Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Magic Treehouse Book Club


Our local homeschool group just started a fun activity: a Magic Treehouse Book Club.  Although her reading level isn't up for it on her own, the books are just right for Hypatia's comprehension level.  At our first meeting, the kids all read the first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, and did some extension activities for it.  They also were invited to read another book of their choice and bring in a Bag Book Report.  Hypatia chose Mummies in the Morning.


A bag book report is a sort of Show and Tell about a book.  She decorated the bag.


And then she selected items to put in the bag that went with the book.  I admit I helped her pick stuff out.

The bookclub meeting itself disappointed her - I'm not sure what she was expecting but there were too many reading and writing activities for her taste.  Despite that, I'm happy to keep bringing her back to this.  The practice giving little oral reports to other kids will be good for her.

Monday, February 25, 2013

New Chores for Little Ones


Here she goes, headed out into the morning rain to learn a new chore and take care of our chickens and goats.

Her brother has been asking why he has all the chores - and pointing out that he had more chores when he was her age than she has now.  It's a common problem with siblings - the older one gets more of the responsibilities and pressure, and the younger is allowed to remain the "baby" for longer.  It's tempting, when I have something that needs doing, to ask the older child to do it - he's more capable and I've already invested the time in teaching him how to do it.

But that is a temptation that needs to be resisted, as it's a disservice to the girl to not teach her how to be responsible and do these chores as well.

For now, I'm sending them both out to the barn to do the chores (and Dad shadowed behind for this first morning out, to make sure Big Brother as a good and patient teacher).  Carbon is showing his sister how to do it, and helping her do it for now.  (I pay for eggs collected, so they're splitting the egg money as well).  Then, we'll start taking turns and having each do those chores on alternating days.

Besides animal chores, there are more chores headed their way as well.  I'm going to have them unload and load the dishwasher, as well as vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning bathrooms.  And I'm not going to always be stooping to pick up their stuff for them and put it away, but will instead be listing off items I see out of place and having them pick up after themselves.

I've got big kids now.  And I'm going to treat them like it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Own Pigs


This year we decided to try raising our own winter pigs.  My brother did this last year, and we were inspired by his example, so when he was buying piglets from a friend, we bought two as well.

We're not vegetarians, you know.  Nothing against being vegetarian - my husband's parents are both vegetarian and he grew up on a vegetarian diet, and I was a vegetarian for one year in college.  But now he has no interest in being a vegetarian, and I have discovered that with my elliptocytic anemia (a rare genetic blood disorder which involves making blood cells that are the wrong shape and are inefficient oxygen carriers) my physiology makes vegetarianism feel bad.

Lots of people are not vegetarians, and they apparently have no trouble going to the grocery store and buying cuts of meat that they bring home and cook.  Even knowing what so many of us know about factory farming models, people continue to buy meat that comes from animals raised that way.

So it is confusing to me that people who can be comfortable doing that are uncomfortable with the notion of eating an animal that you raised yourself.  Our pigs have lived a good life, with lots of room to run around, sunshine, belly scratches, good healthy food, etc.

Yes, we're all a bit sad that on Saturday the butcher is coming.  We've opted for a home visit, so they don't have to travel, get stressed out, or really know what's coming.  They'll go quick and painless.  Then we will have well-stocked freezers, which we hope will keep us supplied for almost two years (we only eat meat once or twice a week).  We do not plan to raise pigs again next year, but will instead do turkeys.  It's possible that in the future it will be every other year alternating pigs and turkeys.

And we'll get more than just the meat - the area they've been enclosed in is now completely fertilized and rooted up.  We'll plant it with a cover crop (which our chickens will then get to free-range over and will enjoy immensely) then next year when it's not so "hot" we plan to plant a blueberry patch there.

If you are going to eat meat, it came from animals.  I think it's important that my children see that.  I think it's important that we all see that.  Maybe it's the fact that everyone wants this to be "out of sight out of mind" that lets us ignore conditions that we should never be willing to see any creature live in.

I hope I'm not upsetting anyone, but this is reality.  For the last six months I've felt more than a bit judged, even a bit ashamed.  In front of many people, we can't talk about having the pigs.  Right now, as we are all thinking about the end, this doesn't feel right to me.  No one I know feels like they can't talk about getting the occasional hamburger.  OK - I do know a lot of vegetarians and for them they wouldn't talk about getting a hamburger.  But I've felt like even the meat-eaters are saying that raising our own is a step too far.  It's not a step too far - it's the step that needs to be inseparable from eating meat at all.  (Not that everyone has to raise it - just that everyone has to realize where it came from and care about the life of the animals).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Stubborn Learner


This girl of mine is hard to teach sometimes!  She is a very stubborn child, and will hold to her own notions despite exhortations or demonstrations - she might accept the new idea later but in the moment she will not back down.

Math is like this.  She'll have the wrong answer, but nothing on earth will move her to accept it.

Science is like this.  She'll make her prediction for the science experiment, then it won't go that way, and she'll say "you must have done something wrong", not "oh - I had a wrong idea".

Spelling - invented.

Reading - pretend and invented as well.

Art - no following directions for this girl.

It's a fine quality to be strong-willed.  It will probably stand her in good stead in some way in her life.

But, oy vey!  Pity her poor mother. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cooking Days


I've just been over to a friend's house, to do a load of cooking together and then each tuck all that goodness away into our freezers.  This is our second month of doing this (we're taking turns on whose kitchen gets clobbered and who gets left with all those dirty dishes), and I am a huge fan of how it's working out.

With a bit of proactive work (planning, shopping, setting a time, spending a morning in the kitchen), I get a benefit of healthy, affordable meals in the freezer, ready for the days when I want them.  By cooking with a friend, the chore becomes a time to visit and is almost fun or recreational, so the time investment really isn't that big a deal.

We're even managing to balance some different dietary needs: my friend's family is vegetarian and she currently can't eat dairy, and my family is gluten free!  But it's working so far. :)

I plan to buy some larger pots, so next month will be even easier!

Friday, February 15, 2013

An offshoot blog

Well, I've been thinking for a while now that I have at least two very separate audiences for my blogging efforts: homeschoolers and UU's (and yes, they can overlap, of course).  Although for my purposes just having one blog that reflects everything I find interesting in life is handy, I'm sure it bores or puts off some readers to have to filter through content that they don't care about.

So .... drumroll ...... announcing my new blog The Children's Chalice!  The Children's Chalice will be a space for my adventures in Religious Education and UUism, while the Curriculum of Love will remain primarily about homeschooling and home life.  We'll see if I can get my life to stay nicely categorized. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Unit-Study for the Girl


This study is being done by both kids, but I pointed us in this direction primarily because I knew Hypatia would enjoy it.  She brought home an audio CD of As You Like It retold for children from the library, and was delighted with it.

I know that if we study Shakespeare now, it will only be at a very superficial level.  We'll still want to come back and do it again, and then maybe again, before the kids are all done with High School (still so many years away that I can comfortably think - plenty of time).

But this will be the beginning.

We read Shakespeare's Theater together, and then the kids worked together to make a cardboard puppet theater.



There has been a fair bit of imaginative story telling with dolls and the theater backdrop.  There are plenty of picture book retellings of Shakespeare stories.  I plan to make sock puppets of some of the most famous Shakespeare characters.  And then there are the more kid-friendly movie versions.  A nice little mini-study - and I was right, Hypatia loves it so far.

There is not really a logical sequence to our studies, unless you were here to see it - the logical sequence is that I'm following my kids' interests.  

They don't always know what to ask for, and that's why it's my job to observe and then think of the next thing to bring to their attention.  I "make" them give it a good go, but if they really don't enjoy it, we won't push it too far.  I'm walking a line, balanced between fully child-led/project-based homeschooling and parent-led/curriculum-based homeschooling.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Your Values are More Important than Your Organizational Tips

I was inspired by a blog post I recently read titled "Your Values are More Important than Your Schedule".  The author relates how much she loves creating a family schedule, and how bummed the failure of each schedule to work perfectly makes her.  But then she realizes that "A household schedule is a tool, nothing more, for putting your values into action. When the schedule falls apart one week, or two (I'm publishing next week, hopefully, some tips for creating family schedules) life itself doesn't fall apart because underneath that schedule are solid values. Which are more important than a good schedule in the first place."

This lead me to reflect on what my underlying values are, that can then be reflected in the organizational tools I use to get our lives rolling smoothly.

Renee at FLIMBY describes her values as being in a circle, with Jesus Christ at the center of it all.  Not sharing her Christology, I struggled to think of how to describe what lies at the very center for me.  The best I came up with was "Keeping Faith", which stands in for an idea I find hard to describe: being in Right Relationship with myself and the world around me, choosing truth, justice, hope, and love, while also keeping honor and righteousness.  It's a stance of positive outlook and choosing what is right.

Then I envisioned an inner ring of values that circle that core value.  And finally an outer ring of values.

Now, does this exercise help me get a chore schedule going?  Or decide how many extracurricular activities we can fit in to our schedule?  Balance the budget?

Yes and no.  But this is what underlies all the other choices, so keeping it out where I can see it will help me remember that everything else is just the walls, and this is the foundation.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Last Sunday I led a workshop on "God?" for our 8th graders at church.  It's one of the peculiarities of working for a Unitarian Universalist congregation that most of our youth are atheists, and everyone is more comfortable talking about values than they are about God.

I invited our minister to join us for this workshop, and to expound on the question "why should we bother engaging with this word - "God" - at all?  He did a great job of talking the question out and encouraging the youth to explore their ideas of God more, but most of the youth seemed disinterested - for now.

I'm studying for a Liberal Theologies course right now, and found these words by Bill Schulz:

It is not particularly important to me anymore whether I or anyone else uses "God talk".  What is of supreme importance is that I live my life in a posture of gratitude - that I recognize my existence and, indeed, Being itself, as an unaccountable blessing, a gift of grace.  Sometimes, it is helpful to call the source or fact of that grace God and sometimes not.  But what is always helpful and absolutely necessary is to look kindly at the world, to be bold in pursuit of its repair, and to be comfortable in the embrace of its splendor.  I know no better term for what I seek than an encounter with the Holy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Snapshots from the domestic front

Yes, life is To Do Lists, schedules, reading lists, lunch boxes, and a seemingly never-ending cycle of sweeping, dishes, and laundry that threaten to drown me in the sheer Sisyphean futility of it all ...

But it is also jammies made with love from fabric the girl selected herself, blueberry muffins requested for a birthday morning breakfast, a handknit hat finished for the husband, flower seeds for a child's very own garden bed, and hand-written recipe cards.  There are always the little highlights, and it helps me to stop and remember those.






Monday, February 4, 2013

"Just Messing About"


One of the effects of the Edison study I had my son do recently has been an increased interest in trying things out and creating his own experiments and inventions.  Edison is a great example, and Carbon finds the accounts of Edison's many, many failures and persistent efforts very encouraging.

So he is inspired.  He is encouraged.  And he's trying all sorts of ideas - none of which have worked.  That cup experiment pictured above?  He was hoping if he heated the tube it would suck water from one tube into another.  I could see how he had the idea from the steam engine he built with his dad, but this didn't quite work.  Pictured below he was trying to make a baking soda and vinegar time release reaction by balancing the baking soda on a piece of plastic above the vinegar.  That also didn't end up working.  But, with the example of Edison fresh in his mind, he's not discouraged.


So now I have to give him the space to do this sort of thing.  I have to give him time, supplies, permission to use a flame in his experiment.  When there is a list of school assignments still undone for that day, and he's out in the yard "just messing about" with vinegar, I have to remind myself that he's doing real learning out there.

If he doesn't get all his assignments done today because he spent hours on this sort of thing, we had our priorities in the right place.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

An Ancient Egypt Birthday Party

When they ask for their birthday theme, I have to come through as the birthday magician:


"Happy Birthday" in heiroglyphics banner.


Pyramid Cake


Mummy Wrap Game



Treasure Hunt


Happy Birthday to my sweet girl