Thursday, April 29, 2010


I find myself drawn to the products of a simplified life. The beautiful photos of homes that are stocked with books, where odds and ends are stowed in baskets, the surfaces are clear, and the textiles rich and layered pull at my heartstrings. I find the idea of homeschooling from whole, living books; nature; the seasons of the secular and church years inspiring. I love the idea of organizing our schooling from a single bookshelf.

But notice that I used the phrase "the products of a simplified life." It is occurring to me that I'm not sure that I actually want to live a simplified life. My purse is huge--I want to be prepared to alleviate the discomforts of all sorts of uncomfortable situations that might arise. But to go with a smaller purse requires me to give a little forethought to the outing at hand--and decide what I can be unprepared for.

My "bathroom bag" for when I stay overnight somewhere is quite large: I carry a hairdryer, numerous hair products (and I don't even consider myself to be someone particularly obsessed with my looks), soaps, lotions, make up.... A smaller bag would necessitate some "making due" with whatever my hosts have available. Or doing without. Why am I unwilling to do that?

Do I like to lead a complicated life? Do really want to lead a simple life? I certainly like the effects of simplicity in other peoples' homes. In my quest to declutter my house, I'm beginning to realize that if I don't really lead a simple life, my home cannot begin to reflect that simplicity in a lack of clutter.

A line from a post on Simple Mom entitled Creating a Home Where the Living is Easy seems to clarify what can be meant by "simplicity":
Let’s face it, we all know life isn’t easy, but it can be easier. It has taken my family years of taking small steps to get to where we are now, and we are nowhere near where we hope to be even next year.
It's about making daily life easier, not necessarily throwing out anything that might be construed as clutter or making my home look like a magazine clipping.
It's also about taking small steps to make one part of my life at a time easier.

As I said above, I like the aesthetic effects that decluttering and simplicity produce in peoples' homes. So, to effectively declutter specific areas of my apartment, I'd have to be willing to actually simplify the portions of my life that correspond to that space in my home. To really declutter our video collection, for example, we'd have to be OK with living without the videos we get rid of.

I am mostly skeptical that I can really simplify anything. I mentioned how I do not lead a simple life in many ways. But then there are things I am trying to change in that department--not necessarily in the name of simplicity, but as a way to make my life easier and to allow more time for other things, like homeschooling our kids. My ongoing project of simplifying our menu into a set weekly one (changing by the season and liturgical year) has made it possible for me to really organize and simplify my freezer.

The Simple Mom post I quoted above has inspired me to take a small step in simplifying my life by making "both time and space for you" (emphasis mine). I can find bits of time, and I will have more of it when baby #3 arrives (if you count nursing time as "time for you"), but I do not have a good space to use that time. More practically, I will need a nursing station. I'm hoping to turn my papazan chair into that space. I'd like it stocked with prayer books, leisure reading, some kids books to dole out, possibly snacks (for all of us!) and a water bottle. It would be lovely if the computer fit into the picture too. I'm not sure what I will arrive at, but I have some ideas.

So, that is my next step in the direction of simplicity in my life and home. I am beginning to feel a little more fondly for the term than when I began this post--simplicity as a name for making my life easier. Who wouldn't want that?

Freezer Organization!

Do you know what this is?

This is a simplified freezer.

Bread, OJ (if we had any), and some veggie purees in the door. A tub of frozen veggies and one for frozen fruit next to some leftovers and ice cream on the top shelf. Ice cubes, meat to be used in the next week's meals, an ongoing "chicken parts for soup" bag, some broth, and some other recipe-ready ingredients on the bottom shelf.

Anything to be saved for next week's menu is in our basement freezer. We also have lots more broth, bread, and some other miscellaneous ingredients (yet to be placed in a menu) down there.

The entire contents of both freezers fit in my upstairs freezer. However, I found it frustrating that I couldn't really organize (and thus, couldn't find) anything with all of it stuffed in the one freezer. With our foray into using a set weekly menu, I found it so easy to figure out what I need to have upstairs, and what can be downstairs. I think when I put away the weeks' groceries will be a good time to rotate things upstairs from down.

I get such a rush looking at that simplified freezer!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Homeschooling Notes

General Curricula

I have been spending a lot of time, recently, at one of my new favorite blogs, evlogia and its sub-site Letters of Grace.

Both are amazing resources. The former has lots of level-headed, humble advice and curricula for raising and educating (Orthodox) Christian kids. The latter is a work in progress: The authors of Letters of Grace are in the process of creating a nearly complete, Orthodox, early education home-schooling curriculum. And it is all offered free of charge. There are some costs involved, of course (printer ink, laminating resources, purchased story books, etc.), but many of the book titles that the curriculum relies upon are available from a local library. Content is being added to this site weekly.


I am still determining what sort of math curriculum to use. Singapore Math and Math-U-See are the two I am considering at the moment. Maybe I will come to a point where I know what my kids need in the math department and can sort of create my own math curriculum from flash cards and various available online resources, but at least for the first year, I'd like a more complete curriculum.


We've also just ordered the first three sets of the Bob Books to use in teaching Maggie (and our subsequent children) to read. Letters of Grace includes Language Lessons to enrich the Bob Books series and encourage actual reading (not just memorization and narration of pictures). Maggie is enjoying using the color-coded manipulative alphabet (which I recently printed, laminated, and cut apart--have I mentioned that I love to laminate?) to spell our names.


We have been working on a Lent and Holy Week Main Lesson Book record of the kids' icon illustrations and a few other things we've been doing during these seasons. (For an idea of what a Main Lesson Book is, click here.) I'm really pleased with how they are turning out--mainly, I like having somewhere to put their artwork that isn't simply the trash. And I could see us pulling these back out to bring to church next Lent and Pascha. Primarily, it's become a nice record of the simple religious lessons we've done over the last few weeks.


I am conflicted about whether to do any more with our old Five in a Row curriculum, what with our excitement over Letters of Grace and our impending Baby. I have one book checked out (and, I think, planned out) that I could do another series of lessons with. And with our faith lessons and the Bob Books on the way, we will have things to keep us busy.

I'm not sure if I'm struggling more with the curriculum in particular, or with time-management in general. The girls are getting so good at playing on their own that I find myself uninterrupted at the computer for long stretches of time--which is great for my sanity, but lousy for getting anything done with the kids and their schooling or with the house (although I have been in a good routine with that recently--more on that later, perhaps). But when I puzzle over these questions for a while, I usually remind myself that in a few weeks, baby #3 will be here, and then most everything will be out the window, schedule-wise, anyway.

Mostly, we have at least been focusing on our religious lessons for Lent and Pascha, as I mentioned above. And when I feel this is inadequate, I remember this passage by St. Theophan the Recluse:

Let instruction be so arranged that it will be evident what is the main point and what is secondary.... Let the study of faith be considered the chief thing. Let the best time be assigned to works of piety and in case of conflict let them take the first place over learning. Let approval be given not only for success in learning, but likewise for faith and good behavior. In general, one must so dispose the mind of pupils that they do not lose the conviction that our chief work is the pleasing of God....

Coming Attractions

For a while, now, I have wanted to get back into regular blog posts. Part of the reason that I haven't been posting is because I was still uncomfortable with posting thoughts that would have been put on my other blogs onto this one. (Why uncomfortable? Don't ask. I am a perfectionist.)

Whatever my inner reason not to blog, it has ceased to exist. I am especially excited to share some of our home schooling ideas and resources that we have discovered. Then, of course, come early June, we should have lots of baby pictures to share here.

As for some of the things I have been wanting to post, I have a few sets of photos from Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha that I would like to share, time permitting. Also, we are taking steps to figure out what curricula to use for Maggie's home schooling (which we have begun on some level), and I've been putting a lot of time into gathering resources for our children's religious education.

For now, I am sharing (also the blog title photo for now) our decorated cross for Veneration of the Holy Cross Sunday, which happened halfway through Lent. The red carnation towards the bottom right of the arrangement is from the Cross arrangement at our church.

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