Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Entering the dark days

 The days are growing dim. It grew dark yesterday before I'd started dinner. I usually start dinner around 4:30 or so. I must have been late yesterday. We are fighting our third cold in six weeks maybe five. The good news is that none have settled in, but we still lose a few days each time fighting them off. Thankfully we haven't had any concrete symptoms other than low energy and light headedness. I wake up feeling fine but by mid afternoon I'm done for. As a result I've been indulging in more hours spent reading and less hours spent crafting or cooking. I've discovered a new series that I love called A Discovery of Witches. It is a well written romance triology that weaves together witchcraft, vampires and time travel. I think that even if you are turned off by the thought of witches and vampires, you might still enjoy it.The main characters and their relationship seem very real to me despite the supernatural complications.

 Noah has been working with the multiplication chart a lot. I was planning on writing this big one out so it would look nice, but he asked to do it and I'm glad I let him. He discovered more patterns than he'd previously been aware of.

 This years Martinmas lanterns. This is our third year doing water color paper lanterns as I think they are the easiest for small children to do. But I am looking forward to making wool ones, maybe next year. I'd also like to try making one out of Birch bark even though I've never seen it done yet.

We've been hitting the lessons pretty hard, Monday through Wednesday 9:30 to 2ish not much but back to back lessons are going on around here. Thursday's are cut short a bit and Fridays are make up days. We still aren't getting as much crafting done as I'd like to be doing for this time of year, partially due to a warm spell these past couple weeks which I'm not complaining about. We've been making it out to ice skate with friends once to twice weekly. Today the kids painted. We made new lanterns for Martinmas. The kids got out all the lanterns from the past two years and arranged them in order:

Avery took it upon herself to make her numbers and the alphabet one day while Noah and I were working together. She is almost at the next stage where we start putting sounds together and learning word families and some of the simplest sight words. Exciting times! She can't wait until she can read.

I rendered some goat lard in anticipation of making some soap. Now I just have to get my energy back and fit in a batch before the next cold. I was hoping to make the soap in time that it could cure long enough for Holiday giving, but I'm pushing it close. This Saturday we are butchering three Heritage Bourbon Red turkeys and two extra roosters. We will have fresh and never frozen turkey for Thanksgiving!

Last year we ice skated at a playground nearby. This year we are driving a little farther to go to the peat bogs. It is lots of fun being on a real pond among the cattails.

I was starting to feel the winter doldrums this week. Feeling like there was a lot to do but I wasn't motivated to do any of it. I think it is just that I am low energy from fighting off a cold. I remind myself to be thankful for my health and that it could be much worse. But I really don't like feeling out of it and not having my normal enthusiasm for my daily tasks.

I am trying to enjoy all the beauty around me, our lanterns and winter decorations, all the treasures Avery brings in from outside daily; feathers and dried bits of leaves. I'm planning Advent in my head, whether to do a chalkboard drawing for each week or not, how to introduce the new books I've splurged on for the kids and where we are going to set up our new nativity scene. I'm looking forward. Forward to roasting some winter squash and making a pumpkin pie with the kids one of these days when we have more energy. I'm already looking past Thanksgiving to hopefully at least three days of leftovers. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving too. I haven't decided what our school schedule will look like next week but I think we might just drop everything and spend three mornings readying about the Pilgrims and the Indian tribes etc. Then spend our afternoons baking. I think we'll save some of the turkey tail feathers for cutting into quills and we'll have a messy afternoon with ink.

And on to resting up while I dream, plan and look ahead.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Relaxed school days

This is our fourth year homeschooling. Noah is eight and a half years old and is in third grade. Avery is technically in Kindergarten, although she has been sitting at the table with us for Noah's lessons and taking part in various crafts and activities since she was three! Last year we did an early variation of Kindergarten for Avery even though she missed the Kindergarten deadline by a couple weeks because of her birthday date. When Noah was in Kindergarten I was super laid back. We did Oak Meadow together and Right Start Math. He was five and a half and his sister was three and if they ran off and started playing really well together, I was not going to interrupt their play for lessons. When Noah was in first grade I was a little more diligent. We stopped blowing off entire days and started making sure that we at least had a morning circle time all together followed by a morning main lesson, but we were still pretty laid back. We were all three doing farm chores together every day in addition to cooking together and doing art projects in the afternoons, which is what the early years of school should be all about in my mind.

Last year I stepped it up ten fold...or maybe three fold. In order to fit it all in I made not one but two large poster board schedules, one with our weekly schedule on it and another more specific school day schedule with what Avery and Noah were doing at all hours of the day. We started no more than fifteen minutes late most mornings and we only blew off a couple days all year, when five of our goats kidded in the space of a week and I'd spent the nights up delivering goat babies and was too haggard the next day. Last year I planned most every breakfast the night before, always had a loaf of fresh made bread on the counter for easy meals and I never did dishes after breakfast because that gave the kids a chance to escape and start up a never ending playmobile battle.

 This year we are having a more laid back approach to our school day and I'm proud to say that we are still fitting it all in, we just don't always end by 1 or 2. I've realized that if the kids get inspired to make themselves spinach, lettuce, apple juice and then drink a pint of that juice for breakfast, that the valuable kitchen time in addition to a pint of super nutritious juice full of enzymes, vitamins and minerals is way worth getting a later start to our day. Or if they have a lot of questions about something at breakfast we'll just start googling answers to their questions and that might take us on a different school path for the morning.

So, these days the kids wake up by eight a.m. or so, otherwise I wake them up by quarter after. We sit on the couch and read a chapter or three out of a novel that we are reading together. This morning we finished Poppy by Avi. I drink my one cup of Morning Thunder and try my darnedest to time it so that it is the perfect temperature for reading time, which always makes me happy when I succeed. Then we eat breakfast. If it is porridge, then it was slowly simmering while we were reading. This morning we had lots of green apple juice and brown rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas. Tomorrow Noah and I are having omelets, Avery a fried egg, and veggie juice. Then we take are vitamins if we are game...sometimes I just have to wait till later in the morning. Brush teeth and get dressed.

We've been starting with our morning verse and calendar time between nine thirty and ten. Some mornings we have an all together circle time with songs, verses, finger poems, movement activities, hand clapping games, bean bag activities and string games... and some mornings we just skip right into the heavy work. Last year I had about forty five minutes set aside for one on one circle and story time with each kid, and it was so special and they are still asking for that one on one circle time, but I'm trying to go without it because the whole morning can pass by and all we've accomplished is circle and story time and it's time for snack or lunch and we haven't even started math or writing.

As far as the rest of our morning it's all a mish mash and each morning is somewhat different. Mondays the kids both do weekend journals with writing and pictures. Noah get's new vocabulary words. They have a new form drawing on the chalkboard. They each have a one on one math lesson with me and Noah and I have a one on one language arts lesson. Noah reads on the couch to himself for fifteen minutes each school morning and then reads to me. To end the day I read a story to each of the kids on their own. I'm reading Enki Torah stories to Noah and Enki Fairy Tale letter stories to Avery. Today this schedule took us from 10 to 3 with a half hour lunch break. That was a longer than usual day and I'm not sure how that happened. I was feeling laid back.
This year we are having full school days from Monday through Thursdays with a play afternoon scheduled one or two of those days. Our home school cooperative is going to be trying out a Friday morning schedule with afternoons spent ice skating together. So, Fridays will be our big fun social day away from the house.

By the time our lessons are over I'm ready for a break. The kids, however, have been asking for crafts and kitchen projects, but I've been shooing them away to go play so I can plan and make dinner in solitude.I have been feeling slightly guilty though and as a result, I've been mentally preparing myself for some late afternoon craft time. Today I dug out unfinished finger knitting projects leftover from last winter as well as Noah's knitting tower and Avery's braid star. In no time at all Noah had finished his four finger knit garland and had tied wood beads to it. We hung it across a window and I got to see the proud look on his face before he covered it up. He also started and finished a knitting tower project and Avery chose new yarn and started on her braid star. We all sat on the couch for over an hour while they crafted peacefully and then I read to them. It was one of those spaces in time that are set apart from the rest; where you can't believe how smooth everything goes; no arguing or fighting, no whining or accidents or mistakes needing fixed. You wonder why can't every day be like this and at the same time you remind yourself that if every day were like this you wouldn't appreciate or notice how special it is.

When thinking about what I wanted this school year to be like, I wanted our days to be unhurried. I didn't want to find myself snapping at the kids out of frustration with myself or them because of our slow progress. Any day that we have to go to town after lessons ends up with a different feel to it, so I try to keep at least two of our four school days, home days as well.

One of the best parts of home schooling is that each family finds their own daily and weekly rhythm. That rhythm will vary from year to year depending on kid's ages, needs, desires and goals. I'd love to hear about your families homeschooling days!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

First Week of School

 First morning of school, new chalkboard drawing (without explanation = mystery), new calendars, new school stuff, special breakfast; always a special memorable day!

 A special friend is letting us borrow her Waldorf Calendar for the upcoming school year. We are honored to have it in our home for the year! Thankyou!!

 Checking out their basket of new school supplies, pencils, silks, books, main lesson books etc.

 Last of the garden flower posies making it's way to the house.

 "push and pull" kneading the spelt sourdough challah bread for Rosh Hashannah.

 We are studying Hebrew culture, traditions and ancient history through stories, crafts, song and celebrations this fall. Here is our table set for Rosh Hashannah. (social studies :)

 Final non snowy Friday playground day of the year. (P.E) 

 Celebrating Michaelmas with our Children of the Boreal Homeschool Cooperative. Wearing silks that we dyed earlier this summer with flowers, wearing willow crowns braided by the kids...
(social studies)

 Walking the Spiral.

 Passing the light.

 Final garden harvesting. The kids are hauling a tub of comfrey root to the house to chop up for medicine, fresh comfrey root oil. (science :)

What our mornings look like for at least a little while, both kids working quietly and me seizing a precious moment to step back to survey the peace that temporarily reigns in my kingdom.
(language arts and math :)

(note water color paintings from first week of water color painting series (art )

Last week of "summer" before lessons

 I was going to start school the week of September 15th, but instead decided we needed a week of no structure after celebrating Avery's birthday weekend. So we went hiking with friends one day, tie dyed t-shirts on the back porch the next day, and made it down to the cranberry patch to pick cranberries and play with friends on the third day. Needless to say, I'm glad we made the most of the final days of summer... or fall.

The girls were picking low bush cranberries and smearing them on their cheeks and lips. Such an inherently girl thing to do.

 Some of the boys were trying to make a fire and none of us had thought to bring matches. Noah took a turn at the stick, without much success. I think we were missing some components.

One of our goals for the summer was to tie dye together, and we did it, just barely. A summer tradition in the making for sure.

Last goat walk and flower pressing

 One lovely day in September the kids and I took a walk with the goats before gathering leaves to press. I had an inkling that it would be one of our last and it was. Above is Eden, our favorite doeling out of Xanadu, sold now. 
 Noah standing behind Cammie, one of his favorite goats who is now in a new home doing well.

 Ember, My favorite doeling of this year, oh I doted on her. Her rump looks short and steep in this picture but it's not. She is now with her dam in a very nice new home. I will get to see them regularly, so I'm looking forward to watching her grow.

 We pressed flowers and they turned out more beautiful than I could have imagined. Now I have to find a special craft to feature them.