New School-Year Thoughts

IMG_20170828_172024_170Homeschooling is one of my favorite aspects of our lifestyle. It’s such a fantastic and intimate way to nurture the faith and intellectual-lives of my children, such a fun way to get to know them as people – and all the magical, hidden, mazes of their minds and thoughts. I adore homeschooling.

Ilya is a little young for anything official..ok, a lot young, actually, but he wants to be a part of the schooling because he adores Yarrow, and fortunately, our style of schooling is very inclusive. Lots of reading aloud, lots of walks in the woods, good music, drawing, painting, and prayers. I can spend a bit of one on one time with him reading some of his favorite books while Yarrow works on her math and copywork, and he can learn the art of ‘listening attentively’ while Yarrow tells me back some of what we’ve read.


We’re starting the new school year officially yesterday! Yarrow has been doing prep levels and, while a lot of her prep-work has taken her through most of the first level of our curriculum, we’re sticking with that level for the fall, to make sure she’s got it all before adding in aspects of the second level. We change it up quite a bit, but the themes are the same.

What does schooling look like for you all? I would love to know how you decided what sort of schooling fits your family, and why! What do you love about it, and what’s a bit more challenging?

Because, as ideal as it is, homeschooling deep in the woods with the crickets and crows, homeschooling has some challenges too. I am always struggling to build a structured, intentional daily life, some days are less so than others, and some days don’t even come close to the sort of daily life I’m intending! And space gets limited as the seasons change, winter homeschooling is cozy in the yurt, but books and papers pile up quickly!


Night-time Fairies

The kids adore our fairy neighbors. We have primroses growing along their garden-bed, in hopes of attracting our friends, and heart’s – ease scattered among the balms. Almost every night I can hear Yarrow whisper her longing to the moon: Someday maybe the fairies will wake me and take me dancing under the trees. Maybe tonight!


Our nights are full of fairies. On birthday and name-day eves, we leave out a slice of cake in the garden for our fairy friends, they eat it and cover the plate with flowers or tokens of love – luck for the year to come. We leave out cakes on the altar as well, for the saints to bless and share. Happy generosity, they love to celebrate with us!


It’s become such a delightful ritual. We have a small cake-pan for the altar cakes, and two small plates for fey and blessed friends. And now, as Yarrow says ‘good-bye’ to her baby teeth, we have another chance to share. The fairies come at night to collect the lost and lonely tooth, eat a cake all their own, and take the tooth away to their woodland cave for safe-keeping. Witches love teeth – so many spells are better and stronger with a tooth in the mix – but our fairy neighbors keep them tucked away where no witch can find them. Or so they say, and who am I to argue?

Road Trip

I wrote a bit about our recent drive down to see the eclipse! The natural world is so amazing, so overwhelming in it’s magic and beauty!

But..Do the roads and this country feel different to anyone else? A little less friendly, maybe? What do you think?

Beautiful Crows

My family went on a road trip last week. Our first very long drive since we took the kids to visit my family in Michigan a couple years ago, and our first real road trip since Yarrow was born 6 years ago. We had an amazing time! This was such a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, few animals to leave behind, an eclipse to discover, tons of time together just to talk and laugh and love. I am so thrilled that I went along with this trip, which was totally Seth’s idea!


It was different though, in an unexpected way. We are different, obviously – we’ve settled down on our lovely patch of land and set down roots to last a lifetime. We have two kids and a dog who need more frequent stops and safer lodgings than Seth and I ever did on our own. We had chickens, ducks, and…

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Meals at Home


These two…So much love! And if you’ve never sliced up a banana, dropped spoonfuls of peanut butter on it, sprinkled it with dried coconut and called it ‘breakfast’, then you should! It’s one of their favorites! They even share!


Seth and I prefer a more grown up breakfast..or lunch..or brunch, maybe. A meal of greens, bacon, and beer is never out of place!


We’re also big into water. All of us. Ilya is obsessed with water. He has cups scattered everywhere, full of bread-crumbs and soggy bits of carrot.


Coffee is another family favorite. And sometimes, on Sundays after Mass, we pair it up with doughnuts. It’s pretty thrilling.


Pasta is a dinner-time standby. We like it with piles of cooked veggies and fresh greens. Ilya likes it all by itself.

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Pancakes and home-grown sausage are delightful on Sundays, when we aren’t just eating doughnuts. It’s berry season, so sometimes we plop blueberries or blackberries in the pancakes, or add a bit of cornmeal. And in the winter, a tiny bit of cardamom and cinnamon make them the coziest food ever.

..We eat a lot of different ways, depending on the season. But these are some of our favorites. What are yours?

Washing Dishes..

We have piles of dishes to clean today…mostly canning jars that just need an extra scrub to get the dust out before they’re used for canning. But it’s been a busy week (again! Oh-my-goodness August is an insane month for us this year!)


Dishes are not my favorite chore. I grew up with a dishwasher, which meant we had to clean the dishes in the sink first, to get the food off them, then load them into the dishwasher – the ‘right’ way, because the wrong way would leave them unclean – and finally, after the washing process, someone had to unload them and put them away.

It always seemed like such a burdensome process: and dishwashers always seem to have a weird, sterile sort of smell. In my mind, doing the dishes is still a huge, day-long process. But it isn’t! We don’t have a dishwasher now..we have ‘The Sink’ – an wide enamel pot with a handle that can be set on a hot stove to warm the soapy water slowly while all the essential oils waft upward and fill the house or yard with reviving scents.

While the water is heating up, I usually do other things – make more dishes by baking while the oven’s on, or scooping out hot water to wash the floor with – Seth organizes the dishes for washing when he is waiting for the dishwater to warm. He piles all the silverware into a jar, stacks dirty plates below cleaner plates, sets egg-pans to soaking and gathers the towels and dishrags he’ll need to wash.

I love it when Seth washes the dishes, I get all the benefits of clean dishes, scented air, and leftover hot water, without any effort on my part. But even doing the dishes myself is easier and more fun than the dishwasher used to be. It’s a fuller experience, and like Kathleen Norris in The Quotidian Mysteries, I can’t help thinking of the priest at Mass, washing up after Communion, uniting the extraordinary and the mundane in the simple act of wiping clean a cup.

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Home-made Dish Soap

1 quart jar filled nearly full of 2 parts castile soap and 1 part water, add in 15 drops lemongrass essential oil, 5 drops lavender essential oil, and a sprig of Rosemary. Shake well before using and add about 1-2 tablespoons to a sink full of hot water.

The Reading Pile..

We do a lot of reading.

We read aloud to the kids at breakfast during schooling-times, at lunch throughout the year, at tea whenever we sit down to it (about 3 times a week on average), and at bedtime. We also pepper the day with shorter read-alouds and Yarrow is now confident enough in her reading that she can sit and read to Ilya as well. Which is amazing. I deep-cleaned the house today while Yarrow read her brother book after book in the sunlight.


Right now, the lunch and tea book is The Hobbit, for the billionth time; but after tomorrow, we’ll be picking something new. I’m hoping to pick out something truly new (never before read!) from the library…but if not, Yarrow is angling to hear the Tales of King Arthur again. Ilya just wants to hear Gyo Fujikawa’s Baby Animals book over and over and over again, which is fun too.

But despite the excitement I do feel for hobbits, knights, and tiny mouse babies..sometimes I do want to read something else. Something more grown-up and challenging..or grown up and purely indulgent. I used to have huge piles of books going all the time, I used to get lost in them and forget to do things like dress myself or eat lunch – I don’t have that luxury anymore, it’s been replaced by other, more tender luxuries, like watching my daughter read aloud to her brother and feeling the love between them grow. So I don’t miss my days devoted to Kierkegaard too much..instead, I take a cue from Charlotte Mason and pick just three at a time: one indulgently easy, one moderately thought-provoking, and one deeply challenging book.

The system works out well! I can indulge in easy entertainment while Ilya pretends I’m a ‘horse-y’ or read something exciting while Seth and I are sitting out under the moon, and at naptime, or late at night – when all is quiet and my brain is fully awake, I can remind it how to think deeply and give it meaty bones of wisdom to gnaw upon.


This month I’m revisiting old friends: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of my favorite books. It is everything I want in a novel: interesting, magical, well-written, clever, funny, and slightly unnerving. I adore it. I’ve read it before years ago, and actually kept it to read again, which is rare for me and novels-not-written-by-Russians. It’s my easy book this month because it is so easy, you just fall right into a fantastic versions of early 19th century England and stay there.

Untamed Hospitality is a book I began years ago, enjoyed, and then misplaced for a few years while I forgot about it and went about having babies and building a few extra gardens. It is a very good book. I like it especially because it responds to, and rejects the modern ‘myths of hospitality’ – primary in my experience being the sentimentalism, lying sort of hospitality that demands to feel welcomed at the expense of an honest meeting of persons.  The author defines true hospitality as an extension of our interactions with God and builds up a holistic sense of welcoming within the book. It’s lovely, challenging in that it reminds me of my failures to be truly (and not merely conventionally) hospitable, and comfortable because she is an easy author to read and understand – and because she uses so many familiar examples (Flannery O Connor for one!).

Meditations on the Tarot will be my ‘Challenging’ book for years to come, I think. I’ve read it, and begun it again. The book is not in any way a how to manual on Tarot-reading. It is, very much as described, “a journey into Christian Hermeticism.” The book examines the cards of the Tarot’s Major Arcana and meditates on the symbolism of the cards from a Catholic perspective. It is a beautiful, reflective book. A book that, far from luring one into the occult, makes the cards it studies so intimately linked to a Catholic worldview that (for myself anyway) it is no longer even temptation to view the tarot as a divination tool. I adore this book. The ‘Unknown Friend’ is truly a friend, who thinks in beautiful (and sometimes erroneous) ways. It’s a joy to read. But it does require focus and reflection. A lot of focus and reflection. This is not a book to read with small children bouncing on your back saying “neigh! neigh!”


Tonight, while Yarrow and Ilya are falling asleep, Seth will read aloud from the Bible (we’re in Revelation right now) and from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Series (The Castle of Llyr). While he does I’ll nurse Ilya and read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to myself, or just listen, because both God and Lloyd Alexander are enjoyable authors; and after that, who knows where the night will take me – to my Unknown Friend discussing the hanged man card, to Christ the Stranger, or to a different version of the hanged man in Mr. Norrell. It’s exciting not knowing, having all sorts of variety, and still having just enough structure around it all to keep balanced.

What are you reading these days, friends?

Planning for Anything..


I love  making plans. And lists. And charts. I love taking all the thoughts in my head and giving them shape and order. But real life isn’t actually that easy to organize. It’s a wildly shifting mystery. You just can’t make every day the same.

Which is one reason I love bullet journaling. My life is seasonal, it’s a little bit wild..and most planners just don’t have enough space for my notes and plans, or if they have the space for notes, it’s not in the right spot, or it’s misapplied and then I have to cross out labels and and make everything messy. And I hate messiness. Bullet journals are self-designed though, and so I can make sure I’ve got a page or two for homeschooling every week, a page each month for herbalism, a page or two most months for garden-things, reading lists, blogging lists, Charlotte Mason habit-nurturing lists, and a whole 3 or 4 pages of Konmari lists that spark immeasurable joy.


The Bullet Journal system is pretty straightforward – what you decide to do with it is as unique as you are. I use it primarily to put my thoughts in order and bring a sense of intentionalism to my days. I have so many goals, and so many areas of my life that I want to bring more in line with my ideals, that a conventional planner really just can’t cover it all!

I like my journal to be relatively simple, but there are so many pretty, colorful journals out and about on Instagram that sometimes I’m tempted to do something flashy. But when the week or month is over, I can start over fresh again, and not be stuck with a journal that doesn’t match my mood for too long.

Do you Bullet journal? What make a planning system workable for you?

Keeping House


How do you keep your house clean?

Do you have a cleaning schedule, or do you clean as you go? I have a schedule, I’m not the best at following it, but I try. Today, Wednesday, is ‘deep cleaning day’. On Wednesdays I tie up my hair, put on black lipstick and so much eyeshadow, and scrub away the dirt, purge the clutter, and indulge my deep love of Murphy’s Oil Soap and lemongrass essential oil.

If I’ve kept up on my schedule, by ‘deep cleaning day’ I’ve got my laundry done (Mondays), the outhouse tidied and the garden weeded (Tuesdays – but actually, that never happens..but sometimes I’ve neatened it up a bit), and I can focus either on Konmaring a group of things, or on scrubbing and washing and ordering the house itself.


Thursdays I try to stick to baking and whatever sewing or herbal projects I have, and Fridays I give to St. Paraskeva. Efficiency isn’t everything, after all, and a day offered up is a healing thing.

Sometimes, the whole schedule falls to ruin around me, sometimes I’m lucky to get the dishes done on Wednesday, but most of the time, the schedule keeps our days focused and tidy enough. And ‘most of the time’ is enough to cover days like today, when neither black lips nor dishes were done.

So how do you keep house? What little rituals and schedules make up your quotidian?