there would be giant trees on an island like this?

“Must’ve been here when Mr. Powers was working the ferry,” I concluded.  We looked up and saw their tips touching the deep blue winter sky.

One had a crevice two feet taller than my child.  A quick flash of the cell phone light illuminated a couple of creepy, glowing eyes.

 

the granddaddy

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As we walked the trail, each successive tree seemed to be larger and larger.  Finally, we reached the granddaddy of all the trees!  Easily it was five human wing spans across.  Against the blue sky and with sun shining brightly behind, the size and shape of this gargantuan took my breath away.

“What a great way to spend 60 minutes,” I said as we merged back onto the interstate.

“It was pretty good,” was the recap from the back seat.

This trip cost $3, which was paid at the kiosk by the trail head.   It was a great day.

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Confessions of a Previously Pro-Choice Woman

Confessions of a Previously Pro-Choice Woman

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about life, abortion and women’s rights.

I’ve been thinking about my own struggle with these issues.  Perhaps my story can give perspective to others who grapple with these things.

As an only child, I grew up in a home with two loving parents, both of whom wanted to limit their family size to one!  My mother, influenced by the thinking of the day, was concerned that there would not be enough global resources to support the world’s growing population by the year 1980.  My father, who had two children from a previous marriage, was reluctant to even have a third child.  This small, quiet environment of restricted society was my crucible.

As I grew older, and went to college, I was convinced that it was absolutely outrageous that women should be straddled with all of the burden of pregnancy, especially when men can walk away at any time.  The idea that our society didn’t hold men accountable at the same level as women for the caring and raising of children — that was egregious to me!  So, I became all about pro-choice.  A woman had a right to choose if she wanted to keep her child!  What if, God forbid, a woman was raped!  Or, what if, the young girl was pregnant and couldn’t support a child because she was still in school?  These questions plagued me.

At this point, I never considered the child. The child never played a role in any of these scenarios.

Somewhere along the way though, God changed my heart.  It didn’t happen all at once, like at a seminar or during a sermon.  It happened because He, in His infinite wisdom, changed the way I thought about children.

Maybe, the change began when my husband and I were unable to have a child as soon as we decided, “Let’s get pregnant!”  Two years, several fertility treatments and a lot of prayer brought our first child, a boy.  It was during that experience that I realized how precious life is, and how wonderful it is to welcome a new baby into the family!

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At first, I wanted to have “a couple of kids” like everyone else.  “Maybe we’ll have a boy and a girl, ” I told my husband.

But, when I found out I was pregnant with my third, I was irate with my hubby!

“How could you do this to me?”  “Everyone is going to think we are freaks!”  I yelled in a hormonal fit!  Three kids, this close together is not what I signed up for!

My loving, non-reactionary husband, was calm.

“You are going to be okay!  I don’t give a damn what people think! I am excited that we have another beautiful life coming into our lives.”

His words were reassuring.  But I had a ways to go.

After my third child, a friend gave me a magazine called Above Rubies.  This publication devoted to encouraging mothers was a concentration of articles and testimonies focused on the joy of having children and families!  I devoured this reading and the seed was planted that children, (note the plural)  are a gift, not a burden.

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Surprisingly, I now wanted a fourth child, and wasn’t mad when I discovered we were pregnant yet again.

Unfortunately, with this pregnancy, a new struggle occurred. In public, complete strangers would stare and make comments about my family as if I were “irresponsible” to have yet “another” child. “Are all of those yours?” they would ask.  “You know what causes that, don’t you?” They would question sarcastically as they saw my rounded belly! Sometimes, I think people just wanted to make conversation, but other times, you could tell that a person was truly agitated that we were making “too many” babies!

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My father showed up at the birth of my fourth. He was smiling and gave me a dime.  “Put this between your knees and squeeze!”  He chuckled. “It’s the natural form of birth control.” He thought he was being cute. Holding my newborn son in my arms I looked at him and thought, “Which one of your four siblings would you want to erase, Dad?” I kept silent.

Still I continued to receive pressure from both family and friends to “quit having kids already.”

My uncle said to me when I was pregnant with my fifth, “Isn’t that about enough?” This is quite an audacious query to put before an eight-month pregnant lady!  Why did he feel he had the right to make such a comment?  I really believe he thought I was out-of-line to have more than my share of children.

In 1957, journalist Mike Wallace interviewed Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.  In this interview, Sanger revealed what became an agenda to change the way our society thinks about fertility:  “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into this world.”  My uncle, like so many in our culture, had bought into this line of thinking.

“You guys can do whatever you want, but I think you’re crazy,” a close family member told me one day when I told her of my impending fifth birth. How is a young mother to deal with this kind of pressure?

Looking back, I realize that the struggles I’ve had with abortion, birth control, family life and women’s rights are all related!  There is a culture in our country, perhaps even the dominate culture, that doesn’t value children.  Many don’t see children as a gift from God.  Many don’t see them as precious.  Rather, many around us see children as a burden, an expense, a hassle.   As a nation, I believe we aren’t going to progress on this issue until we address this pervasive thinking.

Our ideas about abortion won’t be changed at the clinic or at the women’s march.  Our ideas about life and family will only be changed in the heart when God shows us that we are more complete, more joyful even, when we give of ourselves to others and to our children.

To wrap this up, I want to tell you about something that miraculously happened in my dad’s heart with the birth of my fifth!  When I told him that we would be having another baby he said, “I am glad.  You are a good mother.”  He came to the hospital and held his new grandson.  “You did good!” he said softly.  What a change in this man!

God is the healer of hearts, the changer of minds and the giver of children!!  Glory be to Him!

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I Want My Wife to be a Successful Person

I Want My Wife to be a Successful Person

It was one of those magical days that come between Christmas and New Years.  The 3rd day of Christmas to be exact.  The family was all together,  the gifting and cooking and church going was complete and kids and parents alike were in holiday happiness.  A short trip was scheduled over to the cabin where fireside chats, woodland walks, and evening games would  ensue with neighbors.

On our family road trips, sometimes an older teen, to the interest of those present, will open up like a March blooming camellia and start talking. This is notable because traveling teens have ear buds in and screens going.  True interaction will come after a coffee stop or a gas station break.  The officious teen will lead a robust discussion in the tight space of a vehicle traveling at 65 mph.  “Is Wal-Mart better than Target?”  “Does Global Warming really come from cow farts?” and “Has Homeschooling scarred  me for life?” are a few of our most recent, vital topics.   Most everyone in the large SUV will participate in these conversations, although at times they can get overly intense.  On this occasion, it was my 21 year old who was speculating on the future.

“And, do you want your wife to stay at home with the kids?” asked a younger son to the older.

“Well, she doesn’t have to.   I want her to be a successful person.  But, if staying home is what she wants to do, I’ll support it. ”

The bomb had dropped.  It dropped on me like a rotten peach in a gusty Georgia thunderstorm.  It was the word successful that flattened me.

The others continued on with the conversation, but my mind drifted inward.  Looking out at the barren trees and slick highway, I contemplated the comment: “I want my wife to be a successful person.”  Well there is certainly nothing wrong with that.  I want his wife to be successful too.  I want everyone to be successful.  But, somehow this comment mirrored back.

What is success?  And, do I need to be doing something outside the home to be successful?

Can a modern woman, who spends 20 + years raising and homeschooling children rather than pursuing a career outside the home be considered successful?  Is raising children a worthy career?

These questions welled up inside me.

“I’m going to get my resume done this year,” I thought.

I didn’t say anything for awhile and the conversation moved onto another topic, like “Was Fidel Castro a fascist or a communist?”

“This conversation isn’t about me,” I wagered silently and was able to keep my mouth shut.  My boys will figure out how to run their own families.

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I would like to tell you that I figured it all out that day and that all is well with my psyche. I could also sit here with my laptop and my cup of tea and tell you that there is a Bible verse somewhere that tells me I’m doing the right thing.   But, that is not the point of this post.  The point is that I still struggle with my identity and my role in this world.  I wrangle with being  important or successful.  I grapple with being a quality role model for my daughter.  And, the truth is, I’ll probably continue this tussle until I get on the other side of this child-rearing season.  After all, there are lovely women in my family who manage to effectively juggle both career and motherhood.  I will have to see them and hear their praises.  The point is, I have to get “cool” with what I am doing and not worry about what others think or do.  I’ve got to see my glass as full.  I was supposed to do that in my 20’s!  But, alas, here we are three decades later, still chipping away.   Maybe, 2017 will be different.  This is the hope we have at the beginning of something new:  that we can change and grow and do things better!  It is the hope we have in Jesus: That He will prepare us in His good timing!

Happy New Year to each of you!  May it be blessed with peace and joy and new beginnings!

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Workbooks Anonymous

Workbooks Anonymous

“Another workbook, Mom?”  I could already see that baked look on his face.  As I peered at my young student,  a rather cumbersome pile of consumable workbooks cast a shadow on his work space. Since I wasn’t able to honestly answer his question, I said to myself, “Yikes! He’s right. We have too many workbooks going!”  This September, like so many other Septembers, I ask myself, “What are we doing?”  and, more importantly, “Why are we doing it?”

These same questions come up year after year as I try to filter all of this learning through a Charlotte Mason paradigm.   My problem is that I’ve been influenced by too many great approaches to learning.  Sure, the Classical and traditional approaches have their great ideas to add in too.  Plus, when I get to a summer curriculum fair, I see all manor of great workbooks and materials. “I gotta get this!” I’ll say, and grab another spelling book (we already had 3 at home). Then, there are the occasional used book sales around here.  I’ll pick up a great workbook and say, “Gee, I’ve been hearing about this for years and here it is for $2.  I gotta get this!”  And, home it comes to my home school in-basket.

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Then, August comes around and we have to actually implement all these supposedly “great” workbooks and materials.  Then, my son asks, “Another workbook, Mom?”

Short of throwing all the workbooks out, there is one approach I have been doing for several years now that actually really is awesome.  And this is just plain reading.  After morning prayers and breakfast, we all lay around and read. Reading is the first subject every day.  I’ve got my  Northanger Abbey, my 14 year old has his Around the World in 80 Days and my youngest has My Side of the Mountain.  Even on late start mornings we still read for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Right in their midst, tea cup on the arm of the couch, I read too.  It is glorious.

So, back to the questions, What are we doing?  Why are we doing it?  These are good questions for any school.   What we are doing is learning magnificent things, but we can get bogged down when this home school mama  over plans. Why do I over plan?  Because I have a hard time saying No!  What are we doing well?  We are reading every day. Why are we reading?  Because we enjoy it.

There!  I said it!  I feel like I’ve gotten something off my chest at the local chapter of Workbooks Anonymous!   Its time I stepped out onto a limb and said NO to about half of these superfluous workbooks! That should give us more time for the subjects we love like reading, writing, art and science.

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Chime in!  Have you had to examine the materials you are using this year and make changes, small or drastic?  Is there something you are doing that is really working?  I would love to hear your stories.