A Back-to-Homeschool Party (with literary visitors!)

Do you know what I never shared in 2016?

Last year’s back-to-school party!!

How forgetful of me!

It’s never too late, though, and so I’ll tell you now that on a special Friday in September, we celebrated our annual back-to-school bash, which just so happens to be one of my most favorite days of the year.

Back-to-school reads something like Christmas round these parts, but instead of candy canes and toys and hot chocolate decking our halls, there are apples and books and 1% milk in vintage milk jugs.

I don’t know if the kids feel like this is a second Christmas, but I sure do.

This small party is the way I personally enjoy passing out all of our new books and school supplies, our wardrobes for the next season (I’m serious about clothing, y’all), and is my one big attempt to get our little family, including myself, excited about learning in the context of our home academy.

Normally, I have each child’s secret stash set out at their spot at the table, but last year, I wanted to do a little something different with our routine, something that would throw an unexpected bit of magic into our party.

So my idea was to find four literary characters — characters who are important to each of my children — who would be willing to stop periodically by our house at the time of our party to deliver each child their box of goods.

Of course, there IS that one problem of literary characters not actually being real.

So my next plan was to find four actors who would be willing to PLAY literary characters who would stop periodically by our house at the time of our party to deliver each child their box of goods.

Of course, there is that one problem of us living in a small town and being far from all the big towns — we might have a lot of drama, but we don’t DO a lot of drama — and, though I did discuss this plan with a beloved former teacher who heads up the drama team at the high school, I knew this was a major MAJOR long shot, especially with the short notice I was providing.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Thankfully, at close to the last minute, a new — and much more reasonable! — plan materialized, with no actors, costumes, or physical literary characters necessary, why?

Because our literary friends were going to visit our party in the delightful old-fashioned way…

through snail mail!!!

The day of the party, letters for each child were quickly penned, and their supplies were gathered into a big box, taped up, wrapped with brown paper, addressed, stamped, and stacked up in a secret place to be distributed  by a mysterious delivery man (Mr. Gore) during the party.

For “stamps”, I went…nay! I ran!! this was SO last minute!!…online and found a picture of each child’s literary friend, printed it off, and glued it to the top-right corner of their box, serving nicely as a fun little clue about who their box was from.

By the way, I was plumb GIDDY when it came to this part of the party execution, for this sort of whimsy is the stuff of life that causes my hands to shake in glee and excitement.

Does that make me super cool or super dorky?

Let’s go with super cool.

Now. Who wants to join us for a back-to-homeschool PARTY???

(I can tell by your enthusiastic response that you are super cool, too.)

~

Can I just say one more time how last minute this party was? I threw all our new books on the table, I slapped a school-ish message on the chalkboard and voila! An easy back-to-school party.

img_1583

Decorating for school parties is so easy. Apples…milk…vintage school bells…

sniffle, sniffle. I LOVE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!img_1594

These darling cookies just happened to be available at Merritt’s Bakery in Tulsa, totally saving my day. I didn’t have time to make cookies! I had fanciful letters to write from literary characters!

img_1595

This was a big year for us. We finally took the plunge into the world of electronic devices, buying a couple of Kindles for our homeschool. The kiddos went bananas over them.

img_1596

I went bananas over the books and the freshly sharpened pencils. ❤

img_1597

Now on to the really fun part!!!

Hidden in the sunroom were each of the kids’ packages, each containing an encouraging letter from their literary friend.

To our baby boy from his FAVORITE friend, Little Bear:

img_1592

To our youngest daughter from her pal, Mother Goose:

img_1590

To our eldest daughter from her bosom friend, Anne Shirley:

img_1588

And to our eldest son, from one throne warden to another, from Artham Wingfeather:

img_1591

Oh! We also had a surprise visitor from the REAL world that day, my daddy, who stopped by on his way home from work. Methinks he knew there were cookies about.img_1599

I joked with my Facebook friends that this picture reminds of the famous scene from “Little Women” where the March girls are clustered around Marmee to read the letter from Father, except, in this scene, the children are teaching their granddaddy how to play Subway Surfer. How quaint.

img_1600

HOMESCHOOL RULES!!!!!!

img_1605

img_1622 img_1626 img_1627 img_1632

img_1615

img_1619

After we had enjoyed our cookies and milk (and coffee for Mama and Grandmother), the doorbell rang.

(Are you as excited as I am???)

The kids ran to the door to see who it was, but alas, the only thing there was a package!

It was for Sheppy!!

He sort of FREAKED OUT when he saw the “stamp” with Little Bear on it, and I knew then that we were in for a fun party.

img_1639

img_1641

A card from Little Bear himself! I have to say, we were in a major time crunch when it came to readying for this party, and the letters written on the FLY. It made me especially happy, then, to have Little Bear as one of our guests, for he, too, is just learning to write and composes the simplest of letters.

img_1643

img_1646

After our littlest had had ample time to look over his new box of school goodies, the doorbell rang again, this time for our youngest girl!

img_1649

img_1651

A handwritten card from Mother Goose?!

Okay, now I’m a little jealous.

img_1654 img_1656

img_1658

img_1659

Before long, the doorbell rang AGAIN, and the kids were starting to catch on. This box HAD to be for our eldest daughter, they just knew it!

img_1661

img_1662

 

img_1664

img_1665

I’ve got to say, writing a letter from the one and only ANNE SHIRLEY was a tall order. I needed more time to think and get my words in order! And then I needed more words!! My hand was cramping by the time I finished this missive, but the result was worth it…

img_1666

img_1667

img_1671

That just left one more surprise delivery, this time for our firstborn.

img_1674

img_1676

Reading the Wingfeather Saga with our oldest two had been a year-long journey for our family, and the whole concept of the throne-warden resonated deeply not only with our eldest son, but with all of us. This letter, penned by Mr. Gore, made me a little teary-eyed.

Then AND now.

img_1678 img_1679

We hope that Andrew Peterson will forgive us for spelling Artham’s name wrong. Did I mention that we were in a hurry??

img_1681

img_1683

Sigh…

‘Twas a magical day, through and through, one that lives sweetly in my memory and continues to fuel our family as we pursue a life of education at home.

Perhaps some favorite literary characters will visit your children this year? Who will you choose?

~

Thank you for reading today! To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

 

Advertisements

First Day of the Month Books and Activities: an easy routine for a memorable year

first day of the month

The following blog post contains affiliated links. Purchasing items through my links will bring me a small commission at no extra cost to you, a win for both of us! Clicking on the pictures in this post will take you to the books at Amazon.

~

Hi homeschoolers! I told you almost a year ago that I’d be back “tomorrow” to fill you in on the second half of (last year’s) first-day-of-school celebration.

So here I am. One year later. Funny how “tomorrow” is flexible like that. 😉

I actually DID start on this blog post last year, just so we can all feel better about me, but I never, somehow, got around to finishing it.

What I did finish, however, was the project that we started on our first day of school last year! It’s actually kind of nice to come to you, from the future, sort of, to tell you that this was a project that actually worked and served our family well. As a blogger and social media sharer, what can often happen is that you try a new schedule or launch a new idea or try a different organizational tool and you’re really excited about it and you do a write-up over how GREAT and FUN your new plan is and how your homeschool or your life or your homemaking has never run so smoothly…

and then, roughly ten minutes after you publish it and share it with your readership, you fall off the wagon and never follow that schedule again. Or you never cook again. Or all your “organized” stuff explodes all over the house again.

For two weeks, though, you were really killing it!

THIS little exercise, however, is something I can truly testify about. We did it!! For an entire year!!

So let’s jump back to last year’s first day of school: since our entire morning had been dedicated to passing out school supplies and going over our new schedules, we didn’t actually plunge in to our new school schedule until our SECOND day of school.

Instead, we spent the afternoon doing a laid-back study on “September”.

This was an extremely simple exercise, something that we could easily accomplish on the first day of every month. I am not a crafter and I’m not good at keeping up with a bunch of stuff, so the fact that all I needed to complete this tradition every month was some card stock paper and some markers was GOOD.

And since I love seasons, myself, my enthusiasm fueled this project, which I personally believe is the key to the staying power we all long for in our routines; spending this time with the kids made me feel all tingly inside, contemplating the joys of the month ahead, and it was actually something I looked forward to rather than dreaded.

I really want my children to be aware of God’s master plan for a full year, the changing seasons, and the order and traditions that make up a year of worship and life together. It’s important to me, and if you are like-minded in this regard, this might be a routine that works for you, as well!

So here’s what we did, not just on the first day of last year’s schoolyear, but every month since then.

First, we (and by “we” I mean an 8-year old, a 6-year old and a 4-year old. Baby brother was napping!) gathered up all of our months-of-the-year books, we clustered around the table, and we read excerpts from each one about the month of September. Here are the books we use, every month, in this order, reading ONLY that month’s section…

I ADORE this Berenstain Bears’ “Big Book of Science and Nature”. It is hilarious, and a pure delight from cover to cover. The seasons and months…along with many, many other things…are covered in fun detail in this book, and my kids love it as much as I do.

“The Year at Maple Hill Farm” is quirky and fun, and full of education about life on a farm, month by month. The illustrations in this book are awesome, and the kids just stare at the page until their imaginations are full up.

And don’t even get me STARTED on Tasha Tudor.

This book, “A Time to Keep” makes my heart ache. I love it, love it, love it. As soon as I finish this post, I’m going to call my mom and ask her if we can do a “Doll Fair” like Tasha Tudor describes in her September remembrances. In fact, someday I’d like to copy all the traditions from this book, for a whole year! Maybe I’ll even blog about them. Let’s plan on doing that “tomorrow” why don’t we? 😉

This is also a good time to pull out any seasonal or holiday books that you have in your collection and, even if you don’t have time to read them in this moment, you can show the kids what they are and where they will be for later reading pleasure.

Next, after reading all about September, I stood up at the chalkboard and wrote “SEPTEMBER” across the top. We spent the next twenty minutes or so writing out all the things we would be doing in September, we listed all the important birthdays, and then we started listing all the things we’d like to do. This was good as it helped give me an idea of what traditions were personally important to each of my kids. In October, for instance, it came out during this time that Betsie “hadn’t ever got to bob for anything“, and I made a mental note to bob for apples before the month was up. Which we did and which Betsie SO dearly loved.

Finally, after talking about our personal traditions and birthdays, we made September art.

This was so simple it might make your head spin.

I pulled out a piece of white card stock for each kid. I set a bucket of crayons and a bucket of markers in front of them. I then instructed each child to write the name of the month at the top of their page, followed by a picture that would make them think of that month, whether it was something from the books we just read, or something they really LOVE about the month.

13920529_10157248144025464_3814998157352322478_o

When the children were finished, their pictures were clothespin’d onto the string we have hanging across our schoolroom window, serving as seasonal artwork that we got to enjoy for the entire month!

13913934_10157248142805464_7213966927655632559_o

When the next month’s page was completed, the previous page was taken down from the window and put into a folder on our shelf.

We have one month to go and then I’ll fetch all of our creations from the folder and make a little book for each kid of their entire year of months! Easy peasy, yes? I’m not going to lie: aside from afternoon freestyle watercoloring, this is about the full extent of the craft-time in our home. And it’s enough!

Also of note: I would have no problem doing this routine year after year. It is something you can only build upon as your children grow and develop their art skills and their ear for listening to poetry or excerpts from literature. Someday, this might even be the day that I pull out our seasonal decorations and we’ll all ‘deck the halls” together!

You get the idea, though: set aside the first schoolday of each month to read about, talk about, learn about and dream about the month to come. 

~

Have any other months-of-the-year books to add to the line-up? Or any ideas for first-day-of-the-month activities? Shout them out in the comments section! For more on the Gore family and our school at home, find us on Facebook or on our main blog, Mrs. Gore’s Diary.

Our First Day – 2015

Did anyone else forget that I had a homeschool blog?

Because I sort of did.

In fact, I even unknowingly let the subscription on this site run out, and if it hadn’t been for a sweet reader who let me know, “Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy” might have wound up in the graveyard of maintained-no-more blogs.

However, just because my homeschool blog has suffered from lack of attention and care, our actual homeschool is still very much alive and kicking.

In fact, as Gideon is entering 3rd grade, Rebekah 1st grade, and Betsie Pre-K, I daresay our operation is growing more intense and structured than ever.

And when I say “more intense and structured”, what I mean is we’re REALLY trying to have school every day.

Ha.

Haha.

I’m…kidding.

ANYHOW, as I was telling a friend this week, as my children grow older and the reality of their education grows more pressing, I am finally realizing that this homeschool gig is a truly full-time job and that I can’t just putter around and hope the kids absorb knowledge from the drywall.

I HAVE to dedicate my days, morning till night, to this endeavor. I have to make it a tippy-top priority in my life. I have to be faithful and dependable and hard-working, from the start of the year to its end.

And, so far — one week in, please hold your applause — that goal is being gloriously fulfilled.

We have new schedules, a new philosophy (we’ve gone off the curriculum grid, y’all! Yikes!), and a new structure, all of which I intend to tell you about…

but we all know I probably won’t and that, in a year, someone will message me and say “Did you know your homeschool blog is gone?…”

Sorry, in advance.

SO. We started our new school year on Monday last, and I thought you’d like to see 2015’s back-to-school party.

Another apology-in-advance: I did a filter on one picture and then the post didn’t look right until I put a filter on ALL the pictures. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

If you’re looking for a simple way to kick off a new school year, I can’t recommend this simple set-up enough. After the kids went to bed Sunday night, I set out all their new supplies and gifts, I set the table, and I wrote out our schedule for the day.

HOW I love setting up parties when the house is asleep…

IMG_0533

Behind each child’s stack of goodies was a small cork board with their name on it. I love them because you can move them all over the place rather than having a big one nailed to the wall. (Find a link to these at the bottom of this post).

IMG_0537 (1)

Here’s Gideon’s stash!

IMG_0539 (1)

and here’s the whole set-up. In the giftbags was a small collection of new Fall clothes, because we all know that you can’t have a first day of school, homeschool or not, without having a fantastic new outfit.

IMG_0546 (1)

This annual back-to-school party, whether we celebrate it in the morning or afternoon, has become one of the highlights of our year!

IMG_0549 (1)

For breakfast, we had pancakes, bacon, and fruit.

IMG_0556

You can find the milk carafes at Pottery Barn by clicking here.

IMG_0571 (2)

Here’s Rebekah, my snaggle-toothed first-grade girl.

IMG_0567 (1)

Gideon in third grade?! SAY IT AIN’T SO!!!

IMG_0570 (1)

Little Shep isn’t in school yet, but he is a big fan of breakfast.

IMG_0573 (2)

And here’s Betsie Fair, who ADORES school and asks to do it all the livelong day. Seriously. All. day.

“Look, Mom!” she squealed. “I made an “A” with my food!!!”

IMG_0574 (1)

Prayers for a good year! Ignore the little heathen at the end who keeps both his eyes AND his mouth opened during the prayer.

IMG_0576 (1)

Milk. Can’t have school without milk.

IMG_0580

And now, because I love ya and because my brain is fried from organizing a WHOLE WEEK of homeschool, I’m going to stop captioning and let the pictures do the talking for a bit…

IMG_0583 (1)

IMG_0584

IMG_0600

IMG_0601

IMG_0604

IMG_0612

IMG_0615

After breaking the fast and clearing off the table, I passed out this year’s supplies. This is truly one of the greatest joys of my year – I LOVE SCHOOL STUFF!!

IMG_0626

I have to admit, I was a little worried because I cut back a LOT this year – my goal is to read all of the books we already own instead of indulging in my usual fancy and buying boxes and boxes more – and I was afraid the kids would be disappointed.

Silly me.

It does not take much to make little ones happy. Why do we have such a hard time remembering that??

IMG_0630

Betsie was, not surprisingly, so excited about this day. She kept running through the kitchen and peeking at all the goodies and shivering with her typical Betsie-ish anticipation.

IMG_0638

IMG_0640

Then there were the supplies we’ll all be sharing…new markers, new crayons, new stickers and pencils and glue. Our house smelled like a Kindergarten, which is really all I could ever ask for.

IMG_0648

And I already shared this on Facebook, but this picture made me laugh.

I titled it “Crazy Dictionary Saleslady”.

“Hey, kidzies. Would you like to look at my dictionaries? I have more in my gingerbread house in the woods. It’s made of candy…”

IMG_0655

And there you have it!

I’ll tell you tomorrow what the rest of our “first day” included. Spoiler alert: it was FUN.

IMG_0623

Psst! Here’s a link to the penmanship poster we have on the wall. It’s so pretty! Click on the picture to find it:

And here are the cork tiles we have. Now that each child has one, I’m looking forward to experimenting with these.