Monday, September 30, 2013

Kites, Grasshoppers, and Ducks

Today we met our friends at the biggest hill around for some kite-flying fun.

This little (BIG) guy hopped up on E and stared at him, just like Guinea does when E isn't sharing his lunch with her.

We made trash bag kites with sticks and duct tape, which kind of worked....

Up they walked, down they ran (or slid), over and over.

e stalked a few ducks, really wishing she could hold one of those fluffy birds! She noticed details in feather texture and color, but never got close enough to grab one.



In autumn St. Michael, with sword and with shield

Passes over meadow, through orchard and field.

He's on his way to battle with darkness and strife

He's the Heavenly Warrior, Protector of Life.

In honor of Michaelmas, we read The Devil's Scythe from Cristopherus' third grade curriculum, Room on the Broom, and Tomie da Paola's The Knight and the Dragon. We gathered beautiful leaves on our morning walk, and we packed up acorns to send to our friends in Alaska. We didn't bake dragon cookies or decorate candles. I did make us candles, but then couldn't get them out of the jars. The children were none-too-happy with me, so after they were in bed I posted my quandary on Facebook. I had greased the jars, but they narrowed the teensiest bit just above center, resourceful friends to the rescue. Dip them in hot water. I dipped, C pulled on the wick with pliers, and out popped these really cool-looking layered candles!

Tradition is saved. Today we turn them into dragon candles! Each night at dinner, between now and Advent, the light of the flame will devour the darkness of our dragons.


Which is what Michaelmas is about: slaying our inner dragons. Bravery, friendship, light. Next year we will read St. George and the Dragon and Li Chi Slays the Serpant. I didn't feel the children were quite ready for those this year. E is very sensitive to stories of children being put in unsafe situations, and e is just young. No getting around it.


Today we add a new tradition: making and flying kites! The wind and sun here in Virginia are glorious this time of year, and the hill at Mt. Trashmore will allow the cross in the kite to rise to the heavens.


Year-by-year, festivals and holidays take on more meaning and carry us through. Happy Michaelmas!


Friday, September 27, 2013


Today we got up bright and early. Well, it wasn't bright yet. Let's just say early. Smoothie and cold bacon and pressed clothes and into the car, all before sunrise. Today was the day my dear C has waited for! Promotion. He's been promotable for over 2 long years. It's a numbers game, and somewhere in there the rules changed as the Army began to downsize. He just kept on and made sure his numbers stayed up. Today I buttoned his new shoulder boards onto his Class B, and he looked so... Happy. Content. Back in his element. He likes it here; the job, the people, the climate. I saw familiar faces in the audience, faces from our time in Virginia prior to Alaska. This really does feel like home.


On the way home, E tucked both old shoulder boards between the buttons on his shirt and declared himself an E10. Until he found out that officers are above enlisted.... He became an O14, which must be above a 5-star general. Maybe even above the commander-in-chief.

e's fawn and bear, and the concerned sound 'ooooo' (U) when the prince was worried the bear cub would drown. Thankfully mama bear was able to swoop in and save her cub from the raging water.

For a few days now, E has been building with balloons. Cars, tractors, animals, but most of all costumes! Astronaut, diver, clown, knight in purple armor... He has amassed quite a collection.

e has been building a paper chain for over a week. Today we looped it around and around her room.

Today I traded out toys. When we moved in, I filled four tubs with games, books, and toys for rotation. I decided it was time to switch, as the current toys have not been played with, not even once. The Legos appeared, and the cat. Such sweet memories I have of that cat. He's been with us since E was tiny, a gift from Nana. Also in that tub were four of e's who-knows-how-many teeny purple bunnies, and the husky named Poodle.

St. George and e's shining crystal took their place at the table, as it is nearly Michaelmas. Most Waldorf families have a nature table. We have a nature....plate. It keeps my little treasure-finder from piling it on. We are all quite allergic, after all. She has shelves and shelves outside on the deck, full of wonderful leaves, seeds, pinecones, gum balls, shells, sticks, rocks, and (from Alaska) a moose jaw. And every day, she beings home something new. My sweet naturalist.


Thursday, September 26, 2013


Yes, my fourth grader still leaves out letters and reverses S and 5. I'm not worried, because he reads well, understands math, has a wonderful imagination, loves art and music, and is an athlete. And if he's like me, while he is copying the words, his brain has 350 other thoughts going on at the same time. That can be a bit distracting.

For instance, while doing this page, he was thinking about how amazing swamps are,with trees and plants that grow IN the water, and how the people must have dealt with the insects. He wondered about malaria, about body paint as a skin protectant, and where they grew their veggies. He wondered if the water is muddy or clear, and what shade of blue or brown or even yellow it might be. Just for starters. So he was a bit distracted. I harp on him to stay on task, but really I love his curiosity. I love that he wants to learn.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Chalk and Rope

Gymnastics has taken over. Our children are head-over-heels in love with the rush that comes from working their bodies hard and seeing results. They come out with words and phrases I've never heard before, and they relish teaching me what a muscle-up or a kip or a layout might be. They come out with chalk everywhere, sweaty and proud.

boys waiting in line for parallel bars

That is E up on the rings, but the muscle-up he's practicing with help is old news; he counts it as a solid skill now, just days later. 16 hours a week has been good for him. He craves the motion, the joint compression, and the challenge. In two months he has moved from not-quite-level 5 to performing a few level 5 bonus moves.

Then there's e in the pale pink (shiny!) leo. She does 3 hours a week and loves every. single. minute! Top of the rope? No problem. She has a strong body and an even stronger mind. Very determined, that one.

I am so thankful that with careful budgeting we can afford this opportunity. C works very hard to support us, and God has provided at every turn.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Continuing On

We got sidetracked with acorn-hunting and the absolutely gorgeous weather last week, but today the kids wanted back into the school routine. e's prince heard the wise woman tell the story of The Six Swans and felt (ahhhh) A, a sense of wonder.

They traveled through a valley and saw a lot of trees. Slowly, the prince is learning to stop whining.

E used all his efforts on the birch tree and igloos and had nothing left for the writing, so we skipped it. All last week was full of frustration and trouble over his birch tree not coming out as he thought it should. I wasn't sure we would actually even get this drawing into his main lesson book. Thus this is not a failure to meet the standard of copywork, this is total and complete success! He is so pleased with his tree. See the exclamation point? :)

Guinea is back to her cheerful Netflix-watching self. It is such a relief to see her returning to her old habits!

Nature has gifted us with many, many treasures! e's shelf outside is overflowing.

I don't know where September has gone! The children are so excited for Michaelmas. This will be our third year celebrating it, so they have many ideas for this year's festival activities. So far on their list this year: dragon cookies, decorating dragon candles, listening to The Devil's Scythe, capes and swords, blackberries, and (new this year) making and flying kites! What do you have planned for Michaelmas?


Friday, September 20, 2013


Yesterday we spent the day at the botanical gardens with new friends.  It was lovely to see the kids run, play, talk, and create for hours!  We have so very much in common with this family.  Their boys are J (8) and S (11).  e was worried she'd get left out as the youngest, but these boys have big hearts for including everyone.  Above is one of the houses they built using magnetic blocks in the children's garden. We also spent quite a bit of time in the enchanted forest, where e collected acorns and everyone kept an eye out for fairies and elves.  K (the boys' mom) and I managed long conversations out of earshot of the children, which was lovely and did me so much good- hopefully her also.  Homeschooling can be a lonely endeavor in a new place. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wonderful Weather

People of the Rice! E is back into block crayons and their ability to cover a page quickly.

One of the stories from the people of the rice is about a vain, bushy-tailed bear who is tricked by a fox into sitting by an icy fishing hole. His tail freezes into the ice and when he jumps up, -snap- the tail comes right off. Ever since, bears have had short, stubby tails and do not like fox.


e was taken by this story and HAD to draw it somewhere. But where? It wasn't her lesson, so not her main lesson book. It wasn't weather, so not her weather journal. Plain paper wouldn't do, though. She finally decided her weather journal is her catch-all. She's been using the same book for 3 years now, and its only been a weather journal since last year. So into her journal went a picture of fox and bear, with bear's tail stuck in the ice. I do love this girl!

We went for our morning walk (bike) down a different street this morning and came upon an OAK TREE! This is exciting because oak trees make acorns and we had just lived three years in Alaska, where oak trees do not grow. We had looked at pictures and read stories about acorns, but that just isn't the same. e and I put as many as we could find into her bike basket and brought them home. I took the acorns inside while the kids put their bikes away. Or at least that's what I thought they were doing. After a while I got worried and went to find them.


Turns out they were playing on their swing set! The one that has been played on exactly 9 times in the past 2 months. They played for 2 whole hours. My arctic children finally had weather they considered nice: 64 degrees, bright sun, and wind. Oh, the wind! It is a beautiful day.



Monday, September 16, 2013

Jamestown Settlement

Today we made our second trek to Jamestown Settlement on our Homeschool Days tickets. The first time, C and e hung out together while E and I spent hours at the Indian village. E had time to quietly study what he was seeing and ponder the answers to his questions. This time it was just me, and e had picked up a whole lot of facts about the fort with C that she wanted to share with her brother who didn't make it to the fort last time.....leaving no space for pondering. But still I saw E pick out small things to study: the locks on doors, the shoes the colonists wore, the armor, the wooden pegs and square-head nails. Meanwhile e noticed other things: the style of hat the colonist was knitting, the texture of the red curtains on the governor's bed, the frog hiding in the pile of wood. She was quick to answer any question, even answering one that stumped a group of older children: What star can be seen in both hemispheres and only during the day?

Powhatan dwelling. E marveled over the woven mats and strong construction.

Bone needles, thread made of tendon!

Big, heavy canoes in progress.

Fish net. The man took so much time explaining to E how to weave a fish net, a basket, and rope.

One of the locks in the fort.


My treasure-hunting girl found ACORNS! Very exciting.

And I found leaves turning!! It may still be 86 degrees during the day, but fall is coming....


Sunday, September 15, 2013


This is how today started:
Our neighbor has had a pile of boards in their front yard all summer. I finally asked what they plan to build, and guess what?! They told us they were building nothing- did we need the boards for anything? An amazing, wonderful blessing!

You see, a vital component to a third grade education is building a structure large enough to crawl inside, as a nine-year-old is in he process of building his or her own sense of self separate from parents, friends, and family. We had been telling E that he would build his once we got to Virginia. But now in Virginia, we are under a super-tight budget in order to afford gymnastics. Uniforms, meets, hotels, fees, training, oh my! And then e's gymnastics. So no money for wood.

Until our neighbor offered us this huge pile of boards! Answer to prayer. Now to haul it over to a safe spot until E decides on the blueprint to follow. We are so excited!

Friday, September 13, 2013

So Much to Learn!

I came home from e's gymnastics last night to E's excited "MOM! MOM! Look what I did!" Apparently C had exclaimed over the gas mileage of a motorcycle and asked E if he knew how far it could travel on 3 gallons at 53 mpg. E took the challenge and ran with it, then asked C for more and more multiplication problems. He had a whole page of long multiplication to show me. Which got e going- "Give me some problems, daddy!" She ended up finding 6 ways to make ten and 4 ways to make 8.

e's story a few days ago took the prince to a lady's house. The lady tells the prince that she once went on a journey, also. This is a pre-written story; I had nothing to do with this! But e was thrilled, thinking that this lady is (fictional) e, all grown up, as (fictional) e went on a journey last year and had blond hair, so she added in Cerwydwin, (fictional) e's guinea pig guide. He's eating a pepper in her picture.

I've had plenty of kitchen help!

Bouncing Banana the garden spider disappeared from E's window for a few days, then reappeared much thinner. Here's why! TWO egg cases!

"We have strawberries." Or at least they look like strawberries, growing wild under our porch. Teeny tiny ones.

E's weather journal in progress. I love his depiction of clouds! Interesting note- He always drew the sun as a spiral until last January, when he discovered that my cousin loves to draw as well and draws suns like this. Now all his suns are triangular. :)


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Old Rhythm

The children have been pushing for a bit of school rhythm, with the start of daddy's school cycle to inspire us. So today we started the good ol' rhythm we had way back when in Alaska. Breakfast, chores, out for a walk/bike, then inside to record observations in our weather journals. 78 degrees (at 8am) and humid. Grass is wet with dew. What was it like in Fairbanks at this time last year? 36 degrees and frosty. Golden leaves everywhere. Which kind of sounds nice.... Then on to main lesson.

I read Hiawatha to E while he copied my drawing. Notice he changed the format, but didn't complain one bit about writing two sentences AND copied capitals and periods correctly. I love seeing him grow.

e's story moved forward, up a mountain and through a mysterious door. The prince found his second heart-sound, eeeee.

With both children, I taught the vowels as the keys of knowledge given by the wise enchantress after a long journey to locate the consonants in natural form. Which worked fine. Christopherus, however, teaches them as heart-sounds. I didn't 'get it'...why would that make them memorable? The prince hears a good story and says "Ohhhh." He feels quiet. The prince feels scared, says "Eeee!" Yet bravely opens the door anyway. I watched e closely at these points in the story, and NOW I get it. She owns those vowel sounds. She knew them before, but now she FEELS them. Waldorf at work. Never fails to amaze me.

Cookies! Who doesn't love a little homemade snack? I found the recipe here. Best part was seeing E, after a fruitless search for a 1/2 cup, decide to use two 1/4 cups. I never taught him that.


Then lunch, quiet time, and now they are watching Wild Kratts before going outside to play. e is excited to show her coaches tonight that she can do three back walkovers in a row.


I don't know how long this rhythm will work. Historically a week or two max before the kids again choose total freedom. I am going to enjoy the consistency while it lasts. :) We go back and forth all year as needed... an extended version of breathing in and breathing out.


Happy Tuesday!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wickiups and Golden Geese

Another installment in e's main lesson book. The golden goose, the juggling jester, and O.

E has been very into learning about the people of the woodlands. He built a lean-to sort of wickiup, one that would have been used as a very temporary shelter during a hunt. As he stood back and admired it, he suddenly started jumping around. "Mom! It's camouflage! They would also have been hidden from sight in one of these!" On Sunday I took him to see Jamestown Settlement. He and I spent 2 hours in the Powhatan Indian village, and I could tell it spoke to him. Pictures to come. It was a beautiful morning!


Today we did nothing but a nutritionist appointment. Well, we got the bathrooms clean and did laundry, ate meals, and e learned to do a back walkover. There was some learning in there, I'm sure. :)


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Who I Am

Since having babies, my friendships have been built mostly on the common ground of motherhood. Maybe baby wearing, breast feeding, gentle parenting, healthy eating, food allergies, homeschooling, Waldorf, or crafting brought us together. Maybe it's that we were both teachers once upon a time, and struggling to apply (or not apply) that to our own littles. Maybe we met through a friend, or in a Facebook group. But however we met, on whatever level we connected, chances are good that I don't know a whole lot more about you beyond the here and now, the ever-present motherhood or education issues of daily life. Maybe I know bits and pieces of who you were before, or about your siblings or parents or former job. But I don't know you. As in how you would react to a given situation outside of parenting.


Parenting is so all-consuming. It provides all the conversation, all the commonality we need. Right? Or maybe not. The very few friends I have from childhood and early teaching years, I can say exactly where they stand on most issues. I know how they react to things. I know some of the challenges they faced- I was even there for some of them. I knew them first, before they had children. For my mommy friends, it is hard to get past the here and now, usually because the children are always right there, listening, or could be at any moment. Not the right environment for baring one's soul, is it?


I hadn't given that a whole lot of thought until recently. It doesn't matter to me if my friends are Christian, Jew, Pagan, Wiccan, Atheist, Buddhist, or Mormon. It's none of my business who you voted for, if you are married, divorced, single, or partnered, or if your baby was born into a marriage or not. It isnt up to me to decide if you should vaccinate your children or eat vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, or anything else. We all have our own path to follow. And I kind of assumed that my friends felt similarly.... Or at least I thought I knew which friends didn't.


Until the whole gay marriage thing. I had no idea I had so many friends who felt so compelled to throw stones. As in not just opposing gay marriage, but also rejecting the people involved. Which makes me so sad. These are people. Real people, living their lives in the best way they know how, just like the rest of us. Maybe you have sheltered yourself and your children so completely that you have forgotten that they are just that.


Thus I'd like to put it out there that I am in total support of people living their lives as they see fit, provided it isn't hurting anyone. Live and let live. The Bible says to love everyone, to not throw stones, and to remove the plank from your own eye before worrying about anyone else's supposed speck. If you don't want to hear me say that, well... you have to do what you have to do- I'm probably not your ideal friend, in real life or on Facebook.


I have a cousin who got married yesterday to the love of her life, someone who has stuck with her through thick and thin, someone who is caring for our elderly grandpa and raising their teenage son. I am so thankful that they all have each other, and that finally it can be recognized legally.


Sooo.... What about my kids? Are they scarred for life, or thinking maybe they want to be gay just because they know about it? Well, I have a sweet friend who patiently answered all the questions regarding her same-sex marriage E came up with over the course of a month or so before we moved. Even the ones about babies and sperm donors. A week or so ago, when I told the children that my cousin was getting married, E told me that he had come to the conclusion that love conquers all.


Love conquers all. Now THAT is a lesson I want my children to remember.


Thursday, September 5, 2013


Guinea is still the ever-hungry piggy we know and love! We put down towel and fleece paths around the kitchen and nook so that her feet don't slide and stress her leg more, and she makes ample use of them in her never-ending attempts to get more food from us.

It is a beautiful day today, not too hot, nice breeze... So we hauled out some water tubs and tubing. The children experimented with draining one tub to the next, flinging water tubes, blowing water out, making bubbles, etc while I worked on removing dead branches from a hydrangea bush that hadn't been cared for in quite a while.

Our next task is building a wickiup. Not a big, curved one, as we have no trees in our yard, but more like a lean-to against the fence. An experiment to see if we can indeed make a shelter from branches that will shed rain. Because we have branches, and pine needles, and leaves, and it was a common temporary shelter by Native Americans. So why not? It will be small, but we will make it work!


e drew the characters into her main lesson book. It wasn't okay for them to remain on separate paper, or be glued in. She wanted them permanently in their place.


E hasn't chosen his main lesson books yet. No word on how soon he'll feel something is important enough for that.


How different these two children of mine are, and how easily their preferences are accepted as the norm without a class of 30 surrounding them. I love homeschooling!