Friday, October 25, 2013

The View From Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Homeschool Thursday

Despite the lack of homeschool posts, we've actually been doing more "school" around here than ever before.  This year I'm trying a friend's advice and working our schedule in 6 week blocks--cognizant all the time of our tendency to ebb and flow in a tide-like fashion (per Tidal Homeschooling).  The 6 week idea is supposed to help those of us (mainly me) who quickly get bored with a schedule.

We're doing it something like this:  choose 3-4 subject/topics to explore and work at them in a focused manner for 6 weeks.  At the end of the six weeks stop, wherever you are, and take a week off, completely. After the break, pick up again with a different set of subjects/topics and start again.

We're in the midst of our week off this week (technically 8 weeks into our routine, but since we had visitors for 2 weeks this felt right).  Since the beginning of September we've been working diligently on spelling, literature, and science. There was also some math, French, and history thrown in lightly when there was time and interest.  On Mondays we've been working as a family on a  focused project on Monarch butterflies (more on that soon).

Next week we'll start a 6 week session focusing on math, art, and creative writing, with a new project in the wings.  We're not far enough into this trial for me to see if this is something we'll stick with for the year, but so far I like the feel of it.  Six weeks is just enough time to really get into a groove, and then be just about done with it.  I like the idea of stopping before we're all exhausted by something, so that it begs to be explored further in the future.  Also, I can see how rotating through subjects naturally allows us to work with the strengths we've acquired in the past 6 weeks (ie. all that spelling work we've done should make creative writing a less daunting task, and all the novels and historical fiction we've been exploring these past two months should benefit our creative writing process).  

So, despite the lack of photos --how many pictures can I take of children perfecting handwriting (just one it seems), and few words on the subject, for the sake of documentation I felt the need to report that we are hard at work over here, learning and playing and all that good stuff.      

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Car Chorus

Wednesday afternoons we are in Camden for Children's Chorus.  Today (as usual) the ride home from chorus was filled with song.  Wylie, accompanying Minecraft Parodies loud enough to hear himself through his sound-blocking earphones, Juniper chorusing various songs from the "Sound of Music", and Kale creating his own repetitive tune with the words:  "the deeper the snow, the funner the winter, the deeper the snow, the funner the winter..."

Someday my car will be quiet, and I'm miss it, I'm sure.  Someday.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Morsels

Mini-morsels this week:  

I've been loving up this beautiful fall weather, doing a lot leaf gazing, not a lot of photo taking.  This past week I stated on some much needed outdoor work: tucking away the garden under seaweed and leaves, harvesting and preserving a few cabbages and beets, curing our small squash harvest, cranberry picking, and starting in on an outdoor project for the coming year--a retaining wall and grape arbor along our some-day orchard.  Its slow going, but I've got three good diggers here to help.  Friday we hauled the picnic table over there for a bit of outdoor art work. We've also been creating autumn bouquets bringing in a few of the leaves to adorn tables and identify at our seasonal table.  Good stuff.  



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Wednesday Morning

Started with snuggles and reading in bed, pancakes, and then this.  Nice way to start the day.  


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monday Morsels

Morsels:  Tasty bits of goodness from the past few days..

I used to get a sinking feeling each fall, which I'm pretty sure was ingrained in my body since childhood, that fall means the end of all things free, and the return to school and homework and routines. Even as an adult it meant teaching full classes of preschoolers, darkening days, the end of summer.  Somewhere during Juniper's toddlerhood when I found myself home, in our new home, without school to teach or attend, able to make my own schedule (as much as anyone with two toddlers makes their own schedule!Ha) I realized that Autumn is pretty amazing.  It was the first time I was able to enjoy all of the sweetness of fall, and acknowledge the darkening days and cooler weather with a bit of appreciation for balance.
Since then it has become my favorite season.

Here's why:

Honey (see above photo)

Cranberries!  We were so sad earlier this year when it looked like this year might be a bust for berries again (like last year) but really we just couldn't spot them until they ripened up.  There aren't as many as 2011, but we're not complaining.  Cranberry compote coming up!  Yay.  

Pumpkins.  Maybe some year I'll be able to grow more than two.  

Autumn bouquets:  nastutiums, asperagus berries, marigolds, zinnia, and golden rod.  
                      Tomatoes in the windows
    Roasted root vegetables with kale, over quinoa (or couscous), with feta.  The best! Only Kale complains. 

    The blue, blue sky
    Being able to use the sun deck again (its too dang hot in the summer).  
Fire wood.  Stacking it, hauling it, and seeing all those long piles move neatly into the wood shed.  
But, what I really love is watching these guys working together.  

The colors!
So, um yeah.   (Kale speak for yup, there you have it).  Fall rocks.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Homeschool Thursdays: Hightide and drowning

Every year I mention Melissa Wiley, and her essays on Tidal homeschooling because it is the closest "philosophy" to the one we practice here.  More schooly than un-schooling, less structured than Charlotte Mason, often, but not always child led, frequently project centered, but occasionally workbook-ish.  Ebbing and flowing with our need for structure, our desire to get outdoors, and my own personal hang ups about what kids should know when.  Its a term and style that fits the way we do things, and one that re-assures me that we are indeed on the right course, be it weeks of sit down learning, or stretches of outdoor adventure, nature observation and mad crafting sessions.  

This fall, like so many in the past, we started off schooling at high tide, faces to the wind.  I made a schedule and a chart on the fridge for the kiddos (the bigger two) to check off when they'd completed tasks.  Some work is independent, some with me.  For the first year ever we are doing a spelling curriculum, and I am asking them to do a lot more writing than ever before.  

I'll say this about those first few days of establishing routine.  The fist two days are fantastic, new pencils, new schedule, fun!  The next few are painful for pretty much all of us.  Since then we've plowed ahead, worked through a few glitches, and pretty much have found a groove.  Sails still full, we're getting busy with math, reading, spelling, handwriting, and literature study.  Science and French lessons make their way in most days. Formal  history lessons are on hold for now, though our literature is mostly historical fiction.  We follow this routine 3 days a week.  Another day is devoted to project work, then music and swim lessons.  Another day is spent at our homeschool coop.  

Sounds great right?  But here's the thing:  schooling, even fairly laid back home schooling, takes a heck of a lot of time.  
Homeschooling books are quick to point out the amount of time wasted in public school, waiting in line, waiting for 18 children to finish an assignment, waiting for your turn in the bathroom,etc.  They point out that the same ammount of learning (or more) can be done at home in half the time.  Which, I believe to be true.  
Homeschooling children (in general) waste much less of their childhoods waiting, which means more free time for pursuing their own interests.  

The homeschooling teacher (parent) however, has much, much less time.  
A school teacher has only one job (albeit it a very difficult, multi-faceted, unappreciated and underpaid one)-- to teach the children.  At home I am teacher, cook, custodian, librarian, gardener, butt wiper, scientist, artistic director, naturalist,  etc.  
Never mind all of the other projects I've committed myself to, or that  I'd just like to make time for.
This fall I feel as though every spare minute of my day is spent cooking or teaching or reading, or attending meetings, or driving to lessons, or grocery shopping, or playing with Kale-- who sometimes can't possibly be told one more time to, "wait just a minute".  
I'll stop complaining long enough to point out that I love homeschooling.  I love spending the days with my kids and being a part of their learning.  I love that they have more opportunity to learn through living, and time to pursue their passions.  But, I also feel overwhelmed at balancing all that I want for them and what I need for myself.  

And so, last week, I found myself fallen over the bough, drowning at high tide.  

The evening before we were to leave for the weekend in NH I told Rob I needed to just stay home, and have a weekend to myself.  He wasn't psyched with the last minute change of plans, or the idea of our family weekend turning into a Papa trip.  But it worked out.  Rob took the kids to his dad's for the weekend, including a trip to the Deerfield fair and apple picking with my brother and his family. They had ice cream 3 times in one day.  
I stayed home and gardened, tended the bees, had dinner and a hot tub with my mom and sister, did some committee work, went for a 10 mile run, sewed myself two shirts, cleaned the house, and started a landscaping project in our future "orchard".  It was lovely.  

That same weekend I had a dream that I was watching a child swim.  I could see that he was going to drown if I did not help him, but I continued to stand and watch him, growing more and more frustrated that I was for some reason unable (unwilling?) to extend my hand and pull him from the water.  Eventually, with a huge sigh of exasperation (at myself, not the child) I was able to reach my hand out--actually flinging my sleeping arm across the bed, and waking myself up.    

I shared my dream with a running friend who happens to be somewhat of a dream specialist.  
"You saved yourself," she told me, "though you nearly let yourself drown."  

At Juniper's swim lesson this week they took turns lying on their bellies at the pool's edge, extending an orange noodle to their instructor.  "Grab on, I'll pull you to safety!"  It was pretty sweet to hear their different voices, some strong, others shy and quiet, all of them hauling their teenage instructor across the lane with their 8 year old arms.  

My weekend alone was like climbing back onto the boat.  I felt ready for our routine again, and able to keep up with my kids' enthusiasm, and to deal with their frustrations.  
But, I'm keeping that swim lesson in mind this week.  Thinking up a few orange noodles for when I need a little help staying above water.  This week that meant planning ahead so that dinner was ready when we arrived home after chorus at 5:30, and  a few extra minutes lingering in the sun on the deck with my coffee, and taking an hour to harvest cranberries and dig up invasive honeysuckle with Kale (yes, those are things I do for fun).  It may mean making sure I fit in a  long run in each weekend, or making a habit of staying up a little later to read a book I want to read, or to watch an hour or two of mindless media while knitting and relaxing with my Honey one evening a week.  I'm confident we'll figure it out.  

I also know that in a month or two we'll be settling into a different rhythm of wood fires and long reading sessions, and crafting. It will be a different pace, and at some point we'll find ourselves at low tide in our schooling,each of us following our own path, meandering a bit, exploring slowly and carefully, sinking our toes (so to speak) into the mud and rooting out whatever it is we're hoping to discover.  This knowledge is something else I can hang onto, knowing that there will be a time when the tide is out and I can catch my breath and ground my feet before we ride the next swell.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Applesauce, and nerf battles

Fresh picked apples, in neon rubber tubs; hand-crank food mills and Tilly and the Wall on iPod; 
home canned goodness and full gear Nerf battles.  


Balance is key, don't you think?