homeschool days

Second grade is coming along just fine.  Just about 2/3 of the way through, which, even though we were close to the wood stove the other night, makes me daydream of warm summer days coming.  I must say, I myself am learning (re-learning?) a lot.  It's good, the re-learning.

While there are mornings that we falter a bit to find our groove (usually the mornings I give in to that call to take things super slow and easy, which sounds so appealing but often leads to frustrations and a bit of eye-rolling when it is time to get down to work...), mostly, things are going quite smoothly.

We continue to begin the morning with a bit of math (lately multiplication, measuring, fractions) and language (a mix of spelling, cursive, grammar, creative writing, and read-aloud), and then follow those with social studies (current events, history, and our continent studies- currently Europe), science (most often nature studies and biology), and a bit of piano practice before heading to art class together for the afternoon.  Some mornings there are either horseback riding or piano lessons (the ukuleles have fallen to the side for the time being, though they still get picked up on occasion).  One morning a week we help out at a local nonprofit's food distribution market, and that has been such a wonderful and worthwhile addition to our week.  Sometimes it is just Claire and I and sometimes papa makes it, too~ I think it inspires all three of us to look for more ways we can serve our community.  It's good.

In between the actual sit-down-at-the-table-and-work parts of the morning we fit in some breaks and art and, as the weather warms, garden and outdoor chores and tasks.  I've been sifting and spreading the compost and doing a bit of prep work in the garden beds.  On Monday we readied some beds and planted spinach and peas, seeded some calendula and larkspur and poppies.  A bit early, yes, but we'll see.  Sometimes it is just too hard to resist the call to get in the soil that certain warm late-winter  days seem to put out.  I am weak when it comes to that.  I will nearly always give in and risk putting some seeds in.  The hardy ones, at least.  What can I say?  We are eating over-wintered greens out of the garden beds and spying daffodils and dandelions and violets peeking up, so there's that.  She was happy to join in, tucking peas below the warmish soil and neatening up her fairy garden to give the blooming pansies and daffodils a bit of breathing room.

Soon the phlox and primroses and tulips will bloom.  And then the hawthorne, the lilac.  Irises.  Our wisteria is covered in hundreds of buds and I watch it anxiously- hoping so much to see the long purple flowers covering the bush and the arbor it has grown up and over but knowing that if the last couple years are any indication of how things will go then the buds will bite it in a hard frost and then fall to the ground, crispy and brown.  Fingers crossed.  How pretty it could be.


eight is great

a little get together with a few close friends (blueberry muffins and ice cream for dessert, as per her request) a couple days before and then on her birthday- waking to a house full of decorations, pancakes for breakfast, a trip to the serpentarium, an attempt at bicycle shopping, ice cream for lunch, a movie in the afternoon, and spaghetti & meatballs for dinner.  her favorite gift of all was a quill and ink set from a good buddy.

hello, 8.


winter bits :: snowy days, home days

we had a good, big snow a couple weeks ago.  it was such fun.  we built a snow family (and a little snow unicorn!), there was hot cocoa, snow play, tea, movies, loads of time by the fire, lots of reading Harry Potter together.... we went to some nearby falls and it was such a treat to see them frozen almost solid, with just a trickle of water running below.  last week we had another snowfall- just a couple inches, but it hung around for days.  it has been such a nice change of pace for winter to actually feel like winter this year.


2017 book list

The 2017 book list:
(favorites marked with an *)

Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith
The Comet Seekers, Helen Sedgwick
Carry On, Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton
*To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
*A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
News of the World, Paulette Jiles
My Antonia, Willa Cather
The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes
A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lost Art of Mixing, Erica Bauermeister
One Plus One, Jojo Moyes
The Housemaid's Daughter, Barbara Mutch
My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She's Sorry, Fredrik Backman
Ship of Brides, Jojo Moyes
*A Country Road, A Tree, Jo Baker
*The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh
Suttree, Cormac McCarty
The Moon is Down, John Steinbeck
*A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline
Vitamin N, Richard Louv
Caroline: Little House, Revisited, Sarah Miller
*Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
*Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
*Beartown, Fredrik Backman
*The Alice Network, Kate Quinn
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
*Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (with Claire)
The Poet's Dog, Patricia McLachlan (with Claire)
Little House in Brookfield, Maria D. Wilkes (with Claire)
Little Town at the Crossroads, Maria D. Wilkes (with Claire)
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George (with Claire)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)
*Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (with Claire)


It's possible that I look forward to this annual book list post more than any other.  I love the looking back at previous lists and rereading folks' recommendations.  There's something about it that feels tidy and good and comforting, a long list of books read.  All the stories imagined and characters met- it's like I've got this whole new world of experiences to pull from, even if I merely lived vicariously through the words someone else put to paper.

I've come to find I really like Fredrik Backman's style.  I read three of his books this year (after previously having read zero).  He gets to the point but provides plenty of imagery without being too 'flowery', and I find his work generally "quippy", which I quite appreciate as long as it doesn't involve someone being a real asshole.  I also read three books by Jojo Moyes this year, and liked them all, especially The Horse Dancer and The Ship of Brides.  I'd say I see her books as being somewhat light (in a good way), and a sure bet that I will be entertained for a few days and come away glad that I read them (with the exception of Me Before You, which I loved, but it left me sobbing and feeling pretty bare for a couple days, and The Girl You Left Behind, which was definitely a bit heavier than the other books I've read of hers- the fact that it was her writing blended with a historical fiction made it an easy sell for me and it was one of my favorites from last year).  Sometimes a book moves me so much I find I can't start another one for a bit because I need more time to let it really settle in (The Grapes of Wrath, The Snow Child, Poisonwood Bible, All the Light We Cannot See, To the Bright Edge of the World, and How Yoga Works, to name a few).  I can't say I really felt that way about any of the books I read this year, though there certainly were several books that I really loved.  I suppose, actually, that I felt that way after reading The Road, but that may have been more a feeling of being disturbed than generally moved, if that makes sense.  Some I found very intriguing and original even though I wouldn't call them favorites- The Comet Seekers, The Wonder, The God of Small Things.  The Signature of All Things is one that I had tried to read last year and just couldn't get into.  I stuck with it this time and have to say I eventually got hooked in and then lost myself in a world of travel and mosses and sad love stories but it took a solid 100 or so pages to get me feeling like I really cared about what was going on.  From there on, I really loved it- but I feel like to put a little star next to a book I need to not feel so 'meh' about the first 100 pages.

The Road really got to me.  Oooph.  It is so intense and horrific and so unlike the books I usually read.  I felt gutted by it, and yet still it was a favorite, for sure.  I just loved the writing.  It was raw and sparse but somehow just beautiful.  I loved his writing so much that I went and checked out Suttree pretty immediately after but gosh that was different.  I felt like I slogged through that one.  Still, I'm looking forward to reading more Cormac McCarthy.

The Alice Network was right up my alley- historical fiction about strong women in German-occupied France during (mostly) WWII.  Parts of it reminded me of The Nightingale, which was one of my favorites from last year.

Lincoln in the Bardo was such an interesting read.  I've never read anything like it.  It took me a bit to settle in and get a clear picture of what on Earth was going on but once I was in I was so glad I stuck around- it is so entertaining and vividly described.  It is essentially one evening in the life of Abraham Lincoln (the night his son dies) narrated by a whole host of 'ghosts' that are stuck in this purgatory-like existence and are watching the goings on.  I found it to be a really quick read.  It is wild and different and........ well, I liked it a lot.

Braiding Sweetgrass is..... well, it's just gorgeous.  From the book jacket: "...she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers....to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgement and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world."  Really, it is just beautiful.  It is science and folklore and indigenous wisdom, and the secret lives of plants all mixed up in this perfect little package.

As you can see- we've entered the world of Harry Potter.  It's a family affair- I read chapters aloud on the evenings papa isn't at the fire department, that way we all know what's going on.  We're about 150 pages into book 4 now, and once we finish it we plan to hold there for a good long while.  No need to rush her little self into too dark a world just yet, I figure.  She can go back and reread the others if she wishes.

And I suppose that's that.  Of course there were nonfiction reads too- mostly about the AIP (autoimmune paleo) diet, general wellness, gardening, homesteading this and that, etc.  Oh there was a beautiful book called Cabin Porn (NOT porn) that was full of gorgeous images of interesting dwellings and stories about the folks who built and lived in them.  Such eye candy.

I started making these lists in 2013 after being inspired by a friend to do so.  If you're interested in reading previous lists, you can follow the links below:


Also, as always, I'd LOVE to hear what your favorites were, and heartily encourage the sharing of book recommendations and reviews.  Cheers!


winter bits :: making merry- the in between

The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is, as far as I'm concerned, best taken at a snail's pace.  Nowhere to go, nothing big on the agenda.  Just a whole lot of fireside reading and tea drinking,  puzzles, catching up (sort of) on the newspaper, playing board games (Clue!), a whole lot of movie watching, and, new to us, setting up and engineering a very old train set.  There were some great family and friend visits as well, but really we just sort of hunkered down.  Papa worked New Year's Eve and so she and I just had a simple little 'hurrah!' hours early and then went to bed.  We talked ever so briefly about the idea of setting intentions for the year ahead and when I asked her if there was anything she'd like to do more or less of in the coming year, she told me she'd like to drink more water and volunteer more with a local nonprofit called Bounty and Soul, which we have been aiming to volunteer with weekly for the last couple months.  They provide fresh produce (along with free yoga classes, recipes, nutrition education, etc) to families in need and have been working hard to make a dent in the food insecurity in our county.  I told her I thought both of those things sounded great.

I've yet to give much thought to any intentions of my own for the coming year. Well, I am aiming to hydrate more and commit to stretching/doing yoga for at least a brief period each day, and so far so good on both counts.  Beyond that though, I don't know.  I'm not really a 'pick a word for the year' kinda gal.  I think it's a nice idea and all, but I think it's just that, at this point, I feel like I know.  I already know what I want to work on and do more of and bring into my life.  I already know what doesn't serve me and what I'd like to let go of.  I am becoming more and more familiar with what my 'work' in life is, both in terms of honing my character just so and also simply accepting myself where I'm at.  I suppose I just no longer want to make lofty resolutions.  But I can hang with 'drink more water' and 'move more'.  Reckon I'd like to write more letters as well.  It's the little things, right? (but speaking of writing down thoughts on how to approach the coming year and such, here's something real pretty that a friend of mine wrote)

New Year's Day we made the traditional southern meal of black eyed peas and collard greens, with collards picked right from our (very cold) backyard.  As it has in so many places lately, it has been really, really cold here.  Highs steadily below freezing, lows in the single digits, and wind chill even lower.  The wood stove is a very hungry beast these days, and we're watching as the wood pile dwindles steadily (so thankful for the big stockpile of wood papa prepared for us earlier this year!).

Happy 2018 to you and yours.  Wishing you a year of health and happiness and goodness all around.