Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My Only Big Race of 2020

We are seeing some strange times, aren't we? It's a weird feeling. Life goes on but we really aren't "supposed to" go anywhere! I'm thankful to be homeschooling, especially at a time like this, as our school routine hasn't changed. It's the co-ops, the playdates, the library and the appointments that we're missing and that just feels weird.

I have been trying to make use of the time when we "can't" do so much, to instead DO a lot of things I don't want to do. (i.e. clean bathrooms, clean and restock our fridge that failed this weekend - now fixed, organize old papers, sell books we don't need, etc)

The time is well spent but I wonder how long all of this will continue!

Like the rest of the running world, my race scheduled for this weekend was swapped for a Virtual Run. Thankfully it's a half marathon - as I'm not sure I could handle running a full marathon on the same old roads in our town! My dear running partner/friend and I had planned on making the trip to the Wicked Half Marathon in Kansas to prepare her for Boston but we'll just be running loops around town instead.

Personally I'm not too heartbroken because I don't have any intense goals for racing while pregnant anyways. I do feel for everyone who had been training hard for Boston though - such a bummer! At least the race is postponed and not cancelled.

Our Baby 4.0 is 14 weeks now and I have written absolutely nothing about him/or her on the blog yet! I have been planning to for a while, it just hasn't happened.

We had our midwife appointment a couple weeks ago and we all loved hearing baby's heartbeat. Our whole family was also happy to be reunited with our favorite midwife! She delivered our 2nd and 3rd boys; it's great to have her over to visit again.

Compared to the pregnancy with our third baby, I haven't noticed many differences besides being extremely tired. Before finding out we were pregnant, I was planning to get my iron levels tested because I was sure there was something wrong. Like maybe running 2 Fall marathons and a 24-miler within a four week span had messed up my body long term or something. Nope. Turned out I was pregnant! We are so excited!

I have continued running though my motivation has been a struggle during these cold, icy and dark months. Thankfully things are warming up now and we have a little more daylight; and my morning sickness has mostly ended. Strength training and doing prenatal-specific exercises from G Training has been much more of a priority this time around. More on that later.

Also, I have found some of the cutest tanks that should last the whole pregnancy! I have started my own Zyia Active business and they have the comfiest workout gear. The Copper Charged Tanks have a long fit, which I love. They aren't "maternity" specific so I ordered a size up and now have plenty of room to let baby grow.

I'm off to digest some food before an evening run with the gals in town! This piece of encouragement I will leave you with: God causes EVERYTHING to work together for the good of those who love Him. Everything. I trust that God will bring good things out of even such a crazy time as this.

Let's Connect!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

END Trails 4-Person Relay Race Report

After the back-to-back marathons last Fall, I had one more race experience for the year and a recap is long overdue (like from October 2019)! Two weeks after the Blue Ox Marathon, I competed in my first ever 12-hour event, the END (Extreme North Dakota) Halloween Double Feature, with a team of three other gals.

When one of my relay teammates initially mentioned the idea, I thought it would be a fun group event, a relaxing day away and more "fun" running after racing two marathons. What I didn't realize is exactly how many miles we would each cover that day. Though our distances per team member varied, it was basically another marathon day!

This adventure certainly didn't disappoint. One thing was for sure, we enjoyed A LOT of time on the trails!

How much stuff does a relay team of four gals need for a 12-hour event? 

Turns out A LOT! Between packing clean outfits to change into after each of our 10k loops, food and drink and rehab tools (foam rollers, roll recovery!), we basically set up camp in our little corner of the race building. It was so nice to have somewhere warm and cozy to wait between legs! The race day was a COLD one. No snow yet on this October 27th, just windy and very chilly.

We all looked so peppy and nice smelling before the race began! Amanda would be our first runner and the strategy was to run two 10k loops in a row, depending on how we felt after the first loop.

Kristen, Leslie, me & Amanda

Amanda ran an extremely fast double loop and then I was up for my first run. I could tell my body was a little sore from the marathons two and four weeks ago but running on the trails felt EXCELLENT! Trail running was my first love and I have hardly ran trails since our first boy was born 7 years ago. Just feeling the trails again, the varying terrain and so much to look at gave me energy.

 Running trails allows you to fully take in all of the beauty of God's creation - especially when the legs and lungs are still feeling fresh! The 2 x 10k loops went off really well and I was able to keep a nice pace as long as I had someone to follow. A couple turns on the course were confusing at first but following the 12-hour guy runner helped a ton.

Now to change clothes, eat and stretch before my round #2.

Kristen, Leslie and Amanda all ran their legs of the race while I lounged inside. Before this race, I imagined us having sooo much down time in between our loops. Hmmm, should I bring a book? Could I take a nap?

Turns out that time passed so quickly that it was just enough time to change, eat and stretch again (probably because these girls are so fast!). I definitely skimped on the stretching more than I should have.

My Run #2 wasn't as enjoyable as #1, and I even ran a single loop instead of doing the double 10k. My watch delayed starting so the distance is off too. Wearing my old marathon shoes, I could feel some niggles forming in my right knee and left foot... so I promptly threw those into the garbage after getting back from this loop. Onto the back up shoes!

Okay, so here's the Run #3... the final loop... in complete darkness. I was the last runner for our team and thank God they love me and didn't leave me out on the trails ALONE! Most of other runners had stopped for the day, except one hardcore guy who was running the 12-hour race solo (crazy!!!).

Each of the gals took turns running with me on my 10k loop. Running in the dark feels weird. Our pace while running on these trails, up and down hills, jumping downed trees and water puddles, felt so FAST. And yet my pace averaged a 9:32/mile?!

Uffda I was so glad to have company the whole way. Seriously - complete darkness and desolation in a state park I'm not familiar with! At one point, Kristen and I called our teammates to make sure it was safe we were out there alone. They said we were fine, so on we ran!

We made it!!! At 11:58:43 (countdown clock couldn't handle that many digits), we completed that final dark loop:

Overall, Team Boom Shaka-LAKA (our initials... hehe), we made 14 laps on the 6.2 mile trail course, adding up to about 86.8 miles! These gals made such an amazing team - it was a long day but an absolute blast. I ended up covering 24 miles myself, counting running my loops and accompanying on others, nearly making for my third marathon in a 4-week span. Uffda is right!

The sun went down, race finished and we decided to stop for burgers at Five Guys before parting ways. That was an excellent decision! Real food tasted absolutely amazing after snacking and eating weird things all day!

After that, we all headed home and I tried my hardest to stay awake on the drive. Our 12-hour race took it out of my but it's definitely something I would do again! As a team, we discussed strategy and thought it may be more efficient to run only double loops - or maybe even all of our loops - in one chunk instead of starting and stopping. The breaks in-between made for lots of clothing changes and sore, tired legs. Running one big marathon chunk would be hard but then you would be done and ready to lounge after.

Now we know for next time!

Let's Connect!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Race Report: Frozen Feat 10k 2020

This was my fourth consecutive year running the Frozen Feat 5k/10k, which is easily the best winter race in our area. My relationship with winter has its ups and downs. I like when it first begins, the holidays are exciting, but by February I need some sort of motivation to go out in the cold. I'm done!

Turns out, a frozen race with fellow all-weather runners is a great motivator.

What was new this year? My husband and I ran as a "Lovebirds" team for the 10k and signing up was actually his idea. I could hardly believe it myself! We haven't ran a race together, just the two of us, since I was pregnant with our first baby!

We signed up at the end of December and both of us did a decent amount of training for a month or so. I was entertaining the idea of running a couple Spring half marathons at the time and my hubs was wanting to run well in the 10k. In the weeks leading up to the race, we definitely didn't get much running done between sick bugs and then Leo traveling for work. I have felt like napping more than running and some days that's exactly what I did!

Regardless, we made it to race day uninjured, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend babysat the kids, and we looked forward to an overall nice race day.

When we got to town, we went straight to the parking garage right across the street from the race. Finding a spot wasn't a trouble at all. We made our way into the local highschool where the race is held, picked up packets, stretched and wandered around. Being somewhere without the kids is a rarity so it was nice just to visit!

The race had a great turn out and we are able to wait for the start time inside the school (which is especially helpful in extra cold years). The day had a nice turnout and I was thankful to catch up with a highschool classmate of mine while we waited.

9:20 meant time to lineup for the National Anthem and not too long after, we were off and running into the fiesty 16-20 mph headwind from the north!

The pack started off fast and that headwind felt discouraging. A few ponderings as I ran: Thank God this wasn't the weather for the Grand Forks Marathon last September! ... If an 8-minute mile feels hard now, I wonder what's to come... I can't remember what it feels like to run on plain pavement... Last time I ran here, I was wearing shorts...

We pushed through at a fairly comfortable pace until mile 4, where my husband was really feeling it. I knew once we hit the turnaround and the wind pushed us back he would have his second "wind". Once we had a tailwind, that 19 degrees and sun felt so... Spring-like.

The running surface was a mix of ice in some spots, loose snow with ice under it, and then patches of fairly easy snow running. No complaints. This is the Frozen Feat - interesting winter terrain should be expected! Even without traction aids it wasn't too bad; just a little extra work to run.

Leo and I finished in 50:43 which sets a record for our slowest 10k together and probably one of my favorite "run dates" we have been on. We ended up finishing first for the Lovebird 10k teams and won some flowers and a $50 Toasted Frog (bar/restaurant) gift card. We were both really pumped!

Now to go on a supper date some night after 4 pm. I am craving the Toasted Frog's deep fried pickles.

My only regret of this race is not grabbing a donut immediately after finishing the run. We changed into dry/warm clothes first and, to my horror, all of those gorgeous donuts were gone! I settled for two cups of chili and that was good enough to hold me over for a while.

I ended up being the 3rd place gal for the race and kept my Frozen Feat cup streak alive (minus the fact that I broke last year's cup). The top 3 males and top 3 females receive a plaque, Scheels giftcard and a nice mug. Each year they have had a unique mug design and I love that about this race - it is really well planned out.

And not pictured are our pairs of brand new Fitsoks! That's part of the race swag and I collect them. Seriously, I collect socks. Both the Grand Forks Marathon and Frozen Feat have had Fitsoks in their swag for the past few years and I always look forward to them.

After the awards were finished, we headed out to the nearby coffee shop to just visit for a while before a couple errands. We didn't stay super long, thankfully, because I was so tired I could have fallen asleep! Story of my life lately.

The eventful day ended with our 4-year-old taking a bite of spaghetti for supper and then somehow having it get stuck in/and shoot out of his nose. Wow. That was a definite parenting first for us! I was impressed and shocked. Apparently the marinara on the spaghetti burned a little in his nose.

And thus ended our run date day. I'm hoping I can talk my hubs into doing this again next year, only faster!

Let's Connect!

Friday, January 24, 2020

A Decade of Marathons (and a whole lotta life, too!)

Ten years ago, I toed the line to my very first marathon. I was running it with a group of friends and acquaintances to raise money for my co-worker battling Leukemia. Little did I know how much that experience would change the next ten years of my life.

This is my run down of the past decade of marathons and major life moments, with the layout inspired by Teal's post at Miles to the Trials (definitely check it out!). From marathons to marriage to the birth of our three boys, I'm amazed by all the Lord has brought me to and through in the past decade.

Lots of mistakes made. Lots of lessons learned. Lots of memories made. And I wouldn't change a thing.

1. Walker North Country Trail Marathon, September 2010

Goal: Finish
Training: I ran exactly the miles in the Marathon Training Academy free plan I used. No strength work and minimal warm-up/cooldown or stretching time.
Biggest Victory: I completed my very first marathon training cycle!
Biggest Challenge: Running those long run distances for the first time.
Result: 4:07:45 (9:26/mile). Ecstatic, exhausted and totally caught off guard by the hills on this course. Did I mention I trained on 100% flat gravel and/or paved roads for the entire time? This was humbling but amazing. I had no concept of whether this time was "good" or not. I was just glad to be DONE!

2. Fargo Marathon, May 2011

Goal: Run faster than the first marathon on the road (vs. trail)
Training: Pretty sure it was the Marathon Training Academy's free training plan again. Once again, minimal to no strength training or warm-up/cooldown involved. Uffda.
Biggest Victory: I finished in better shape than my first marathon!
Biggest Challenge: The long run still felt daunting - especially doing all my runs alone.
Result: 3:34:29 (8:10/mile) Made the Boston cut-off before I knew what a "BQ" was; thankfully it was 3:40 back then. After realizing I qualified, I was extra happy it didn't take me longer to stop and tie my shoe mid-race. How bad would it stink to miss qualifying because of a shoe lace?! Lesson learned: Double knot. 

3. Eugene Curnow Marathon, July 2011

Goal: Run another trail race
Training: I had heard the course was hilly so I chased down as many northern Minnesota "hills" as I could. Besides that, my training approach really didn't change much.
Biggest Victory: A 3-hour training run on the state park trails by my parents' house. This had some areas that were similar to the race terrain. Good training move, self!
Biggest Challenge: Signing up for a marathon in July. As cold as it gets up here, Minnesota is also hot and humid in the summer.
Result: 4:35:26 (10:30/mile) and 3rd place Female. I felt adventurous, that's for sure. There were parts of this course where we cruised, parts where I had to walk and hills I had to crawl up in mud. Yeah, this was an adventurous (and much harder than expected) race indeed! This was the first time I ever "placed" in a marathon and that was super exciting.

4. Twin Cities Medtronic, October 2011

Goal: Run a faster BQ
Training: Ran hills more regularly at the local park and incorporated speedwork by perceived effort. By this race I had an official "running watch" so I could track my paces!
Biggest Victory: Running three 20-milers in this training cycle. They became much less daunting.
Biggest Challenge: The race was on a Sunday during a weekend conference I had for work. Thankfully the conference involved a lot of sitting and snacking - perfect for taper, right? - and my mom picked me up on the way to the race!
Result: 3:22:05 (7:42/mile). Totally surprised. That was way faster than I realized I could run and all of a sudden my future goals became more ambitious.

5. Boston Marathon, April 2012

Goal: Run a good time, take in the atmosphere and the history.
Training: I used the Hal Higdon Boston Bound plan and incorporated more hills. Strength training still hadn't caught on for me and I hadn't been injured yet to wake me up to it...
Biggest Victory: Hitting my first 50-mile week. My mom and I made this trip together a month before my wedding. It was the perfect mother-daughter trip.
Biggest Challenge: Training in the freezing cold Minnesota winter and then racing on a day in the mid 80's! That was unusual for Boston weather too.
Result: 3:43:25 (8:31/mile). A little disappointed but glad to have finished. I expected my times to continue getting faster with each race and this was the first wake up call - it just doesn't always happen! I started out fast and the heat absolutely killed me. I dumped water on my head (chafed majorly. ouch) and had to take walk breaks to avoid passing out in the last half of the race. Had to finish to get that medal - and I did!

♥ May 2012: Married My Handsome Guy

♥ March 2013: We Became Parents, Our FIRST Boy is Born!

6. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2013

Goal: Run my first race after baby, 7 months postpartum
Training: I don't remember which plan I used but fitting in training was difficult as I navigated running as a brand new mom. Lots of stroller runs! I incorporated the 30-Day Shred DVD in with my training because it was easy to do with a little one at home.
Biggest Victory: Finishing my first race postpartum.
Biggest Challenge: Mentally I didn't enjoy training that much because I struggled to fit it in; mom time management is definitely an acquired skill!
Result: 3:37:37 (8:18/mile). Very happy, especially to meet my chunky babe and my parents at the finish line! (Hubs couldn't make it because of sugar beet harvest) I was slightly bummed that I missed the BQ; just for the sake of running the standard.

♥ May 2015: Our SECOND Boy is born!

7. Fargo Marathon, May 2016

Goal: Run sub-3:30
Training: At this point I was using a plan a friend had sent me; specific purposes for each run taught me so much and I was learning to run faster.
Biggest Victory: Running three 20-milers in training (I barely fit one in during the previous cycle!).
Biggest Challenge: Going into the race dehydrated and exhausted, which really nailed me as a breastfeeding mom on a super hot (80's race day)
Result: 3:57:16 (9:02/mile). I kept on pace for the first 10 miles and then crashed hard; ended up walking the last half of the race. I was a bummed but not disappointed in my performance. I know I did the best that my body gave me that day. Pre-hydrate lesson is learned!

8. Grand Forks Marathon, September 2016

Goal: Run sub-3:30, for real this time
Training: I read Greg McMillan's book "You (Only Faster)" and used a training plan from there.
Biggest Victory: Again, learning more lessons in workout specificity and what training paces I should be hitting.
Biggest Challenge: Getting over the mental and self-doubt hurdle of Fargo Marathon 2016 and my body's physical crash there.
Result: 3:28:13 (7:58/mile), finished 3rd Female. This race was a confidence boost and reminder that I can run a marathon without crashing! My legs were burning a bit early on but I hit the BQ standard and that felt great. While I had no intentions to return to Boston, it made a nice goal to shoot for each race.

9. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2016

Goal: Run this marathon successfully, two weeks after racing Grand Forks Marathon
Training: Just piggy-backing off Grand Fork's training. In two weeks, there was only time to partially recover and then run again.
Biggest Victory: Not getting injured.
Biggest Challenge: My legs being broken down from the previous race.
Result: 3:25:36 (7:50/mile), finished 1st Female. Breaking the tape at this small local race was a big breakthrough for me. First off, that was fun. Second, I wanted to do that again (only faster)!

♥ November 2017: Our THIRD Boy is born!

10. Grandma's Marathon, June 2018

Goal: Run Grandma's, which was a bucket list race for me. 7 months post-baby 3.
Training: I did well getting in the miles and stuck to the McMillan method. Mixed in yoga and a little strength work.
Biggest Victory: Running a marathon 7 months postpartum, which I had said I would never do again. Smart or not, I did it.
Biggest Challenge: Training with a new baby and two toddlers in the house; felt like a juggling act. Granted, I did sign myself up for this! (or ran as a review for BibRave)
Result: 3:32:17 (8:05/mile), setting a new 7-month postpartum PR for me (previous was 3:37). My hips and knee felt a little weak during this race (ahem, strength train much??) but I was very happy with the finish time.

11. Fargo Marathon, May 2019

Goal: Show up at the starting line injury-free, finish in 3:15.
Training: Backpedal slightly to August 2018, I majorly injured my hip flexor and wasn't able to race or run consistently for 4 months. Goodbye Fall races! I had been using the Hansons Marathon Method, which was going SO well, but skimping on the strength work so newly postpartum caught up to me. 2019 goal was to train and just not get injured.
Biggest Victory: Hitting paces that I didn't realize I could using the Hansons Method and adding in strength work using Runner Connect's program.
Biggest Challenge: Getting over the injury elephant in the room. When I started long runs again or felt a little niggle here or there, I kept thinking it would happen again.
Result: 3:16:34 (7:29/mile), so happy! I didn't break 3:15 but I ran well and felt great, despite the cold, rainy, windy day that it was. Definitely counted this race as a personal victory. And a fun date weekend with my husband for our 7th anniversary!

12. Grand Forks Marathon, September 2019

Goal: Break 3:15
Training: This training cycle was perfect... until race week. I got a nasty sinus cold and wasn't sure if I should race. I stuck with the Hansons Marathon Method for training (but added in a 20-miler instead of only going 16) and continued strength work with Runners Connect and the 21-Day Fix DVDs.
Biggest Victory: I woke up race day morning and felt pretty good! I had people praying for me and I know that made all of the difference. Come morning, I was ready to race.
Biggest Challenge: The day before the race. Picking up my race packet while feeling absolutely terrible and keeping track of my energetic boys. All I wanted to do was sleep!
Result: 3:11:26 (7:18/mile), and 1st Female. ECSTATIC. I was so happy to finally feel like a healthy human again, to set a PR and to break tape again. The best part was that this race felt fairly "comfortable" as far as marathons go - there wasn't a point where I hit a wall. It got my wheels turning that I can run a sub-3:00 someday.

13. Blue Ox Marathon, October 2019

Goal: Successfully run these back-to-back races again. Finish 1st Female.
Training: Piggy-backing on Grand Fork's training. My knee and foot felt a little niggly at times, so I did less running and more focus on recovering.
Biggest Victory: Being able to get to the race? Because of snowstorms in the area, the weather was drastically different than two weeks ago. My kids stayed with Grandma and my dad drove me the 2 hours to the race :)
Biggest Challenge: Running in the sleet, rain and wind on very tired legs.
Result: 3:22:40 (7:43/mile), and 1st Female. Just glad to be done. That one hurt! The first half of the race felt "okay" but the last half was lonely and miserable; I'm just glad I didn't stop the many times I wanted to. Dad and I had coffee and some good food afterwards - that was a plus!

After this decade of marathoning, ironically I have zero marathon plans for 2020!
But 2021, I'm coming for ya :)

The overarching lesson that the Lord has taught me through all of these races is that improving at something (whatever it may be) takes time, experience and perseverance. Put the work in and reap the harvest.

Running looks very different in each season of life and I have learned to love the flexibility of this sport. It can be as intense or as laxed as I need. I jumped into marathoning completely clueless to all this running world had to offer and, now that I've got a taste of it, I'm excited to see what the next 10 years have in store.

May your 2020 be blessed!

Let's Connect!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Working that Winter Fitness in the Frigid North

I have been a bad blogger over the past six months. Life continues to get busier - and eventually something's gotta give.

Because the glorification of busy is my #1 pet peeve, I decided to drop some things from life in order to achieve a better (perception of) balance. (Rather than whine and make excuses for being too busy, why not just do something about it?)

One of the dropped "things" was stepping back from running reviews for BibRave, which ended up being a great decision, and then, aside from homeschool curriculum and race reviews, my blog writing pretty much came to a screeching halt! That wasn't on purpose necessarily; though maybe a writing break has helped to rejuvenate my love for writing.

As a mom of three little boys - currently ages 2, 4, 6 - I haven't written near as much as when I started this blog. Somehow the joys and the challenges of parenting these sweet, chaotic energizer bunnies has left me speechless. I realize how little I know in this life. And it's hard to put that into words! Simply put, our firstborn made me believe I was a pretty good parent; then our secondborn taught me not to judge another parent.

Thirdborn... I'm not sure what he's teaching me yet. He's the life of the party and very good at quietly sneaking into trouble. I love the uniqueness of each one of them.


Alas! That's a brief explanation of life lately. I'm going to do my best to write once a week with the lovely Friday Five gals. They give me that extra running and training motivation when my brain is mostly full of 1st grade math, appointments, phonics and diaper changes.

This week we are talking about Winter Fitness. It's so stinking cold and icy lately here that much of my "winter fitness" looks like this:

Runners up in these northern parts pride themselves on running outside all winter long; though I have definitely not been one of them lately. I do love to get out for my easy-paced efforts or long run but, as far as running fast, it's not safe on glare ice. Heidi from G Training assigned some stride workouts and tempo work for me which helps to break up the monotony!

Speedwork on the treadmill is better than no speedwork at all. Our running track is currently buried under loads and loads of snow :) Along with speedwork, I have been working on my hip/core and overall strength as well. I remember that one time being injured in 2018 and unable to run well for 4 months. My plan is to not do that again!

I haven't gotten around to writing a recap of 2019 yet or even what my goals are for the new year. In a nutshell, my winter fitness goal is: speed. I ended on a great note with a marathon PR of 3:11:26 in September but my shorter distances need work - which will in turn hopefully cut down that marathon time too.

Per my Garmin data, I ran a 10k of 42:12 during a tempo run and ran a 1:33:02 half marathon during my marathon PR - both of which are faster than my actual race PRs. Sooo that's my sign that I need to put a little more effort into my short distance races! The full marathon has been my first running love and, though I have ran quite a few marathons over the past 10 years, I feel like I have trained quite sloppy.

Garmin PRs (unofficial, most were during workouts)

And after an entire training season of running by our local track (yet never actually running ON it), I had the guts to run a mile time trial on an evening in October. I thought that the fastest mile I would ever run would be a 6:48 back from my college tennis days but I blew that time out of the water... somewhat on a whim. 5:59 at age 32 while recovering from my back-to-back marathon efforts. I felt VERY happy to beat my little college self! (Especially considering I had uninterrupted sleep and actual allotted gym time back then)

As much as short distance speedwork really isn't my favorite, I plan to keep grinding away at that and possibly I will learn to love it.

I look forward to the day that our track melts off again! I'll check on it at the end of April.

Let's Connect!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Gentle Feast: Green Year Term 1 Review

The past 12 weeks of the school year have flown by and we are taking full advantage of this Thanksgiving break week! The kids and I are capitalizing on outdoor time on Grandma and Grandpa's farm and making a few trips to the indoor hockey rink as well.

We finished Term 1 just in time for this break and will be jumping into Term 2 come Monday. With this being our first school year using the A Gentle Feast curriculum created by Julie Ross, we are studying the Green Year (Cycle 1): Columbus, Conquests, and Colonies from 1000-1650 AD. Disclaimer: I am not compensated for this post but will receive a little $ if you use my A Gentle Feast affiliate linkThank you :)

A Gentle Feast is a Charlotte Mason curriculum, geared towards the family learning together, consists of four main components:

  • The Appetizer - Bible study, poetry, picture and composer study along with recitation and fables/hero tales. 
  • The Soup and Salad - Language Arts Block - writing, reading and grammar
  • The Main Course - Variety of subjects scheduled throughout the week
  • The Dessert - Weekly add-ons such as Poetry Tea Time and Nature Study

The living books have been a definite highpoint for us and are enjoyed by all. The boys especially loved the history book selections; anything involving war peeked their interest. Exploration and Conquest by Maestro was my first grader's favorite book and Leif the Lucky by D'Aulaire was a close second. Mapping Penny's World by Leedy and Me on the Map by Sweeney were the two favorite Geography reads of the term.

The year's book list for A Gentle Feast is a long one but I did my homework earlier this year and have hunted down the books secondhand or requested from the library. It helps that I have been blessed with two book-selling friends! They have been a great resource too.

For our Bible study, we have used The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos for New Testament and Old Testament readings and then the NIV for our Psalm and Proverb readings.

The Burgess Animal Book and Birds of the Air are part of our Natural History studies along with Exploring Nature with Children. The kids have enjoyed the Burgess readings especially as they have recommended videos and coloring pages for each chapter - though our challenge is that some of the chapters get a bit too long for the attention spans of the 4 and 6 year old even. Then we break up those readings and do a little bit during different times of the day.

For first grader E's Language Arts, we are using 100 Gentle Lessons in Sight and Sound Level 1 and 100 Gentle Lessons in Handwriting/Print. The lessons have been perfect for building a firm reading foundation and for reviewing handwriting technique.

The variety of sight/sound in the reading lessons keep things interesting for him and I have seen such huge progress in his ability to read and enthusiasm for reading! The Kindergarten curriculum that we used last year had monotonous reading lessons that bored and frustrated him but this new approach has been a breath of fresh air.

The kids also have Spanish lessons twice a week using a lesson plan included in this curriculum. If the scheduled lesson seemed like too much for this age, we listened to a Spanish read-aloud book.

Math is the only subject that isn't included in our A Gentle Feast curriculum for Form I (grades 1-3) and, after using Singapore's Earlybird Math for Kindergarten, we moved into Singapore's Dimensions Math 1 for first grader. Singapore Math has been great for E! The teaching style has really clicked with him and a colored textbook to work out of doesn't hurt either :) Keeping the lessons short, at around 25 minutes, is key to keeping math fresh and it's still standing as his favorite subject thus far.

For Preschooler's math, he plays with Alpha Rods, counting bears, magnetic shapes or works out of his own "math book" (one I found on Amazon) if he wants to. Gotta be like older brother!

Being able to cover so many subjects together as a family has been awesome. It's been a "lightbulb moment" for me, as I have thought to the future and wondered how life will look teaching three different grades at once. It is possible!

Homeschooling my boys at ages 2, 4 and 6 is about having realistic expectations while still spreading the feast of beautiful books and hands-on learning before them. Some days we can read so many books together and even the toddler listens! Other days, I need to dial it back and save most of the reading or possibly the reading/math lessons for toddler's nap time.

Teaching this age has been a lesson for me in patience and flexibility. Teaching with such young ones in the family isn't easy but what they absorb is amazing! Preschooler memorizes poetry like his older brother. Toddler tries the Sol-Fa singing lessons like his older brothers. Children are sponges and they absorb so much more than we realize!

I am so thankful we switched over to A Gentle Feast because the lessons are about as planned out as a Charlotte Mason curriculum can get. Some preparation is required of course but it's very minimal compared to building our own curriculum. I went through a relaxed "assessment" with First Grader and Preschooler to use as a measuring tool after each term and to see what areas we need to work on more.

I have greatly appreciated our Green Year studies so far and did I mention how much I'm learning alongside the children? Yeah, it's awesome!

On to Term 2!