Today, September 11, is the day the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Euphrosynos the Cook! His life is a wonderful example to us of humility and long suffering (his full story is at the end of this post). I learned of St. Euphrosynos when we first became Orthodox because I saw his icon in many Orthodox kitchens. This is one in a vast treasury of customs that I have learned to cherish about the Church; having his icon in my kitchen reminds me to rejoice in what I consider my daily labors, especially when those labors seem to go unnoticed. Most days, my labors do go unnoticed because my children come right behind me and undo what I have just done! Can anyone else relate?! Fortunately, God gives us this work as a service and a ministry to our family, and hopefully we can see it as a benefit to our souls.

In school today, I read the story of St. Euphrosynos while the boys colored his icon. I was also able to find a few props around the house to jazz it up a bit. After reading, I asked what happened in the story and the boys said, “He cooked and then he ran away!” Haha! Luckily, the follow up was that he ran away because the big deal should have been about God and not him.

 

 

We then did a fun apple craft, which was inspired by Jeannie at Creative Hands. I ended up using laminating pouches instead of contact paper. The tissue paper didn’t stick as much as I would have liked, but we got it worked out in the end! 

The last thing we did was a scavenger hunt of sorts. It occurred to me that the kids see icons around our home every day, but they may not know who the saints are or why we have them. What a wonderful learning opportunity! Once I told them we had an icon of St. Euphrosynos in the house, it was a mad dash to find him! Of course they went to our prayer corner first…no luck. I had to coax them a bit with some clues, but we finally remembered that he was a cook and his favorite place was the kitchen! Eureka!

 

Next year, I will hopefully have purchased the book The Boy, A Kitchen, And His Cave: The Tale of St. Euphrosynos the Cookby Catherine K. Contopoulos to add to our celebration. I would also liked to have made a yummy apple dessert for tonight, but alas, the boys ate my apples during story time!!

St. Euphrosynos, pray for us!

Below is an account of the life of St. Euphrosynos from the OCA website :

Saint Euphrosynus the Cook was from one of the Palestinian monasteries, and his obedience was to work in the kitchen as a cook. Toiling away for the brethren, Saint Euphrosynus did not absent himself from thought about God, but rather dwelt in prayer and fasting. He remembered always that obedience is the first duty of a monk, and therefore he was obedient to the elder brethren.From the OCA website:

The patience of the saint was amazing: they often reproached him, but he made no complaint and endured every unpleasantness. Saint Euphrosynus pleased the Lord by his inner virtue which he concealed from people, and the Lord Himself revealed to the monastic brethren the spiritual heights of their unassuming fellow-monk.

One of the priests of the monastery prayed and asked the Lord to show him the blessings prepared for the righteous in the age to come. The priest saw in a dream what Paradise is like, and he contemplated its inexplicable beauty with fear and with joy.

He also saw there a monk of his monastery, the cook Euphrosynus. Amazed at this encounter, the presbyter asked Euphrosynus, how he came to be there. The saint answered that he was in Paradise through the great mercy of God. The priest again asked whether Euphrosynus would be able to give him something from the surrounding beauty. Saint Euphrosynus suggested to the priest to take whatever he wished, and so the priest pointed to three luscious apples growing in the garden of Paradise. The monk picked the three apples, wrapped them in a cloth, and gave them to his companion.

When he awoke in the early morning, the priest thought the vision a dream, but suddenly he noticed next to him the cloth with the fruit of Paradise wrapped in it, and emitting a wondrous fragrance. The priest, found Saint Euphrosynus in church and asked him under oath where he was the night before. The saint answered that he was where the priest also was. Then the monk said that the Lord, in fulfilling the prayer of the priest, had shown him Paradise and had bestown the fruit of Paradise through him, “ the lowly and unworthy servant of God, Euphrosynus.”

The priest related everything to the monastery brethren, pointing out the spiritual loftiness of Euphrosynus in pleasing God, and he pointed to the fragrant paradaisical fruit. Deeply affected by what they heard, the monks went to the kitchen, in order to pay respect to Saint Euphrosynus, but they did not find him there. Fleeing human glory, the monk had left the monastery. The place where he concealed himself remained unknown, but the monks always remembered that their monastic brother Saint Euphrosynus had come upon Paradise, and that they in being saved, through the mercy of God would meet him there. They reverently kept and distributed pieces of the apples from Paradise for blessing and for healing.

We have officially marked the beginning of our newest adventure: full time homeschooling for Pre-K and Kindergarten! I am so excited to be home with my littles, and for us to have this chance to learn together (which is exactly what it will be- Mama has a lot of learning to do!).

I started my planning with some scheduling and “classroom management” strategies. The boys and I all thrive on routine and it is so helpful to get the most out of our school day. I have found that so many behavioral issues are taken care of automatically when the boys know what is coming up in our day, and they even take ownership and do the next things on their own sometimes! Yay for progress! The “schedule” below is for our average school day. Now- it is a rare day when this schedule actually happens. I think of it more as my guideline, so when we get off track I know where I should be and can jump back in. As we have begun our first few weeks, I can see already the need for some possible tweaking, but time will tell. I laminated copies of this schedule and put them as the first page in the boys’ school binders. We also have one on the fridge for easy reference.

On the behavioral side of things, I want to begin with a clear system that is objective and consistent. Again, I want the boys to feel like they have control of their behavior and that they can always improve as the day goes on. The system I liked best is the color-coded clothespin chart. I found some ideas on Pinterest and then made my own (see below). This starts the boys out on green at the beginning of the day, but gives room both up and down for them to travel according to their behavior. Most of the charts I found gave consequences at the bottom, but not so many included rewards at the top. We decided a few extra minutes of screen time would be a good reward after a great day. We are very intentional with our screen time during the day, so this is something small that the boys really enjoy. Even if they get down to red, they can bring themselves back up and finish off the day on a good note. This makes it much easier for me to handle because I can give them one warning about moving their name and they know what that means and where they stand. It has worked great so far! As soon as Daddy gets home, they tell him what color they are on and the lowest/highest colors they have gotten to that day. Yay for systems that work!

 

Now for the actual curriculum- I have been working hard with my friend Marleigh (who has 2 little ones) to collaborate on great material for our kiddos. Knowing that we have younger siblings coming down the line, we want to have something that works with multiple levels at the same time. All of our kids are young at this point, so the levels need to be thematically similar so we can work with all of the kids together. I am finding that both boys want to do all of the activities, even though there is a two year difference between them. Thematic links are important here to keep a consistency to our week. The base curriculum that we chose is BFIAR (Before Five in a Row) and FIAR (Five in a Row). We like FIAR because it is comprised of thematic units based around well-loved individual children’s books. It is called Five in a Row because you read the same story five days in a row and then do supplementary activities. This is a very flexible curriculum and could actually be used for the first few years of Elementary school if one desired to do so. Our plan is to use this through Kindergarten, and then switch to a classical model in the First grade.

Once we figured out the base curriculum, we set out to combine that with some other elements that are important to both of us and our families. We now have a crazy spreadsheet of thematically matched BFIAR/FIAR units with additions of letters, numbers, shapes, poetry, supplementary books, and Orthodox elements! Both of our families are Orthodox Christian, so we want to include our faith in our everyday school. One of the things I am most excited about homeschooling is being able to work our schedule around the church services and make them a top priority for our children.

We are also lucky enough to have an Orthodox Homeschool Co-Op based in our church, so that will be our school every Friday. It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to learn in a classroom setting and for great fellowship! My friend Marleigh is heading up the Pre-School class this year, so Aidan will be able to have an extension of what we learned that week! Finn will be in the older class; he will get to do some Science and Arts/Crafts. I have been asked to teach the high schoolers in a Writer’s Workshop, and I am excited to keep one foot in teaching the big kids! (They are assuredly less excited!)

My hope is to blog our activities on a weekly basis. Though I have a lot of ideas, this will be a year of experiment and changing to fit what works and what doesn’t. I will be including our Orthodox observances as we go, along with some ideas to celebrate our wonderful traditions! Wish us luck!

 

 

Even though I won’t be in the classroom this year, I thought I would re-share this free printable I created last year. I was never able to find a planner that fit all of my needs, so I created my own! This is a 2 page per week format and has space for current plans as well as looking into the future. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD HERE

This is the time of year when teachers all across the country are gearing up for a new school year. The adrenaline rushes in the middle of the night when you realize school starts in 8 days, along with the stress of getting everything ready on time, not to mention those evil “teacher dreams” (showing up on the first day with nothing ready and 30 kids staring at you) make for a difficult few weeks! Normally, I would be in the throws of the back to school preparations, but this year will be different.

It seems like God has put our family on a bit of a roller coaster the last few years as far as my ability to stay home with the littles. Part way through last school year, Gideon got a new job with the company in charge of our digital curriculum for the district. This jump was a bit of a balancing act, as he couldn’t make his official move until a replacement teacher was found. In January, he was able to transition completely into his new position and has been greatly enjoying it! The main reason we decided for him to take the job is that it will allow me (God Willing) to stay home and homeschool the kids! We tried this on one teacher salary when our second child was born, but Oklahoma is now at the very bottom of the barrel for teacher pay…. so that only lasted the year. The outlook for this go around is very positive, and I am hoping it can be a long-term scenario!

My teacher brain is already in full gear, as Finn will start preschool this year. The enormity of what it means to provide my children’s education has been settling on me a bit, but I am extremely grateful to center their lives around the Orthodox Church and the beautiful rhythms it provides for our year. Though I would love to jump in with school right away, there is one not-so-little event impending: little sister’s arrival!! I am 38 weeks pregnant and little miss could arrive at any time! I have decided to wait until about October (after my 40 days’ rest) to begin schooling. Hopefully by then we will have found some sort of new rhythm with all three children and we can get down to business! I will be writing about our upcoming adventures, both with school and becoming a family of 5, so stick around! Glory to God for all things!

Wish us luck! 🙂