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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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:

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To our youngest daughter from her pal, Mother Goose:

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

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

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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.

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HOMESCHOOL RULES!!!!!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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A handwritten card from Mother Goose?!

Okay, now I’m a little jealous.

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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!

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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…

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

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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.

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

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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!

 

A Homeschool Room (with a View!)

Now that school is out for most of us, I thought I’d finally share pictures of the room we used this year for our educational pursuits, for there is no time like the summer to prepare your home for the upcoming school year!

When I first began making my list of wishes for this room at the beginning of last summer, I had no idea how we were going to make it happen. We were paying for two surgeries and the lingering hopsital bills from the birth of our 3rd child…there was NO extra money in the budget, not even enough for a wall map. But I made my list anyhow, and then I got busy…

By the grace of God, by summer’s end, I had sold enough homemade granola and cookies at our local Farmer’s Market to pay for everything on my list.

Every. single. thing.

I seriously couldn’t believe it!

Thus, this room not only served as an inspiring place for our family to learn together, it became a visual reminder for me of how kind our God is. I could have done without this room, for sure, and would have had a million reasons to praise Him without any of it, but it thrilled me to see it come together so beautifully, in good time, and without going into debt.

This space will not work for us forever – in fact, we are beginning the plans of saving up for and building a one-room schoolhouse in our backyard to meet the needs of our ever-growing family – but for our first year of Kindergarten, with our firstborn son, it was perfect.

Take a look…

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The little chalkboard is made by French toy company, Moulin Roty. I purchased it for 50% off at Olive Juice Kids one Christmas, and we have enjoyed it so much. The schooldesk and chair are antiques, and the rug was purchased from Anthropologie.

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Around the corner, we set up a little school area for our 3-year old daughter. She enjoyed playing and coloring here, and it made her feel like a big girl to have a desk like her brother.

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I love this picture. Such enthusiasm. 🙂 But I didn’t make him sit there all the time! We’ve had school all over our house, but this little desk is always here should he decide to work at it.

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In fact, I’ve since moved it in front of the window so he can look outside while he does his worksheets…

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I snapped this picture one Fall day when my son was busy working…

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The bookshelf that holds most of our children’s books came from Restoration Hardware Baby and Child, and was purchased with a bit of inheritance money from my Granny. I love the rail that the kids can step up on, and even though this shelf is pretty pricey (and I bought mine during a special sale event!), I hope to purchase another one when we build our schoolroom. I just love it, price and all.

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We covered the wall with “maps” and vintage-inspired posters that are actually giftwrap from Cavallini and Co. At $3.95 apiece, you can’t beat them! I LOVE this line of paper products. Find your own here!

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And probably the most important and special part of our schoolroom was the chalkboard my husband built for us. This board was actually salvaged from my old high school and was used by one of my favorite English teachers, the first person who told me I had a good “voice” for writing. It was HUGE, so my husband cut it in half and framed it with wood trim that he stained a dark brown.

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My favorite part is the little shelf he made at the bottom to hold our chalk and erasers. Clever, clever. And so pretty…

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Here’s another picture of one of our Cavallini posters…

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along with others that we have bought as souvenirs on special trips. The one from Prince Edward Island was purchased on our honeymoon almost 8 years ago!

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I made these little flashcards on our computer, quoting our school song, “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?”…

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and these vintage flashcards were also purchased at an antique store.

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Behind one of our doors, we hung wire baskets from Ballard Designs to hold special books or papers for each of our children…

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And finally, here is a snapshot of the schoolroom on a normal day when it was being enjoyed by the children and their cousins. They have played and worked in this room all year long, and we’ve already made some wonderful memories here as a family.

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If you have any questions about anything you saw in the pictures, please feel free to ask! All available products can be found through the links I provided. Happy summer, everyone!

Teaching with a Kate

After publishing the post “Teaching with a Betsie” (concerning the difficulties of homeschooling with a little stinker underfoot), my sister-in-law, Amy, reminded me of these pictures she took of HER stinker, Kate, when she was 1 1/2 years old…

In the first photo, she is standing on the dining room table, helping herself to chocolate donuts. In the second, she is standing on her sister’s school-desk helping herself to No. 2 pencils.

Same ornery expression as Betsie.

Same climbing skills.

Same pajamas. (We are firm believers in the art of the hand-me-down).

Unbelievable (and so stinkin’ cute!).

And I thought it would bring those of you who are in the same boat as me – attempting to teach older children while your youngest eats crayons and climbs onto tables – great encouragement to see little Kate now, 3 years old and well on her way to being an upstanding student in Amy’s homeschool.

These days are fleeting, are they not? Before we know it, the little one that runs us ragged will be sitting on a stool reading a book and coloring.

And so I think the best thing we can do is pray for grace, patience, and mostly, for eyes to see the humor and the beauty in life as it is today (and keep those cameras ready!). Because any way you slice it, a baby stuck in a basket of Little Golden Books is just funny…

even if she does interrupt your Home Academy and all thoughts of order and cleanliness for the unforeseeable future.

A Welcome to School Party

If you’ve been following Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy, you would know that our first day of Kindergarten was set for Thursday, September 6th, 2012. You would also know that our children spent the first part of the week at their Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house as our home underwent a major overhaul in preparation for the debut of our homeschool.

And, most importantly, you would remember that we would be ending our time apart with a reunion party on Wednesday, September 5th, wherein we would kick off the schoolyear with a big schoolroom (and nursery) reveal, snacks, presents and (dork alert: I’m about to use the word “oodles”!)…oodles of fun.

{If you haven’t been following Mrs. Gore’s Home Academy…I’m so sorry that you don’t know any of the above information. (see what I did there?)}

I will admit, by the time party time rolled around at 3:30 sharp on Wednesday afternoon, I was barely standing. Something about completely reorganizing and decorating half of our home’s square footage, cleaning every nook and cranny of the entire square footage, doing 8 or 9 loads of laundry, planning and decorating a party, and buying groceries in the span of 42 hours will wear a lady out. It might have been glorious work, it might have been unusually quiet and uninterrupted work, but still…it was work.

However…worth every second.

The following photos will showcase the little “Welcome to School” party we enjoyed before hopping in the car to go to Wednesday night church. I have to say, I think this party will be a tradition in our home. It was a great way to make much ado over the coming school year, and, in a stroke of genius, I used it to turn regular old school supplies and school clothes into presents. How so? I wrapped them and said “We bought your presents!” (a.k.a. crayons, safety scissors, glue, polo shirts, etc.).

And speaking of school supplies, such was the main component of this party decor – so easy! – while the rest was gathered from the various drawers and hidey-holes in our house; I’ve been collecting old books and vintage children’s products for years, so I didn’t have to look far to throw this little party together. Without further ado, I present to you our first annual “Welcome to School” Party, on the cheap!

~

Our holiday chalkboard always has something festive to say. This particular message is my favorite yet. Well done, chalkboard…

A Cavallini and Co. alphabet chart was taped to the dining room wall (I’ll share more on this in the future), and an old wooden thingy my Mom uses in her office proudly helped me compartmentalize schoolish necessities…

I came across these vintage-inspired Crayola tins in our stationery drawer, purchased at Cracker Barrel for Christmas stocking stuffers. In the disgusting gluttony of Christmas consumption, they were forgotten, and chose to make a reappearance just in time for our party. Well done, Crayola tins…

Vintage school decor is so easy to drum up – apples, old school readers, vintage-inspired type, chalkboard slates…and lots and lots of crayons. I especially love the “Dan Frontier” reader my Mom and I found at a local antique show. It is so charming, and my son loves it, too. (but MAN, is it ever long…I predict that the first time Gid reads it to me, I will fall asleep by page 8). Well done, Dan Frontier…

On the other end of the table is a spool of twine, colored pencils, timeless pink erasers (I used to love those things!), and the Webster’s collection I won in the 3rd grade spelling bee…

and my Mom bought me these McGuffey’s Readers many years ago –  I’ve yet to remove the twine she wrapped them in. Well done, Mom. Well done, McGuffey’s. Well done, apples and twine…

and this little utensil caddy that participates in all of our parties was the perfect display for No. 2 pencils and rulers. Well done, caddy and featured supplies (sorry…I can’t stop).

Presents!!!! I will admit, by the time I sat down to wrap them and watch a sitcom late Tuesday night, I was beat. I wrapped them sloppily like a teenage boy wraps his Mom’s b-day gifts…

but this pretty number tape I also found in my stationery drawer helped to redeem the sloppy wrapping job; it was another forgotten stocking stuffer that jumped out at me just when I needed it. Thanks a million, tape!

I kept the party food simple, reminiscent of after-school milk and cookies. Had time allowed, I planned on making Pioneer Woman’s Homemade Whoopee Pies, but…I went with Little Debbie instead. THANK YOU, Little Debbie. Your Oatmeal Creme Pies are still glorious, and the preservatives were delicious.

and this is a universally known fact, but ice cold milk = school party perfection

But enough about the set-up! Let’s party!!! My Mom and Mr. Gore met at the church to get the kids dressed in real clothes (that I forgot to send to my Mom’s house)…

But I wouldn’t let them in yet. It is a cardinal rule that children must wait expectantly for a party or holiday to begin. Even if I have everything done, I make them wait, just like my Mama used to do to us! (It builds anticipation AND character, don’t you think? And it is our cruel right as grown-ups.)

Finally…we let them see their new school domain (but I’m sorry…I can’t reveal it to you yet and have cruelly chosen to build your anticipation and character by making you wait). But here is an example of what their faces looked like – and I’m almost positive you’ll make the same expression when I show you the pictures in the weeks to come.

Gideon was overwhelmed – he has his finger in his mouth in every picture I took – while Rebekah took it all in with her steady gaze (we think she was excited too, though. Key word: think).

After tearing open their presents, we went straight to snack consumption.

son and mother, student and teacher…this week has been big for both of us!

Gideon (the Kindergartener!) was the true star of this party, but since Rebekah is now kind of in preschool, she received a new bed and schoolwork area and a few school supplies to keep her occupied during her brother’s class time. Betsie, on the other hand, got nothin’…

except for this peanut butter cookie. But she was totally cool with that…

and Bubba shared his milk with her.

Soon after the party, Gideon ran upstairs to put on some of his new school clothes and try out his backpack. His favorite gift, however, was the Ace comb I bought for him at Wal-Mart. He keeps it in his pocket and combs his hair when he thinks it might be sticking up. Fastidious.

It was a simple and short affair, but our little homeschool party was the perfect way to kick off our first year of school together. When I collapsed into bed that night, my heart was well pleased. And Gideon? Well, he was beside himself, just like a Kindergartener should be.

Well done, Welcome to School party.