homeschooling :: second grade

Here we are, just a couple days shy from ending her second grade year and knocking (quite enthusiastically) on summer's door.  She asked me recently which I liked more- the school year, or summer break.  Well of course at this point in the year my answer was easily "summer break!" - working as I do for an after school art program, summer break means not only a break from the more scheduled and routine aspects of our homeschooling, but also time off from work (part time farm work and in-home garden and art camps aside).  I did mention that by the time summer is coming to a close it is nice to be getting back into the swing of routine and such with school and work, but now, at the very end of May........ well, I'm ready for long easy days and sunshine on my shoulders.

Second grade has been good.  We studied Europe (and while we have worked diligently on studying individual countries since the start of the year we will be leaving several unexplored for the time being), we've worked through all sorts of division and rounding and multiplication and clock-reading, she has done quite a bit of creative writing and gotten deeper and deeper into her love of reading.  We went to several theater performances and when the weather and schedules allowed we met regularly with friends for a weekly 'forest day'.  There was a good bit of nature study and animal classification/biology work,  she discovered she loves looking words up in the dictionary and thesaurus, and she continues to enjoy things like spelling tests and worksheets that seem novel to her, I'm sure, as a homeschooled kid.

All in all, I feel like we have really settled into a sweet rhythm this year.

This year we volunteered regularly with a local nonprofit that hosts several weekly produce distribution markets and community advocacy/education workshops.  She continues with horseback riding lessons and has gotten pretty excited about piano (though she will occasionally still pick up the ukulele).  She has a tendency to pick songs out herself and memorize them, chords and all, so that has been fun to watch.  We read a book about Elizabeth Cotten recently and after I played a video of Elizabeth singing 'Freight Train', she figured out the melody and at her next lesson they worked out the chords together and voila! another song under her belt.  It seems to all make such sense to her, in a way that it never has for me.  So, in a way, my 8 year old is inspiring me to learn to become more musical, which I'll count as a plus.  (summer goal?)  With the memorizing, it is hard to get her to spend much time at all actually reading the music, but I suppose that will come as she attempts to learn more difficult pieces, when and if she wants to.

Her preferred ways to spend downtime continue to be listening to audiobooks, drawing, knitting, and playing outside in her 'kitchen', a wonderfully witchy little setup that she has filled with all sorts of bottles and scoops and bowls and herbs strung up and such (wonder where she gets that?).

When someone finds out that we homeschool, one of the most common things I am asked is how long I intend to homeschool her.  The answer, really, is that I don't know.  "As long as it works for us", is generally what I'll say.  And for now, it is working well.  This week she spent several hours taking her (state required) end-of-grade tests online.  Again, the tests are quite novel for her, so she found it pretty exciting.

I find myself already looking forward to planning out things for her upcoming third grade year, but for now, I am happy to exhale into summer very shortly.


in the garden :: green and growing and blooming

Here I find myself again, in that sweet time when I begin to spend as much time outside as in, with sunshine on my shoulders and soil under my fingernails.  That first day always stands out- there I am with the warm sun on my face, called to linger in the garden for a while instead of hurrying back in to sit by the fire with my tea.  And then the days quietly begin to pile on top of one another and I find myself so often in the garden with a bucket in one hand and a blade in the other and after a bit of time passes I am surprised by the fact that it is indeed 'full-on spring' again.  Such an anticipated sliver of time, so pregnant with promise and possibility.

The older I get, the more I've come to sincerely appreciate and even love winter.  The stillness, the pause, the inward-ness of it all.  These things and more so appeal to my reflective, quiet side.  But there's no denying the allure of spring.  And when, after several weeks of tug-of-war with winter spring has decided to finally stay for a while, well that's just grand with me.  And so I go sit outside and turn my face to the sun and just sit, soaking it in.  I feel like a reptile, or a finicky old cat in a sunbeam.  There is something so animalistic about wanting, needing that warmth.  I wonder if maybe it has to do with our heating exclusively with wood- which can mean it's a bit cold around here at times..... do people who are accustomed to more climate controlled surroundings feel so called to turn their faces towards the sun for long stretches at spring's arrival?  Maybe I am just a finicky old cat, who knows.  Maybe it's something else.

At any rate, here we are.  Spring.  Full-on spring.  The peas are flowering, the garlic is up to my thighs.  Squashes and beans are about 6 inches high and the greens are thriving.  I've picked my first couple backyard bouquets of the year, we're getting a bowlful of strawberries daily, and I've got my eyes on so many flowers that are thisclose to bursting into bloom.  The raspberries and blackberries and blueberries are covered with flowers and there are quite a few tiny fruits on the apple trees (and a few, but just a few, on the pear tree).  I am so ready for it.  For this.  What a gift to be able to tend a patch of soil and coax all this goodness from it.


love, love, love, love, crazy love

Claire came to me recently with a 'confession' of sorts.  "Mama, I maybe wrote on my wall.  You know the part by the closet?  I wrote on it.  But it was so so tiny and it was with pencil, and......"

I assured her I had no problem with it.  And I think she even knew it was Van Morrison, so..... that's kind of a win in and of itself, I'd say.

We head south tomorrow~ first to the beach to set up camp with some friends, then two days down to Florida to visit my grandmother in her new assisted living facility (I've not seen her since Claire and I took a trip down together before she moved into assisted living about a year and a half ago- if I'm completely honest with myself, the reason I've yet to go is that I've been selfishly steeling my heart for the visit and the very likely possibility that she won't know me anymore..... deep breath.), arm then back to camp at the beach for a couple more days before returning home.  I'm excited and anxious about the visit with my grandma, my Mamau, but I know that salty ocean air will help carry me through.


flowers. light. food.

Flowers in a sunny windowsill.

Surely one of life's sweetest simple pleasures, I think.  While it is a common site for us to have a few bouquets of fresh backyard flowers around the house once the season really gets going, there is just something about those first flower bouquets of the year.  Most of these ended up being collected just in time for a hard freeze (well, the tulips were a gift from my main squeeze, but the others, anyway) occurring in between stretches of warm sunny days,  as our late winter/early spring days have been very............. back and forth.  As they often are.  As, I suppose, they are meant to be.

Spring has never been my favorite season~ it's just so hard to compete with fall in my book.  This year however, much as I've learned to treasure the quiet and inward bundle-up-by-the-fire pace and pause of winter, I have so anticipated spring and I am quite literally out basking in it's warm glow and sinking my hands into the soil whenever the opportunity arises.  The flowers are, of course, a big happy bonus.

Also, food.  Lunch, tahini-almond flour cookies (SO good!), pumpkin 'bread', a small addition to the maple syrup stash (we were able to tap a couple trees again this year and ended up with a bit over a gallon- a smaller haul than our usual, but I suppose that just means we'll treasure it all the more), and some newly bottled cider from last fall's pressing.  yum, yum, yum.


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.