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    Thoughtworthy: Technical Difficulties, Christmas Books, and More!

    November 11, 2016 by Brandy Vencel


    :: 1 ::

    Oh my word. I have had a week this week, people. Technical issues have plagued me, the worst being that when I opened a podcast episode file to edit it, it was completely corrupted — unsalvageable. I am so disappointed. I try to take technical difficulties in stride because I know they come with the territory, but sometimes I feel like they make me so inefficient and I’ve done nothing but spin my wheels. And I was already inefficient this week, having stayed up way too late for the election results! Sigh.

    Speaking of elections, do you have any election-related traditions? My friend had her children color in a blank map with the red and blue. I wish I had thought to do that! Well, for the younger children at least. I can only imagine E-Age-Fourteen’s face if I was to suggest he color a map. Ha!

    This was the first year any of our children were up late for it; it was a change of dynamic for us. Our tradition is to stay up and eat homemade pizzookies. We managed to subtly pull it off in spite of the gluten-free and sugar-free children (they disappeared for half and hour or so and we took advantage of their absence!). The children slowly put themselves to bed as the night went on. Only Q-Age-Nine made it to the early morning hours when we watched Trump’s acceptance speech.


    :: 2 ::

    We are now four for four on Understood Betsy. My grandfather asked O-Age-Eight what his favorite subject in school was, and he surprised me by answering, “It’s this book called Understood Betsy.” My jaw dropped, because he’d often acted like he was less than enthused about it. Naturally, I was thrilled. This book is special, I think, in terms of its place in the curriculum. While it serves as a bit of historical fiction for the children, it’s also very instructive for the mothers. I still remember the first time I read it — there were new ideas for me as a mother and as a teacher on almost every page. I had new thoughts about raising children, teaching children, and so on. It was brilliant! Second grade is a time when, more often than not, the mother is still reading the child’s lessons aloud, making this book powerful as an assigned part of the curriculum.


    :: 3 ::

    Tomorrow we are doing our seasonal clothing switch. Wish me luck! I didn’t have time to do it before my trip to North Carolina, and then last weekend my children all had Things to Do and were unavailable for fittings. So tomorrow it is. I have a feeling I’ll end up needing to buy quite a lot of clothing for these fast-growing babes of mine. My oldest is creeping up on me. I am going to have to start wearing stilettos pretty soon if I want to remain taller than him. This will make my daily life somewhat awkward. Maybe platforms would be better? Hmmm…


    :: 4 ::

    Obviously, it’s time for stocking up on Christmas books. I finally purchased The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! I was so excited when I ran across a pristine paperback for less than three dollars. This is the year we’ll finally read it aloud! In addition, have you seen Penguin’s beautiful Christmas series? Be still my heart!

    A Merry ChristmasThe NutcrackerChristmas at Thompson HallThe Night Before ChristmasThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausA Christmas Carol

    These hardbacks make me swoon!


    :: 5 ::

    This month in 2014:

    Santa's Ultimate Guide Gifts for the Classical, Charlotte Mason Mom

    This post is still one of my favorites because I had so much fun putting it together. It’s basically a wishlist that can be sent to friends and family who don’t get the significance of what you’re doing with your days and weeks.


    :: 6 ::

    This week’s links collection:

    • A TALE OF TWO MARXISMS from First Things
      • “[T]he latest election is not a crisis in the democratic process but merely the extension, perhaps the end-term, of a longstanding process whereby style has triumphed and made substance irrelevant.”
      • To this article, I will only add that combating the vacuousness starts with us, and it starts at home.
      • We keep things fairly simple around here, but if you’re feeling the pressure to diversify your planned activities, read this first.
    • Forget Everything You Know About the Teenage Brain from The Rebelution
      • This is an old one, but I sent it to my teen’s Kindle and I thought you might enjoy it, too.
    • The Limits of Reason by TM Moore
      • This one is a recommendation from my husband.


    :: 7 ::

    Answering your questions:

    • Question: This is my first year with AmblesideOnline. I have two girls 7 & 9. We are doing year 2 & 3. I’m having a heck of a time figuring out how the day will go. I don’t see much in that year that can be combined unless I’m just not understanding. I really love the thought of this,but don’t know how to schedule my days/weeks. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.
      • Answer: Hello, and welcome to AO! Before I give you any advice at all, I want to make sure you know about the free AmblesideOnline Help Forum. There are SO many wise ladies there, and they will brainstorm with you if you ask this question there. I mention this because there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. 🙂 With that said, here are the things that can always be combined in the early years of AO:
        • Artist/picture study
        • Composer study
        • Hymns
        • Folk Songs

        And here are things I think you can combine easily:

        • Bible — just choose one child’s Bible schedule and read it together
        • Church history — since they are both starting AO at the same time, there is no reason you can’t just read Trial and Triumph every other week or so and do it together
        • Parables from Nature — use the younger child’s schedule and read them together, skipping whatever is assigned from that book for the older child
        • Shakespeare — do it like I suggested with Parables from Nature

        There are probably other things, but this is what comes to mind off the top of my head. 🙂


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  • Reply Moving Toward Independent Reading | Afterthoughts October 1, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    […] topic was already on my mind when it was mentioned in the comments. You see, last week was the first time I’ve tried moving my youngest toward reading any of […]

  • Reply Rondalyn Ohrenberg December 24, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Heads up on the Nutcracker volume in this Penguin series:
    I love this story, but this edition is awful.The format was nice – I have no complaints about the quality of the physical book – but the translation left a lot to be desired. At times, the referential pronouns are incorrectly translated, which makes the action difficult to follow. The phrasing is an incongruous mix of natural idiom, modern-day slang, a more literary register, archaic words, and some foreign words that are not even translated. I bought this to read aloud to my daughter, and I did, but it was difficult. If I was not already familiar with the story, I would have been unable to make sense of this translation. I was expecting quality literature and was sorely disappointed. I will be re-selling this one and looking for a better translation for future Christmas reading.

  • Reply Catie November 13, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Oh man. That article, “A Tale of Two Marxisms”???

    “we routinely take the simplistic ramblings of movie stars and singers with a seriousness we deny to those who might be truly competent but unconnected.”… “Yet perhaps as never before we in America are about to get the leader we truly deserve, one who most faithfully represents the current state of the society we have made.”

    Ouch. And so true.

    We loved Understood Betsy. We laughed! We cried! It moved us! So looking forward to reading it again (and again). 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 14, 2016 at 7:03 am

      I know! That article was brilliant.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed UB … and yes! You have many more readings ahead of you! ♥

  • Reply Meghan November 13, 2016 at 5:47 am

    I’m so heartbroken about how Understood Betsy has turned out for us this term with my 8YO daughter. I pre-read it over the summer, loved every word, learned so much, and then asked her to read it independently (with narrations). It has been a disaster, and finally last week I went back to reading it aloud (but why didn’t I do it sooner?!!).

    I am really wrestling with that question of when to ask a child to read independently. E reads Laura Ingalls Wilder independently and loves it, and UB is so fun, so I thought it would be a home run. That being said, she does much prefer Island Story and is a bit of a tomboy. But your son loved UB! :(((.

    The Delectable Education podcast put a little pebble in my shoe when they said recently that we need to be careful about pre-planned book lists that advance every year (I would imagine they may have had AO in mind), because the child is always a little beneath the reading level if they’re not able to read independently. And they’re never able to catch up. Do you have thoughts on that, Brandy? Highly emotional comment here–I hope this made sense.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Oh, I’m so sorry it turned out that way! I would have felt disappointed, too!

      Each of my children has started reading independently at different ages. I started to write a book about that in the comments, so I think I’ll write a post on moving toward independent reading. Not that I have the answer! But just relaying what we’ve done so far here.

      I don’t listen to DE, so I don’t know what they said. I’m sorry! But I will say that while Charlotte Mason had each child in a form reading the same book at the same time (what I mean is: the books were selected without regard for an individual child’s abilities), I’m sure some of them struggled more than others because each child is different. So for me the goal is to help them succeed with the book rather than choosing an easier book. Have you read my post on how to help your children with hard books? I recently realized I needed to do more of the scaffolding with one of my daughters. Sigh. I didn’t figure that out until I wrote that post — I forgot I wasn’t doing it and I think we were reaping a bit of the fruit of that. 🙁

      • Reply Meghan November 13, 2016 at 12:19 pm

        Yes, I did read that post with my Understood Betsy conundrum in mind, and it encouraged me not to give up and scaffold a bit more. But I guess I’ll have to chalk this up to learning through failure.

        I would be so grateful for your perspective on transitioning to independent reading. It is the area I experience the most ambivalence right now.

  • Reply Tasmanian November 12, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    “This will make my daily life somewhat awkward.”
    HAHAHAHAHA, wipes tears from eyes.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 12, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      You always notice. I love that about you. 🙂 ♥

  • Reply dawn November 11, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Do you know the Baum or Trollope stories? Should they be in my collection? Lovely covers …

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 11, 2016 at 7:41 am

      No! Both of them were new to me when I discovered the series; I’m VERY tempted!

      • Reply Sherrylynne Harrington November 11, 2016 at 8:34 am

        On the topic of seasonal clothe changes, we tackled that last Saturday. It is an all day event for sure. But I have a funny name for it that my boys roll their eyes at: The Fashion Show. Essentially, the contents of one’s drawers and closet are strewn about the dining room where also stands my victim in only their under clothes. Here we either try on every piece or hold it up to them. From there we donate the clothes that no longer fit, toss the ones that won’t hold their shape, are duplicates or we simply hate. Then I reload the drawers and restore order. I start with the eldest child and work down. This is all followed by a big trip to a county shelf where local people can choose items for free. I like that better than some of the thrift stores that grossly over charge and than the people who can really benefit are priced out of their purchasing power. 🙂

        • Reply Brandy Vencel November 11, 2016 at 8:57 am

          Thrift stores DO overcharge! That’s true! I love that you call it The Fashion Show! ♥

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