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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Simplicity

This week my husband was working out of town following the weekend when we learned that the house we had under contract in the city needed $20K worth of structural repairs. Ouch. My idea about keeping things simple was a good one, but this week I was single parenting and making an offer on a new house on my own. No choice about that. Just had to. Mid week sometime, some things got out of hand, my kids lost it, then I lost it. I was up half the night being pretty unkind with myself because I wasn't managing very well.

A gift that comes with age perhaps, but I do not listen to unkind words about myself for very long. I was able to realize the extreme circumstances and even feel a bit pleased that I am a very patient person and it took SO MUCH for me to lose my cool. I don't know why clarity so often comes knocking at my door in the middle of the night when I'd really like to be sleeping, but clarity is welcome whenever it comes. It eventually dawned on me that the kids and I were all missing the simplicity we usually enjoy, the simplicity that allows me to be patient and present with them.

I thought about my next two days of single parenting and made a decision. I canceled every commitment I had made. I didn't spend any time on the phone. I didn't pack a single box. We snuggled, we read, we crocheted hats, we played charades, we went out for lunch together. My only goals for those two days were to be present and patient with my kids and to like myself at the end of the day. Those are not small goals, but they are simple, and I was successful.

Late at night, after my first successful day with the kids, I talked with my husband on the phone before bed. I was half asleep during our conversation since I'd been up half the night before. That brilliant husband of mine said something like: "Remember when we talked about having you at home with the kids and how you wanted to just be available for them? They love that. You can tell, things are just right in their world when you can do that." He's right again.

**On a similar note, Glennon Melton's post this week was about how kids just want a happy mom. I loved it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Perfecting the "polite pass"

We are making daily progress toward our move. Our strategy is to do a little packing everyday to do our best to avoid a crunch at the end. So far so good. We are trying to leave a lot of time to hang out with the people we love before we go. We want to be available to say "yes" when people ask to spend time with us.

This week, I said "yes" to three parties, grown up chats with several friends, and extra kids at my house every single day. I said "yes" to all those things and still accomplished packing and much phone calling with realtors, insurance agents, and banks. I was beginning to feel a little like what my friend, Andrea, described: my day was running me instead of me running my day.

So, I think my priorities are awesome and I wouldn't change them for anything. Making time for loved ones, being "THE" house where the kids want to BE, being able to say "yes" when a friend needs a favor, keeping life simple and low stress...all super, super important.

What I am finding is that during extreme times, sometimes all my top priorities come into conflict with one another and some decisions have to be made about what realistically can and cannot happen, while keeping in mind that I need to take care of myself as well somewhere in all of this.

I watched Hotel Transylvania with my kids recently. In the movie, Jonathan is offered a bagel with scream cheese, to which he replies "Polite pass, I am scream cheese intolerant". As a mostly food intolerant person, that gave me a giggle, but I also thought it wouldn't hurt for me to perfect the art of the "polite pass". This is a crazy busy time and I won't be able to do ALL the things I would want to do and still pull off this move.

My hope is that people continue to ask to spend time with us, that kids continue to want to be at our house, that people continue to ask me for favors AND that I continue to strive for a simple, low stress life during this busy moving/holiday season. I know I won't accomplish all of these things all the time. I hope that I can keep a clear head so that when those priorities are in conflict, I can make healthy decisions about what I can reasonably accomplish in a given week and practice the "polite pass" at appropriate times.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reading goodies

I feel EXACTLY this way about gift giving.

More Anne Lamott. Just have to. I thought this was lovely.

We continue to read about life on the prairie here. I brought My First Little House books home from the library for my girl to read to me. She especially enjoyed the cookbook, of course.

I am now reading Three Cups of Tea, another inspiring book.

And no, we're not reading as much as I usually like us to. But we are thankful to have our house under contract and have begun a serious search for our new home. I intend to celebrate every little step along the way and have some fun with this.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Listening for God

When I was growing up, my family had a Sunday ritual. On Sunday, my mom made pancakes and we listened to Kenny Rogers on the record player. I was very little, certainly under 4. I remember the sun coming through the windows, the smell of the maple syrup and my impression that Kenny Rogers' voice was the voice of God. I knew what he looked like from the album cover. I liked his voice and I thought he was handsome. For many years, I talked to God every night as I was falling asleep, sharing my worries and my gratitude, and when I pictured the face of God, I saw Kenny Rogers.

As a teenager, I came to know God as something to fear. I had a group of friends that invited me to a Baptist church camp. I wasn't as interested in the church part as I was the camp part. My first night there I learned that I was going to hell unless I walked up to the front of the room and said I would accept Jesus as my personal savior. What they were telling me sounded pretty scary. Deep down it didn't feel like truth to me, but scary won out at the end of the day. Several years later, I walked away from church and quit talking to God altogether, pretty angry at the scare tactics that were used to draw me in. My understanding of God became intensely personal for me, something I didn't want to discuss.

The last few years have been hard for me. The people in my life who love me could see that, and many of my religious friends offered me what brings them peace: prayers and Christian reading materials. They did this in the spirit of offering comfort and not to try to bring me around to their way of thinking. It was 100% love, and I accepted every bit of it. There were valuable nuggets of truth there for me and I allowed those to soften my heart and bring me peace. I also kept reading When Things Fall Apart, a collection of Buddhist teachings, a chapter a day every day. I have read it many, many times and learn something new each time. I picked up Anne Lamott and sang out loud to my Sarah Bareilles cd. I found truth, love and peace from different ways of thinking about God and the human condition. I am learning to sift through information and find what sounds like truth/God to me and what sounds like "human stuff". Call it what you like, prayer or meditation, getting quiet and tuning out the noise is a useful practice.

As so often happens, I come full circle and make it back to where I started: finding comfort in sunshine, pancakes, a happy family around the breakfast table, music and the voice of God. There is so much joy in finding that I have always had what I needed, whether I knew it or not.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just trying to keep up

When the weather is good, and lately it has been awesome, you will find us outside for most of the day every day. We have taken hikes, spent days by the creek, and gone on some evening bike rides. A common theme for us (really ever since she could move her own body) is my littlest child moving at top speed and me worrying because none of us can go fast enough for me to feel like she is properly supervised! The girl is FAST! Neither my husband or I with our much longer legs can catch her. None of her older siblings can catch her. Not only is she fast, she never tires!

That story seemed like a good way to begin an update on our lives. Trying to homeschool and work toward a move is more than a handful. But here is what else we are doing around here:

6th grade: My son started what is intended as a 14 week business math series and we are just cruising through at the pace that suits us best, sometimes flying and sometimes crawling. We are doing math as main lesson for this month, but we like to have good reading at night. I had several books lined up about Medieval times:
As for my 4th, 1st and K girlies, we are doing some Afterwards . We are also playing games (keeping score), planning for holidays (looking at costumes/working with money) and lots of practical math in our projects: baking, yarn work, etc. I am reading Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling at bedtime. Then the girls are reading to themselves. My 4th grader recently discovered The Lunch Lady series. She enjoys reading it and the littles enjoy listening to her read it aloud. My 1st grader has been reading Dr. Seuss.

As for ME, after finishing Carry On Warrior, I picked up Anne Lamott at Glennon's suggestion. I loved Traveling Mercies and would like to read more Anne Lamott when I get back to the library.

But perhaps most importantly, our lives and our hearts are just FULL to overflowing because getting kicked out of our house for showings has provided opportunities for overnights with grandma, long days at the farm with the grandparents, and afternoons of play with friends/tea and conversation time for the mamas. It all makes having patience for the house to sell much easier.

“...most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.”
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith


Friday, October 18, 2013

Reading goodies

A timely (for me) post about change and transition.

A sweet post about the difficulty of being present in busy times.

Yet another great article about how early academics is NOT what is best for kids.

A friend gave me Carry On Warrior by Glennon Melton for my birthday. This is one of my favorite chapters here!

And an encouraging quote from Andrea's blog.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Witness to a birth

We went out to visit my husband's family this weekend on the farm. We are just starting to see some fall colors here. It was a perfect 70 degree day. We just happened to drive up at the exact same time as my husband's brother and neither knew the other had plans to come for a visit that day. So the whole family had a hot dog roast down by the creek on this beautiful fall day.

Late in the afternoon as we were getting ready to consider heading home, my son finds us and says, "One of the cows is getting ready to have her baby!" We all ran down the lane as fast as we could and stood by the fence. All the mamas inside the fence were gathered around the laboring mama, at first just to offer support, but once we all arrived they all stood between us and their laboring friend, wondering if we might be a threat.

After about 45 minutes, when the mama had worked and worked and hadn't made any progress, my father-in-law called the farmer in charge of the cattle to let him know she was ready for some help. The two farmers arrived and assessed the situation. It was time to pull that calf! One of them went into the pen with the mamas and walked slowly and carefully between the laboring mama and the others. The others ran off and the laboring mama started moving toward the smaller pen where the farmer was trying to lead her.

Once in the smaller pen, the farmer used a lasso and caught her around the neck to keep her in one place. It took the two farmers, my husband and his father for this job (plus some fancy rope work). Those cows are heavy and strong! The two farmers attached chains to the calf's hooves. Mama then had a nasty contraction and literally just fell over. Poor girl pulled the rope so tight everyone was scrambling to give the rope some slack so she could breathe. They eventually had to cut the rope and thank goodness for all she was OK. They pulled that calf in a hurry and all was well.

After what she'd been through, I figured that mama ought to get a day off, perhaps some breakfast in bed. But after just a few deep breaths, she stood right up and started cleaning up her baby. We watched her lick and lick and nudge and nudge that baby, trying to help that baby get on its feet. Once baby was on its feet, mama was right there nudging it along round and round the pen until eventually baby was looking for milk.

I bet all together we stood there for an hour and a half. My youngest, only 5, was probably the most attentive of all the kids. It was an absolutely incredible experience---unforgettable!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This small town girl visits the big city

This past week, we took a trip to the city we will soon call home. We wanted to lay eyes on the place and begin to figure out housing.

My thought before we left was that we would spend a day or two looking at houses and have a lot of time for sightseeing, hanging out, and basically just vacationing. Our first day there was a Saturday and we spent most of that day with the realtor. We looked at several houses in two different areas of the city. I am pretty sure we looked just like this:

(have to click for picture, sorry, but it will be worth it)

Adjustment to city life is going to be no small thing. We spent five days and 700 miles of car time trying to figure out how to recreate the things we love about our life now in the big city. We kept telling our realtor about all the things we love about our house "at home" so she could understand what we were trying to find. Bless her heart, she got out there in the country with us in her high heels day after day and very patiently helped us in every way she could.

On our last day in the city, that sweet realtor gave me a bit of an overview of how she thinks about the process of buying and selling homes. She said that some homes sit on the market for reasons that no one can understand and her theory about it is that a home doesn't sell either because it is waiting for just the right family or because the family that is selling the home isn't quite ready to let it go. She said that often once the family is really and truly ready, the home will sell, the price will be right, and everything will move forward. I knew there was something there that was important for me to think about. As my husband and I talked that day, I began to hear how we were hanging on to our home and our small town life.

My husband and I spent the car ride home processing what we learned during our trip. We don't have it all figured out yet. But we did acknowledge to one another that as we listened to ourselves and each other, we could hear where we are stuck. There is so much that we love about our lives now that we would like to bring all that we love with us when we move. We are seeing that it isn't possible, but now we are also seeing that it wouldn't be the best use of this opportunity. This new place will have new things to offer, so now the question we are asking is "How can we best take advantage of the opportunities this city has to offer?" We don't have the answer yet, but I think we are at least asking the right question now.


***If you would like to know what the kids and I are reading and learning lately, we are enjoying Alison's suggestions for reading about birds. Alison has a real gift for building main lesson blocks!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Reading goodies

Carrie at The Parenting Passageway is talking about visual challenges and reading in a two part series. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for part 2.

Renee at FIMBY has a child who was a late reader and in this week's post talks about a collaborative approach to learning (and essentially how she works with her kids until they are ready to work on their own).

From my own research on the topics of late reading, dyslexia and vision related reading problems, here are a few resources I found helpful:

http://www.childrensvision.com/index.htm

The Well Balanced Child, by Sally Goddard Blythe

Better Late Than Early, by Raymond Moore

Primary Phonics Storybooks, Sets 1-6

Monday, September 16, 2013

Reading goodies

  • More wisdom from Lori Pickert this week on the value of self-directed learning. This is an area I'd like to pay more attention to myself:
I’ve seen parents mention how fun it was to pull together books and activities for their child’s interest — totally oblivious to the fact that their child could have had that fun. - See more at: http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/self-directed-learning-neglected-subject#sthash.xj3RkS04.dpuf
 "I've seen parents mention how fun it was to pull together books and activities for their child's interest--totally oblivious to the fact that their child could have had that fun."
  •  A Poem a Day!? Does that not sound delicious? My friend sent me this one this week and I read it with tears running down my cheeks. I am going to spend some time reading here.
  • Due to a nasty cold that struck me this week, I had to put reading aloud to my kids on hold (a serious tragedy here). My oldest two took over for me and did the nightly reading with the littles. So sweet to hear! Jack and Annie stories seem to be a good compromise: enough pictures for the littles and an interesting story for the bigs.
  • And while the bigs were reading to the littles and I was miserable in my bed, I did some reading of my own: The Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I haven't read that author since before I had my kids. Another little return to myself. 
**As a side note, the study of Rome continues into week #7! THE BEST to see a kid wanting more and more! Loving it!


I’ve seen parents mention how fun it was to pull together books and activities for their child’s interest — totally oblivious to the fact that their child could have had that fun. - See more at: http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/self-directed-learning-neglected-subject#sthash.xj3RkS04.dpuf

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The cost of perfection

The house is officially on the market. And my well-lived-in house needs to look picture perfect given an hour's notice. The odds are against me. Four messer-uppers in the house and two cleaner-uppers. You can see what I'm up against.

Keeping the house completely clean all the time when there are four kids in the house is challenging. Keeping the house completely clean all the time when I want to support my kids in being active, creative and imaginative.....clean up is my full time job right now.

I know I could put them in front of the TV or the computer. It would minimize the mess. And there are desperate times when I have done this and will continue to do this (like when the realtor calls and says we have a showing in an hour and the kids are doing more fighting about who made the mess than they are cleaning up the mess).

But the rest of the time, when there are no showings scheduled but we are just mindful that at any moment we could get the one hour warning, I just want to keep living my beautiful life. So, the play dough is still out, the paints are still out, forts are still being built in my basement, dinners are still being eaten on my screened porch. And at the end of the day, the two cleaner-uppers make the rounds with the vacuum and the glass cleaner and our home will go back to looking like no one really LIVES here.

I have a renewed understanding of what it takes to keep a house so clean. It means my kids are either not around much or they are watching TV instead of building Lego cities or puzzle museums. It means that instead of reading or doing yoga at the end of my day, I'm vacuuming the kids' dinner off the screened porch floor and wiping their finger prints off the glass door. It means that instead of visiting the farm on a Sunday, I'm pulling weeds or moving gravel around the yard. It means that instead of snuggling with my husband and unwinding from the day, we are running around the house to make sure each room is clean before we crash out, exhausted.

There are times when priorities need to shift to accomplish a goal. My hope for us is that our goal will be accomplished soon and we can get back to what makes our lives rich and wonderful. Because when we are so focused on appearance, much of the substance of our lives is missing and we aren't really LIVING the way we like to.




Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reading goodies

Continuing our study of Rome, my son and I read In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively. We enjoyed the presentation of the story of the fall of Troy and Aeneas' journey to Italy. The illustrations in this book are incredible!

Through our study of local history, my daughter and I discovered this artist who has been photographing and researching root cellars in the Flint Hills region of Kansas. We had the opportunity to hear him speak today. His photography is incredible and it added to my enjoyment of his artwork to hear him speak about his interest in this topic and the way he sees and thinks about the work that he's doing.

Jim Trelease was mentioned in several books that I have read lately, so I picked up The Read Aloud Handbook at my local library. Because I love, love, love reading aloud with my kids, I got very excited about this book, especially the first chapters where he describes all the reasons why it is important to read aloud to kids and all the ways kids benefit from read-aloud time. There are also many reading recommendations for kids of all ages. This book is worth owning!

In the bedside book basket this week: An Illustrated Treasury of Grimm's Fairy Tales and The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reading goodies

I was looking for main lesson book examples to share with a friend and I just happened upon this website created by two former Waldorf teachers. I found beautiful main lesson book examples, lots of verses and movement recommendations, reading recommendations, main lesson ideas and more.

Lori Pickert is one of my favorite writers and this week she posted another very inspirational article about how to encourage your kids to to be makers and doers.

I have been following the research of Peter Gray for some time. This article from several years ago about how kids learn to read is one of my favorites. Here is a new one that is a more general overview of his research.

My son's favorite cartoonist gives some wonderful advice in the form of a cartoon! I love this!!!

In my bedside book basket: The Read Aloud Handbook and KISS Guide to Yoga.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Predicting the future

My kids are often asking me to predict the future:

"When is Grandma going to get here?"
"What are we doing this week?"
"When is my friend going to call me back?"

And lately, my standard response is, "I am not very good at predicting the future. We will have to wait and see".

I would like to think there are some things I know about the future. One of the things I thought I knew about my future is where I will always live. I knew when I married my husband 13 years ago that we would always live in our hometown. I have said this hundreds of times: "If there is one thing you can count on, we will always be here". He is such a sweet son to his parents and his family has been in this community for at least five generations. My husband grew up living in the same house his whole life. In fact, we still have the same phone number he had when he was growing up! This man has ROOTS.

My life was not like that. Moving was a pretty regular part of my life. Things were often changing. At first, I wasn't so sure I would like returning to my hometown. I only knew I loved that man and I would follow him anywhere. I adjusted to the idea and we started planning our future together. We both talked about how it would be wonderful for our kids to have a home, one home to grow up in, one home to come back to. We talked about wanting our kids to know our parents, really know them. And we have been living those dreams and loving it!

I can't say for sure when things started to shift, but there have been little hints of impending change over the past year or so. Finally, in the last several months, we could no longer ignore that it was time to consider a different future.

My husband and I both have been doing some big learning and growing this summer. I know this because it has been HARD at times. We have been very attached to our good life here, so thinking about leaving took some adjustment. If I had been reading about my life in a book, I'd have been tempted to skip to the end of this chapter and find out how it was all going to work out. I often tried to predict how things would turn out, and I was wrong every time. So I eventually quit trying to predict and put my energy into patience. I learned that I have a lot to learn about patience.


My husband received an offer last week that will take us out of our little town to a big city in another state. We are excited about a new adventure for our family and sad about all we will leave behind. Whereas before, we tried to plan our "forever", now we're not looking so far ahead.

In fact, right now, we are so busy with moving that I can barely see past this day to the next. It may be quieter here for a while. If it is, you will know what's keeping me busy. But I won't try to make predictions about that, because now I know better.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rome, Greece and a little Physics

This summer, my son and I read Rick Riordan's "Mark of Athena", the third in a series about Roman mythology. Once we finished the book, we wanted to know more about Roman mythology and history and much more about Archimedes.

My son read "Archimedes and the Door of Science" by Jeanne Bendick. This book inspired some experiments with pulleys and levers (and hours of fun moving rocks and water between kids on the ground and kids in the clubhouse using a pulley system my 6 year old daughter designed). It also led to an interest in building a catapult so we took advantage of a workshop at our library. There, my son built a mini catapult and discovered a book called, "Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction" by John Austin. He found several good projects there and even included his sisters in some of them.

We found "Roman Myths" by Geraldine McCaughrean at our library. We picked up several books on Roman mythology and this was my son's favorite. He read this one on his own and then put together a puppet show to share one of the stories with me and his younger sisters.

"City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction" by David Macaulay was a big hit with my art-loving boy who loves to know how things are put together. We also found a movie, "Rome: Engineering an Empire", created by the History Channel that also describes the building of ancient Rome. No surprise that he is now working on architectural drawings of buildings from ancient Rome.

We are about halfway through "The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare, which contains some Roman history and some history from the time of Christ. It is well done, a book we hate to put down.

Today I picked up "Augustus Caesar's World" by Genevieve Foster from our library. I am already loving the illustrations and look forward to reading through this one myself. I imagine I will pick out bits and pieces of this one to share with my son.

Feeling very fortunate to be learning with my kids! This is some really great stuff! Love it!





Sunday, August 18, 2013

Reading goodies

Dear People Who Do Not Have a Child With Disabilities- I think this advice applies to anyone who is hurting for any reason.

A sweet post about structure in a home that values child-led learning.

Follow Jean and Alison's discussion as they read what Steiner actually said about education.

Some facts about homeschooling for the worriers and doubters.

Alternately laughing and crying as I read, "The Reading Promise" by Alice Ozma.

I tried out a yoga class this week! My instructor had this sign on the wall:
"In the end, what matters most is:
How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?"

This week, my emerging readers are enjoying "Grasshopper on the Road" and "Uncle Elephant" by Arnold Lobel (author of the Frog and Toad books).

"Grasshopper on the Road" inspired me to draw! I used "Drawing From the Book of Nature" by Dennis Klocek, one of the books I ordered when I got home from Taproot.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reflections and intentions


There was much to process after my weekend at Taproot. After a week of down time, I thought I would share my reflections and intentions:
  • Once again, I came home with the understanding that I am trying to do too much. I heard Jean Miller say last year to "go deep not wide", "value process over product", "quality not quantity" and heard it again this year, but came home with a more specific understanding of what this could mean for us. This year, I will have patience with myself and my children. I will relax, enjoy and take time with every bit of knowledge we pursue, nurturing my children's ideas and watching them grow.
  • At Taproot, there are always opportunities to participate in music and art. It shows me how uncomfortable I am and how much I have to learn in these areas. This year, I am inspired to do more singing, movement and art with my kids. Even when it feels intimidating, I'm going to jump right in and do it anyway.
  • Everyday with my kids I am aware that I am as much a learner as they are. We are often learning together. At Taproot, there was certainly an exchange of ideas, but I was mostly there as a learner. I noticed that the job of receiving information is pretty exhausting and the job of giving information is also pretty exhausting. We all needed down time to recover and process afterward. Many of the important connections were made during the down time. Thankfully, we were all encouraged to take care of ourselves, joining in on planned activities as we wished and this highlighted for me the value of unstructured time. I will be curious and learn along with my children. I will keep a sane pace in the household, providing plenty of unstructured time for relaxation and reflection.
  • I learned a lot about myself and the ways in which I learn best. I noticed that there were some activities that were easy for me to learn from, some that I was resistant to but enjoyed once I gave it a try, and others that simply did not work for me. I will be aware of the ways in which each child learns best, ways that they are each open to being stretched a bit and activities that seem to block their learning process. I will be mindful of my children's projects, providing necessary resources and materials and reminding them where they left off when they are struggling to find something to do.
 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Reading goodies

 Lately I have realized how much time and energy I have now that my kids are a bit older and more independent. This article does a beautiful job of describing this time of life that I find myself in.

Renee Tougas wrote about the loneliness of choosing a life outside the norm. Very thought provoking.

This author writes about how to nurture creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit through education. A good read for homeschoolers or those interested in education reform.

Read this one because it doesn't do any good to tell kids to hurry anyway and because "the noticers" are important teachers in our lives.

The word "obstacles" kept jumping out at me in my reading this week:
From a self-written obituary: "...Obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path".
And from Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: "What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we're stuck.....Whether we experience what happens to us as obstacle  and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality."

Happy Friday!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Road trip

This past week I took a road trip. By myself. On my way there I tried to remember the last time I had made a big trip alone. It was before kids, before marriage. It's been ages. I only just barely remember that girl I used to be, the one who liked to take frequent road trips, visiting family and friends and rocking out along the way. It's been far too long.

I drove nearly 2000 miles, 32 total hours, and listened to eight of my favorite CDs over and over again. All old CDs from my road tripping days. I was hoarse from singing by the time I returned home. I drove through the rain and in the dark. I saw the sunrise in Indiana. I saw every inch of a semi truck on fire in Illinois and more smoke than I've ever seen in my life. I saw familiar country and country I had never seen before.


I returned to Taproot Farm for Teacher Training. I went last year, thinking that I would only go once. It is pretty far away and I felt lucky to make it there at all. Connecting with others who homeschool in a similar way was an amazing experience for me. I had thought I was doing OK on my own, but experiencing community really showed me what I had been missing. Over the past year, I kept in touch with several of the women I met there. These ladies have become my community, my friends.


This year being at Taproot felt even better. I was returning to a familiar place. I even stayed in the same bedroom with my two roommates from last year. There were six of us who had returned. There was hugging, catching up, and late night chats complete with wine and snacks.

Attending these trainings has taught me so much--about working with my kids, about myself, about the variety of people and lifestyles in this world. When it's all over, my head feels full with new ideas and my heart feels full from all the connection with these beautiful friends. This week, I am taking a tremendous sigh and just enjoying all this fullness.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Planning

This is the first year I decided to really and truly make a learning plan for the coming year. Other years I have loosely followed a Waldorf curriculum, almost like a list of things we could do, and left a lot of room for flexibility around the kids' interests (for more about that read this article I wrote for a friend's blog). It was a bit fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, because let's face it, it's been 8 years of babies, diapers, and not nearly enough sleep.

This year, my seventh year of homeschooling, there are no babies, no diapers, I get enough sleep and suddenly I feel like I could do anything, including my own homeschool planning. One of the things that inspired me most about my time at Taproot Farm last summer was hearing some of the presenters talk about planning. So when I was faced with all this time this summer, I thought I would give this planning thing a try. I thought I would share some of what I found helpful in my planning process.

I purchased Jean Miller's planning guide while I was at Taproot. Jean talks about her own planning process, provides some advice about rhythm, and also has a wonderful list of Waldorf resources. She also lays out the topics for each year and some of her favorite resources for each topic. What this resource did for me is give me a framework for doing my own planning. It can be as simple as a table with three columns and three rows (9 blocks for 9 months), thinking about the possibilities, thinking about my kids and then finding resources (library books, museums, materials, etc.) that are available to me.

The more challenging part is taking four plans for four kids and thinking about how to bring them together so I don't lose my mind. Listening to Jean Miller and Alison Manzer speak at Taproot gave me some great ideas about this. Talking with these more experienced homeschooling mamas really took some pressure off (thank you, ladies!). Here are just a few of the goodies I got from hearing them speak:
  • I was fairly blown away by Alison's description of bringing different ages together on similar topics (or example: farming and botany). I had to laugh at myself for being blocked on that one. But yes, of course, it would be easy enough to find books, outings and projects that would be good for two similar topics and then have two kids (or more) going in the same direction.
  • Go deep, not wide. Instead of doing so much, do a few things well. 
  • Process not product. There isn't always something to show for every learning process and there doesn't have to be something in the main lesson book for every block for every kid. 
Hrm....Taproot, Taproot, Taproot. Yes, my time at Taproot last summer and the people I connected with there have continued to inspire me all year long.

I do know not to get too attached to plans, but setting our own intention for this coming year also feels really good. I intend to remain flexible and hold space for my kids to follow other interests that come up throughout the year. There are always learning detours and these are often unforgettable experiences for all of us.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summertime

We have just never really taken summer off. But this year for the first time my boy asked for a summer. He wanted a real summer with less structure and some sort of end of summer where we get back to our usual thing. We have always just kept a daily habit of learning. Times when we snuggle up and read together, times when we write together, times when we are at the table painting or drawing, and of course days when we either go out in the country to hike or into the city for museum visits. We just live and learn through our fine full days, all of us.
My little guy, before he got so big

But this year my oldest for the first time had a sense that his friends were having a summer. A late nights, Minecraft, swimming, baseball, full-of-fun summer. And he wanted in on it. I love that he is having this summer that he wanted and I also miss those times that we snuggle up and enjoy a good book together or draw anime characters at the kitchen table. I miss our bedtime chats. It used to be "I want to BE with you" right as I was about to close my eyes at night but now this time of day is a good time to play with friends over Skype. I have that before bed time to myself, which is nice but also a little sad. My guy is definitely growing up.

But his growing up is also fun and exciting for many reasons. For one, it means that he is playing a much bigger role in his own learning. He sat down with me and we talked about what he wants to do and learn this coming year when summer is over and his friends are going back to school. I got to hear what he is loving and what he wants more of. I got to hear his thoughts on how he would like to structure his days. We talked about having regular meetings so that he can be a part of planning and I can hear what he is learning and figuring out. I know there will still be times that we are cuddled up reading together, but there will now be more times when he is learning on his own and I still want to hear about it.

Making plans with him feels a bit like a promise to return to the life we have loved once our fun summer vacation is over. I know that partly I am longing for the times when my boy wanted to BE with me, snuggle and read with me, draw at the table with me, etc. and that no plan we create will be able to take us back in time. The kids are growing up and some of these things are changing more permanently than just for the summer. This is feeling like a new chapter for us.

But the other wonderful thing about my guy growing up and wanting a free summer is that I also am benefiting from that freedom too. With this time that is available to me, I feel like I can catch up on all the things I have fallen behind on those years that I had babies in the house and I was getting settled into homeschooling. You should see my super clean and organized house, folks. And I feel like there is now time and mental energy available for some planning for what we'll do when this summertime is over.

I'll share more about that soon....


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A shift from uncertainty to possibility

I usually like to write from the other side of a difficult place and not right in the thick of it, so I have been putting off writing, thinking I will find that other side soon. We have been in this difficult limbo, living with uncertainty about our future. That sounds kind of silly as I type it out, because really even when we feel certain about our future, life can take twists and turns we don't expect. So for weeks, we've just been hanging out in this difficult place, waiting for this thing to unfold so we can KNOW what is going to happen. (Again, even as I write it, I know no one can KNOW what is going to happen, but that's still where we've been.)

Thankfully we are all healthy and safe, but still in the early stages of this limbo we were anxious and clearly not our usual selves. You can bet the kids picked up on that, so we added whiny, clingy, grumpy kids to the struggle. This is when I realized that it was time for me to get myself together because they needed me to and because my worrying wasn't accomplishing anything. So I got busy with the snuggling, reading, creating, playing and working of our day-to-day life. I've kept the focus on this moment and then the next, not looking too far ahead, and just loving these people I live with. So it was back to supporting my little baker girl in finding recipes and creating her own new recipes, supporting my little photographers in their birdwatching and people watching, and learning and growing along with my almost teenager who is taking me new places with regards to technology and social dynamics that weren't even possible when I was growing up.

And a cool thing has happened along the way. As I am just paying attention to each moment, I know that uncertainty is still out there, but it is becoming easier. It feels lighter and we can laugh about it sometimes. And while we wait, we are even having some fun (yes, really) considering the possibilities of what our future might hold. It has been inspiring to me to read about people who have gone to incredible lengths to follow their dreams and how to work out the details. My husband and I talk about everything from working together as a family to build our own country home and raising chickens to selling our home and everything in it so we can hit the road in our travel trailer. We talk about moving around every couple years to experience different parts of the country but we also talk about doing everything we can to stay close to home. So in all of these discussions, we began to see that we are capable of being happy in a variety of circumstances. We are finding many ways to be excited about the changes on our horizon, that there are opportunities for us in the possibilities.

So while we are not on the other side yet, we are coming to a place of (mostly) enjoying the ride.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Mom, let's rock!"

Lately when we are getting into the car to go somewhere, my daughter says, "Mom, let's rock!". This means "Turn up the music and roll down the windows so we can sing at the top of our lungs!".  I have been borrowing some courage and spunk from Sara Bareilles and my kids can sing along with all the songs now. We sing and smile and laugh our way all over town.

I remember some good times with my own mom who is also a mom that rocks. When I was growing up, my mom had a charcoal gray Camaro. And she was a hot mama with long curly hair wearing tight jeans, tank top and sunglasses. We would get in that Camaro, roll down the windows and blast the country music: George Strait, Hank Williams Jr., Reba McIntyre, the Judds. She loved to drive into the country looking at deer or mooing at the cows she passed along the highway. Mostly what I remember is the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the music, the singing and the pure joy of the entire experience. Even today when I hear those old familiar songs, it takes me right back.

The family legend is that I once turned to my friend who was sitting in the back seat with me, did a big teenage eye roll and said, "My mom talks to cows". And I know I told her several times that I wished she would dress like the other mothers. Although I put on a big show of being embarrassed, I think I knew a little then what I know so much better now: how fortunate I am to have a mom who has the courage to be her own true self and knows how to have fun.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

A trip to the mountains

When planning our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, we had expected to do quite a bit of hiking. We have taken some pretty long hikes during our travels, but this was the first year that our youngest has been too big to carry in a backpack. But this is a girl who goes nonstop all day everyday, so we attempted a 1.5 mile hike. It turned out that this "hike" was a lot less moving and a lot more stopping.

Those hydration packs were wonderful for keeping the kids hydrated (too wonderful). Eventually the stopping to drink and stopping to pee became so frequent and the whining so intense that I offered my camera, hoping that taking nature pictures would make the hiking experience go a little more smoothly.


We only made it .5 miles on that hike before my husband and I admitted defeat, but we did make it to one amazing view before turning back.
What we learned is that a little bit of walking can work if we skip the hydration packs, make sure everyone is well rested, walk in the morning or evening when it's cool, and spend some time near water at some point during or after the walking.

And we all hiked happily ever after.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

What I wish someone had told me when I began homeschooling

This week I had a special visitor, a friend that I first met in sixth grade and have been friends with ever since. She lives across the globe from me now, but has been wonderful to take the time to catch up with me every few years when she makes it home to visit her parents. Because her two boys are away while their school is now in session, she finds herself homeschooling, at least for the duration of their time in the US. She also foresees that it may be the best option for them in the future as they consider a move away from the city. So, she was picking my brain about where I began my own learning once I decided to homeschool my kids.

As she was asking me where she should begin, what everyone should know starting out, what resources are helpful, and whether or not to buy a packaged curriculum, I realized that the answer I have for myself and my family are no good to anyone else. Every family comes to homeschooling for different reasons and has different priorities. With that in mind, I did share some of my experiences with her in case she may find them helpful, but the conversation did get me thinking about what I wish someone had told me when I started out.

You'll have no idea what you're doing when you start out, and that's OK. When I began homeschooling, I was bombarded with questions from family, friends, neighbors and even people at the grocery store. I felt a lot of pressure to have all the answers. Looking back, I think it seems like it would have been alright to say that I was just starting out and learning as I go. Though taking on the responsibility of your children's education is an incredibly important job, there really is room to make mistakes, learn from them, and make adjustments. Because you are the teacher, principal and board of education, you don't have to work through bureaucracy to make drastic changes. If you decide you have made a mistake and are on a wrong path, your course can be changed immediately.

Home education does not always look like school. You do not have to recreate school in your home. Many more learning options are available to you. Learning can happen from books, but it can also happen from cooking, gardening, taking walks through the neighborhood, building with Legos, finding critters in the creek, drawing, sewing, museum visits, putting on plays, writing stories, singing, etc. You are not limited to curriculum, books, and seat-work. In order to broaden your own definition of education, observe your children doing all the things they love to do. Take pictures. Take notes. Pay attention to their learning process and you will begin to see learning in a whole new way.

Families who use a packaged curriculum rarely follow it perfectly. Some parents prefer to be told what their kids should learn, while others prefer to follow their child's lead all the time. However, even those families who use a curriculum often depart from it to some extent. One of the main advantages of home education is the flexibility to tailor the education to the child. So if you choose to work from a curriculum, there is no need to feel guilty if you don't get through every assignment or follow all instructions. 

If you have days that look like complete chaos, it does not mean you are a failure as a home educator. Though I had imagined my beautiful children sitting quietly at the kitchen table absorbed in their lessons, some of my (now favorite) memories of homeschooling when my kids were little go something like this:

I am reading aloud to my children. My oldest is snuggled up next to me, completely absorbed in the book we are reading. My oldest daughter is brushing my hair, braiding it, putting it in pig tails (this is a bit painful at times and hair is often falling into my face, making it difficult to read). I am pretty sure she is not paying attention to the story. My toddler is climbing on top of the kitchen counter for the fifteenth time that day while my infant is in my lap nursing to sleep.

There are challenges that come with playing several roles at once and working with children of several different ages and stages at once. Chaos will certainly happen even to the best of us.

It is perfectly normal to be completely terrified now and then. Doubts, frustrations and even panic happen to everyone on this journey. There will be times you will wonder if you have any idea what you're doing, if your kids are learning anything at all, if you might be ruining their lives, if you should run directly to the school down the street and enroll your children this very afternoon. You really will have fewer doubts and fears as time goes on, as you learn more, and as you get little glimpses into the wonderful people your children are becoming.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stories

Although there were storms in the forecast threatening to ruin our Memorial weekend plans for outdoor fun, the weekend was near perfect. Only two storms and they both happened at times when we would not have been outdoors anyway.

We spent all of Saturday with my husband's family at their farm. We went down to the creek for a picnic.

The kids cannot be near the creek without being IN the creek. Before we knew it, they were shoulder deep walking through the creek, trying to see just how far they could get before it got too deep. They got all the way around the bend and found a glorious mud bank. They forgot their mission to see how far they could go and dug into the mud. They sat there for hours making "stew" in a spot all their own.

I sat in a cool spot in the shade with their grandmother. One of my favorite things about our visits to the farm is listening to the kids' grandmother tell stories. I love to hear her stories about her childhood, her husband's childhood, my husband's childhood, and the stories about the family farm. And while I'm listening, I get to watch my children enjoying the mud and sunshine, hear the birds singing and listen to the wind blowing through the trees. It is all just heavenly.

On the kids' return trip from their mud bank, a water snake was spotted. My little two panicked and were screaming and hurrying their way through the water back to our side of the creek bank. Once they returned, I brought them close for a snuggle while their grandmother began a story. The girls got quiet and listened curiously while she told them about a particular black snake that she often sees when she is mowing by the creek bank. He slithers his way up the trunk of the tree (and she is showing them how he slithers with her own body), out onto a branch and then drops himself into the tall grass on the creek bank. "See, right here is where he gets up onto the tree, then he goes out here, over to there and right down there". And right at the place where he begins his climb, the kids look and find some snake skin that has been shed, which really brings this story to life for them. Grandma and the two girls all huddle around the tree looking at the snake skin and talk about how the snake is useful on the farm, what he eats, where he lives, etc.

The girls have retold that story several times since, using their bodies, just as their grandma did, to show how the snake slithers up the tree so that he can drop down into the tall grass.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thinking outside the limits

Today it was a beautiful spring day. A sunny day with a cool breeze, the absolute perfect day for being outdoors. I took my four plus two friends for an afternoon at the park. When we arrived, I could see that this was a popular idea. Our neighborhood park, which is usually only lightly populated on a weekday afternoon, was fairly packed. After a few minutes on the playground, it became clear that there was a class or two from the neighborhood school having a picnic.

My crew ran to the merry-go-round. Several got on, the youngest started pushing. It was a beautiful moment. The sun, the breeze, the kids laughing and playing. Some of the other kids wanted to join in and started walking toward the merry-go-round. From behind me came the sound of a whistle and "Second graders, the merry-go-round is OFF LIMITS!!"

My crew looked all around, mouths wide open. The question on their face: "What on earth was that?" Then back to playing. Pretty soon, more kids ran to the merry-go-round, loud whistle, and "Second graders, the merry-go-round is OFF LIMITS!" My kids are again looking all around, wondering what is going on here and decide to move on to something else.

The park has some big cement letters that spell out the name of the park. Kids are always climbing on these letters. Mine decided to head that way and began climbing. Some of the other kids started to join in and then: loud whistle and "Climbing the letters is OFF LIMITS!!"

I had planned to take the kids for ice cream after the park, so at this point I decided we might ought to go sooner than later. At the word "ice cream" the kids were just fine with moving on. I was surprised that the kids didn't ask about the scene at the park. It was on my mind as we drove toward the ice cream store. Why is the merry-go-round off limits? Why not let the kids climb on the concrete letters? These are kids. At a playground. (And the whistle.....is it just me, or does it seem like that ought to be on its way out?)

So what about limits? Why be limited? Why not say "yes" whenever you can? And what about risk? All my favorite playground toys from my childhood are disappearing from playgrounds: the merry-go-round, the teeter-totter, the bumpy slide. I suppose they were considered dangerous, but those are what I remember playing with most. And truly, I would have to say that most of the good things in life come with some risk. If you want to avoid all risk, you miss out on an awful lot of growth and fun!

So, today I said "yes" to ice cream. Then I said "yes" to the splash park. I watched six children engaged in some serious whole-hearted play while I enjoyed the breeze and the sunshine. A knee was scraped, a few tears shed, but I don't think there are any regrets. They played tag in the grass to dry off a bit, but ultimately piled in my van dripping wet, where I then said "yes" to inviting their friends to stay for dinner and more play. The big two made a movie. The little four played on the swings, built sand castles and put together bouquets. I got to watch it all from my porch.

And it was such a fun-packed day that we have no pictures to show for it, but I think it is a day we will always remember.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My girls' photography: Finding beauty everywhere

Beauty here....
here.....

even here......

Where? I can't even tell you.

Here too.

Absolutely here!

Oh yes, especially here. If my bathtub could talk, it would tell you that much, much fun was had in the mud this week.

Friday, May 10, 2013

When you give a kid a camera for his birthday...

He might decide to organize his siblings into a team of spies. They might follow you around for days taking sneaky pictures while you sit reading a book on the sofa and write pages and pages of observations as they sit on the deck and observe you through the living room window.

While they're out on the deck bored because the life of a stay-at-home mother is not particularly interesting, they might start watching the wildlife in the yard instead. This might inspire them to begin a nature study. They might take photographs and draw pictures of the birds they see.




Seeing the birds in the yard may lead them to wonder what kind of birds you have in your yard. You might have to sit at the computer with them and help them look it up.

Throughout the afternoon, you might hear the kids out in the yard imitating the bird sounds they are hearing and conversing with the birds.

You just never know how one thing might lead to another.....

(Inspired by Laura Joffe Numeroff's "If You Give...." series)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Building projects

When my oldest was 8 and expressed an interest in building, probably because he was my first, I had big project ideas. I thought we should build a playhouse in the backyard and our son could help. I envisioned something pretty small and simple.


I am no builder, so the project was handed over to my husband. His ideas were bigger than mine. He actually has some experience in building, so he knows how to do this right. That is one of the things I love about the man...when he does something, he goes all out.


So, this project became quite complicated and expensive. It is beautiful though and the kids have used it quite a bit.


I am not always good at the long view. I didn't foresee that if we build a playhouse with our first child that every child after will want to build a playhouse with their dad and that we will not have the resources or space for such large projects for four children. Sooo.....this year, when the topic of building came up, I had a different way of thinking about it. One of the big changes I wanted to make was to think of projects the kids could mostly do themselves and we could just be available to assist. It seems really obvious NOW that this would have been a better approach, but we all have to live and learn.

So here are some of the shelters my children built together this year:



My daughter also did some smaller building projects with her dad and grandpa:






My son wanted to build something that would help him with his art, a light box for tracing. This project turned out to be one that required a lot of adult assistance, but my son took pictures of all the steps and helped when he could.







 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sick days

This week I have been down with a nasty cold. I jokingly told my husband on Monday that I was taking some sick leave, because we all know there are no sick days for the stay-at-home mama. I thought I would share a few moments from my sick days.
  • I snuggled up with my kids to read "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" by C. S. Lewis. We have been working our way through the Narnia stories since mid-March.
  • My youngest pretended to be my doctor while I was lying on the couch. She brought me her favorite fleece blanket, tissues and some water.
  • I worked with my oldest on Life of Fred Fractions while I was propped up in bed settling in for some rest. My sweet husband worked from home one afternoon so I could catch a nap.
  • I got to witness some amazing fort building.
  • My girls wanted to do my hair while I was resting. So they each got a brush and were combing a section of my hair while I was lying on my pillow.
  • I provided some oversight of the girls' baking project. They made a cookie recipe from Smyrna. So we also looked up some information about Smyrna and found it on the map.
  • I watched some of Julia Child's cooking videos with my oldest daughter.
  • My two youngest daughters drew some illustrations for a story and had me write the story for them.
  • I read "A Pair of Red Clogs" by Masako Matsuno to the little girls over and over again this week. They set up a market like the one from the book and used glass jewels for money.
  • Yesterday I drove my son to his art class while still wearing my pajama pants and realized too late that I needed to run into my office to pick up mail. I managed to get in and out unseen.
  • For myself, I read "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown. It was so good that I'm going to read it again!
Although my house could be tidier, I think a fair amount was accomplished while I was on the couch this week. And the cleaning will certainly wait for me until I feel better.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Weekend's Work

After reading Project-Based Homeschooling, I got all fired up about making some changes in how we organize and work in our home. I decided to begin by organizing our workspace.

We generally live and work in the dining and living room area. We have kept art and writing supplies in three drawers near the kitchen table. I thought shelves would be a better option, but the drawers were empty and available, so therefore worth a try. I had a basket for paint supplies, a basket for clay and play-dough supplies, a basket for sewing supplies, and a basket for glue and craft sticks. We had baggies of jewelry supplies, stacks of different kinds of paper, boxes of colored pencils and crayons, and stacks of coloring books and drawing books. Even when the drawers were organized, some shifting had to be done in order to find things. The drawers never stayed organized long. I was frequently cleaning them and telling myself each time that something about this system was not working.

We also had a tall shelf in the dining area where we kept books for the kids on the lower shelves and homeschooling resources for me on the upper shelves.

What I decided to do was move all the picture books to a different, smaller book cabinet. This made room on the shelves for all the art and writing supplies. Although I do think it would be better to have lower, longer shelves, I think we can all agree that sometimes it is necessary to work with what we have. These shelves are what I have. So I kept my resources on the top shelf and filled in the lower shelves with the kids' supplies. I used some containers from our recycling bins to hold scissors, pencils, and craft sticks. I pulled baskets from around the house that weren't being used in order to group together origami supplies, paint supplies and jewelry making supplies. I got some dividers to hold up the different kinds of paper, notebooks and drawing books. It is now easier to see where things belong. I also left the two bottom shelves empty for projects in progress.

As we began to work with this new system, it became obvious quickly what little things I had forgotten to make accessible to the kids, so I made those corrections. So far it seems that it is easier for the kids to put their supplies away. The shelf has remained organized for three whole days now, which is truly some kind of miracle.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Project-Based Homeschooling

This week a friend recommended I read "Project-Based Homeschooling" by Lori Pickert. I devoured that book in two days. After I had my third child, someone described Attachment Parenting to me and I was so excited to learn that there was a name for this thing I had been doing all along! Because once I had a name for it, I knew I could find more information about it and more importantly, I could find other people to connect with. I had a similar experience when reading this book. Now I have a name for this thing we have been doing, a way to find more information about it and I can now make connections with other people who are doing this thing too.

Lori Pickert's blog is also an amazing resource! It is taking me longer to wade my way through the blog than it took me to read the book. She provides a Quick Start Guide, articles describing how others use PBH in their homeschools, and on Fridays I enjoy all the links she shares to the blogs of others. Then I can see how other families are using PBH in their homes. She has even written about some things that have been on my mind lately: Dealing with Haters and Getting Support From Family and Friends. Lori's words from Dealing with Haters are going to be my new mantra.

This book has inspired me to rethink the organization in the main area of the house. As I look at our shelf, I see many resources my kids have no interest in using and I can think of several things I could put there that would support their current interests. I also see that some lower shelves would serve them much better. Having tall shelves in a kid's space makes the top half of the shelves a complete waste!

I also felt encouraged and validated as I read about ideas we are already using. I already provide time, materials and space for the kids to pursue their own interests. I already recognize "mess" as a positive, a sign that my kids are doing creative and important things. When people walk in our home, our values are reflected. This home looks different than other homes. People do things and learn things here. Right in the central part of the home, instead of a china cabinet, there is workspace.

I will write more as I make changes to our workspace so you can witness the transformation!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Scrabble

My oldest got a tablet computer for a Christmas gift. He and I have spent many nights since playing Scrabble on the tablet. It has been interesting to me how different this game really is when played on a computer.

When I played it as a board game long ago, I looked at my tiles and tried to think of words I know that use the letters I had before me. I tried to aim for using as many tiles as possible. I kept a dictionary at hand to settle disputes about spelling or whether or not someone has spelled an actual word.

My son, who was completely new to the game, was absolutely killing me every time. His strategy is to use the letter tiles that have the highest points. He doesn't draw from his vocabulary, but instead he uses high point combinations and allows the computer to tell him whether he has found a real word or not. We have kept a dictionary at hand to look up these real words that he stumbled upon in his merciless efforts to win so that we can learn what these words mean.

This weekend we were given a Scrabble board game. My four and six year old girls wanted to play it this morning before breakfast. At first I said they should wait until I have a chance to teach them how to play. But then I realized there is no harm in them using the pieces to make their own game. As I was folding laundry, I walked by now and then to see how it was going. The older one was showing the other one how to build words. She showed her how each letter makes a sound and when she put those sounds together, she could make words. They didn't get correct spelling all the time, but they had done their best to spell real words.

My son and oldest daughter showed up to join the game. They wanted to play a little closer to the real rules. My son got out the dictionary. They didn't play very long before he decided he didn't like the board game as much as the computer game. And I'll have to say, it really is very different.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Study of Plants and Trees

  • We spent many days at my husband's family farm to look for seeds and to look at the parts of plants.
The creek banks provide a good opportunity for observing tree roots.
  • We took cuttings from mature plants, put them in water, watched them take root, and planted them in pots.
  • We planted bulbs in clear containers inside the house.
    On the left are several of our plant cuttings. On the right are Paper White bulbs. The seed in front is the avocado seed we soaked in water for several weeks before it took root.
  • We soaked an avocado seed, watched it sprout and now have a sweet little tree! It took a long time for it to take root. We nearly gave up. But once the tree started growing, it grew pretty rapidly. The kids had fun measuring it each day to see how much it had grown.
    A March picture of "the guacamole tree"
  • We tried planting the top of a pineapple, but did not have success with this project.
  • We transplanted iris tubers in the yard.
  • We read "Grocery Store Botany" by Joan Elma Rahn. It has project recommendations at the end of each chapter that can be done using fruits and vegetables that most people have in their homes. It also talks about common vegetables and fruits and explains what part of the plant is eaten.
  • We planted our own garden in the backyard.
  • We learned to identify several different trees that can be found in our area by looking at the leaves and the bark.
  • We learned the names of common wildflowers and weeds in our area.