Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Grey. Finally.

I can't seem to find it in my back log of posts, but I'm pretty sure I've mentioned my inclination this time of winter, each year, to paint everything grey.  It may be the clean, quiet white world beyond our windows, (and its harsh contrast to the busy, cluttered space in which we live).  Whatever it is I find myself wishing for white and grey, maybe a bold accent or two, but otherwise clean, quiet, calm.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this desire.  
Well, this year I've managed a bit of it.  Below you see December's living room wall (tree and all) in "Orange Sherbert" a color I loved when I painted it 8 years ago, and loved for many years.  But not so much any more--at least in the winter.  With the eventual go-ahead from Rob, I think his final decree was "paint anything you want, as long as I don't have to see it happen" (a girl could have fun with permission like that!) I got to it.  In bits and pieces during his work day, while he was curling, or while sick children napped, or play mobile adventures dictated our day, the living room got painted.  Grey.  

There are a ridiculous number of grey options in the paint world, each with surprisingly different effects.  I sampled several in those $1.99 sample jars and found them either too dark, or too harsh--like cement.  
 The final color is Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter (recommended by a friend for its warmth--despite being grey).  It has a brown undertone, and looks a bit blue in some lights, nearly white in others.  I'm loving it.   
Yesterday Rob asked, "you're not going to paint the dining room are you?".  
"No, Honey".  (not yet anyway).  

Monday, February 24, 2014


We welcomed two sweet piggies to our homestead last week.  Mac and Cheese are 5 month old brother and sister, American Guinea Hogs.  They are a small heritage breed, easy to keep due to thier small size and excellent foraging abilities.  My sister raises this breed down the road at  Toddy Pond Farm and her family has enjoyed them so, we thought we'd try our hand at raising a couple.  This is our first adventure in raising our own meat but so far we all seem comfortable with the understanding that these cuties will be breakfast someday next fall.  We chose a food inspired name (Kale's choice) to help us all keep in mind they they will be food as well as pets.  But for now we are just enjoying their fuzzy bodies and funny ways.  

For winter months they are living in our well fenced garden, but when the snow melts we'll run electric fencing in the woods so they'll have space to forage for acorns, grubs, etc. with plenty of room for play, a small stream, and shade.  They don't seem to love the snow, but also seem unfazed by the cold.  
Pretty much they enjoy one  And the occasional good scratch on the back.  

Here they are...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Something Good About School

I haven't written much lately, and I think it is in part because of my inner conflict about Wylie's school situation.  I don't feel great about it, but I struggle to find the words to say exactly how I do feel.  It isn't terrible, but it isn't what I want for my kid either.

I could go on and on, and still not be clear about all that I'm feeling.  But, what I really want to say is this--

There are a few good things about Wylie experimenting in school this semester, and here's one of them:

 Last week he received, at an assembly in front of the school (along with one other child from each class) a "star" from his teacher, thanking him for being such a kind person.  Its always great to know that your kids is being appreciated.

"Its my blog and I'll brag if I want to..."
(to be sung to the tune of "its my party"-- you know how it goes)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Homeschooling Thursday....schooly stuff we're doing

I've been a bit remiss in the documenting of our school type work around here--so bear with me while I unload a bunch of detail for my own personal record keeping.... it always helps me take the time to record it when I feel accountable to all of you.  Hope you don't feel too used.

With Wylie trying school this semester our days have changed quite a bit as you can imagine.  Juniper requested that we focus on two subjects a day, for longer amounts of time--rather than the 3-4 subjects we'd been doing.  So, Monday and Thursday we do math and history, Wednesday and Friday we do literature, spelling, and usually some project work. Tuesdays is our homeschool coop day, this session Juniper is taking a class in both Anatomy and Physics, so we're not really looking at science right now at home.   All of this of course is subject to any amount of tweaking and variation, which happens more often than not, but its nice to have an overall plan as a guide.  In general we spend approximately 1.5 hours total on focused school work per week day.  More some days, less others, depending on our social schedule and the weather.  

Typically when Juni and I do math together Kale plays by himself, or sits on my lap and is all kinds of distracting.  But, more and more he has been asking for his own math, so I dug out our RightStart, and home made manipulatives from when the big kids were this age and we've started some very short, game and song centered math work.  The "Shut the Box" game I picked up at a 2nd hand store has been a huge hit with the whole family, and is a great way to work on simple mental addition and number recognition.  
Juniper and Wylie are both working to memorize multiplication tables (Wylie for homework), Juni on her own, though she is also working through RightStart book C.  In general I value understanding the process and knowing how to apply it over rote memorization, though memorizing  is something I have encouraged Wylie to do for the sake of practicality (he's been doing multiplication for years, but never has memorized the tables and is now feeling like he must, for school.)  It's interesting to see Wy and Juni's different learning styles as they approach the memorization process.

    favorite early math tools...

Before Wylie decided to try school I had prepared to start Story of the World part 3, Early Modern Times, as well as continuing our readings about colonial America.  But, since Wylie will likely be home for next fall I decided to wait on that--and instead we're going back over Ancient Times (SOW book 1).  Juniper was only 4 when we first read this book and did the activities, so it's fitting that we do it again, and this time Kale gets to hear the stories.  We do about 2 chapters a week, along with the map and coloring pages from the activity book.  We also look for picture books from the library supporting the stories we read from SOW.  
So far the kids haven't shown a particular interest in any one subject in Ancient history, so we haven't delved deeply into any history inspired projects, but just briefly cover the chapters until something jumps out at them. 
More and more often we've been able to incorporate friends into the work we do.  When the kids were younger any social time became instant play, but its nice to see the collaborative work/play that is developing during play dates these days, whether it be history activities that are parent directed, but become part of the continuing game, or child directed and produced movies and plays that take hours to complete.  Its a new dimension of play here, and its pretty sweet.  

Exploring hieroglyphs and cuneiforms (the first writing) with friends...

Reading and Writing:
Wylie has been reading so much these days.  I've had faith that despite his coming to reading late, that he would eventually become an avid, natural reader.  So far this seems to be the case.  A year ago he was struggling through easy reader books, and now finishes short chapter books in a week or so.  He reads aloud with inflection and mostly appropriate timing.  I don't get the impression that he's reading much at school, but certainly having to do 20 minutes of reading each night for homework is helping him improve quickly.  Juniper is following in his example, and enjoys reading to herself early in the morning before we are up.  She also reads to Kale throughout the day, and Kale will tell anyone about how well he reads (he doesn't officially, but man can that kid memorize).  I'm excited for the changes in project work that (I anticipate) will develop around here with 2 kids reading on their own.
Wylie is writing more than ever before (though not enjoying it anymore than usual) at school.  Juniper continues to write daily narrations of whatever we're reading, either history or our read aloud book, as well as working independently through a cursive writing workbook. We do formal spelling work 1-2 times per week.

Juniper still spends a good part of everyday on some kind of art work, whether making board games for friends, birthday gifts, paper dolls, or just drawing.  We occasionally attend Open Studio at Sweet Tree Arts in Hope--if you're local check it out! But I also try to always have interesting materials on hand here for impromptu projects (a bit about our puppets coming soon).   Both big kids are still working on music (piano for Juni, flute and voice for Wy).  He's taking a break from formal lessons for a bit while adjusting to the school schedule, but the two of them each have been incorporating music into their movie making ventures, and have had some self-directed jam sessions that make me smile to no end.  I love that they are feeling a mastery of their musical skills enough to branch out and play with their songs.  
While not at school, or doing homework (man school takes a lot of time!) Wylie has been diving into movie making.  We borrowed some editing software from a friend and he's been experimenting with "green sheeting", other editing, musical effects etc.  I haven't had much luck loading his videos here, but I'll try again.  

Whew, hope that wasn't too boring.  
I'll leave you with a happy vignette from last week.  Wylie was making pop corn, but then wished aloud that he could watch the kernels as they popped. Suddenly he remembered an old piece of thick glass from a photocopier he once disassembled.  He dug it out of the depths of his work bench where it had been stashed for years, and used it as a viewing lid  to watch the kernels pop away (though the steam made it a bit foggy). One of my fears for him in school is that his creativity and joy of learning may be squelched.   It is reassuring to see Wyguy's ingenuity and creativity shine through even after the rigors (or boredom, or both) of a long school week.

    Observation Popper in action

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Woods Magic

We've just finished reading "Wildwood" by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis.  It took us a ridiculous amount of time, given that is 576 pages and we read it only at bedtime, every other night, (Rob reads a different book with them on his nights).  I think it is safe to say we all loved it.  I especially loved it, and it was hard for me not to take it to bed myself after the kids had gone to sleep.  It will definitely be a book we purchase to keep, and I've just learned there are two more in the series of Wildwood Chronicles.  I can't wait!  The book was full of woods magic and fantasy, but with a modern world twist, and in a fairy tale manner different from Harry Potter or other recent fantasy books I've read.  It was a bit dark in places and has a long battle scene, but was not so gruesome that I regretted reading it with a 4 year old nearby.  He does have a thing for dark stories and can handle more drama than most 4 yr. olds, so I wouldn't really recommend it for preschooler--but was fantastic for Wylie and Juni.  Also, it is written by the lead singer of the Decemberists, who rock--so we knew it would be good.   

* Since writing this two days ago Juni has had one scary dream that seems directly related to this book.  I still stand by the recommendation though.  And, I forgot to mention three of the most awesome things about this book:  the protagonist is a girl, her parents are neither wicked, nor dead (why do they always have to kick of the parents?) and the illustrations alone make it worth reading.  Check it out.  If your kids are too young, read it yourself.   

On Wednesday we had a bit of woods magic ourselves.  On a walk through the woods to the neighbors field for sledding (its pretty flat, so is only fun when there's a good crust, and a hefty push) we found a decomposing blue jay. This was magical not because we delight in rotting flesh--the parts of the skeleton visible were pretty cool--but because Juniper is just finishing up a research project on blue jays and had been wanting some feathers.  

Then, feet a way from the jay, we found a dropped antler.  It is a beautiful 4 point (I've since learned) and must have come from a healthy, large buck.  We searched for the matching one but didn't find it.  I guess deer rarely drop two antlers at once, but we'll go back later this week to see if perhaps he's lost the other since.  

Later that afternoon we were driving to a friends when an owl flew across an open field--directly into our car.  I could see it coming, but since it was coming from the side I couldn't stop or swerve to avoid him.  The smack was loud and I was instantly sick with the thought of having killed the owl.  This is the second owl to have flown into a car I've been in.  
Fortunately we stopped and found the owl sitting upright in the road.  As I approached to help him off the road he hopped, spread his wings, and flew to the edge of the road.  A few minutes later he flew again, farther this time, taking shelter under some small pines.  Amazingly, thankfully, he seemed unhurt.  It was magical to get to see him up so close, and to watch him fly off after the incident.  And, a friendly stranger with a camera happened to stop as well, and sent us this lovely picture of him.  

   photo by our roadside stranger