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Musings – First Book of 2016



I tend to think God drops books into my lap right when He intends for me to have them. Three months ago, a dear friend mention Marie Kondo to me. I was intrigued. I put the book on hold at the library and was way, way down the waitlist for it. Then, on December 29th I listened to my favorite Read Aloud Revival podcast yet and learned that I could indeed become the reader I once was, in spite of having a busy 6 month old and homeschooling two older kids. The very next day, the library sent an email announcing the arrival of the very book I wanted to read! My husband picked it up in the evening and by the end of the day on the 31st, (or rather the very beginning of the 1st) I had finished my last book of 2015 or my first book of 2016.

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But, I am in the mood for new beginnings. I have posts to write, books to read, photos to take, and a house to tidy. Hence, I am calling the Marie Kondo book my very first book of 2016. I had already used the Konmari method on my clothes, so today on the first day of January, I gathered all the things under all the bathroom sinks and discarded to my heart’s content. Never mind that books were the next category to tackle. The bathroom disorganization had been giving me anxiety for several weeks. I feel lighter now. Light enough that on the way to Mass, suddenly three blog posts popped into my head and here I am, writing again after a very long sabbatical.

When I transitioned from the blog name “The Adventures of Bear” two January’s ago, I wanted a name that would allow me to talk about homeschooling, but that could allow me to write about any other topic I wanted to. Nurturing Learning (my husband gets all the credit) is the perfect name. Nurturing learning toward Truth, beauty, and goodness isn’t just for the children. We have to permit ourselves to nurture our own learning. Mamas need to feed their brains and souls too. So, I may be writing more about my own education this year.

Julie Bogart of Bravewriter (writing classes and curricula) talks about the need mothers have to take care of themselves. You can listen to her talk on Periscope. I like this episode for when I feel discouraged with homeschooling. Charlotte Mason also talked about Mother Culture throughout her writings. There was an article in The Parents’ Review about it. Karen Andreola has a whole blog on Mother Culture, but if you don’t know what Mother Culture is, then the best place to go is Afterthoughts for Brandy’s explanation of it.

And for my second book of 2016, I’ve moved on to Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Want to read more this year? Try this Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

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Art Appreciation for Babies (and anyone else)




It’s never too early to start nurturing your children toward Truth, beauty, and goodness. Our plethora of art appreciation books lend themselves well to baby lap time, so our 7 month old has already had quite the exposure to beautiful art. Her favorite is Lucy Micklethwait’s A Child’s Book of Art. It’s a large book that doesn’t fit well on the Expedit bookshelf, but I like the groupings of the pictures for a baby and toddler. It’s a seek and find kind of book with themes like family, sisters, brothers, pets, seashore, transportation, numbers, colors, and so on.

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The “Come Look With Me” series is really well done. There are titles like Enjoying Art With Children, World of Play, and Animals in Art. They have a picture on one side and a short text and questions to help you look for things in the art. I like this series for preschooler and elementary ages, but for the baby and toddler we just look at the paintings and I talk about what we see.

I place baby on my lap and say, “Let’s look at some beautiful pictures!” Then I describe the paintings to her. “Do you see the tiger hiding behind the grasses?” I point to the tiger while we look at one of Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings. Or, “Look at the girls playing the piano, just like your sister, Bear,” while looking at Two Young Girls at the Piano by Renoir. When her attention wanes we stop.

The Art Book for Children One and Two have art on one page and text on the other. I like this layout for looking at art without distractions. The DK Children’s Book of Art is a great art history book that goes through chronologically, but doesn’t lend itself to observing the art as well because the pictures are small. Not baby friendly at all, but my 6 and 8 year old like to listen to it for art history lessons.

Another of my favorites, especially for preschool and up is Usborne’s The Children’s Book of Art. The pictures are large enough to be enjoyable and there is enough descriptive text without being overwhelming. While our baby still enjoys looking through this book, I feel all the writing surrounding the paintings detracts from the painting itself.

If you can only have one book and you have a baby and toddler, go with the first book that I mentioned. Or any of the other Lucy Micklethwait books. We’ve signed out her I Spy art series from the library and those are also wonderful for a baby or toddler’s art appreciation.

If you want your baby or toddler to experience art when you are not available to turn the more delicate paper pages of the above books, look for the Mini Masters board books. Our library has many of them. Or the Touch the Art board books are neat. We own the Matisse one, but unfortunately our library doesn’t have those.

The nice thing about these books is that once you own them, you can use them for art appreciation for years to come.

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What’s in Our Morning Basket




Morning Time is a time in which we gather together to focus on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We’ve been doing a “together time” since before I even knew it had a name. However, reading Your Morning Basket this year and listening to the Your Morning Basket Podcast has helped me be especially purposeful in what I put in our morning basket.

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Our Morning Basket Contents

We have daily items and weekly items. We often do not get to everything. When I was in teacher college, we learned to always prepare more than was needed and I got into that habit and seem to still do this in home educating. This list is my ideal – the “if-all-goes-perfectly-and-the-baby-sleeps -and-the-others-don’t-argue” list. Before the baby came along ten months ago, it was much easier to get through all the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in this list in one morning, fitting in all the weekly things too. Now, everything gets rearranged and sometimes (many times) we can’t get to it all. It’s okay with me. I basically put a timer for one hour and see how far we get. Next day, after prayer and religion, I will pick up where we left off on the list and cycle through.

  1. Prayer and Bible
  2. Religion Loop: we cycle through these, choosing one each day.
    1. Catechism
    2. Saint story
    3. Life of Our Lord for Children
    4. First Communion by Mother Loyola (she wrote our all-time favorite too) Even if you aren’t preparing for First Communion, I highly recommend First Communion. Every time I read a portion of it to the kids, I am inspired to be a better follower of Christ and to renew my effort in looking toward eternity. Mother Loyola just has a gift for being able to write for children without dumbing anything down, so her writing actually really speaks to adults’ hearts, too.
  3.  Poetry Loop: we read one poem (or one page) per day rotating through the following and strive to memorize the ones from resource #3 and #4.
    1. Ambleside Online Year 3 poems
    2. Ambleside Online Year 1 poems
    3. The Harp and Laurel Wreath
    4. Poetry Memorization from IEW
  4. Habit Training:  Laying Down the Rails
  5. Scripture Memory: psalms from the Prayer resource we use
  6. Hymn and Folk Song: I have kind of dropped hymns (gasp) because the kids get to sing hymns in our church choir. We were using this hymn book in last year’s morning time. And for folk songs, we LOVE the Little House Folk Song book, but this American Song Treasury was our favorite before. We also sometimes dip into From Sea to Shining Sea, but I like the song treasury better.
  7. French and/or Spanish read-aloud– we have a lot of books in these languages but I sometimes also find some at the library. Our favorite French books are the Emilie books. I also use Cherrydale Press French and Spanish books in this slot, but not both on the same day!
  8. Literature – this one is always changing and is usually from the Year 1 or 3 Ambleside Free Read list. However, currently we are reading Canadian Summer. If you haven’t read the three books about the Mitchells, you really should. They are humorous and lovely; my kids love them.
  9. Music Appreciation: now that we’ve done almost all the SQUILT volumes, we are just following the Ambleside Online Composer study once a week.
  10. Picture Study: I print off the Ambleside Online suggestions and laminate them and we narrate one print per week.
  11. Math: I recently added a fun math book to our mornings a couple of times per week to try to spark some more “wonder.” I’ve also added Mathematicians Are People Too.
  12. Geography and Art History – I realize that is a lot of geography titles, but they are all different and we enjoy all of them. It might just take us longer to get through them. The following are on a loop:
    1. Hillyer’s Geography
    2. Charlotte Mason’s Geography
    3. Long’s Geography
    4. Hillyer’s Art History (I have a super old edition that includes Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture).

So there you have it. It seems like a lot, but it is all things we love and look forward to, and we aim for one hour and then move on and if there’s some extra time later in the day, we might continue some more readings, or, more likely, we will just go outside and enjoy being in nature instead.


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Some Great Books and What to Do When You Need to Homeschool for a Short Time




What do you do if suddenly, you need to homeschool briefly and need a short term plan. Here is what I recommend for grades 3-6.

30 minutes of math
30 minutes of writing
10-20 minutes of grammar
unlimited time to read from the reading list (see below) and draw, pursue hobbies of the child’s interests

For the first three subjects, you can use these workbooks at the grade level your child needs. Once the child goes back to brick-and-mortar school, these workbooks can be finished as summer enrichment.

There aren’t lesson plans to go with these books, but just sit with your child and do a few sample problems together (for math) or read the instructions together and start an assignment together, then set the timer and have the child continue for the allotted time.

The reading list includes historical fiction and narrative science books. We have read every title on this list. I have starred the ones our family has especially loved. Have your child choose one from each category and narrate (tell back) to you after each chapter. If you want, these narrations can be written down.

These are all linked to Amazon for your convenience. Nurturing Learning does get a commission if you make a purchase through our Amazon links.

Classic Books

Charlotte’s Web
Trumpet of the Swan
A Cricket in Times Square
The Chronicles of Narnia
A Little Princess
The Wind in the Willows
The Green Ember (and other books in the series)
The Tale of Despereaux (and really, just any book by Kate diCamillo – this one is one of my favorites)
The Saturdays (this book has 3 other books to go with it: The Four Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, Spiderweb for Two)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (and Through the Looking Glass)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
The Vanderbeekers
any Marguerite Henry book
Swallows and Amazons
Understood Betsy
Ballet Shoes (and other Noel Streatfield books)
The Princess and the Goblin
All-of-a-Kind Family

Nature Lore

(books that are important for compelling kids to go outdoors and observe nature)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (there is a sequel as well)
My Side of the Mountain
Mountain Born
*Owls in the Family
*Kildee House
The Tarantula in my Purse
The Call of the Wild or this one.

Historical Fiction

Sarah, Plain, and Tall
Strawberry Girl
Houseboat Girl
The Little House Books
*The Wheel on the School
Calico Captive
Indian Captive
Children of the Longhouse
Johnny Tremain
Soft Rain
Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin
Bound for Oregon
*Caddie Woodlawn

Add to this poems read aloud from this poetry anthology. (Check out this post on Poetry Teatime!)

I hope this helps you on your journey if life puts homeschooling in your lap for a while. Feel free to drop questions in the comments.

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