School during breakfast, Part 3: Poetry and Habits/Manners

It has become quite apparent to me that I need to work on my titles, because this whole series is getting a little out of hand what with all the extras I keep tagging on in the title. I SO should have asked Mark for help with that. Maybe I'll go back and change it at some point. For now I'll carry on.

I've been sharing about the rotating slot in our schedule that we do at the breakfast table.

Mon | Hymn practice
Tues | Art: Picture Study
Wed | Poetry
Thurs | Habits/Manners
Fri | Classical music
Sat | Silly songs/camp songs/choruses

Today I'm going to cover the next two: Poetry and Habits/Manners.

On Wednesdays, we get a book of poetry and we read some poems.

And I really don't have a whole lot more to say about that. We don't analyze them, study them, write our own poems or anything like that. We just enjoy them.

Right now we're reading from The World of Christopher Robin, and we all love it.

On Thursdays it says "Habits/Manners" on the schedule. This is basically an opportunity for me to have an official time set aside to review the habits or manners I think we're neglecting. We may learn a verse and focus on a particular habit like we did here, but more often than not it is just sort of a reminder-time of how we want to behave. Here's an example:

A couple of weeks ago, during the meet-and-greet time at our church, I saw a woman bend down to introduce herself to my son and ask him his name. He happened to be very focused on pulling a rock out of the bottom of his shoe at the time, and I noted that he very distractedly said hello and sort of mumbled his name. We briefly talked about it on the way home. I tried not to make a huge deal about it but I'm sure I said something about being disappointed that he didn't treat her with the respect and courtesy I would have liked to see him exhibit.

The following Thursday, our Habit/Manners time went something like this:

Me: "Okay, guys. Today we're going to talk for a couple of minutes about what you should do when someone greets you at church. Let's give some examples of what NOT to do-- they think this is pretty funny, especially when I give outlandish suggestions-- and then discuss and practice what would be some good ideas to say and do." Then we take turns being the greeter/greetee, and act it out and giggle together and use funny voices and practice the right way to greet someone.

And that's that. Pretty simple.

Picture Study Q & A

A couple of you had questions following my post on Picture study, so rather than hide those responses in the comments, I thought I'd take some time here to answer those questions and provide some more resources.

Q: Do you print the pictures for the photo album yourself, or send them to a place like the Costco photo lab?

A: I get them printed at Costco. If we had a good color printer and photo-quality paper, I'd do it here. But we don't, so I send them to Costco.

Q: How do you choose your art?

A: I have several favorite artists I remember from college classes or from traveling, so I have a list in my brain that I'm anxious to study with our children. At this point my goal is to keep our study to artists and paintings that are age-appropriate for my children. At this season, that means scenes of children and families or activities they're familiar with or interested in.

Ambleside Online is a wonderful resource, particularly for those of you who may be at a loss for which artists and which paintings to consider for your study. Follow that link and you'll find a wealth of information!

Q: Where do you get your art from?

A: I have found most of our books at either a local used bookstore or Goodwill. The book we got on Winslow Homer was $2.99 at Goodwill. The book I bought on Mary Cassatt was $9.95 at my favorite used bookstore. If I see a book on an artist I like and think we will study someday, I pick it up.

I have also seen reasonably-priced books on the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. Just recently I was there and on an end-cap they had a series of large books on various famous painters. [Think: oversized paperback or hardcover books]. They were marked down to $6.99 each or something. I didn't happen to want any of the particular artists they had left, but at one time they had several artists I would have been interested in. (I just didn't get there soon enough!) If all else fails, there is Amazon.

I like to have a print in hand to examine, but you could certainly do picture study simply by pulling a painting up on the computer and looking at it on your screen, too.


I gleaned almost all of my how-to-do-this ideas from Linda Fay at Higher Up and Further In. Linda Fay's blog posts schooled me when we initially began doing Picture Study. The link above will take you to all of her Picture Study posts.

One last thing. Recently I came across a list of questions to use in Picture Study. (I'm not sure who to credit as the author of this list, so please let me know if you happen to be familiar with the source, so that I can give proper credit.) I thought it might be a good resource for those of you who'd like to try this but don't exactly know what to ask. There are some great questions in the list below. My encouragement to you would be to keep it simple. Choose maybe 1 or 2 questions each time, or choose your favorite questions from this list and rotate them, a couple at a time, each time you study a painting.


1. What kinds of things do you see in this painting? What else do you see?
2. What words would you use to describe this painting? What other words might we use?
3. How would you describe the lines in this picture? The shapes? The colors? What does this painting show?
4. Look at this painting for a moment. What observations can you make about it?
5. How would you describe this painting to a person who could not see it?
6. How would you describe the people in this picture? Are they like you or different?
7. How would you describe (the place depicted in) this painting?


1. What does this painting remind you of?
2. What things do you recognize in this painting? What things seem new to you?
3. How is this painting like the one we just saw? What are some important differences?
4. What do these two paintings have in common?
5. How is this picture different from real life?
6. What interests you most about this work of art?


1. Which objects seems closer to you? Further away?
2. What can you tell me about the colors in this painting?
3. What color is used the most in this painting?
4. What makes this painting look crowded?
5. What can you tell me about the person in this painting?
6. What can you tell me about how this person lived? How did you arrive at that idea?
7. What do you think is the most important part of this picture?
8. How do you think the artist made this work?
9. What questions would you ask the artist about this work, if s/he were here?


1. What title would you give to this painting? What made you decide on that title?
2. What other titles could we give it?
3. What do you think is happening in this painting? What else could be happening?
4. What sounds would this painting make (if it could)?
5. What do you think is going on in this picture? How did you arrive at that idea?
6. What do you think this painting is about? How did you come up that idea?
7. Pretend you are inside this painting. What does it feel like?
8. What do you think this (object) was used for? How did you arrive at that idea?
9. Why do you suppose the artist made this painting? What makes you think that?
10. What do you think it would be like to live in this painting? What makes you think that?


1. What do you think is good about this painting? What is not so good?
2. Do you think the person who painted this do a good or bad job? What makes you think so?
3. Why do you think other people should see this work of art?
4. What do you think other people would say about this work? Why do you think that?
5. What grade would you give the artist for this work? How did you arrive at that grade?
6. What would you do with this work if you owned it?
7. What do you think is worth remembering about this painting?


Happy Birthday, son!

When I was One,
I had just begun.

When I was Two,
I was nearly new.

When I was Three,
I was hardly Me.

When I was Four,
I was not much more.

When I was Five,
I was just alive.

But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Now We Are Six
~A.A. Milne

School during breakfast, Part 2: Picture Study

I've shared a little about our hymn study here and about our Monday Hymn Practice here.

On Tuesdays we do picture study, and it's one of our favorite things! I was an art major in college and Art History was one of my favorite classes ever.

As to how we incorporate this into our week, I first choose an artist and purchase a book or some prints. [I've been able to purchase some good art books at used bookstores for this very purpose.]

Here's what the study part of that looks like at our house:

ONE: Announce the name of the artist you're studying, and any information (biographical) you think is pertinent. I usually write the artist's name up on the board, and read a short bio or a few facts I've found about the artist.

TWO: Pull out a print, hand it to a child. For the sake of this example I'm going to say I hand the picture to Isaac. Then I ask him to describe what he sees. The rest of us listen and try to imagine the painting in our minds. He does so. My children all love this part. Seriously, they fight over who's turn it is to describe the painting.)

THREE: When he has finished describing the painting, the rest of us get the opportunity to pepper him with questions about the things our minds are still wondering about.

The questions you may ask depend not only on the painting but also on how well your describer is. Our Isaac gets very detailed about what is going on in the painting (think: the story of it; what he imagines is happening), but he may forget to tell us what colors he sees, or what time of the day he thinks it is. Ella, on the other hand, will describe in detail the colors and pattern and folds of the skirt a woman in the painting is wearing but may forget to tell us what is happening.

A few ideas for questions:

What colors/shapes do you see?

How would you describe the people in this painting? [Dress, expression, position, etc]

What do you think is the most important part of this picture?
What is the focal point?/ Where is your eye drawn to?

What objects seem closer to you? Further away?

If you were to choose a title for this picture, what would you call it?

FOUR: Then Isaac reveals the picture to us and we all take turns making comments, things like:

Good job describing the boat, Isaac. That's exactly how I pictured it.

Oh! You forgot to tell us about those flowers there in the corner.

FIVE: Finally, I tell them what the name of the painting is.

The following week we begin all over again with a new painting by the same artist, and we review any of the paintings we've previously learned.

I usually select 5 or 6 paintings per artist (either my favorites or those that I think might be of particular interest to our children), and then we move on to a different artist.

A couple of other ideas:

1. Hand your child some paints or colored pencils (or crayons!) and tell them they get to color that painting!

This is one of the paintings we studied, early last year:

And here is Ella's representation of it:

2. Begin an art album for your child.

We bought a small photo album for Ella two years ago and have printed out the various paintings we've studied and she has added them to her album, listing the title and artist beside each one. She loves this!

{Pictured: page one of Ella's art album}

School during breakfast, Part 1

At our house, breakfast falls sometime between 8 and 9:30. Yep. Usually we're eating by 9, but some mornings are earlier, some mornings are later. We're flexible that way. ~smile~

Care to join us for breakfast this morning?

Let's begin when I ask the kids to set the table for breakfast.

[A side note, here: At mealtimes, each of our children has setting-the-table responsibilities. Ella gets the plates/bowls, Isaac gets the cups/glasses, and Isaias gets the silverware and Adelia's dish/utensil/cup. We standardized this because we were finding that we'd ask the kids to get the table set and within minutes there would be a dispute because "I was going to get the plates, and now [insert sibling name here] is taking plates out!" No more. They now know what they're responsible to have on the table for each meal.]

So. Back to breakfast. The kids are scurrying around, getting the table set. Audra is playing on the floor with some chubby little Fisher Price farm animals. Adelia has been saying "Eat, eat" for probably the past half an hour and I've likely already given her a bowl of dry cheerios (which she in turn has dumped all throughout the house, just so you know, and now I seem to be crushing cheerios every time I step. I'm sure none of you have ever experienced this.)

While the kids are doing this, I have likely just gotten out of the shower and am getting dressed or combing my hair. I may even glance in the mirror for 0.2 seconds. Hopefully when I make it out to the kitchen, the kids will have the table set. I pick up Audra on my way in and get her into her seat and then get a wandering Adelia into hers.

If your family is like mine, and no matter how prepared we try to be, meal times are not without plenty of interruptions. Things like:

"Mommy, will you please cut my muffin?"

"Mommy, I need butter."

"Mommy, where's the honey? I wanted honey on mine."

"My water bottle is empty and I'm thirsty, mommy. Will you please fill it?"

And then there's Adelia, who has decided it is time to throw her bowl of food onto the floor. She needs to be reprimanded, because she knows better.

Audra is now finished with her breakfast but is still hungry so I'm up to get her something to gnaw on.

Then the kids are ready for seconds.

In between all of these interruptions and several trips from the table and back, I'm also trying to feed myself, too. (Sometimes this part just doesn't happen.)

While the kids are still eating, we begin school. I pull out our memory verses and we do those, in between bites of food. I've written about our memory verses system before. Each day we have a group of verses we go over; color coded and filed by that day.

Then we do our other memory work~ today is Monday so we're going over Old Testament books of the Bible. We generally say them all together.

We also do "Hymn Practice" on our schedule, so we sing through our hymn together a few times. We're learning Trust and Obey, and the kids love this because they get to sing it at the top of their lungs. The first time we ever sang this hymn they all looked very solemn, so I reminded them that the words say 'to be happy in Jesus'. So we practiced looking very happy, all of us, while singing, and that stuck. Now they're always singing loudly with wide smiles on their faces. Audra thinks this is the greatest thing EVER; and is kicking her legs and clapping. Adelia is trying her best to sing along by chiming in on certain words.

Sometimes we're able to squeeze more school in at the table- on a great day, we can even get some history done- but not this morning.

I think the key to homeschooling at this season in our lives is flexibility. We have a schedule for our day, yes. But we follow it loosely. There are no time-slots for any of it. There are things I'd like to accomplish each morning at the table, yes. So we linger at the table for as long as we can, but we'll have a day when Audra or even Adelia is sick or fussy or we've simply had too many interruptions or distractions. I may ask Ella to take over with the verses or reading while I focus more on Audra, or we may just stop and resume later when things have quieted down.

One of those things that often gets relocated to a different part of the day is our Bible reading. For the past two years, we have read from either the Psalms or the Proverbs each day for our school Bible time. This year we're reading from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible, which is a narrative of the whole Bible. This is our favorite Bible story book. Several times I've read this while finishing up my breakfast while the kids work on their after-meal chores. Or we'll set it aside until story-time (which is right before quiet times/naps at our house.)

This works for us. It may not work for everyone, but it works for us. We still get everything accomplished nearly every day. But we have learned to roll with the interruptions and be flexible.

School: what we do

We're now six weeks into our school year and have settled into a good rhythm. I love homeschooling our children, and not only am I thrilled to be back at it again, but am thankful to find that it is so doable- even with five young children!

Today I'm going to share- generally- what we do for school, and over the next several posts I'll get a little more specific, sharing what that particular subject or element actually looks like in our school day. But for now, the basics:

We begin our school day with Circle Time. Circle Time is an idea I gleaned a couple of years ago from the wise Kendra of Preschoolers and Peace. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea of Circle Time, you can click here to learn more about it.

Essentially, for us- it is the school that we all do together before anyone heads off to do their own individual work. We do our Circle Time at the breakfast table, and it is largely doable because both of the little girls are still strapped into their seats from breakfast. I just keep feeding them cheerios or remnants of breakfast and we can get so much done that way!

This is what we do during that time, daily:

Bible reading
Memory verses

In addition to those two permanent fixtures of our Circle Time, we also rotate in other memory work each day:

Mon | Old Testament books of the Bible*
Tues | Ten Commandments
Wed | New Testament books of the Bible*
Thurs | Landmark cards
Fri | President cards
Sat | Rules/Manners for Gentlemen/Ladies*

*These are repeats from last year, and we are currently reviewing them. When I feel like the kids pretty flawless in their recital of these, we will file them to be pulled out only occasionally for a quick review. When we do that, we'll fill in those daily slots with other memory work.

Other Circle Time elements:

Mon | Hymn practice
Tues | Art: Picture Study
Wed | Poetry
Thurs | Habits/Manners
Fri | Classical music
Sat | Silly songs/camp songs/choruses

MATH daily
Ella does Math daily, and for the most part does this on her own
On Saturdays (and usually at least one other day per week) we do Math flash cards together.

HISTORY 3 days a week (MWF)
This includes the lesson (read aloud by me), an activity, and a timeline card.

COPYWORK 3 days a week (TRS)

ENGLISH 3 days a week (TRS)
Ella and I go over the lesson together, and then there is work she finishes on her own.

NARRATIONS a couple times a week

KINDERGARTEN work for Isaac; Tuesdays & Thursdays

Other daily activities:
outside play time
read-aloud time with mommy
read-aloud time with daddy
Bible reading with daddy


Oh! Two things I've recently ordered that we'll be adding soon:

1. a handwriting program (cursive) for Ella.
2. speech therapy lessons for me to go through with Isaias, who is really struggling with his R's, L's, and Th's.

NOTE: Although our schedule seems to indicate that we school six days a week, we actually only school five days. Mark has a rotating day off each week (one week he has Monday off, the next week he'll have Tuesday off, etc...) and when daddy has a day off, we all take a day off. So although our schedule lists Monday through Saturday, we drop one day a week depending on what day he has off.