Being Catholic, Goals for the Year, The Wonderful World of Books

Goals for 2018

Prayer for my Family
After nine years of marriage and six years of mothering, I still haven’t gotten into a good habit/routine of praying for Jeremy and our children. And sometimes when I do pray for them I get a little stuck, wondering what exactly should I be praying for. It’s time for that to change. So I spent some time googling “prayers for your husband” and “prayer for one’s child” and compiled a little prayer booklet that includes some rich and lovely prayers. The plan is to say these prayers upon waking in the morning, or, after the baby arrives, when I’m nursing.

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Blustery Thanksgiving Day family photo taken by my sister, Kristi.

Making Friends
Having been at home with our children most of the last four months, I haven’t made many friends in the area yet. But now that we have a second vehicle and are moving closer to church and school, I’ll have more opportunities to meet and get to know other women. I tend to be a bit of a hermit, and am rather slow at forming friendships, but seeing as we’re planning to live here for the next 5-10 years, it makes sense to prioritize friendships! For this, I plan to attend the wonderful Mom and Tots group held at a local Catholic Church and begin getting together with other homeschooling families.

Everything Has a Place, and Everything in its Place
We’re moving mid-February and one of my goals after we move is to give all our belongings a set place. There are a number of ‘collection points’ in our home right now – the kitchen counter, the dresser in the living room – that house extra books, pages the kids have coloured, and other miscellaneous items . . . and this always leads to more and more things cluttering up the area. Hopefully having a spot for everything will keep that at bay!

Sunday Keeping Hour
I started reading several books from Ambleside Online’s Year 7 back in September, and began keeping a reading journal a few months later after reading Celeste’s blog post on the topic. It has been such a joy so far! I include quotes from the books, small illustrations, maps, lists of characters, even a small century chart tucked in the back! I’d like to keep doing this on a regular basis this year so I’m scheduling a Sunday Keeping Hour for making these entries.

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Weekly Nature Walks & Nature Journaling
Our new home is close to a nature trail – hurrah! I’d like to get into a habit of weekly nature walks and nature journaling… though my guess is this will likely begin in the late spring, some time after the baby is born. I have a daybook set aside for journaling our ‘firsts’ of the year (first robin sighted, first crocus blooming, etc.) and I can’t wait to begin using this, too, once we move!

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Word of the Year
I used a ‘Word of the Year’ generator and it gave me the word kindness. My stomach dropped when I read it, as I’ve been feeling convicted lately that the way I speak to my children is more cantankerous/snippy than kind/encouraging. So speaking kindly is another goal for the year!

Saint of the Year
I also used a ‘Saint of the Year’ generator and it gave me St. Bernardine of Siena. This man (whom I first mistook for a woman based on his name!) lived in the 1400s and showed great selflessness by tending the sick during an outbreak of the plague; joined the priesthood and spent twelve years in prayer (rather than preaching) because of a weak and hoarse voice; and then was healed and preached so fervently the pope called him a second Paul. Quite the life!

Check out this prayer to Saint Bernardine; it ties so neatly with the habit of speaking kindly (just had to include it in my prayer book): “Saint Bernardine of Siena, words were very important to you. You spent most of your life speaking the golden words of Jesus’ mercy and his Holy Name. And you abhorred words that were shameful. Please pray for us that we may always choose to speak Jesus’ name with reverence and choose words of love over words of shame. Amen.”

St Bernardine

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Being Catholic, Life at The Canyon's Edge, The Wonderful World of Books

Christmas Break

We had a wonderful Christmas break! And while I didn’t take too many photos, here are a few from the last few weeks . . .

First up, our Advent picture books. I purchased a bunch of books about Christmas and wrapped them up. The kids loved unwrapping them and reading our book of the day. A few of our favourites included:
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham – this book is a summary of the salvation story in the Bible. It hits many of the highlights (the creation, the fall, Noah, Moses, David, Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection) and has lovely illustrations.
The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler’s Sons by Ruth Sawyer – a poor cobbler leaves home on Christmas Eve to complete some work for soldiers and while he’s away his sons have a surprising encounter with the goblin king. Such a fun book! The kids loved shouting, “Schnitzle, schnotzel and schnootzle!” while we read.
The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – we didn’t actually finish reading this story, and it was way, way over the heads of our kids, but they still loved listening to it! And they were so excited to discover that Opa and Oma have a whole Dickens village set up at Christmastime, including a house with Scrooge and the ghosts inside!

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A few more photos of the gingerbread house decorating. As you can see, June was the most excited of the bunch about it. 🙂

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Oh dear, not the house’s best angle:

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A little better:

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We attended our first midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and it was glorious. Lots of incense, beautiful music and rejoicing in the birth of our Saviour! ‘Twas lovely! I’m so glad we went! I thought the children might fall asleep on the half hour drive to church, or during the service, but they stayed up the whole time. Alice was quite tuckered out the next day and needed two naps instead of her usual one… she just fell asleep on the couch. 🙂

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Christmas morning gift opening:

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June and Alice loved the Victorian doll house they received! (I found it at Value Village and spent a few evenings during Advent repainting it.)

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Our Christmas feast:

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On Boxing Day we drove to the Fraser Valley. June recently ditched her carseat for a booster seat and it doesn’t quite offer the same head-restability! She somehow slept like this for half an hour (despite attempts to recline her seat and otherwise make her more comfy)!

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We had a wonderful stay with my parents (again)! The kids were busy with all sorts of toys and games, and even tried out some shuffleboard.

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The whole family (except my brother Duane who was sick with the flu) got together for a Christmas gift exchange:

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The kids opening their gifts:

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The biggest surprise of the evening came towards the end when Jeremy and I were given “one last gift” that turned out to be a VEHICLE! I’ve been stuck at home with the kids six days a week for the last four months and just the thought of being able to attend our local Mom and Tots group, or go for a nature walk, or pop in to the grocery store for a last minute ingredient for dinner… well, I burst into tears. Pretty amazing! We are loving the freedom and flexibility this delightful gift has brought to us already, and I’m sure that will abound over the next weeks and months!

The kids loved playing with their cousins! June and Eden:

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James and Austin:

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Grandma’s basement and its many treasures is a never-ending source of delight:

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And then James and June got sick with the flu. Thankfully June only threw up once, and James is now old enough to recognize when he’s about to vomit so he was able to make it to the bathroom on time. (I appreciate the minimal vomiting on carpet a lot!)

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And then we had an ice storm that covered everything in a one to two inch coating of ice! It was incredibly beautiful. And incredibly slippery!

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It certainly reminded us of our stay in February when the exact same thing happened!

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We hunkered down at mom and dad’s for a few days. Because of the kids getting sick, our get together with Jeremy’s family was cancelled, so we just visited with his parents instead.

On New Years Day, Jeremy and I attended Mass, ate some olliebollen at John David’s, browsed a local book store, and headed out to the River House for a little getaway while my parents took care of our children. The yard and deck were covered in lots of snow, and the full moon was hanging low in the sky that night, and shining brightly on the river in the backyard. It was stunning!

We enjoyed some snacks and a board game and just as I was dozing off that night there was a thunderous crash! I looked up groggily, and there was Jeremy, sprawled out on the bedroom floor, a broken glass lying in shards around him! Thinking he’d fallen, I called out to him, “Jeremy, are you okay?!” And when he didn’t answer, I asked him another dozen times, “Jeremy, what happened? Are you okay?! Jeremy!” After about fifteen seconds he came to – it turns out he had fainted while trying to get to the bathroom.

Yep, the flu bug had returned, and we spent our lovely getaway vomiting the night away! (In retrospect, it was quite a blessing not to have to take care of our children while we were so sick! Unfortunate but propitious timing.)

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The rest of our trip we spent recovering from the flu, trying to avoid slipping on the ice, and removing subjects from this lovely home which will be ours in about six weeks!!! 🙂

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Now we’re back home again to another foot of snow and a driveway that was cleared by our kind and thoughtful neighbours. Tomorrow Jeremy begins teaching again, and our homeschool picks up again, too!

 

 

Homeschooling, Life at The Canyon's Edge, The Wonderful World of Books

Year 1, Term 1 Exam Week

We wrapped up the first of our three terms in Year 1 with an Exam Week. Rather than reading new chapters in our books, we spent the week reviewing what we’d learned up to this point. I explained our exam week to James like this: “We’re going to take some time this week to think back on stories, poems, and pictures we’ve read and studied over the past couple months. This will help you see how much you’ve learned already, it will help you remember things for a long time, and it will help me know what things need to be adjusted in our home school.”

I was a little nervous that James might not remember many details, especially from stories read early in the term. And while there were some sighs of frustration over the difficulty of remembering things from long ago, overall the exam week went well.

Here are a few highlights.

Bible
We read stories from the Old Testament this past term: the creation of the world, the fall into sin, the story of Noah and the ark, Moses and the burning bush, the entry into Canaan, and a few stories from the book of Judges.

Tell your favourite Bible story so far.
James: Samson was a very strong man. And he had big muscles… just like Mr. N. (our weight-lifting neighbour). And then he went down to the Philistines. And he saw a lady there and he wanted her as his wife. He went back to his mom and dad and said, “Get me that girl.” And they said, “No, no, no. That’s one of the uncircumcised or unbaptized Philistine’s daughters.” They said, “Fine we’ll go.” And so they went. Though it was because the Lord had a plan. And then they said, “Here’s the girl that you wanted.” And then he married her. And he killed a lion and ripped it open with his bare hands. Then when he turned, it was full of bees and there was honey. And so then he went to the Philistines and said, “Here’s a riddle. Out of the eater comes something to eat. Out of the strong comes something sweet. I will give you three days to answer it, and if you cannot answer it in those three days, you shall give me thirty royal garments, though if you can answer it I will give you thirty royal garments.” Then they said to his wife, “Tell us the answer to the riddle, or we will burn you with fire!” Though she did not know it. And she said, “I don’t know it.” Then she implored her husband to tell her what the riddle was, and he said, “Fine, it’s a lion and some honey.” And she told the people, “Oh it’s some honey and a lion, but don’t tell Samson!” And then she said, “Alright, there, I’ve told you the answer to the riddle.” And then Samson went back to them and they said, “Out of the eater comes something to eat – that’s honey. Out of the strong comes something sweet – strong, that’s the lion.” And then he went back in hot anger and said, “If you had not plowed at my field, you would not have gotten the answer.” And what do you think that means? And that means, if you had not made some plan against my wife you wouldn’t have found out the answer. He went back to a place where he killed thirty men and took their garments. The end.

Literature
We read many of Aesop’s fables, some delightful fairy tales, and several of Kipling’s Just-So Stories about how animals came to look as they do. We also read a few stories from Parables of Nature (as the title suggests, these stories are parables from the animal world) and two retellings of Shakespeare plays.

What kind of stories did Aesop write? Tell me your favorite Aesop’s fable, including your understanding of the moral.
James: Fables. Once in a dry spot where the birds could find very little to eat, a crow found a pitcher of water. He tried and tried and tried and tried to get the water, but he could not. Then he had an idea. He got some stones and put them in one by one and then when the water got higher he was able to have a drink. I don’t remember what the moral was.

Tell me one of the fairy tales we read this term.
James: The one about the prince and how he turned into a beast, with a snake’s body, wolf’s legs, boar’s chest, and lion’s head. There was this prince, his dad had died, he wasn’t very good after the fairy told him to be, she gave him a ring that pricked his finger every time he was bad and sometimes his finger would bleed. And then he was really angry at this girl, and then he went to the chamber where she was locked but she wasn’t there, and then he turned in fury on his tutor. And then he ordered him to be brought before him in chains like a criminal. Though he wasn’t. And then he turned into a beast when he went into the forest, and he was caught, and his tutor was the king for a little bit, and then he said, “I’ve got the crown but it’s not to rule it’s only to give it back to the prince when he’s back.” The beast was furious. He turned into a dog, and then into a dove, and then he was his proper self again.

History
We have been learning about British history and have been reading through 50 Famous Stories Retold and Our Island Story.

Tell the story of William Tell, or tell me what you remember about Cornelia’s Jewels.
James: Once there was a man, and he was very good at archery. And one day the emperor thought of cruel plan. He hung up his cap and made everyone bow down before it. Though William would not bow down to it. Then the emperor thought of a cruel plan against his son. He ordered that the son should stand in the middle of the square with an apple on his hat, and that William Tell would have to shoot the apple off his head with one shot, or the emperor would kill him. And he shot, and the son stood perfectly still and the apple came flying right off his head. And there was one more arrow sticking out from under his coat and the emperor asked, “What was that second arrow for?” And William Tell said, “That one was for your heart, if I had hurt my son.” And he went home and lived a long and happy life.

Natural History
We’ve all been enjoying the delightful stories found in the Burgess Bird Book; apparently June has been paying close attention to these stories, too, as she jumped in with a forgotten detail when both James and I were trying to remember how a story had ended. We’ve also regularly read from Paddle to the Sea and we’ve read a few stories from James Herriot’s treasury.

What is your favourite bird we have read about so far from the Burgess Bird Book? Tell me all you can about it. Or, tell about the bully in the old orchard.
James: I’m definitely going to tell about the bully! He always, always fights! And then he was living in Jenny Wren’s house, he had stolen her house. Yeah! Is that right? And then Jenny Wren and Mr. Wren were going, “Tut tut tut tut!” They were scolding him with all their might. And then Mrs. Bully was sitting in Jenny’s front door encouraging her husband! And in the end they were both driven out.
Me: No, they weren’t driven out of Jenny’s home…
James: They weren’t? What happened again?
Me: Uh…
June: Remember, the cat came wandering by and broke up the fight!

Math
I chose a few addition questions from James’s worksheets, and a simple word problem. James answered the questions quite easily. We also played several math games together over the course of the week.

Copywork
I had James neatly copy his full name and the names of all his family members, as well as a line that read, “How the leopard got his spots.” His work was not as neat as it could have been, but he did get it done promptly and without complaining.

Picture Study
Choose one of Peter Paul Ruben’s paintings that we’ve studied this term and describe it as well as you can.
James: Well, I choose to describe St. George and the Dragon. It was my favourite painting, even better than The Fall of Phaeton. So, St. George is on a horse and there is a lady by his side, and he has just run the cross into the mouth of the dragon and then “Arrrrgh!” There is a lady by him standing with a lamb by her, and the knight has all sorts of royal garments that are red and gold and red. And he has got some white stuff streaming out from behind his helmet. And the horse is like, “ooooh!” and his front legs are up in the air and he’s standing on his hind legs and he looks like he’s fighting fiercely. And the knight has his sword way up in the air. And the lady standing there looks like she really wants her knight to win! And that’s the end, the end.
Alice: St. George wearing flip-flops! (Haha, he is wearing sandals!)

Poetry
Recite a poem you have memorized this term.
James learned several poems this term, and he chose to recite, “Bad King John” by Eleanor Farjeon. It’s from a lovely little book called Kings and Queens that is full of jaunty poems about the various kings and queens of England. James had randomly asked me to read one of those poems one day, and it immediately grabbed his attention. He memorized it on his own.

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BAD KING JOHN by Eleanor Farjeon
John, John, bad King John
Shamed the throne that he sat on;
Not a scruple, not a straw,
Cared this monarch for the law;
Promises he daily broke;
None could trust a word he spoke;
So the Barons brought a Deed
Down to rushy Runnymede.
Magna Carta was it hight,
Charter of the People’s Right,
Framed and fashioned to correct
Kings who act with disrespect –
And with stern and solemn air,
Pointing to the parchment there,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said
“Sign, King John, or resign instead!”

John, John, turning pale,
Ground his teeth and bit his nail;
Chewed his long moustache; and then
Ground and bit and chewed again.
“Plague upon the People!” he
Muttered, “What are they to me?
Plague upon the Barons, too!”
(Here he had another chew,)
But the Barons, standing by,
Eyed him with a baleful eye;
Not a finger did they lift;
Not an eyelash did they shift;
But with one tremendous roar,
Even louder than before,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said,
“SIGN, KING JOHN, OR RESIGN INSTEAD!”

(And King John signed.)

Closing Thoughts
There are some things that we need to work on: regular nature walks and nature journaling, listening to classical music, systematically working our way through the Baltimore Catechism, and getting into a good routine with our chores. I’m hoping the nature walks and chores will fall into place once we’re living closer to Jeremy’s work, and I have regular access to a vehicle and a dishwasher! 🙂

Being Catholic, Homeschooling, The Wonderful World of Books

Year 1, Term 1 In Review

We are just about to begin the last week of our First Term of Year 1, and I thought I’d reflect a little on what has worked and what hasn’t worked so far in our homeschool…

Bible & Breakfast

Our Bible readings went okay. At first I wasn’t sure how exactly to proceed. Ambleside Online schedules one Old Testament story per week that the child is to narrate (tell back), but these stories skip ahead at a brisk pace. For example, Moses and the Burning Bush is a scheduled story, but the Exodus itself is not. I wasn’t really sure what to do about this – just read Old Testament stories at my own pace? Have James narrate a Bible story every day?

The question of which version of the Bible to read also came up. Ambleside Online recommends reading the King James Version, but when I did, James would fret, saying, “I don’t know what it’s saying!” and he got stories quite jumbled up as a result. I tried using the Douay-Rheims version instead (a Catholic Bible with lovely old language like the KJV), but many of the names are different – Samuel’s mother, Hannah, is called Anna, and Peninah is called Phenenna. I found that confusing for myself. After thinking about things for a while, I decided to go with a version that’s more understandable – my first priority with Bible is to have our children become familiar with the stories of the Old and New Testaments, while an added bonus is to be exposed to beautiful language. So we’re using the RSV (Catholic edition) for now.

I also decided to separate our assigned Bible readings (that James has to tell back) and our daily devotional readings. So now each morning we read the next section of 1 Samuel, and during our school session we read our school Bible reading. This is working much better so far.

I’ve also been a bit unsure about our catechism readings. We’re working through the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, but at a pretty slow rate (maybe half a chapter per week). I re-read Celeste’s posts on religious reading, and I think we’ll follow her suggestion of reading one chapter per week, and then work on memorizing the questions and answers of that chapter the following week.

I’ve been wanting to include some more Catholic reading into our breakfast time as well, but wasn’t sure what to include. After doing some research online, I’ve ordered Mother Mary Loyola’s King of the Golden City and Marigold Hunt’s St. Patrick’s Summer. I’m looking forward to perusing these when they arrive and including one or both of them in our breakfast readings next term!

We usually sing our psalm and hymn at breakfast time, too. So far, we’ve learned several stanzas of Psalm 8, Psalm 116 and Psalm 136 (using the Book of Praise), and we’ve learned several hymns. James and June both loved singing “Be Thou My Vision.” The third stanza goes, “Be Thou my battle shield / sword for the fight / Be Thou my Dignity / Thou my delight…” They belted those words of battle imagery with hearty enthusiasm every single time (and Alice watched them with an amused sparkle in her eye)!!!

We’ve also included a simple calendar time at breakfast, where my script went something like this: “Good Morning! What day is it? What month is it? What is the date? What season is it? What liturgical season is it? What colour is Father wearing at Mass today? How is the weather today?” I found a simple app (Bravolol) that includes most of these questions and answers in French (except for the Mass question, of course! 🙂 ) and so we’re getting used to saying things like, “Quel temps fait-il?” and “Il y a des nuages.”

Tea Time

During Tea Time, we sing our folk songs and French songs, read and recite some poetry, do our picture study and get started on our AO readings of the day.

Our folk songs went okay. I wasn’t crazy about the songs AO selected for this term, so I chose some songs of my own selection for us to learn instead. I’d find a YouTube video of the The Skye Boat Song and we’d watch that daily till we learned to sing along with it. I found this worked okay when the kids were really into the song (as they were with The Erie Canal Song, for example), but didn’t work the greatest for songs they were ho-hum about. Then they’d tend to mumble along without learning the song well. And I found that I couldn’t sing most of the songs myself independently – I could just sing along with the music. So I think what we’ll do from here on out is just sing the songs independently…

Our French songs also went okay. I chose “Au Clair de la Lune” as our first song, but it actually doesn’t have that much repetition, and some of the stanzas are fairly complicated. James also started imagining English words in the song, so now every time he sings it he references a zebra!!! I’m trying to stick to simpler songs with more repetition so that we can learn them a bit better. 🙂

For our poetry, our poet for Term 1 was Robert Louis Stevenson. I had a lovely copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses that we began reading from, but after a week or two James began to resist reading this book. He’d plug his ears most grumpily and refuse to listen to the poem. It turns out the lovely Tasha Tudor illustrations gave him the impression this was girly poetry – and he was having none of that! So we moved on to another book of poetry we already owned (A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa) and we’ve all enjoyed reading a poem or two a day from it. I’m really looking forward to moving on to some AA Milne next term!

 

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Yes, I can see that these illustrations are perhaps a touch girly… 

I wasn’t all that happy with our poetry memorization this term. I had James write a line or two of a poem for his copywork, and he ended up memorizing the poem after reading it through again and again. But I’d like him to be more involved in the process, to choose his own poem to memorize, and to give June her own little poem to memorize as well (she’s happily memorized alongside James so far). And I really like Celeste’s idea of illustrating a poem once it’s been memorized and adding it to our Family Poetry Binder. So I should really make a Family Poetry Binder so we can get started on that next term! 🙂

Our picture study went fairly well this term. We started off with Rubens’s painting of St. George and the Dragon, with which James was immediately fascinated. He really enjoys studying the painting closely and then describing it for me while I look at it. I wasn’t really sure what to do during the second week of the painting. I suggested that James draw it from memory, but he is quite a perfectionist and found that there was far too much detail in a painting to even consider drawing it himself. Maybe next term I’ll have him describe the painting for me by telling me what to draw? We’ll see…

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I find that Alice gets very noisy and distracting during our Tea Time readings. I’ll have to be a little more proactive next term in choosing some toys for her to play with just during Tea Time…

AO Readings

Overall, our Ambleside Online readings went really well. James found most of them captivating, and June often listened to them attentively, too, and would chime in if James forgot a detail that stood out to her:

June: “But first he prayed, James! Don’t forget to say that!”
James: “Hey, no interrupting!”

50 Famous Stories: good! The stories are quite short and James found them very interesting.

An Island Story: the stories were longer (6-8 pages) and at first I read them all in one go and James wasn’t able to tell back much. So I’ve begun to have him narrate several times per reading. He isn’t crazy about this book, which is kind of surprising to me seeing as it’s all about battles and kings, things that naturally interest him.

– D’aulaire biographies – we read Leif the Lucky and James loved it.

Burgess Bird Book – James loved these stories and happily narrated them. We usually drew a picture of the bird we were reading about in our nature journals, or coloured a picture I printed off the computer. The kids really enjoyed this. I purchased a set of Sibley bird cards thinking those would be helpful reference cards, but the illustrations are teensy tiny and therefore of no use to us! We have a bird book with decent illustrations, and a Birds of Canada book with pictures of birds and these are good references. (I’m still on the lookout for a book with really large illustrations of birds of North America.)

Paddle to the Sea – James loves this book! My mom found a little carved canoe with a figure in it at a thrift store, and James loves to use it to narrate. Our accompanying mapwork is going well.

– James Herriot – James really enjoyed the two stories we read this term.

Aesop’s Fables – excellent for beginning narration!

Parables of Nature – long stories, but held James’s interest.

Just So Stories – quite liked these!

Blue Fairy book – good! Many of the stories are really long, so narrating every two pages works well.

– Shakespeare – James loved Shakespeare this term. I think what he really loved about it was acting out the story with little characters. I purchased a little set of finger puppets (cards with holes for your fingers) but it only has half the characters for each play, making it quite useless. Maybe we’ll need to get some little wooden figures and paint them? Just seems like so much work! But James loves having little figures with which to act out the story… maybe some little Lego people will do…

Little House and Redwall – free reads. James has heard most of the Year 1 free reads already, so we read the first Redwall book and are almost done reading Little House on the Prairie. He loves our free reading time, and does June!

Daily Delights

Math is going well. James is making steady progress and is enjoying his math lessons. He loves, loves, loves playing math games so we almost always play one after the rest of his work is done.

James’s copywork is going much better now. For the first eight weeks or so of this term, he was simply copying one letter at a time. I made a note of this and told myself I should read a bit more about how to do copywork properly because I was pretty sure he ought to have been copying words rather than letters. But I let it slide for a few weeks and then at the CM conference had several conversations with people about how necessary it is to do copywork word by word, rather than letter by letter. So, after the conference we made the change. I now encourage James to take a good look at the word, to form a picture of it in his mind, then cover the word and have him write it. Doing his copywork takes longer, but I think that this has made a big difference in his reading as well – it’s like he’s been forced to slow down and pay attention to the actual words. He used to just take a split second to look at a word and then would madly guess at it rather than taking the time to sound it out. Now he’s taking the time to look at words more carefully.

Speaking of reading practice, we’ve begun to use the McGuffey Eclectic Readers. We’d been working our way through Frog and Toad and other beginner readers, but James complained a couple times that they were too easy. He just finished the First Eclectic Reader and is getting started on the second one. And he’s LOVING them! The language is a little older, and the style is a tad preachy, but he doesn’t seem to mind that a bit. We might need to work on some more phonogram practice at this point, as some bigger and more complicated words are being tossed into the mix.

I wasn’t totally sure at the beginning of the term what to do for our Foreign Language study. I thought about teaching Dutch… but the resources were so scarce! I finally settled on teaching French, and then couldn’t decide which French curriculum to go with. I ended up getting the Cherrydale Press book and finally purchased the accompanying audio, too. It is (unfortunately) not very user friendly. I kept having to click to the middle of the audio to listen to the part I wanted to listen to, and then clicking stop so it didn’t keep going to a part I didn’t want to listen to. It was a small hassle, but a very annoying one… and I began skipping our French lessons to avoid fiddling around. So I looked around for a different program and found The ULAT. It is going so much better! The website is not very intuitive (or aesthetically pleasing) at first glance, but once you get used to it, it works really well. What I love about this program is that it is all oral – perfect for beginning language learners! James has been loving saying incorrect statements about us – “She lives in New York!” (while pointing at June) or “I did not make the bed!” Alice even said, impishly, “Il habite a New York” to Jeremy the other day!!! And when Jeremy looked at her and said that No, he doesn’t, she amended her statement: “Il habite a West Kelowna.” Haha!

For our handicraft this term, we finished our first toques. I must admit that James was very enthusiastic about working on them, which is why we finished them. He’d get up in the morning and want to get in a bit of knitting before breakfast. I have not been very diligent about taking out our second toques, so they are languishing half-finished in the dresser drawer. Part of the problem is that I’m pretty sure I’m going to run out of yarn, but I never feel like driving to Michael’s to pick up more… (And the theme here seems to be that I need everything to be in place in order to get things done!!) I’m thinking about making Jesse Tree ornaments with our wood-burning kit as our handicraft for next term… is that too tricky a project to do with a 6 year old?!

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Nature study: AWFUL! We have neglected this hugely. My kids used to naturally just go outside for hours every day when we lived in Fruitvale, but here they are not tempted to because of the lame backyard. I keep pushing this off, thinking that when we actually buy a house, then I’ll start going outside more! 🙂 For next term… well, we are planning on driving Jeremy to school every Wednesday so we can attend a Mom and Tots group, so I think we’ll plan on getting our nature walk and nature study in on Wednesdays.

The other challenge is that our library system is pretty limited. In Fruitvale I was able to request up to 20 interlibrary loans at a time (and I could do that from home) whereas here many of the books I’m looking for are not in the system, and I have to go to the library to request an interlibrary loan (only 1-2 at a time are permitted). So – I’m having a hard time finding good resources for nature study books. Still thinking of how to solve this problem… aside from spending several hundred dollars on excellent books! 😉

Timelines – okay. Some resistance to more writing – “But I’ve already done my copywork for today!”

Drawing – James draws regularly and loves it. Maybe begin formal lessons next term?

Geography – we’ve been doing the occasional GeoPuzzle and have gone through a few lessons from CM’s Geography book.

Homeschooling, Life at The Canyon's Edge, The Wonderful World of Books

Nature Journaling

I’m starting a blog post mini-series on what homeschooling looks like in our home. I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of how our days are spent, and how delightful learning at home can be!

Today we spent  much of the afternoon working on our nature journals. We’ve been reading the Burgess Bird Book for Children for the Natural History component of Year 1 and it has been a great delight. What I’ve appreciated the most about this book is how it makes us pay attention to the habits of birds – do they fly smoothly, or do they fly in a way that makes them look like a rabbit hopping through the sky? Are they neat and tidy, or messy homemakers? Why do some woodpeckers spend so much time on the ground instead of in trees?

This afternoon James painted a picture of a red-headed woodpecker.

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And June coloured a picture of a red-headed woodpecker. (She goes for colourful rather than accurate in her pictures and it drives her brother crazy!!)

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And I painted a picture of a northern flicker. James pointed one out to me the other day – it landed on the Douglas fir tree right next to the patio and we admired it with wide eyes (it’s quite lovely with that startling red bit on the back of its head!) for a few seconds before it noticed us and flew off. I don’t have an original bone in my body when it comes to art, so I focus on copying paintings or photographs found online. It’s working well so far.

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Life at The Canyon's Edge, The Wonderful World of Books

Life Lately

We returned home this past Monday from a most enjoyable weekend in the Fraser Valley celebrating Thanksgiving Day with our families. I’d been down there with the kids the week before to attend a homeschooling conference, and James, June and Alice were so thrilled to be going back to Grandpa and Grandma’s again in such a short time frame. (Definite advantage of living in Kelowna vs. Fruitvale!) Alice spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving keeping her ears open for any mention of Grandpa and Grandma’s place. If she heard the words, she’d run over, ask, “Go with you?” and “Get my shoes?” with an urgent look in her eyes. She was not going to be left behind!

Speaking of Grandpa and Grandma’s, James has lately mentioned several times, most mournfully, how disappointed he is that we actually found a home in which to live; he would have preferred living at his grandparents’ place. “We could have stayed there for a whole month!” he’s been heard sighing. While I share his enthusiasm for the enjoyments of Grandpa and Grandma’s home, I’ve very much relieved we have this lovely home in which to live! 🙂

Anyways! Thanksgiving weekend! Jeremy spent hours and hour marking. Then we got drenched in a monsoon on Saturday afternoon while attempting to enjoy a corn maze. And then we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my side of the family. The kids rode their bikes, played around in the basement and . . . well, I don’t really know what else they were up to. They were having such fun they just kept busy the whole time. 🙂 We enjoyed a delicious gourmetten feast, some rousing card games and some old, catchy Dutch music that transported us back to our teen years.

The next day we went to mass in Abbotsford, visited our hospitalized nephew, and enjoyed another round of Thanksgiving deliciousness with Jeremy’s side of the family. James tried a Wii for the first time and was quite thrilled with it; it was his favourite part of the evening. For the record, June’s fave: seeing her cousins again. And Alice’s: playing with Oma’s play kitchen.

And on Monday we returned home with the beginnings of colds for everyone. That’s made for a bit of a long week here. Alice has been coughing atrociously, and James and June are keeping me on my toes by shouting in alarm any time there’s a hint of a dribble from her nose. June’s just completed yet another round of antibiotics . . . and Jeremy had his first sick day at school (well, half day). Our neighbour had given us a free family admission to the local pool, so when Jeremy showed up at home after lunch, I bolted out the door with James and June. (Gotta use that van whenever it’s around!) It was lovely to get out of the house, and we thoroughly enjoyed our wet and splashy afternoon!

Jeremy also gave me a sabbath day from mothering today. Talk about speaking my love language! 🙂 After coffee time this morning, I headed out for the day; it was my goal to see something beautiful, to experience some quiet, and to go to confession. I started by visiting Kalamoir Regional Park, a lovely little area along Okanagan Lake. There’s a trail that runs along the water and through a bit of forest. It was so beautiful! There were two areas along the trail that were more heavily forested, and in the first area a group of black-capped chickadees (which I had just painted in my nature journal a week or two ago, and actually recognized on sight) was spiritedly chirping about, and in the second patch there were some cheerful robins bustling about. Our backyard is as dead as a doornail (too dry this summer), and our van is nearly always in use, so our nature study has been severely restricted since moving here. It was so refreshing to see a lovely, lively spot in the world again, and to spend some time observing the frolicking antics of those dear little birds!

After some time walking about outside, I found a quiet spot along the beach and prayed for a while. And then perused a used book store and found a lovely stash of books for a certain Redwall fan (shhhhh!), and then spent a couple hours reading in a comfy coffee shop. Then I went to confession, and headed home. It was a wondrously refreshing day! (Alas, the afternoon caffeinated beverage means I’m still awake at 1:30am! Mental note to self: do not drink caffeine after lunch!!!!)

I haven’t really pulled out my real camera since moving to West Kelowna, but the other day the light coming in the window was just perfect. I love these shots of my sweet and sparky little lass! (Going to have to take it out more often!) I’m also loving the fact that, despite my absolute incompetence in all things hair-related, June manages to walk away from a bath looking like we slaved over her hair for an hour. 😉 I can’t believe she’s going to be four next month!

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And here’s what we’ve been reading lately . . .

Me
The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
Formation of Character by Charlotte Mason (for an online book club)

James
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

June
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The High Hills by Jill Barklem

Alice
Jamberry by Bruce Degan
Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

I’d love to dive into another good work of fiction. After finishing The Lord of the Rings and marvelling over the exquisitely beautiful portrait of selflessness (Sam), friendship (Sam and Frodo), and a world in which things are as they should be (comfortable homes, noble kings, Gandalf responding to the destruction of the ring by talking less and laughing more), it’s been hard to muster enthusiasm for anything else. I’d love to hear your recommendations if you’ve read an excellent book lately!

Homeschooling, The Wonderful World of Books

God’s Abundant Provision

Things have changed substantially since my last blog post about Alice’s second birthday. We’ve moved to West Kelowna, Jeremy’s prepping for his first year as a teacher, and James started Year 1 of Ambleside Online!

Looking at each of those items, one at a time . . .

First, the move. When Jeremy accepted his teaching position in Kelowna, we gave notice to our landlord and agreed to move out July 31st. And then we began looking for a home in Kelowna, which turned out to be much more difficult than we’d anticipated. Well, there are actually a fair number of homes for rent, but the cost to rent out just the main floor of a home is astronomical! So we scoured Craigslist, Kijiji and Castanet daily in our hunt for a small home at a reasonable price.

The first place we came across was a cute little home in downtown Kelowna. It turned out to be a scam; the guy had copied pictures from an active MLS listing and was pressuring us to send money ASAP to “secure our rental” (i.e., fill his pocket). The second place was a three-bedroom main floor in Vernon. It was on a busy street, and the back yard wasn’t totally fenced, and it would have been a 45 minute drive to work for Jeremy – but the price was okay. We hummed and hawed and slept on it overnight, but by the time we emailed the landlord back, she’d already rented the place to someone else! And then we came across a third place that looked like it might work. The price was good, but the home, half of a duplex, was tiny . . . maybe 900 square feet. It did have three bedrooms, though, and it had a tiny yard. We drove out from Fruitvale to take a look at it, and toured the place with about five other people who were also interested. It turns out there was actually another suite tucked in below the duplex that was rented out to a student, and I imagined our children running around at 6am . . . And then we waited on pins and needles to hear back. A week or so later we got a text message saying the duplex had been rented to someone else.

We were devastated. The duplex had been far from ideal, with its cramped quarters and negligible backyard, but it was nearing the end of July and we had to be out of our Fruitvale home and now we had no place to move to! We began to consider alternative arrangements. Perhaps the kids and I could move in with mom and dad for a month, while Jeremy camped in Kelowna and got started on school prep work. We could look around for a home, Jeremy could pop in for a walk through, and we could move in around the first of September. It wasn’t ideal, but it could work. (Plus the kids were overjoyed at the thought of living with Grandpa and Grandma for a WHOLE MONTH!)

Throughout this whole time, Jeremy and I had been praying constantly. Despite being in the early weeks of my pregnancy and easily able to sleep eleven hours a night, I woke up one morning at 4:30am with a strong urge to pray. I prayed and prayed. I went to work that day and prayed desperately on my breaks. Our housing situation was constantly on my mind, but I was also constantly bringing it before the throne of God. We asked our families to pray for us. I asked some friends to pray for us. I asked saints (like Saint Ann and Saint Joseph) to pray for us, as well. I imagined Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem when she was pregnant with the Lord Jesus, and then desperately looking for a place for them to stay.

And then we found an ad for a home for rent in West Kelowna. A whole home. With a good-sized fenced yard. For the same rent we were paying in Fruitvale! Jeremy called the property manager and happened to be the first person to leave a message. But the property manager had left messages with several people who had posted wanted ads on Castanet, so she said she would get back to us. Then she let us know that a couple had toured the home, and she expected to rent the place to them. And then we waited for a couple days as she waited to hear back from them.

On July 28, three days before we were supposed to move, we got a call from the property manager saying the other couple had passed on the place, and it was ours if we wanted it. She explained that it had a deck, and that our kids could fall off of it. That the basement bedroom might not be comfortable enough for a child to sleep in. That parts of the basement were unfinished. That there was no dishwasher.

We said, “WHO CARES!!!! We’ll take it!!!!” (We haven’t had a dishwasher in five years, anyways. What’s another year?)

And we moved in August 1st. Our new home is twice the size of our Fruitvale home. The yard is dead because of the dry summer, but there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around. The street is quiet, and the neighbour across the road said the other day that she loves hearing the kids play outside. “They sure sing a lot!” she commented cheerfully.

We are still basking in the unexpected surprise of God giving us so much more than we’d asked for. A huge home! A lovely deck outside! A good-sized yard! I’ll post some pictures of our new place another time, but suffice it to say we are more than happy with this place. It is temporary, till the end of March (or possibly June), but it gives us time to get used to the area and look around at where we’d like to live in the future.

Some photos! Here are James and Jeremy, about to embark on their trip to Harmon Lake a few days after we moved in. James was thrilled he was allowed to come along!

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We’re now only three hours away from the Fraser Valley and we’ve had a bunch of visitors already. Definitely easy to get used to that!

June holding Everly. 🙂

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Second, the job. Last year, when Jeremy decided not to go into the ministry, we thought it would be best if I worked for a year so we could think for a while about the best career path for Jeremy. There were several options . . . going back into woodworking, purchasing a landscaping franchise, or going into teaching. Last September, we decided to spend the month praying about what Jeremy should do for work, and by the end of the month he felt that he ought to go into teaching. My parents were visiting around that time, and as Jeremy and my dad were walking down the road in Fruitvale, some random child hollered at Jeremy, “Hey old guy, are you a teacher??”

From that time on, then, we looked around for teaching opportunities. Jeremy and I have both been drawn to classical education and when Jeremy thought about where he’d like to teach, he immediately thought a classical school – preferably, a Catholic classical school. Well, those are awfully scarce in Canada. There are a couple (mostly elementary schools) in Ontario, but none in western Canada. And so we began to look into getting a green card so Jeremy could work in the USA. That turned out to be a much longer process than either of us had predicted (9+ months wait to see if you’re approved for applying for a visa, more like 15+ months to actually get the visa). So while we found a number of fascinating schools in the USA that would be a dream to work at (here’s looking at you, Gregory the Great Academy) in the end those were not realistic. By the time we realized that, it was late spring.

Around that time, my dad had a vision of sorts in which he saw two things: the Bible, and Jeremy paddling in a canoe. Both of these were in reference to a job for Jeremy. We were puzzled. The Bible was pretty obvious, but where in the world could Jeremy find a job that involved a canoe?

He ended up applying for a restricted teaching license in BC, and looked around for teaching positions at Catholic schools in BC. There were a couple available and he applied for them, but none seemed like the right thing and we were beginning to get desperate as the months ticked by. I had said I would work for a year, and as June 1 of this year rolled around, my heart despaired. Would there be a teaching position that Jeremy would be qualified for? If so, would a school hire him despite his lack of experience? What if nothing came up? What ought our Plan B to be? Would I be able to homeschool James for first grade? Where did this canoe fit into the picture?

We began looking at other ways Jeremy could use his Master of Divinity degree. He applied for a Youth Coordinator position at a Catholic church in the Lower Mainland. He applied for a Spiritual Director position at a retirement home. He applied for a Building and Yard Maintenance position at a home for special needs adults. He applied for a woodworking job, for a site maintenance job at a mini storage facility. He applied for a Forest Ranger position. And we prayed over and over for guidance, direction and for the right job to fall into Jeremy’s hands.

In June, Jeremy prayed a novena (a nine-day prayer) asking Saint Joseph to pray for a job for him, and the day after he finished it, a lady at church thought Alice looked so cute toddling out of church she just had to give her a church bulletin to carry (we didn’t often get one). Alice happily carried it to the van, and later that day we perused it. There was a job posting inside for a teaching position in Kelowna – a position for a high school religion teacher at a Catholic school! I immediately popped onto the computer and applied on Jeremy’s behalf. He got a phone call shortly thereafter and an interview was set up. The interview came and went. Jeremy didn’t think it had gone that well. We waited a bit longer.

And then the principal of Immaculata Regional High School called back and offered Jeremy the job! And Jeremy accepted it! He called me at work and feigned a disappointed attitude. My heart plummeted. And he told me he got the job! It was one of the best phone calls of my life, and I could barely contain my excitement at work. It was difficult to go back into the labour room without dancing all about the room for joy!

Last week, Jeremy was explaining to me that he’s not just the Religious Studies teacher, he also is the Religious Coordinator. That means he has to organize Masses at the school,  as well as teacher retreats and student retreats . . . and he has to go on the student retreats, too. It turns out the senior class retreat has already been planned. Guess what one of the recreational activities is on this trip? Canoeing.

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Hiking the Bear Creek Canyon Rim last week:

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And last but not least! Homeschooling!

I have wanted to homeschool ever since James was born. Even before he was born, actually. I started reading homeschooling books when James was a baby and they reinforced the reasons why homeschooling can be great for a family – tailoring a child’s education to their strengths, giving children more time to learn concepts that are difficult for them, being able to focus on what is true, good and beautiful instead of what makes you most suited to a particular job. About two years ago I came across Ambleside Online and thought it was pretty much a perfect fit. It is full of rich literature, but it also includes classical music, beautiful paintings, nature study and plenty of free outdoor play.

James and I completed a light kindergarten year last year. He learned how to read. He began to understand basic math. And we read so many good stories together! I had a miscarriage in January, and began working full-time in April, so school slid to a halt this past spring. And that was just fine. James and June played outside almost all day, and that was so good for both of them!

Two weeks ago I dropped off my little treasures at my parents’ place for several days so that I could finish up our homeschool plans for the year.

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And then on August 14th, James started first grade!!!

We started by sorting out some household tasks. James now makes breakfast (oatmeal) for us on school mornings. He is very, very pleased to have this responsibility and he does a careful job.

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Math games:

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Copywork. June loves being close by when we do school, and she enjoys playing Upwords and other games while we’re busy.

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Reading practice:

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Our handicraft this semester is loom knitting. James is knitting a toque for the baby expected in March. He’d very much like it to be a boy, so he’s knitting a blue toque. 🙂 We’re finding this to be a perfect beginner handicraft. It’s varied enough to remain interesting, and it’s simple enough not to be frustrating. I got the loom on amazon and found the bulky yarn at Michaels.

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So here is what a week of school looks like in our home. I’ve divided our day up into sections. We all do Bible & Breakfast together (prayers, questions about the day/date, Bible or religious readings and some songs), and we do Tea Time together with all the kids, too. Ambleside Online recommends reading books slowly over a whole term (12 weeks) or even over a whole year. So we’re slowly working our way through several books. Some are history books (Our Island Story), some are geography-based stories (Paddle to the Sea), some are nature books (Burgess Bird Book) and others are simply literature (Aesops’s Fables, Blue Fairy Book and Just So Stories). So far, they are wonderful and rich and we are thoroughly enjoying them!

During Alice’s nap time, James and I do math together, as well as some copywork and reading practice. In the afternoons we get some housework done, listen to some music, practise our handicrafts and do some drawing. So far, this is working well for us!

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A number of the local hikes have been closed due to the forest fire risk. That’s been very disappointing as we’ve driven around looking for little nature walks to go on! This past week we ended up at the Gellatly Nut Farm where we walked through the nut orchards and took a dip in Okanagan Lake. James thinks this should be our back up plan every week. 🙂

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We’ve been finishing the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy this week, and just read the bit where the ring is destroyed in Mount Doom. The joy! The delight! James could hardly contain himself! He’s been bouncing around on the trampoline in delight for some time, celebrating.

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And, last photo of the post. This morning we had a lovely weekend breakfast treat: cinnamon roll ragamuffins. They’re like cinnamon buns, except they don’t have any yeast and so they don’t require any time to rise. Quick, and so delicious!!! Even better when paired with a chai tea latte. 🙂

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