Thursday, May 29, 2014

HomeSchool Thursdays: Chalk Board Paint and Bacon Grease

When you homeschool you don't have to follow traditional school times, school days, or seasons.  New schedules aren't just for September.  We can get excited about new school materials anytime!   Right now we're having fun creating a new schedule for summer months, and re-organizing--which is always my favorite part of starting anything new.  I know I'm not the only one who goes a little crazy for new chubby pencils, and nice pens.

Right now its all about the chalkboard paint...

I've been wanting to paint everything chalkboard this week, but so far have kept myself to these clip boards (a pinterest idea) and a larger board for other use.  We found some chalk board markers in town that write beautifully, though they don't erase very well (ughh).  We're setting up some new "plan for the day" charts, thinking about how we'll do math for the summer (workbooks? online? games only?) and what kind of structure we want for our days/weeks.  Our chore charts that previously lived on the fridge needed some re-order as well. Chalk board paint to the rescue.  I'm not loving the new chore cart yet --and I'm already tired of the neon, but its a beginning.   

Another new routine we're working on is Wednesday night kid dinners.  Last week Juniper made zucchini lasagna that was fantastic (I didn't get any pictures) and this evening Wylie baked us homemade Mac and Cheese, followed by carrot cake with rhubarb sauce.  All delicious.  
The kids always help bake cookies and pancakes.  They grate cheese and chop veggies, but its new for me to include them in the "how to" of cooking dinner.  I've always enjoyed and agreed with books and blogs that show young children cooking with their parents.  It seems so sweet and homey.  But, honestly the pre-dinner stretch has often been a hectic, tired time of day when I am happy to focus on something other than my kids while they hang with Rob, play by themselves, or watch a video.  They were always nearby, watching me cook, but often not invited to help. (Sad? Perhaps, but real).  Now that they are all older a shift has occurred.  Its easier to have them help with cooking.  My patience is not as frazzled by the end of the day (most days), bedtime is later so there's not such a rush to eat by a certain time, and really they're just older and quite helpful.  
My only rule for Kid Dinner night is there has to be vegetables, it has to be gluten free, and they need to choose the menu with enough time for us to get the ingredients.  Kale is planning mini pizzas for his night.  
With Juni and Wylie's nights I worked side by side with them, either pointing out the recipe, or explaining each step as we went along.  I showed them how to chop veggies to size for cooking, how to melt the cheese, how to best mix the cake etc.  They often fix their own breakfast and snacks, and its my hope that in a few months they'll be able to go into the kitchen and make a meal for the family by themselves.  
Seems likely.  In fact, I'm sure Wylie already could--I'm just not sure I'd want to eat it.  But tonight's was fantastic.  We all had seconds.  Salad too.  

    Lunch on Memorial day--too much outdoor work for anything else.

Wylie did his favorite kind of cooking Sunday:  Outdoors, over a big flame.  This treat was dandelion fritters fried in bacon grease.  They were pretty tasty.  But as he commented, "Mom, I think we could cook anything in this stuff and it would taste good!"  Just about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May Morsels

First, an introduction:  This scary guy (my new header) is the troll who lives beneath the bridge in the "Three Billy Goats Gruff", drawn by Kale.  He now lives on our upstairs hall light switch.  Awesome.  

May Morsels:  
In the past few days it feels like someone waved the magic wand of spring over our little piece of the world.
Beech, lilac, birch and other early leaves unfolded overnight, the pear and cherry trees exploded with blossoms and the perennials are doubling in size each day.  We put up the screen doors and have been throwing them open each morning to greet the morning warmth.  
This is the time of year when our house is cold.  We have a well insulated, radiant heated (by our woodstove, with propane back up) exposed concrete slab in our home.  All winter we are toasty to over heated.  But in the spring and early fall, when its too warm to warrant lighting a wood fire, the slab temperature drops quickly. Early mornings we find it is often a few degrees colder inside than out.  It's a blanket breakfast kind of season.  But by mid afternoon, with all the windows thrown wide open, its lovely. We're not complaining (much).  

This is the season when the indoors shifts to out.  When the end of the day brings toys and blocks scattered on the porch and lawn, when art supplies are hauled about in baskets, and the mess inside builds until a rainy day insists we clean up a bit.  

                           (this one's for Clove)

Our chicks moved outside two weeks ago.  As of last weekend they are off their light completely, and nearly all feathered out.  Soon we'll begin the interesting process of introducing them to the old ladies.  It never goes smoothly.  Our system needs a bit of work.  I'd like to set up some summer housing for the ladies that can be in the electronet fencing we got last year (the one they fly out of every time I put them in it).  Then the new chicks can have the coop to themselves long enough to feel like its theirs, while the old ladies live in the orchard for the summer.  Then they can all bunk together when the weather turns.  Someday I'll get it all worked out.  Until then we'll muddling through chick introductions, chasing chicks back into the coop each night (where they don't want to be because of those old meanies).  Maybe this time will be different.

A couple of weekends ago Rob repaired the front of the fence.  Some of the posts had floated up, and the chickens were beginning to sneak underneath it.  The new set up is sturdy, and spiffy as all get out.  I'm working on two rows of raspberries along side (with a path for mowing in between).  

The garden is still mostly mud, with more green in the paths than in the beds.  But its getting there.  The garlic is up, the peas are up, lettuce is coming along.  We had our first salad from the cold frame last night, along with fresh picked asparagus and chive pizza.  Yum.  This is the first year I didn't start any seedlings indoors. I put a bit in the cold frame, stuck the early stuff in the ground (peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, radish) and bought the rest of the plants from our good friend Polly over at Village Farm.  Their seedlings are beautiful, and it feels a bit like magic to suddenly have big robust plants in a bed that was empty minutes before.  Insta-garden.  I think I like it, but I'm not quite sure.  There's something about coaxing all those tiny plants along, nursing them through those early stages, then celebrating when they're big enough to leave the kitchen.  Of course, Polly's seedlings are twice the size mine ever are, and far more beautiful.  And, I didn't have to rearrange our kitchen for two months.  Compromise.  A girl could get used to it. 

Our tadpoles hatched, and they are not salamanders!  Hooray.

Its become an annual tradition for the kids to get me a fruit tree for our growing orchard each Mother's Day. This year it was a cherry, decorated with sayings about why they love me.  Pretty great.  For my special day I requested that we work outside in the yard all together.  I started the day with a long, sunny run with friends, then showered outside in our newly re-installed outdoor shower.  We all worked on finishing the cedar surround for the shower, planted the tree, mulched gardens, stacked wood, and finished the day with a BBQ at my sister's with her family and Mimi.  
It was the best kind of Mother's Day. Uncomplicated with lots of outdoor family time, and good company at the end of the day.   

    Outdoor tubbing--after water is hooked up, before shower stall.

I love, love, love the new shower.  Good thing too, because the next day we had our septic pumped and leech field dug up. We've been showering ( and peeing, and rinsing laundry, and doing dishes) out in the yard for more than a week now.  They'll come put it all back together and fill it in after its all dried out--which would be quicker if the sun would come out for more than an hour at a time.
Fortunately, its not too bad thanks to this new set up.  Maybe we just need a sink out there too.  Hmm.

                      New shower

The buzzing ladies made it through the winter and are enjoying the pear blossoms.  Two new nucs (small colonies with an established queen) will be making there way to the bee yard very soon.  Tomorrow's project will be to get the hives in order for their arrival.  


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Homeschool Thursdays: Map Project

We have a block of time set aside for "project work" a couple of times each week.  Sometimes the project is independent, research based, like Juni's Blue Jay project, other times is something more tangible like a sewing project or art based.  For the past month or so we've been working on a "map project".  This project started with the picture book, "The Way to Captain Yankee's" (below) that shows the map of an island, and tells the story of a Ms. Calico who loses her way--but fortunately has a map with her.  It was cute, though not a book I loved.  But, the kids loved following along with the character's route as she went.  The project launched from there.  We drew maps of "Barefoot" Island (an idea I found on Pinterest). They created different parts of their island, included a key with symbols similar to the ones used in the book, a directional arrow, and labels for different parts of the map.  

From there we practiced reading different kinds of maps: the World Map in our bathroom, the elevation and trail maps from Maine Huts and Trails, some vintage gift wrap from the bookstore that included a map of Washington DC from 1945, and greeting cards with maps of Penobscot Bay.  We pretended we were lost in DC and practiced navigating from one Embassy to another.  

We've been playing the "which way" game in the car, where Kale and Juniper navigate while we drive to familiar places.  

With the Gazetteer we calculated distances, and then to work with a smaller scale, began drafting the footprint of our house, to scale, on graph paper.  This has been Juniper's favorite part so far, and she is fastidious about measuring each wall and piece of furniture before adding it in.  (I have always had a love affair with house plans, so the kids are very familiar with how to draw them--but this is her first, very own house project).  This has been a good introduction to fractions.  

From here I've got ideas to map our property, using Google Maps, and other techniques for measuring large spaces.  Or possible drafting some made up houses, creating a village or town based on the Busy Town books, or maybe making a relief map with playdough.  Maybe all of the above. When Juniper is done with the house drawing we'll make a plan together for our next steps.  I'd love to include GeoCaching as well when the weather warms.

Kale loved the Barefoot Island project, and is always up for measuring, but otherwise has had little interest in the Map Project.  What he is totally into right now is coloring, writing, and words.  We can't make it through a page of any book without him asking about the meaning of a word.  Then he will immediately add that word to his vocabulary.  Often he asks about the meaning of words from books we've read in the distant past, or words from songs, or overheard phone conversations. (We have to be careful about what we say around him). And, he is writing.  He has always been a story teller, but he is suddenly (maybe from all of the coloring?) so patient and focused at wanting to write for himself.  He identifies about 1/2 the alphabet and can draw 5-6 letters independently.  The rest he asks how to form, and then painstakingly, with his tongue working his lower lip, forms each one until his message is finished.  Pretty darn sweet.  There's almost nothing I like better than an E with centipede legs.