Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homeschool Thursday: Back on Track

We started working on focused home school work in September, and I'm just now getting around to compiling some pictures and putting together a post. Forgive the run on descriptions of each child's interests and talents--its how I keep track.  Hopefully I'll be back on schedule for my regular "Homeschool Thursday" posts, which can be more concise and less list-like than this.  I know a few of you enjoy a peek at our more structured school routines, but even more so, these posts are helpful to me in noting the work we've covered and what the kids are focused on in their play.  Not only that, but it is immensely gratifying to look back on a week of what most certainly contained lots of laundry, whining, errand running, shuttling children, and other boorish work and  realize , hey, look, we did learn something!  And it was fun!

Based on Wylie's experience at school last spring we learned a few things about his learning style. While the public classroom was not the best place for him, he did appreciate the very clear schedule and expectations.  So, this fall we started out on a much more structured homeschool schedule than we've ever had.  We have a formal daily schedule, and written, consistent assignments due at the end of the week.  I discuss any changes in work expectations a week or more ahead of time so he and Juniper know to expect a change.  The formality of it all is nearly killing me, but all of the kids seem to like it. And despite the structure,  I am enjoying the rhythm of our days at home.  I only wish we had more of them.  Between homeschool coop, 4-H, and an outdoor nature camp, we end up with 2 and a half days at home doing focused work.  I remember a quote from some book once that said, "Yes, homeschoolers do have a problem with socialization--they get way too much of it".  
Seems to be true in our case.   

At the beginning of each season we always fix up the seasonal or nature table.  This table has been around since Juniper was a toddler, though has moved about quite a bit and morphed through the years.  It was once a big activity to set it up for the season, with all the kids helping gather artifacts, create artwork and design the space.  Recently it has become something I've done on my own.  I appreciate both scenarios.  This way I can add new things quietly, that the kids can discover on their own.  

I made these cards with Wylie and Juniper 5 years ago, before Kale was born.  It is a memory set where you match the tree with its seeds.  Favorites such as these live in the drawers below and get pulled out year after year.

Last summer we transformed the "tunnel" space below our stairs from a hide out to a preschool work space.  Most of the everyday art supplies live here, and it is just the right height for Kale.  

                                Hard at work on "the Northern Hawk Owl"  

We also changed the studio/guest room into a learning studio, where we do spelling lessons and project work. This is an experiment.  In the past no matter what space I set up for learning, all projects and lessons ended up back at the kitchen table.  So far the studio is working nicely. And, even when things to end up at the table (which I don't mind) they have a home to return to before we need to serve dinner.  

The bulk of our focus this fall is on reading, writing, and history.  Nature study is covered through Tanglewood 4-H camp each Monday, and a more loosely structured 4-H club that meets in town on Fridays.  We do a bit of math here and there, but plan to focus on that later on in the year.

Kale still leads all his own learning, and enjoys counting and writing. I pulled out our 100 board from when Wy and Junebug were little, but it turns out he's already taught himself to count to 100.  Who knew?  He is not very interested in letter sounds, but enjoys writing everything and will happily sit and make letters as I slowly spell out each word for his card/story/letter/sign etc.  He's beginning to be able to do some copy work and likes anything to do with knights, war, and weapons.  Despite this fascination he is extremely tender and loving with our animals and is still the best joke teller in town.

Fridays when we are not at 4-H are dedicated to child-led project work.  Kale's focus has been on Blue Whales and he works in spurts.  He's done some drawing, reading (me to him), video watching, painting, and a whale sculpture.  

Wylie has so much excitement for all kinds of projects that he has had a hard time sticking to one. He worked for a month or more this summer on a family tree project, then launched into a nature study observation project, which was dropped in favor of an online coding class.  I'd love to see a bit more follow through from him, but I do see a lot of learning happening in each case, so I trust the rest will come.  A few weeks ago he discovered James Patterson's "Middle School" books and has been reading more than ever before.  He stays up late reading in bed, reads in the morning, and happily sits with a book for 20 minutes or so after lunch. He's also been biking far and wide since all of his training for the Parkinson Ride in August.  The experience has given him the confidence and ability to widen his biking radius significantly.  The independence and physical outlet cycling gives has been crucial to his focus at home.  Throughout all of this, Wylie's main focus this fall has been on music: listening, creating, and producing.  He's also psyched to be working with a friends' father on small electronics projects each weekend.

Juniper has been playing piano quite seriously.  Her favorite thing is to learn a new piece.  She'll work and work at it until she can play it through without mistake, and then drop it like last week's compost.  She sees very little need to revisit old pieces, but will do just about anything to please her piano teacher.  She also has been hard at work on an ongoing story for writing.  She is a patient reader but still doesn't feel fluent.  The independent project she chose is on Penguins and she has done some penguin art work, a penguin poem, and some reading.  But doesn't actually seem to have a lot of interest in the subject.  Her biggest hurdle may be that she would like to read more about penguins but most of the books are above her reading level.  I never seem to have enough time to read all that everyone wants me to read.  (Maybe I could get Wylie to read them to her?)  She loves helping with the toddlers at our homeschool coop, and is taking an astronomy class about constellations, a martial arts class, and participating in a team building workshop.  Her favorite way to spend the day is deep in the throws of pretend play with Kale, usually involving baby dolls, or Play Mobil guys, crafting tiny furniture and other scenes for them out of random things.  

   Kale's whale sculpture--wire and paper

   Curious chickens

Thursday, October 16, 2014


A few (or more) scenes from the start of Autumn in these parts....

                    Honey Harvest

Despite one weak hive (which swarmed twice this summer and has since died) we had a good harvest.  I pulled two full supers off my older hive, and a nearly full super off the strong new hive from this spring.  Both should be in good shape going into winter.  Last year we bottled directly out of the extractor, wax chunks, dead bees and all.  This year we opted to strain it through cheese cloth into the beer brew bucket (hey, use what you've got, right).  The plan was we'd have less crystallization without the chunks.  But it backfired.  I think because the process was so slow this year, taking nearly a three days to fill the jars through the small tap, the honey was exposed to air too long.  Half of our jars have already begun to crystallize.  Oh well.  It doesn't effect the quality and it makes for some interesting looking jars.  The taste is still amazing.   

Hay (in the neighborhood)

  A visit to Lake Champlain and Burlington, VT a few weeks ago.  Such a treat to see mountains!

    Apple (and raspberry!) Picking at Hope Orchards

    Heide's Ice Cream sandwiches at the Belfast Farmers market


   Pine needle carpet in the play yard

     Mac and Cheese's last afternoon.  They had a good one.

    Not many, but a few more pears on the tree this year

Fall in the cranberry bog--it looks like no berries this year.
Its always a mystery to me.  Some years are  fantastic, others nothing.

A month ago Rob finished this little addition onto the barn.  We call it B barn (to distinguish it from A barn?  The kids came up with it.)  Its just right for housing bicycles, bee equipment, and the boat and Adele off season.  It will make Rob's job plowing much easier as he won't have to move bikes and sleds out of the way to get the tractor out.

Fall lettuce, in need of weeding (it won't happen).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Farewell to Summer

This year made it our 7th annual equinox celebration atop Mt. Batty in Camden.  We gather with a small hand full of friends to watch the last sunset of summer over the western hills and Appleton Ridge.  The photos are lovely, but do not be fooled by the sun and the T-shirt clad children, this year was the worst weather yet.  The wind was gale force and made it nearly unbearable.  When we stood up our chairs were blown over, and any stray jacket was whisked away.  We barely made it to sunset, but we did.  Another season  passed with good friends by our side.  We love this tradition.  

Below, a few shots from the first few years.  Mostly the same kids, only much smaller!

     1st year  


(4th, 5th6th years here).

Monday, October 6, 2014


Yesterday I ran my second marathon.  Two years ago I ran the same race, in the pouring rain.  This year the weather was perfect for running, and just right for my cheering squad.  Rob and the kids came down with signs, and many of the women from our running group were there participating, cheering, and pacing for the finish.  

For my first marathon I trained and raced with my sister Heide (my other sis would surely have joined us if she didn't live so far away--and if we had any hope of keeping up with her!)  Our only goal was to finish and we did that with smiles on our faces, despite the 4 hours and 17 minutes we'd spent running in a deluge and chilled to the bone.  

This year I was alone for the run, but with so many people around (marathon runners really are the friendliest group I've ever met) I wasn't lonely.  I ran half the race with a guy from Burlington, VT who was going for the same finish time as I was so we paced one another. He was good company. But the best part was having family and friends popping up where I least expected, cheering me on, or jumping into the race to "pull" me up the hill.  

This time around I had a goal in mind, and pushed myself hard.  The running was not nearly as relaxed or as enjoyable as my first race, and I spent a good part of the last 8 miles silently repeating a spectator sign I'd just read, "left, right, repeat".  It kept me going.  Then my rock star of a running friend (and 5 time marathoner herself) joined me at mile 24 and said, "this is where I'm supposed to tell you that if you want to make 4:00 you need to work".  I somehow made my legs move faster and pushed through the longest 2 miles of my life. The whole way Laura ran just ahead of me shouting to the spectators "this is my friend, she's awesome, cheer for her!"  And they did, loudly. It was pretty amazing.  I finished 3 minutes after my goal time.  But I moved as hard as I could the entire way, and took 15 minutes off my fist race, so I feel really good about the whole thing.  

About mile 16, with all the glycogen in my legs gone, and only Shotblocks and a mouth-full of tepid water every two miles to keep me going, I was sure that I would never run another marathon again. But somehow its a bit like childbirth (well, maybe if while running 26 miles someone was simultaneously stretching your most sensitive flesh to the point of tearing)  but similar in the way that by the next day my memory of it has already changed from excruciating to highly manageable, and that in a week or so I know I'll remember it as an enjoyable run.  After the race I met a man who had just finished his second marathon of the weekend, and his 124th overall.  When we congratulated him he told us of the man he'd run with who has completed 400+ marathons. I guess we all forget how much it hurts.   

But the finish, that feels pretty darn good.