Saturday, July 23, 2016

7 Reasons I'm Excited about the Up- Coming School Year

Classical Conversations. Our local Challenge Community has grown from 6 last June to over 24 + for this coming year! What's the draw? Classical, Christian Community. Our kids are growing and laughing together, being challenged to do more than they realized they could, growing in their understanding of who God is and what their personal repsone to Him is. Is it because CC's program is magical? No. It's a program. But it's a program based on time honored principals, a Biblical foundation and leadership that takes their mandate as Christians, "To Know God and to Make Him Known" seriously.

Challenge B- woohoo, baby. We are going to drown a little in Logic before we really learn to swim, keep mastering and loving Henle Latin, delve in to Current Events (during a crazy election year, no less), read and write Short Stories (sing my literary love song!), participate in Mock Trial, do a semseter long Science Fair and create a Famous Scientists time-line and so much more. Sure, Challenge is serious academic work, but it is peppered throughout with A-Mazing projects.Yeah, I'm in love.

Challenge 2- hang on to your hats, boys and girls. It's going to be a wild-ride through all of Henle 1, Brit Lit (be still my heart), Policy Debate, the Arts (super love), writing mock art-grants. I mean, really? All done with an amazing Lead Learner (Thank-you, God, for Kari!) and amazing, like minded friends.

Morning Symposium. Morning hang-out with my peeps.

Music Lessons- piano and violin, taught by our sweet, lovely country neighbors. They are both still in high school but terrific, patient teachers Love having home-made music in the house!

Kempo Karate, baby. The kids work hard, laugh hard, are learning amazing self-defense moves and making all sorts of crazy, fun loving friends to boot. Small town bonus, right there.

Speaking of babies. Mr. Samwise is pretty fun to hang around with! 
Isn't that the cutest little face? 
KB and Mr. V have already picked out Homegrown Preschool for this little guy,

Throw in as many Old Western Culture DVD's we can fit in (all of them- we love them that much!),Grammar of Poetry, a couple of plays, TeenPact alumni events, LifeLight and hanging our with our friend, Pesach Wollinki from the CJCUC, the County Fair, Youth Group, trying to keep up with the other awesome Bibliophiles on Plumfield and Paideia  and other regular life events and it should be an awesome year! Full, and have I mentioned busy yet?, but good.  

@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Memory and Hope

Jenny Rallens said something interseting in her talke the Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation that speaks to my little memory loving heart.
We cannot memorize with out a sense of it (senses meaning with our senses- sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell)
We can't think without memory.

Stop and ponder that for a minute. Without memory, we cannot think. I mean, really think.

  1. 1.
    have a particular opinion, belief, or idea about someone or something.
    "she thought that nothing would be the same again"
    synonyms:believe, be of the opinion, be of the view, be under the impression; More
  2. 2.
    direct one's mind toward someone or something; use one's mind actively to form connected ideas.

Withoug memory we can mimic, imitate or pretend but we can't truly think for ourselves. Given today's educational climate, that should give us all pause.

Memory is the Mother of Learning. Because without it, we remain childish in our thoughts and minds. With it, we can  brave oceans. face unbeatable odds, create sagas and symphonies, perform Shakespeare, own the poetry and prose of famous men, have the courage and conviction to face death for our beliefs.

I want that for my kids. I want that for myself. Honestly, I want that for your kids and the kids in inner city L.A. and for the kids half way around the world. I want them to be able to think. I want them to know the difference between emotion and reason, between cause and effect, between this life and the next. So that they can wonder, and marvel and have real courage, for the True things. @Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Thursday, July 14, 2016


We brought back dressers from my Grandma's house. I have always love them. They are very much how my Grandma was - or at least how I thought of her when I was little -elegant, charming, detailed, whimsical, solid, hardworking, and lovely- all at once.
My Gram was small- I was taller than her at  10, but she was strong and tough as nails. She didn't put up with nonsense, but was generous and unremittingly kind. She taught me how to knit at five and the smell of the yarn, Grandpa's pipe tobacco and Grandma waft past me everytime I look at her dressers. It is the scent of being loved; the fragrance of family, and simple, important things.
Gram hand long, lovely nails, functional, not fussy as she had been a professional seamstress and the owner of a laundromat in the years when women who worked to support themselves and their diabled mother took no small amount of grit and determination. She was an old school craftswoman and her work was beautiful, functional and well made, much like this lovely dresser.
We washed the dressers with warm soapy water and then applied Linseed Oil. The directions say to wipe off the excess, but we put 4-6 coats on and it soaked right in.
Years of living in smoggy Chicago, in a house where pipe smoke was de riguer for decades had dried the wood. But it's looking a bit better today and is going, perhaps oddly enough, in the dining room where it will be seen regularly and stand as a reminder of my lovely Gram, and as a testimony to an age gone by.

@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Liturgical Classroom

Golden Grasses: The Liturgical Classroom

The Liturgical Classroom is a phrase that was new to me last summer and kept coming up throughout the year, getting up close and personal as I prepared for Challenge B. While I've thought of education as Spiritual Training (Discipleship) for decades and believe that academics is really about the high calling of Knowing God and Making Him know, the word Liturgy kind of threw me.

In what way would we create a litrugical classroom and really, why should we? I listened to a terrific video by Jenny Rallens on this idea and how the Litrugical Classroom allows Virtue Formation. You can find it here. 
I heard Jenny speak last year at the Circe Conference, and the thing that impressed me most about her session was that she asked everyone to stand, raise their hands and sing the Doxology together. It was reverent, touching and inspiring. I brought that home to our CC Challenge Community Days last year; we often started our days by singing the Doxology together. While devotions were de riguer, singing together tangibly changed the atmosphere. We were all vunerable, active, participatory and humble before each other. It set a clear and distinct tone for the day and while none of us were phenomenal singers, we were all earnest, and grateful to be singing in community as it made Ecclesiastes 4:9- Two are better than one- come alive in a fresh way.

And then we did Devotions and prayer. But this year, I really want to be more intentionally focused on the whole reason we are working so hard academically, and what the whole point of community is. Sure, we want our kids well trained in order to have good vocational options. But like I have often said, smart people with no moral grounding are often arrogant people and that's not really the look we're going for.  And, too, we want our kids to have friends.  But beyond that, what?

My answer to that question is that I want my kids- your kids, our kids, all kids- to understand a few things
Study as worship, Life-long wonder and learning, Study/learning=freedom.
Community = Two are better than One, for they have a good return for their labor (Ecc 4:9). There is a lot of labor in life, When you stumble, a good friend will help you find your footing. We all stumble. You need good friends to help you find your way, keep your faith, guide your vision.

My goal for our Community Day is more robust this year. I want to create a Liturgical Classroom -not so that our kids can rotely recall words, but so that they can realize that they met God this year- in their studies, during Community Day, as they play and fellowship and eat together- and that they will be changed by the wonder and beauty of it all. A lofty goal, to be sure. But when we seek Him, we are sure to find Him.

 A Liturgical Classroom 
Sing Doxology together and then student-led Devotions and prayer.
Prayer as we break for lunch 
Give us grateful hearts, Father of all, for your mercies and make us remember the needs of others. Bless, O Lord, your gifts to our use and us to your service. Blessed are you, O Lord, King of the Universe, for you give us food to sustain our lives and make our hearts glad. For these and all your mercies, may your Holy Name be blessed and praised through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. 

Prayer as we resume our studies in the afternoon: 
Almighty and eternal God, draw our hearts to you, guide our minds, fill our imaginations, control our wills. That we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you, and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the good of your people, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

10 minute close to day:
Collect (Lectio): One thing you want to remember that you learned today
Connect (Meditatio): One thing you learned today and how it connected to something you learned earlier,
Create (Compositi): One thing you learned want to live out -write a sentence, story, poem or draw a picture about it to share.

As the students leave for the day
"God be with you/ And also with you."

We did touch on the Collect, Connect and Create last year a bit, doing it a few times. I want to make it a discipline this year. Along with the Salutations and prayers. I do believe this will add structure to transition times and a better sense of order and purpose throughout the day. And, of course, vision, without which a people will perish. 

Soli Deo gloria!

@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shakespeare Camp 2016 Edition

This is the 6th consecutive year that my kids have been involved in Shakespeare Camp. This years performance was a fun and festive rendition of Much Ado About Nothing, complete with song, dance, and revelry.
Formed by two enterprising homeschooling Mommas eight years ago, it's been a main-stay of our summer for over a 1/2 decade.
You can read about a few of the other plays my kids have particiapted in here:
Love's Labors Lost
King Lear, Shakespeare!
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Tempest Roar's 

Performers are rising 7th graders and above. The scripts are the Dover Edition of the chosen play. Roles are assigned to the participants and Actors/ Actresses are expected to have their lines and cues memorized before the first day of practice.
 Practice takes place over 6 days, with costumes and props created during the week by dedicated Mommas. 
Day 6 includes practice, dinner for the cast and crew and a 1-2 hour performance.

Literally Shakespeare in the park. 
Friends, family and community turn out to watch and be entertained. The littles sit on blankets and the rest of us bring folding chairs for an open-air evening of festive entertainment. 
This year's cast was one of the biggest- at 38. Sometimes parts are shared, but always the take-away is that it's the best darn way to learn Shakespeare evah! 
@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Morning Symposium Teen Edition

A hallmark of our homeschool has been reading and studying together. Last year we included two CC Challenge programs, with me directing one and our read-aloud, collective study time went by the wayside in a sea of keeping up, work, extra-curriculars and learning how to manage a lot of moving parts.  During our end-of-year eval, Cub stated that he really missed reading aloud and studying together. When your 16 year old man-cub is telling you that he wants to spend more time together, it's time to take action and make it so.

My solution? Morning symposium.

Much like Circle Time or the Morning Basket for littles, I've reconfigured it for the older set. 

What we are doing:
Having a set start time with limits. 
Having set subject areas. 
  1. The Story of Christianity by Memoria Press
  2. History of Art with Art cards by Veritas Press
  3. Latin forms and vocab review, LNE 
  4. Math speed drills. 

How did I decide what to include? I've had my eye on the MP older Bible studies for a few years and we haven't done a Bible Study together for about that long. Challenge II is going to take on the arts this year, and VP art cards are always lovely. We all doing Latin forms anyway and math speed is something we continually work on.

A simple way to touch base and set the tone at the start of the day along with connection and discussion. That doesn't mean things haven't happened already during the day; it's just that is when we will pause and come together for another cup of coffee and some communal study. Can't wait. 

@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Homegrown Preschooler- Review

Golden Grasses: The Homegrown Preschooler- Review
Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtle, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, tress to climb. Brooks  to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hay fields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets, and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprive of the best part of education. ~Luther Burbank.

I first came in to contact with the Homegrown Preschooler when Leslie and I were vending in Duluth this spring. I loved the booth! As a closet artist, it is everything I want my house to be- warm, inviting, neat, hands-on, practical and beautiful. So, she had me at the booth. But then I got to talking to her and Leslie is not only a business owner but a Challenge Director. CC tribe love, right there! And the booth and philosophy of The Homegrown Preschooler is Charlotte Mason inspired Classical. Sing my song, speak my language; sold. And y'all do know I have a new little Grandbaby, right? So, I'm on the look-out for cool things to do with little Samwise.
 See, he's happy Gramma's on the job!

This is pre-school at it's best. Charlotte Mason inspired, classical methodology, Truth, Beauty and Goodnesss, all wrapped into one beautiful package that is guaranteed to inspire and encourage parents of pre-schoolers! Educating one's kiddos is do-able. More than that it CAN be fun, lovely and cause one to push beyond their normal to something truly inspiring.
ice eggs - Freeze balloons filled with water and small toys. Cut balloon off and play with eggs outside. Provide spoons for cracking ice and digging treasures out. SUMMER - also fun with ice cream buckets:
I receive The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places they Live by Kathy Lee and Leslie Richards, along with A Year of Playing Skillfully, by the same authors.
The book is divided into 9 chapters and 2 parts
The Chapters and Part I
Homeschooling- Harvesting a Bountiful Life
Learning Through Play
 Sowing the Seeds- Preschool Learning
Setting the Stage
Home Life=Learning- Slow Down and Teach
What has Time for this?
Organizing it All
Days and Seaons that Don't Fit in the Box
Special Circumstances

Part II- Activities
Home Life
Gross Motor
Fine Motor
Language and Emergent Literacy
Why Music is Beneficial to Kids, How to Make Homemade Instruments, Resources and Freebies:
Each chapter is chock full of activities, suggestions, ideas, recipe, adorable pictures, quotes and color! It is visually delightful and crammed full of ideas and resources. The Appendix is wonderful as it gives you building plans for the awesome play/activity tables that Homegrown Preschooler has in their booth. Perfect for sand, water, little animals, colored rice, cork letters, etc.

The Activities portion is, again, full of ideas and pictures of kids enjoying themselves as they build language and number literacy and life skills. I love this book- it would be a wonderful shower present for an expectant Mom who already has a pre-schooler, especially if you included provisions to do some of the activities. It's also a lovely homeschooling primer for those who compelled by homeschooler but are not sure of where to start. If you have a pre-schooler- this is where! It would also be an amazing Grandparent gift! Have this at the ready at Gramma's house for fun and wholesome engagement when you are watching the littles. This is a great way to build memories across generations.
For the first day of spring. Birds will take a string (or multiples) and weave them into their nests!  Colourful Nests + Fun for the kids:
Over the years we have done many of the activities that are included, but the beauty of this book is that you can pull it out and have ideas at the ready. Also included are supply lists. How perfect is that?

A Year of Playing Skillfully is what really caught my eye. This is an actual CM inspired, classical curriculum for pre-schoolers. I took my copy out of the packaging and put it in a 2" binder. Some of the pages are cardstock/printables and I put those in page-protectors; other pages are 3-hole punched, but if I was going to use this for multiple kids, in a co-op or day-care, I would definitely put those pages in page protectors as well.
Cultivating Joyful Learning Through Intentional Play:
What you will find 9 months of activities.
Each month has a FacePage, printed on cardstock, that outlines and details the month, which includes a Theme and a Character Trait as well as ideas in each of the following areas:
Home Life/ socio-emotional
Field Trips Science/ Sensory
Outdoor/Gross Motor
along with a Scripture Verse.
The pages are visually lovely and colorful but not cluttered. You can use the face pages as a checklist if you like or they can be a general guide.

Next comes a month-by-month detailed Activity Guide.
Oil pan from Wal-Mart!:
The guide is a detailed, month by month plan of activities, books, music, chores, inspiration, recipes, living skills, reading and math readiness, art and science projects, nature journaling, gross motor play, field trips and more. Complete with lovey pictures of adorable kids participating in them. In other words, these things are DO-ABLE for real Moms, like us. At the end of each months activities is a supply list by Activity as well as a place to record Memories.  Brilliant! 

Also included are printables, ready to use multiple times as they've been printed on cardstock. This includes games and other age -appropriate pre-school activities like cutting practice and garden planning. Again- brilliant. I don't have to go searching, it's readily available and I can make multiple copies as needed. 

Have I mentioned I LOVE this curriculum? It's more than curriculum- it life prep for littles. It is lovely, well thought out, pragmatic and thoroughly delightful. KB and Mr. V can't wait to use this with little V and I have high hopes to jump in with and do some of the activities with them every now and then. 

Find the Homegrown Preschooler on Social Media:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. 
@Golden Grasses 2008-2013. All photographs, artwork and text are the property of the owner unless otherwise stated. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to Golden Grasses and get our articles right to your inbox!