Lessons

Lessons from the First Two Weeks of Second Grade

1.) Second graders are just as whiny as first graders.

2.) They’re also just as adorable and lovely.


3.) She will have “forgotten” everything that you spent the entire year teaching her last year.

4.) It’s not helpful to yell “I GAVE UP EVERYTHING TO TEACH YOU AND NOW YOU DON’T REMEMBER I BEFORE E EXCEPT AFTER C?????”


5.) So much crying.

6.) Sacramental prep is awesome and terrifying because you know, it’s just like her immortal soul.

7.) There’s like a ton more work in second grade.

8.) This isn’t just like, well, i before e except after c. It’s like hey, lets memorize all the sense organs and the central nervous system and do long division.

9.) It’s still the best decision we’ve ever made though.

10.) I’m gonna need a lot more wine.

Second Grade 

Dear Squeaks,

Today you start second grade. SECOND GRADE. I say this about every development you make but I’ll say it again, I can’t believe it. Second grade wasn’t…um…great for me, so there are no fuzzy memories like I usually have of you doing things that I did. But I know you’re going to have a great year.

You are so bright and questioning and you’ll get to learn so much this year. By the end of the year you’ll be doing division. I know. I can’t believe it either.

You get to do the most important thing in the world this year- receive your First Communion and receive God’s forgiving grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliarion. I am so excited and so blessed to be able to teach you all of the things you need to learn and watch you experience everything you get to experience. 

Things are better than last year, emotionally. At least I think they are. I think we’re both figuring out how to react better to each other and that’s helping.

More than any of this though, you’re here. You’re here and you’re healthy and that’s all Daddy and I care about. 

I love you so much, sweetheart. Thanks for letting me be your mommy. 

Love, 

Mommy


I am 49 inches tall and 62 pounds.

I write my name like this:

,

My best friend is: Joey and Mommy and Daddy of course. 

I like to play: Solitaire by myself and tag with friends.

My favorite color is: purple.

My favorite book is: the Puppy Place series.

My favorite TV show is: I have two- Rescue Bots and My Little Pony.

My favorite food is: pizza.

When I grow up I want to be: a mommy and an art teacher! But I think I’m just going to teach my kids. 

Something I don’t like: When Joey tricks me.

Something I like about myself: I have the longest hair!

Something I want to do this year: have a pool party!

Planning

We’re in the process of getting ready for second grade here at L’ Ecole Pencils and Eyelashes. And by “getting ready for second grade” I mean a lot of swimming lessons and Irish dance and glancing at the calendar every week or so and exclaiming, “It’s June/July/August already?!!?!”

You know, because I like to be prepared.

I have done some real prep work though, and ordered all of her books for the coming year. This is our second year of doing real elementary school, and I’ve definitely figured out some things that I liked and disliked from last year.

I loved the A Beka Math program, and we’ll continue to use it this year. This is an amazing basic math program. I like it a lot more than other companies’ offerings because they have so much in the way of engagement. The pages are bright and colorful and they do a really good job of explaining the concepts to seven-and-eight-year-olds. It’s amazing. And at $22, you can copy the work pages and use it for other kids. Personally, for us, I found the Speed Drills and Tests unnecessary. But that’s just us.

Same company, same amount of love. We also kept the A Beka English program around. They have separate Phonics (Letters and Sounds) and Language texts but they complement each other perfectly and are easy to finish both in a year. Again, I didn’t use the unit tests. Maybe for higher grades.

We loved our religion seat text from Seton. If you want a Catholic homeschooling curriculum, you can’t go wrong with Seton. I loved that this was laid out daily and in language my kid could understand without watering down the theological concepts. Mortal sin is still mortal sin, even for a seven-year-old. She needs to understand that appropriately and I love that Seton helped give me the language to do it. The artwork is also amazing. The text isn’t meant to be written in, so you can use it for multiple children.

We are changing some things though. I had a rough time with the Latin text we selected for last year. I think it would work great for some kids at some ages, but not my kid at this age. It was too intense and I got too hung up on trying to get her to finish the pages without really learning anything. Not helpful.  So like I wrote about here, we kind of went with a laid-back approach of literally just teaching her Latin. I made her recite prayers and sing songs and practice her cursive in Latin. We started praying in Latin as a family. I made her “teach” her dad some things. It was cobbled together, but it really worked well. In keeping with that concept, we ditched the original text and switched to a primer reader (which my husband remembers from high school hahaha) and decided to use the rest of the stuff we did last year too. I’ll be teaching her more songs and prayers and I’m making it my goal to have her saying the rosary in Latin by the time of her First Holy Communion.

That’s another thing that’s necessarily different. It’s second grade, y’all. Sacrament central. She’ll be making her first confession in September and her first Holy Communion in April or May. So obviously we have to focus on preparation for that. Since we don’t do any organized religion classes through the parish, I have the responsibility to make sure that she’s well prepared and covered in the fundamentals of the faith.

This year we’re using a combination of things. St. Joseph Catechism First Reconciliation and First Communion texts, as well as the Baltimore Catechism I are forming the backbone of our texts. I’ve also ordered Matthew Kelly’s Blessed series, which I will be getting in September and January for the sacraments respectively. I have no idea if I’m going to like it, but I like the idea that it’s made for parish work so I can make sure my bases are covered in her preparation.

Finally, I’m switching planners. I know, I know. If you know me, that’s a huge thing. Last year I bought the Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner, and I did love it. It was gorgeous and the material was so high quality and the accessories were adorable but it just was like eight thousand percent more than I needed. I don’t need to keep track of grades (yet.) I don’t need to keep track of attendance. I need weekly lesson plans, monthly goals, and pages for lists. That’s what I need. That’s pretty much it. So this year I saved like two hundred dollars (I love me some accessories) and bought a pretty binder and found printables.

I found one I love and I can’t find it again to link to it. I’ll work on that. I love that it has the Jeremiah quote from, well, my life on it. I love that it will help center me every week. I love all of that. Mostly I love that it was free and simple and exactly what I need. Five days with six or seven subjects and that’s it.

I created my own list of weeks for the yearly schedule, just using Google Drive. I laminate these and put them in the front of the binder so I can tell what week we’re on at all times. I’m really looking forward to making it mine.

(And my husband is looking forward to not getting another $200 bill from Erin Condren.)

(I’m basically sending Erin’s kids to college with how much I love her stuff.)

(My own kids should look into ROTC.)

So tell me- what are you doing differently this year? What did you hate about last year? What did you love?

Things I Learned This Year

  • I can go for 38 weeks and then I am finished. Fi. Nished.
  • My daughter can go for 38 weeks and then she is equally sick of a regular schedule.
  • I am really pretty good at teaching elementary school math and English.
  • I am really pretty bad at faking interest in stupid supplemental books on subjects in which I have advanced degrees.
  • I am a bad mother on days when I wear my pajamas. On those days, I just need to give up and be nice to my kids and accept that nothing is going to get accomplished.
  • Taking care of myself spiritually is the biggest change we made this year, and it’s been the best thing.
  • Similarly, living according to the liturgical year has been a blessing to our whole family.
  • Ditto for going to weekday Mass occasionally.
  • At least, I think it is. They’re still horribly behaved in Mass.
  • I need chunks of time off after holidays to recover.
  • I need chunks of wine after the holidays to recover. (Sorry, wrong list.)
  • I really really dislike most American history books.
  • I really really love hearing my babies say prayers in Latin.
  • I can convince a seven-year-old that flash cards are a game. ???
  • Cuddles in the morning before our day begins? Best thing ever.

What even am I?

I’ve spent a lot of this last academic year changing my mind and figuring out what I think about things. A lot has changed in the last year- in the world, in the church, in my family, and even in my children.

We’re in a…precarious position in the United States. We’re in a…precarious position as traditional Catholics. Seven and four is way different than six and three for kids in terms of needing explanations for things.

So it make sense that this blog, which has always been an opportunity for me to vomit on the computer screen whatever it is I’m thinking of or worrying about make it remotely funny, has been changing a little bit this year too. I finally made my mind up that I would post regularly on Tuesday and Thursday, mostly because I love a schedule. But I dabbled in makeup and stuff and…meh.

I’m not a beauty blogger. I won’t ever be a real beauty blogger. I realized I just don’t care enough. It’s not my passion. I love makeup. It’s super fun. I’m still going to write about fun new makeup I get and stuff if it makes sense to, but I realized that I’m not a beauty blogger.

I feel like we hit our stride with homeschooling this year. Last year was such a mess with me being…a mess, and Squeaks being…a mess, and just…well, mess. This year though, we’ve been great. I’ve made an effort to take care of myself spiritually too, which has completely changed the way I relate to my kids and their education.

I love homeschooling. I’m super happy homeschooling. I love writing about how it impacts our family, and the changes it has led to in our family.

I love exploring my faith and growing even deeper in my knowledge of the Church. So long I was focused on academic understanding, and that’s great. It has helped me so much to understand the history of the Church. But in the last year I’ve begun to experience it more fully and I love that. I love writing about that.

I have an opportunity to start writing for a Catholic blog, and I’m super excited to begin that.

It won’t change anything here- I’m still going to post twice a week with ridiculous things that cross my mind. But it did make me realize that this is who I am. I’m a homeschooling mom who loves the Catholic Church who swears sometimes. And also likes a good long-wearing eyeliner.

And I’m fine with that. I don’t need a YouTube channel and a go pro and followers. I love just writing about what is really important to me right now at this season of my life.

Homeschooling Holy Week

Holy Week with little kids (or medium kids) (or, hell, probably big kids too) can be…trying. It’s beautiful and wonderful but so much to do and so many naps missed.

(Full disclosure, it is I who weep for the loss of naps, not my three-year-old.) 

I think it’s so important to mark this week with them though- these are the most holy days of our year, and hopefully just having them be there (even if they’re asleep in my arms in pajamas, like Buddy usually is during the vigil) will be a good memory and lesson for them. I have nothing but happy memories of attending the Triduum liturgy as a kid (enough to know that it’s one liturgy,) and while I’ll write more about how special it is to our family next time, it’s such a beautiful time.

So obviously we attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Good Friday services (not Mass- one of my religious pet peeves, right up there with the Immaculate Conception being about Jesus) and the Easter Vigil.  That forms the basis of our week and is what I’ve tried to build the curriculum around this year. 

Squeaks is in first grade, so she’s getting more in depth this year. We’re reading the Passion narratives in her Magnifikid. This serves two purposes- she gets to read them out loud and learn things and talk about them with me, and she is familiar with them (including physically on the page) on Thursday and Friday when we go to church. 

This year we’re starting a new game too- a Holy Week trivia game! 


I know! Get excited! 

There’s a board (kind of) and everything but this year she’s pretty little so I just go through the (easy) questions with her and she gets a certain number of points, which get translated into sacrifice noodles.

Kid loves her some sacrifice noodles.


We’re also bringing back the Resurrection Egg set from last year. I bought it, because I’m lazy, but I know you can make them too. It’s super cute, each egg has a symbol of the Passion in it, and you read a little story about each one.

(Okay I have to edit the stories because mine were written by a Protestant company and are just a TEENSY bit heretical.)

(Again. LAZY.)

Squeaks looooves these. She literally asks for them all year. 

We also make an effort to do the stations of the cross this week. Our parish does a living stations with the school kids tomorrow night, and we absolutely love it. We’ve taken the kids the last few years and it brings it to life in a way they have never seen before.

So that’s our cobbled together Holy Week curriculum/tradition. Stay tuned for next year when I get my shit together and buy purple fabric to drape all of our statues. 

Latin for Dummies. (And 7-year-olds.)

I had a lot of reasons for deciding to homeschool my kids, like I don’t like being told what to do and other people annoy me.

(Also intelligence blah blah blah.)

(Basically other people though. They really bug me.)

But a big part was that I wanted to give my children a classical education that prepared them to be civilized, cultured adults who knew things about a lot of the world and could learn more and discuss things like reasonable people.  I didn’t see a lot of this happening at the schools I had access to, and while there are great options like Aquinas Academy in our area, I was certainly not in a financial position to do those.

And I knew from the beginning that Latin was going to play a huge role in my curriculum. My husband and I have something like eight years of Latin between us, and we both think the fact that the other studied it is adorable.

(Nothing gets me hotter than a properly declined noun.)

I just think there are so many benefits- spiritually as Catholics, culturally as, well, cultured people, and neurologically since it’s totally a foreign language even if it’s dead.

Our daughter is in first grade this year, and the curriculum company we use for most things offers a great early elementary level Latin program. I added it to my cart, broke it up into weekly lesson plans, and got psyched to impart my wisdom on my kid. Ahhh.

And then…it imploded. This program? Is awesome. Really. It is. Check out the Prima Latina program from Seton.

But it is NOT how my seven-year-old currently learns.

It was frustrating to me, since I really wanted this to be a part of our homeschooling. But I didn’t want to squash her love of learning by forcing her to do things she didn’t like when it was clearly not working. But then I’m her teacher so I have to force her to do some things she doesn’t want, so maybe this should be it?

Anyway, by Christmas break, Latin was increasingly getting ignored because I didn’t feel like fighting her to sit down and use a workbook.

I figured we’d have to wait a few years to tackle Latin. I get it, I mean, I was in seventh grade when I started, and my husband was in high school. It wasn’t the end of the world. But I really loved the idea of it being such a part of her life from the beginning. And I knew that other schools (like Aquinas) did it with great success.

So I prayed to the Blessed Mother about it for like two months, and continued ignoring it.

A tiny little idea came to me.

Just teach her the Ave Maria.

I can do that. I’ve taught her literally every other prayer I know. I’ll just teach her the Ave Maria and even if she doesn’t sit down and use the workbook, at least she’ll learn some of the words.

And then I realized- SHE’LL LEARN THE WORDS. Literally, this is how to teach children anything.

(Sometimes I wonder if Mary is sick of my stupidity.)

So I taught her the sign of the cross, and the Ave Maria. And once we did that- amazing things happened.


I realized I could weave Latin through the rest of our school. We recite the prayers together all the time. I sing her the Ave Maria (Gregorian chant version- I do not have a great voice, and it’s the only one that doesn’t make ears bleed when I attempt it.) We practice cursive and handwriting by copying the Latin words.

We even used it as an art class- I write the Latin words and English words on a sheet and the kids cut them out and glue them on to construction paper. I laminate them and put them on a ring and they have a special prayer book to bring with them in the car or to Mass.


There’s no fighting, my kids are learning new things and praying a ton, and even the stuff I was worried about don’t seem to be an issue. I was concerned that they’d just memorize words and never really think about what they mean. But last week my daughter was reading her card and said, “Mulieribus- that means something about women right?”

Heart= warmed.

So that’s the wisdom I’ve picked up from this second year of homeschooling. You can teach your kids things. Hard things. Just make it small and fun and not terrifying. Don’t flip out about it.

And pray. Because Mary will listen to you. Even if you should have been able to figure this out before.

Raising Strong Catholic Daughters

I read this article over the weekend. It’s an interview with seven Catholic homeschooling moms on what they’re doing to make sure they are raising strong daughters. I absolutely love all of their answers, and it got me thinking about the kinds of things that I’m doing to make sure Squeaks is becoming a strong, capable woman of God.

Mostly there are things I want her to know. I want her to understand why we do everything we do and why it’s important. I want her to know these things.

1.) I love you. I will always love you.That doesn’t mean I won’t ever be mad at you.

2.) I can disapprove of things you do or decisions you make, but I will always always love you.Speaking of which, disapproval or righteous condemnation of sin is not hate or fear or being mean. It must be followed with loving urging to return the path that God intended for them.

3.) That goes for your own sins too. Go to confession often, and confess well. Find a priest that understands you, and pushes you to address the sins you commit most frequently. I don’t know what those will be yet, since you’re only seven, but I know that you will have them. You’re human.

4.) I am not going to be your friend at the cost of being your mother and keeping you safe (morally and physically.) That being said, I hope that we will be best friends, like I am with my mom.

5.) Your sibling(s- if I ever get not crazy enough to give you another) are the greatest gift and best friend God will give you for this period in your life. Treasure him. Stay close to him, even when you’re grown up.

6.) Your father loves you more than you will ever know. Fathers are so important, especially for girls. And yours happens to be a wonderful man who is full of faith and love and he genuinely tries to do what is best for you every day. Never forget that.

7.) I am making you work hard in school. I will continue to do so. Study hard, so that you can have all options open to you. Know how much I loved and treasure my education, and how important education is to our family. You will never have a worthless degree. You will always learn something about the world and yourself through a careful study of anything you care to set your mind to.

8.) If and when God calls you to be a wife and mother, know that you will feel used by God in a way that you never thought possible. And it is amazing.

9.) You are a daughter of God, and no matter how strong you are, you cannot do it on your own. Go to Him.

10.) Anxiety and depression run in our family. (It’s the only running we do. Hah!) Being stoic and refusing to acknowledge that you need help (like I did for what seems like an eternity after your brother was born but was actually like 12 days) is not being strong. Being strong is taking care of your mental health, even when it’s scary and overwhelming. I can help you. Come to me.

11.) I can help you with almost anything. I still go to my mom and dad for things literally every day. I want you to feel like you can do that with me and Daddy too.

12.) Don’t worry about your body. Yes, be healthy. But I have been a size 2 and a size 22 and literally I felt better about myself at 22. Being skinny doesn’t turn you into the person you want to be. It doesn’t make people love you. It doesn’t do anything except change the number on your dress. So run around, eat good food, keep eating vegetables, and be healthy. But never obsess over your size. Because it. does. not. matter.

13.) Learn your manners. Teach your children their manners. Don’t get mad at me for forcing you to learn your manners. Always send thank you notes too. They’re awesome.

14.) There is literally nothing that cuddling with your mom, taking a nap, and an hour in Eucharistic Adoration can’t make better.

15.) This world is over in a minute. Being a strong woman usually doesn’t mean doing things that make you popular or your life easier. Your goal (and mine) is to get to heaven, where the strongest women ever, Our Lady and the Saints, will be waiting for you.

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The Best Laid (Lent) Plans- For You!

So last time I talked about what we’re doing as a family (specifically a homeschooling family) for Lent this year. Today I want to talk about what I’m doing as a real live actual adult person to make sure that when I get to Easter, it’s not just shoving the kids across the finish line. They can’t get anything from me if I don’t have anything to give them spiritually.

(They suck everything else dry. Might as well go with spirituality too.)

I’m pretty basic about my Lenten practices now as a mom. I stick to the three big things that the Church recommends- prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

I don’t want to spend any time writing about what I’m fasting from, because that’s not important and it bugs me when people are like “Well I’m giving up chocolate and alcohol…”* as though that was the important part. It’s not. The important part is that you fast from SOMETHING.

*It’s not chocolate or alcohol. I’d also have to fast from motherhood then and I’m pretty sure that’s not what God wants from me right now.

Fasting allows us to realize the earthly limits of our bodies and desires and turns us closer to God in a way that anything other than denial can’t. So it’s a pretty important part of anyone’s Lent, I think.


I try to ramp up my prayer life during Lent. I make an effort to go to Adoration more frequently, and daily Mass whenever I can. This year I’m continuing with my Bible/Catechism reading plan every day, and I’ve started reading the Ratzinger Jesus of Nazareth book that deals with Holy Week for my good-for-me reading. I’m also following Lent and Easter Wisdom from John Paul II because it’s super short and easy and a nice way to start the day.


I loved using the Magnificat Advent app, so I downloaded the Lenten companion as well. Like in Advent, I don’t follow everything in there, but I make it a point to read the reflections each day, as well as the evening prayer.

So much (all) of my prayer life is focused on morning before the day gets going and people need me for everything. I realized I didn’t have anything spiritual at night, except for the odd nights when my husband and I say a rosary together. So we’ve started doing that every night and I’m committed to the evening prayer from Magnificat.

Almsgiving is also a pretty personal thing I think, but something that we’ve done in the past is staying home from restaurants or allotting a portion of our budget that would normally be for something else for a charity. (In our case, I like to support local pro-life centers that help with postpartum care and adoption assistance.) Usually this practice inherently involves fasting as well, since you’re probably giving something up to have extra money to donate to charity.

I do think it’s important to talk about it with your kids and your close friends to get ideas about new ways to share your treasure, and it’s super nice to  have any opportunity to explain how blessed we are to my kids, who today told me they “COULD NOT LIVE” without tablets.

That made me want to drop them in the middle of the dessert and explain to them how the vast majority of the world’s population lives. It’s not all My Little Pony and Rescue Bots, guys.

 

The Best Laid (Lent) Plans- For Kids

Lent is almost here guys, and I’m super excited to PLAN ALL THE THINGS. Because we all know I love PLANNING. But actually EXECUTING IT AND DOING STUFF is…not what I love. So we’ll see.

(Like I’m planning on giving up swearing. We’ll see. But that’s a post for another day.)

But anyway.

So I’m trying to balance between keeping things simple enough to succeed (success is really important for my kids sticking with…well, anything.) and actually making them understand that something is different.

That’s a big thing this year- my daughter is seven, which is the age of reason and so she’s required to abstain from meat for the first time this year. And so that’s pretty cool and I really wanted her to understand what is happening. She picked something to give up all on her own, and we’re trying hard to make her understand that abstaining is not just a mean way to make her give up her happy meal from Grandma on Fridays.

The other major things we’re doing  are following a daily reflection book, weekly stations of the cross, attempting to get to daily Mass at least once a week (to be fair, I attempt this every week. And a lot of times it fails.) and doing sacrifice noodles. (Stay with me.)


The book is pretty typical. We have a copy that is the same except with teachings from Mother Teresa, but I wanted to focus on the Little Flower with the kids, since we have a family devotion to her. It’s nicely set up with a scripture verse, adult devotion, and a reading for children.

(And crafts. Of course.)

We’re also going to be doing the Children’s Stations of the Cross (just at home, so just praying them and not walking around or anything.) I’m aiming to do it every week, but we’ll see how far the kids’ attention spans go. More than anything, I don’t want to make them feel like Lent is a burden.


The sacrifice noodles are new, and I found it something on the internet. They’re technically sacrifice beans but I’m allergic to beans and I figured anything else my kids would put in their mouths. So uncooked elbow macaroni noodles are our new sacrifice symbol!

You designate a jar or a vase (we’re having a vase, because it pleases me aesthetically) and every time the children do something nice for one another, listen perfectly, or give something up for Jesus, they get to put a noodle in the vase. On Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny (or mom and dad if you don’t do that) switch out all the noodles for jelly beans. The kids get to eat the jelly beans as they continue to offer things up or behave nicely. I think it’s a really nice way of concretely showing them that we need to offer things up for others as well as having a way to continue it through the Easter season and beyond.

What are you doing for Lent in your home or homeschool?