Friday, August 31, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A twisty path through history


History has recently become much more complicated around here.

I was following a chronological approach to history, with both children learning about the same time period but at a different level of depth.  Carbon had already worked his way through Book One of The Story of the World, and then Hypatia joined us on Book Two jumping right into the Middle Ages.  (My plan was to catch her up on ancient history when we looped back around to the beginning).


Well, first it was my fault.  I became worried about how little American History they knew, and dissatisfied with what short-shrift the western hemisphere civilizations get in SOTW.  So we stopped and read Before Columbus together to get a better idea of what was happening on this side of the world.  I loved Before Columbus, and I just made up my own review questions and narration prompts as we went along.

Then I thought the kids would go back to SOTW as I had planned before.  But they didn't want to.  Carbon wanted to study the World Wars, and Hypatia wanted to go back to Ancient Egypt. He argued (successfully) that he would learn better if he was interested.  She argued (successfully) that it wasn't fair to make her wait to come back to ancient times because she had been too young when we did it before.

And there goes my chronological plan.  It looks like we are Interest-Led for history from now on.  I'm doing a unit study on World War 1 with Carbon, and a unit study on Ancient Egypt with Hypatia.  I'm still going to keep all these resources on hand, to fill in the gaps in between (both in between major historical events and in between when they don't have a specific interest), but I guess for now we'll hop through time like some sort of crazy time travelers and just study what they find interesting.

I also really want to weave the People's History in as we go, but we'll see how that works out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's like a treasure hunt ...




And then they can take a break and play with chickens.



Wondering about the face paint?  She got that earlier in the day at camp ... I don't think the chickens noticed. :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nature study kind of "sucked" today ....


Because we explored the mudflats!  Hypatia almost lost her shoes several times. :)


Bird foot prints, barnacles, air holes that just begged for some digging to see what might be down there, mussels, and crabs ....  oh, and a blue heron and a bald eagle.


Picture Books for the 6th Principle

Our 6th of the 7 UU Principles is The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

Following our Rainbow scheme for the kids it is worded (Indigo Promise)  Insist on Peace and Justice for All 

The books we read for this Principle this summer:

Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker is an unflinching, but beautifully illustrated, reflection on all the consequences of war.

Can You Say Peace? shows children from around the world saying "peace" in different languages.

What Does Peace Feel Like? has quotes from children about what peace feels, smells, tastes, and sounds like.  It's quite delightful.

Peace Begins With You is my favorite, being a simple explanation of conflict, peace, and how we can work toward peace.

This list of books about peace and social justice looks promising also.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I love summer camps


We have just finished a week of both kids having half-day camps: Visual Effects Movie Making Camp and Play in Spanish Camp.

Their play at home is now heavily movie-making oriented, and I keep turning around and realizing they are filming me with the camera and tripod I let them use.  Too much enthusiasm can be trying for Mama to live with, but it's also pretty cute.

What I love about summer camps when they are done well is that the kids can try something new and really get immersed in it for what feels like just long enough - it inspires but then ends leaving you wanting more.  The length of a camp lets them actually do larger projects within the camp time, such as making a movie, putting on a play, or surveying a beach.  And camps bring people with different expertise and places that are not always accessible to the kids for a pretty cool learning experience.

They are already talking about what camps they want to do next year. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to Fall Resolutions


Routines tend to fall apart in the summer.  It's both a blessing a curse that during the summer you take a break from your normal life, and (at least in this family) constantly have to adapt to new routines on a weekly or even daily basis.

All the summer camps and trips will be coming to an end soon, and so it's time to find a rhythm and a routine that will get us through the long haul.  One major priority for me is to get back into the swing of an exercise routine.

So far, I've managed to revive a super short and simple morning stretching/yoga routine.  I do mean super short - 10 minutes if I'm feeling rushed.

And I gave up on trying to find ethically produced athletic shoes and just bought myself something that felt really good on my feet and made me feel happy to look down at my toes.  I want to get into the gym for a workout at least twice a week, and go on more walks around the neighborhood.  Our effort at a weekly hike/nature walk is great, but the kids walk so slow it's never really a workout for me.

It's time to get back into gear, and shape.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We've gone to the birds


Between the chicken who got to come inside for some TLC ...


The hummingbirds that are enjoying the flower garden ....


And the red-tailed hawk that joined us in our backyard for dinner last night (literally - it got two mice in the backfield as we watched) ....


It's been hard to ignore the birds.  We also have quail that cross the road in front of our car, and doves that have been flying about and landing on the barn roof (that was really pretty, but darn I couldn't get my camera fast enough).  


We just watched The Big Year this week with the kids, too, and that's inspired them to want to keep their own birding lists.  Carbon wants to do his own Big Year, even if he "comes in very last".  I think Project FeederWatch will be a good nature study project for us this winter.

There's just something cool about birds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Reading Life


On my reading pile right now:

Goat Song, a memoir about keeping goats and living seasonally and intentionally.  This was a Christmas gift that I'm just getting around to reading.

The Northwest Nature Guide is a fantastic resource.  Organized by the months of the year, the author describes what you can see this time of year, and gives a great deal of fascinating background history and science.  Then there are recommended trips for Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia so you can actually get out there and see it all.  I read the August chapter out loud to the family, and although we weren't up for going on a whale watching cruise or climbing up to the alpine heights to see small native rodents in action, it was still very interesting.

I was inspired to read some german poetry after watching the movie The Lives of Others (a beautiful film - I recommend it).  Although they were not reading Goethe in the movie, I've never read any of his work and had heard he was "foundational" so I decided to start here.  I'm sure a lot is lost in translation, but I'm not impressed.  The poems are very bland, in my opinion.

Dinner: A Love Story is a blog I read, and their book has just been released.  It's more memoir than cookbook, but if you enjoy seeing how food really fits into people's lives you will enjoy this book.

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook is just a lush delight for the eyes and the imagined taste buds, and I simply must try some of these recipes.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Children's books for the 5th Principle

Our 5th Unitarian Universalist Principle is The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

For the kids we re-word that as Believe in Your Ideas and Act on Them, and Listen to the Ideas of Others or sometimes as Everyone Has a Voice

Books I love for this Principle:

The Day Gogo Went to Vote is about a South African grandmother finally getting the right to vote after the end of apartheid. 

Yertle the Turtle

Horace and Morris, but mostly Dolores

Heart on Fire: Susan B Anthony Votes for President

Henry Hikes to Fitchberg

Books about the political process here.

Related posts:
Books for the 4th Principle

Books for the 3rd Principle

Books for the 2nd Principle

Books for the 1st Principle

Saturday, August 18, 2012



We are having some record high temperatures here, but it still feels like summer is basically in it's last hurrah.  The spider webs are an early sign of fall.

Today I do the first of the teacher trainings at church for my volunteers.

Hypatia's feet have grown, but it's too late in the year to bother buying new sandals.  I got her some $2 flipflops and ordered nice new Boggs mud shoes in her new size instead.  The rain is going to start again soon, and she'll need the waterproof shoes before we know it.

My calendar is filling up, fall-like, and it's time to get the kids registered for their fall activities too.

The seasons are turning.  We didn't do everything I had hoped to do this summer, but there are some things in the fall that I will welcome:

sweaters and boots!

Friday, August 17, 2012

(Not) Back to School


Being somewhat year-round homeschoolers means that we don't have a set First Day of School, or a Last Day of School, or really any particular time of the year where things have to Begin or End.  We will not be starting 4th grade with a bang, with all new subjects and a pile of new clothing, paper, and pencils.

But we have had a break of about a month, what with various summer camps taking us away from home learning and with a two week visit from grandparents.  So on Monday when we went back to our home learning, it did feel a bit like we were going Back to School.

Carbon even got to start a new subject - physics using this new curriculum from Exploration Education that I bought at the annual homeschool convention this year.  So far, he likes it a lot.

But are we giving up on summer because we started back up with homeschool?  No way.  Besides the museum day on Wednesday, I also let Carbon go off to an amusement park all day yesterday with a friend.  As usual, we're in no rush to get to any particular educational goal, other than to just keep living and learning!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Museum Day


Up the road from us is a small city with a "museum district", which is a cluster of 3 museums near each other.  On Wednesdays they have a deal with one admission price for all three, and yesterday we met my mother there and took advantage of that midweek deal.

Museums have become so much more interactive in recent years, so the kids had drawers to open to find things, a scavenger hunt sheet for the history museum, things to sit on, climb on, play with, etc.


As they sat in the covered wagon, my mom told them which pieces of her furniture actually are family pieces that did come out in a wagon, and they marveled at how small the wagons were to get all your household belongings moved.  We have a pump organ, currently residing at my brother's house, that was a family heirloom and was brought to Kansas in a covered wagon by my music-loving german great-great's.   The kids tried to imagine that pump organ in the wagon - it would take up half of it!


Then it was on to the art museums.  One is a museum of glass art - something pretty special!


That museum is a sort of working art studio as well, with the "Hot Box" open to the public to come and watch.  They talk to us and do little demonstrations as they work, and they have an artist in residence who is creating pieces here for a few weeks.


They also have an art studio for the kids, and a cool ongoing project where kids can submit their design drawings and about once a month they select a drawing and turn it into a glass sculpture.  If the kids' designs are selected, they'll be notified so they can come back and see the glass piece.  Both kids had fun doing some drawings and hoping it might someday be a sculpture.


Then it was on to the other art museum, which featured a somewhat odd exhibit of "blanket art".  These were all real people's blankets, with little stories about the blanket written on tags.


The kids also enjoyed this interactive sculpture a great deal.  A sort of felt cave that you were allowed to go inside, with felt stalactites and a little projected figure talking or telling a story - it was hard to tell what he was saying but the effect was a bit spooky.

I let the kids try to photograph this:



All told, we spent 6 hours doing museums.  It was a pretty great day!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cooking Day


In my grandmother's time, there was a standard sort of order to when housewives did which chores.  She even had a set of embroidered towels that said "Monday, Laundry", etc.  It's a good plan really, since the work of keeping house is never ending and you could just keep working at everything all the time.  I'm trying to break up this huge task into a manageable routine, so I'm going back to the idea of a task a day.

Friday was "Market and Cooking Day", so I went out and picked wild blackberries from my back field, went to the Farmer's Market and bought a box of tomatoes, came home and baked and canned all the rest of the afternoon.  The results were:

1.  A messy house
2.  A hot and tired mama
3.  Yummy food that the family was thrilled to have!
4.  Local food put up for the winter

I don't go into work on Fridays, so it works for me to do more housework that day.  On the days I do go in, I have to give myself smaller domestic tasks. :)  For instance, yesterday I worked a 9 hour work day in the church, so I had to be content with just weeding one flower bed and calling the "Gardening Day" good.



Monday, August 13, 2012

struggling a bit ...


I'm struggling a bit to keep my heart and soul on an even keel.  The depression that gripped me just a half-year ago or so feels like it's still out there, and there are many hints that all is not well.  Life doesn't feel lovely and safe and blessed anymore, and so now I need to find a way to stay mentally healthy during times that aren't quite so perfect.

For part of my self-care, I find that focusing on lovely things makes me feel better.  And right now, my flower garden has lots to offer as a balm to my heart and soul.

I'm going to try going easy on myself.  This will be a new idea, but after years of beating myself up and berating myself and setting the bar so high that I can never succeed, I don't notice it really working out very well.  So, gentle and easy, and hopefully happier and healthier.



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Picture Books for the 4th Principle

The 4th of the Unitarian Universalist Principles is A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning, which we word for the children as Grow By Searching for Truth.  Books I have found that go with this Principle are:

The Three Questions by Jon Muth takes a Leo Tolstoy story and reworks it as a magical fable for children.

Another Jon Muth book is also good for this Principle: Zen Shorts

The Hermit and the Well is a story from Thich Nhat Hanh's childhood.

The Empty Pot and The Greatest Power, both by Demi, are stories of how children search for truth and are rewarded with positions of authority because of their search.

Related Posts:

Picture Books for the 1st Principle
Picture Books for the 2nd Principle
Picture Books for the 3rd Principle

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Perfect Summer Day

Today felt a bit like summer's last hurrah.  Looking at the calendar, things just start to pick back up from here ... but today was perfect.  We drove up the peninsula to a little historic port town, had a nice fancy lunch on the waterfront, some gallery browsing, a little fancy candy and ice cream shop, played on the beach, and explored an old fort.