Saturday, November 18, 2006

What We've Been up To...

I have neglected this blog for several months. It has been crazy here with many things going on at once. Perhaps most pressing was that my father was in the hospital for several weeks and we have really had to cope with alcoholism as a family. I have chosen to be honest with the kids in these matters as they are highly aware and it certainly pertains to them as well. It hasn't been easy on any of us and because of all that has been going on, it has seemed to disrupt our normal flow of things.

Learning, however as always continues. Brianna has performed in a major role at a local theater in an original play called The White Pebble Library. She has been continuing with piano lessons and soccer. She has been into poetry and has written many of her own lately. She continues to find joy in cooking. She recently sewed PJ's for herself and Lexi and has been knitting quite a bit.

Chase got a skateboard for his birthday and so has been outside quite a bit learning to ride it. He has been into bionicles and using the computer.

Lexi is still going strong with violin and I think she is pleasantly surprised at how much she has progressed since last year. She really likes playing. She has really been interested in helping me in the garden and canning lots of veggies and fruit. She planted lots of spring bulbs this fall and so we are looking forward to see how they will all look coming up next spring.

We have all enjoyed another season at Spoutwood Farm, CSA. I think the most memorable thing we learned was that praying mantis like bananas. We found one while harvesting that had a missing leg, and Lexi sat it on a plant. She was eating a banana and decided to put some on her finger and the praying mantis took it from her and ate it. I really wished I had my camera then! It was great to have another season to figure out how to cook all kinds of veggies and as always love the idea of all of us experiencing sustainable agriculture up close.

We are all participating in Project Feederwatch and have found some new types of seeds that the birds particularly love, a woodpecker blend. We finally invested in some field guides that are particular to our area and have seen some interesting birds. Perhaps most interesting was that while we were watching a really small bird was scooped up by some type of hawk. It happened so fast though that all we were able to see was the underside of the bird’s wings.

Currently we are visiting in New England and I am just soaking up the New England feel of things. We are enjoying being with old friends and the kids are having a blast. On our agenda is the Mystic Aquarium, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, and of course the beach, which we all love and went to often when we lived here. We plan to enjoy Thanksgiving with my aunt and family.

I love homeschooling. It is really great to just be able to get away, and experience other areas of the country without being hindered by school schedules and rules.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pride of the Susquenhanna

Last week we had our cousins visiting and took a riverboat ride - in the rain - on the Pride of the Susquehanna. The kids really enjoyed this. The water was really dirty looking and we found it interesting that in my water bill, there was a letter explaining that the Susquenhanna is a back-up water source in case of drought. The kids got right down on the bottom level and watched the "dirty" water go by with occasional pieces of garbage floating in it. What an ecology lesson right there. All the things that they learned from the Watershed association about water pollution came spilling out. Although, a couple days later we went hiking up Cunningham Falls and the kids splached, played and drank the "clear, fresh" water only to find out that the park has banned swimming that day due to bacteria in the water. So I guess you never know... Anyway here are some photos from The Pride of the Susquehanna.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

CSA Farming

Here are some photos from our CSA Farm -Spoutwood Farm. We had guests this week and had a great time along with them, exploring the farm and helping harvest some fabulous organic veggies!

There are additional photos here:

We have been really big supporters of Community Supported Agriculture and enjoy our locally grown, fresh organic veggies and flowers every week. The kids all come along with me and sometimes they help harvest, other times they play in the streams or various forts. There are all kinds of "farm" animal mascots - dogs, cats, horses and a goat. The best part of working on this farm is that not only am I learning a lot about organic and sustainable agriculture, but the kids are learning about where their food comes from, how it is grown and how much work it can be! It really makes us appreciate all that goes into fresh, healthy food. I love the fact that the farm we work on supports over 120 families with produce from June- November.

If you are interested in finding out about Community Supported Agriculture and what is going on in your area check out this link:


Oh - and our farm has a "Dark Fairy realm" - probably one of my kids most favorite places to play... they fit right in with those mischevous fairies ;-)!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Strawberry Jam!

Our garden is doing amazing! Last year John bought strawberry plants and I took his advice and plucked off the flowers. This year we have a bountiful crop! During two days time I went from having a few ripe berries and the kids were eating them even though they were not quite ripe, to having a large enough bowl of about 5 cups that Lexi and I picked Friday. She really wanted to make jam, so I pulled out all my stuff and "helped" her. It got me thinking that I learned to make jam from my Grandmother and remember making it with her when I went to visit in California. One of the things that she always used to send me was her homeade cactus apple jelly. It was so good! My grandfather used to grind his own grain and make his own bread. I remember that he practically had an orchard in his backyard and it was the first time I had ever had a real, live fig ;-) At my grandfathers funeral this past October the brother that spoke about him had so much to say about his gardening and that he was an environmentalist before there was a name for it. I had one of those A Ha moments - that I was given a gift from my "ancestors". And it is this gift that I celebrate with my children. Lexi was so proud of her strawberry growing and jam making. She has shared jars with all out neighbors and we have already eaten two. This am I made homemade scones to eat with our jam. Brianna had it on her ice cream tonight for dessert. It feels so amazing to grow something completely organically and have enough for making jam AND eating. Lexi and Chase picked another large bowl this afternoon and ate them all.

Our chickadees have left the nest. We saw them today at the feeder. It was really a great experience watching the process. Observing nature is such a wonderful way to learn "science". It is real science and the way all great scientists learned.

We thoroughly enjoyed Shakespeare's Pericles. We spent the afternoon at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and went to the Planetarium Show. We spent Sunday after meeting helping with the Clean Up Day and Brianna and Lexi went to their friend Janet's piano recital. With all our driving we listened to Esperanza Rising, which is an excellent book that I would highly recommend.

Our weekend was busy and fun. Brianna was asked in a shop the other day when she will be done with school. She replied - I'm never done. A teenage girl and her mother were nearby and the girl asks "Never?" Brianna replied "I'm homeschooled. I am always learning." The clerk smiled and thought that was great and said that "yes, we are all always learning". Some people that I run into get this. Others can't fathom learning without a classroom. I am so thankful that this has been the way we have been learning all along.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Shakespeare on Hot, Sunny Days...

We have had some really hot, sunny weather the past couple of days. The kids have spent most of the day in the pool. We had a really fun cookout on Memorial Day with lots of kids in and out of the pool, playing croquet, in the tree fort and light saber dueling through the basement. We have had a variety of kids staying over and I think this is the first day in two weeks where my kids are the only ones here!

We are planning to go to Washington DC to see Pericles by the Shakespeare Company. I got out a few books from the library on Ancient Greece, and Pericles, along with the original play that I wanted to try and read through before we go. I think there is such an advantage to going to see a production rather then simply reading the play in the book. These plays were really meant to be watched rather than read. A more recent equivalent would be trying to read through a modern day movie script without ever seeing the production. I think this is why I had such a difficult time understanding Shakespeare in high school. You can get the gist of it by reading, but seeing it, especially on stage is a much richer experience. Especially with Pericles, with which I am largely unfamiliar, I like to try and at least skim the actual story beforehand, get an understanding of who the characters are and the time period that the play takes place in. But it is nothing in comparison to the experience of seeing it performed on stage. We have been going to see Shakespeare in the park since before we had kids! Brianna has been going since she was an infant. By having it in the park, the kids had freedom to meander a bit if they got antsy. We always packed a picnic "dinner" and snacks and during intermission you could walk around the park or go into the town for coffee and a pastry. The kids have seen, Othello, King Lear, Julius Caesar, As you like it, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Mac Beth, Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and Hamlet. I am certain they do not understand all of it - but they don't have that feeling that "Shakespeare is hard”. The difference I see is in the approach. Rather than approaching it as "this is a required reading as part of your curriculum" – it is simply that Shakespeare in the park is fun! Of course it is "educational" - but it is not forced.I believe this is a great example of sharing your own interests with your children. Because my husband and I enjoy going to see Shakespeare and the kids have always come along and enjoyed it, it becomes a fun family outing. I downloaded the cliff notes on Pericles mainly for my own benefit, but found myself reading little snippets out loud to my daughter and her friend - who is also going with her family about the writing of the play and why they believe that there was another writer in addition to Shakespeare. We talked about how Shakespeare had been away from his wife for long periods of time and my son noted "That was like Ben Franklin, when he was going to England after the Revolutionary War. His wife was sick and died and he wasn't even here." It brought all sorts of conversation about how the ability to travel quickly has changed society and how even though people are far away they can still see each other quickly.The point of all this is that nothing is static, everything is connected. This is why unschooling works so well. There isn't just one interest that a child follows - but that interest branches into further things.

I am sure that the production will be fun!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Baby Chickadees!

We have been having a great learning experience with our bird box that the kids made during the Great Backyard Bird count activities at our local nature center. It was exciting for us to watch a chickadee start building a nest, and then there were six small eggs in the nest. The chickadee actually let me pet her. I'm not sure if she was just tolerating me - but anyway it was something that has never happened before. Last week the eggs hatched and there were six, featherless pink babies. This week we have watched in amazement as they have increased exponentially in size, and have enjoyed watching the mother and father care for them. The girls went in and held one of the babies - They were told that this was ok, by the people at the nature center; however I have gotten mixed information about this. My feeling is to let them be and just observe them - but anyway, I did take some pictures of Brianna and Lexi, and their friend Rachel as they were holding the birds. I am amazed at how much we have learned about birds and backyard birding in the last few months. For Mother's Day the kids got me a new bird feeder and a birdbath that you can hang from a tree. This way our cat won't keep leaping at them! Chase uses his binoculars often to look at the birds and has found numerous nests up in our trees - one of which he is sure belongs to a Robin. Enjoy our photos!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ways Children Learn

This was posted on an unschooling discussion list from selfdirectedlearning and I loved it. I want to print it out and put it on my refrigerator! It is such a simple concept. As an adult I learn all the time in any manner of ways. Why do we assume that children must be sitting in a classroom to learn, or need a particular teacher to learn? The world is full of opportunity, we just need to provide children with a rich learning environment and be available to them to take them to places they would like to go and people they want to see. Be available to play with them, read with them, do puzzles and legos, nature walk, garden, cook, look at the night sky,playy in the rain, fly kites, walk on the beach, send postcards to friends, watch interesting DVD's, go to the library, the playground, the zoo, the park, antqiue stores, festivals and community events... the list never ends!

Ways children can learn :
Learn by being told -- through lessons, lectures,presentations.
Learn by being shown -- from examples, demonstrations,and models.
Learn from an on-line or distance education course.
Learn by observing intensely.
Learn by studying books or other print resources.
Learn by asking someone what you want to know.
Learn by searching the Internet.
Learn by imitating a skilled performance.
Learn by practicing repeatedly, especially coachedpractice.
Learn by mentally rehearsing.
Learn by seeking direct experiences.
Learn by conducting an experiment.
Learn by taking action in the field, by doing it.
Learn by working cooperatively with others as a team.
Learn by teaching someone else.
Learn by teaching yourself.
Learn by studying media: videos, CDs, tapes, and DVDs.
Learn by preparing a public presentation.
Learn by working or studying with a mentor.
Learn by trial and error.
Learn by dramatization, by acting it out.
Learn by grouping, categorizing, and clarifying.
Learn by forming concepts based on evidence andreason.
Learn by creating conceptual maps of relationshipsamong items or ideas.
Learn by picturing -- by seeing and recalling thingsthat are.
Learn by visualizing -- by imagining things that mightbe.
Learn by thinking metaphorically: link the known tothe unknown.
Learn about ideas by connecting them to what youalready know.
Learn from failure how not to fail; from success, howto succeed.
Learn from simulations.
Learn by taking a job that requires the performanceyou seek.
Learn by thinking for yourself -- forming opinions,reaching conclusions.
Learn intuitively: discover what you knowinstinctively.
Learn by competing with others.
Learn by playing spontaneously or in games.
Learn from observing yourself: your thoughts,emotions, and actions.
Learn by striving to achieve an ambitious goal.
Learn from reflection and contemplation in solitude.
Learn from travel -- new places, new people, new activities.
Learn by doing what has moral value (for example,helping others).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rocket Launch!

Chase finally got to launch the rocket that he got for his birthday. The weather was perfect for it - so we headed out to the park. It was really cool. Chase loves rockets and this one shot so high into the sky - the kids were all impressed.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On Birds and Writing...

Today the kids found that the cat had tried to get at a bird. Well, he is always doing this as is natural for cats. They found this hurt bird - and got out a box, tried to dig up worms to feed it, and generally were really loud and chaotic about it all. But they were honestly trying to help it. It unfortunately died, and Chase cried. I love it when my sword-swinging boy gets emotional about these types of things. It reminds me that he is still sensitive about smaller creatures. In any case, they did all whip out the bird books and found that it was a baby mocking bird.

They have been excited that some chickadees have found the bluebird houses that they built and put up. The one near my garden doesn't seem to be getting much action - but I think it may be too close to the road.

We had a beautiful day and spent most of it at the playground with the home school group. There were lots of kids today. I got really sunburned which takes the zing right out of you.

Yesterday Brianna and I spent some time at the coffee shop at the library going over a book about publishing children's books. We really have been learning a lot about the whole business and it seems a little daunting. She had a poem published in a magazine and a book review published in our local paper. So now she wants to submit her stories to a book publisher. She has been working really hard with grammar and spelling and rewriting. There's a part of me that doesn't want her to be disappointed, but on the other hand I admire her pluck. She doesn't have that "someday" idea that most of us grow up with. That "someday" she will be a writer. She just assumes she is. I on the other hand am still a bit chicken. ;-) I worry about rejection and wind up sticking to things that I know I am good at - and I am not too invested in. You can learn a lot from your kids. I sometimes think how fortunate I am to be home schooling and spending so much time with their creative spirits. They don't look at anything as being impossible. They are just so determined.... I wonder sometimes if I would have wound up that way if I had done things differently. I always wrote in high school. My friends and I would write stories back and forth about boys we liked and such. I saved a lot of this stuff and have read it a time or two - thinking it was really stupid. But at the time, it was a great outlet. It never seemed to be something that was real. It wasn't schoolwork - wasn't guaranteed to get me into college. It was just how I got through the school day. Brianna notes how Dave Pilkey wrote his Captain Underpants in school while he was supposed to be paying attention. We love that Christopher Paolini wrote his books as a home school teenager. It is nice to note that J.K Rowling wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter while trying to work as a secretary and being totally distracted. Can you imagine her family must have thought she would never be able to hold a job, etc. So I guess the moral of the story is that there is hope for me. A year ago I would never have written even a blog for fear that strangers would read it and think it was awful. So this in itself is a step. It forces me to write at least something - and something that is not school related and academic. I sometimes think that graduate level writing is far easier than creative fiction.
So perhaps, my daughter will have written a child's reader - that is fun and has a purpose other than teaching phonics.... and I will have a book signing someday at Borders....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gingerbread Bunnies Potting Shed

Here are some photos of our Bunnies Potting Shed Gingerbread house. Much thanks to the homeschool Dad for his structural expertise - and much more patience than I have ;-) Overall it was a messy, fun process! Chase wouldn't let us take his picture, but he did volunteer to help us eat it ;-)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Making Candles

Here are some photos of our candle making project. We started off with the Chemistry Wiz kit - and wound up trying to make some like my Mom used to. She used sand for her mold and melted crayons to create the colors. When you take it out of the mold, it holds the sand a bit making it look kind of rustic and interesting. In any case, it was a fun project....

Monday, April 10, 2006

View from the Font Yard

This was a neat view this afternoon. I thought the balloon next to the moon looked really cool. We had a great weekend. Brianna got to stay over at a friend's house and went to an art festival. I took Lexi to the Pennsylvania Herb Fest - and she enjoyed it. She helped me pick out some new herbs for the garden - a pineapple sage, pineapple mint, golden oregano and we found perennial basil (you do have to bring it in before the frost). We had a great time tasting all kinds of goodies and came home with some herbs that you add into cream cheese, some new teas and a bottle of sparkling apple cider from a local orchard. I got to listen to a Medicinal Herb workshop and Lexi loved that the lady presenting passed around all these pictures of herbs. She liked to guess what they were and then took to drawing pictures of them on the brochures and catalogs that we had collected. We just had a really nice time together.

On Saturday, Chase had a play date, and John was working so Lexi and I finally finished her gingerbread bunny’s potting shed. I will have to get a picture of it because it came out really cool. When Chase got home he wanted to have a "book" party. So he and Lexi filled his room with streamers and ribbon - I made up snacks and Chase had books laid out everywhere. He kind of had this library idea - but of course it was just us. So we had our snacks - and played Dominoes, and read some of his books. It was fun to just hang out there together.

Sunday we went over to our friend’s house and had a fire and roasted hot dogs and made Smore's. We all had fun. The kids all built a tee-pee. I was impressed with how they worked together and did a great job with getting it to stay up. They used a blanket around the sides to make it like a "real" Tee-pee. Kids are really creative.....

Overall - it was just a great weekend....

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Kitten Story

Brianna often tells stories to Chase and Lexi - and they laugh and laugh! It seems that the more "slapstick" comedy they contain the funnier they are. I think my favorite is the "Worker" stories(i.e Construction Worker - Chase call them workers). Usually everything falls on his head and this makes Chase laugh. In any case, she has taken the time to type out the Kitten story and illustrate a cover. So I thought I would include it here in this blog becuase
of her hard work ;-)

The Kitten Story

One day three little kittens were playing outside. The oldest was Lilly. The second was Tiger the third was Peanut. They were having a very good time when their mother came around the corner of the house.
“Kittens” she said “your Grandparents are coming today and I am going to make a coconut cream pie so stay out of Mischief Okay?”
“Okay” sang the kittens together
“Mom?”asked Lilly “can we make something for Grandma and Grandpa?”
“Of course you can” said their mother “I am going to start the pie”
“Bye mom” the kittens shouted after her
“what are we going to make” asked Tiger
“Oh I was thinking a card or something” said Lilly
“Lets go get the stuff “said Peanut
“I will get the paper” said Lilly
“I will get the Glue” said Tiger
“I will get the Markers and pencils” said Peanut So they ran to the house to get their stuff

Back in the barn they were wondering how they should make their cards “I am going to make a BIG flowery card with lots of loopy letters” said Lilly
“I am going to make a card with lots of Butterflies and bees” said Peanut
“I don’t know what to make” said Tiger
“Make one like mine” said Lilly
“No way” said Tiger “I think Grandpa and Grandma would like a paper airplane instead” He put his nose in the air to show his mind was made up and he was not changing it
“O.K. then” said Lilly and they began to make their cards.
But after awhile trouble started Peanut could not reach the table because she was too short so Lilly got her some big books from her bookcase so Peanut could reach but she dropped the glue on Tigers seat when he got up to get some paper and he came back and sat on it “Watch out” she yelled “Yikes” shouted Lilly
“Whoa” said Tiger Glue squirted every where Peanut flew upwards and got pasted to the door Tiger and Lilly got stuck to the wall just then mama cat opened the door “Ouch” said Peanut “Oh” said mama “I’m sorry- wait a second what are you doing back there”
“I’m stuck” said Peanut
“How did it happen” said mom
“I could not reach” said Peanut “And Lilly got me some books to stand on and then I dropped the glue and….and…. I’m sorry” She said
“It was not your fault” said Mom prying her off the door then going to Tiger and Lilly to help them off the wall. As Mom peeled Lilly and Tiger off the door she said “Now kittens the pie is almost ready and Grandma and Grandpa will be here any minute I need help cleaning up this mess” “Yes Mom we will help” said Lilly

So they all worked together and the mess was cleaned up in no time. “Oh my goodness the pie” screamed Mom she ran out the door to save her pie while the kittens very carefully finished the cards. Just then Mom was coming back when she ran into Grandma and Grandpa “Are we early” asked Grandma
“Why no” said Mom
“Are we late” asked Grandpa
“Of coarse not” said Mom
“Then we must be on time” said Grandma
“Where are my darling grandkittens” said Grandpa
“In the barn” said Mom “Shall we go see them?”
“Yes I think we shall” said Grandma So they went off to the barn to see the kittens who were waiting for them “Grandma” Lilly said “Grandpa” Peanut said “PIE” Tiger said
Everyone laughed and they all enjoyed coconut cream pie and each others company till dark.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Chase learns to install a water heater...

Well - it is never boring around here! Yesterday our water heater gave out and filled the basement with water. I am filled with gratitude that it was still under warranty until June! The kicker was that they wanted $270 to install it, so we decided to do it ourselves....well John decided to do it.

There is something about kids and water! The last thing I really wanted to do was sop up all that water in the basement - but the kids thought it was great. They had buckets and cups and sponges and used the Shop Vac (which Lex calls the Vac Shop). Chase put on his bathing suit and danced around. So this became a family event. John would tell them when to turn off and on facets and have them hand him tools and stuff. Chase is always right there sucking up everything that is going on with any home fix-it job. He asks all kinds of questions like "If you throw the blow torch on the ground will it explode?" I just know that one day when he has his own house he will not have problmes with fixing and building things.

The other thing that I think is so great about John is that he is never afraid to try something and usually can figure it out. No matter what it is. He will call people and ask advice, read things about it, etc. and usually he can fix anything. He is an example to the kids that they can do anything they put their mind too. It took him three times to get the pipes all back together without leaking ;-) but that's just one of those things...

So - we have a new water heater, had an interesting day "splashing" in the basement and did spend quite a bit of the day playing outside as it was beautiful out. The kids all zonked out to Gilligan's Island... and now I really am in need of a hot shower ;-)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Learning Through Play...

I have been having a hard time lately. My energy level has been really down and things have just been going on where I feel that I haven't been giving focused energy on homeschooling. That's certainly not to say that learning has not been going on constantly at our house - but just that I have felt in a bit of a funk. We have read a lot. Chase has read to me quite a bit. Lex has had an interest in trying to read as well. I guess what it is that I usually have some sort of fun something to do - and usually everyone loves to jump in and do it with me.

Today was just one of those slow days. John didn't have a whole lot to do today so he was home. Brianna and Lex played for most of the day in her room and just seemed to be having a great time. They had all the doll stuff out and stuffed animals. I later found that they were playing "school" and in the course of this "play" Brianna showed Lexi how to do the 5x's table. She used all kinds of stickers and they colored and made pictures. They even had some old workbook type books that they did 1/4 of the pages (I think one was Social Studies ;-) and colored and read a Dover Coloring book on Fairy Tales.

Chase built a "submarine" out of a Discovery Toy building set and said the best part of his day was playing catch with Dad. He helped rake and bring in wood. All the kids had the bunnies out today. The weather was cool but a bit nicer so they played outside quite a bit. They noticed that some chickadees have been hanging out at the blue bird box they made and are hoping that someone will make a nest there.

Lex watered the potatoes and onions that we planted in the garden.

Oh and they watched a Wallace and Gromit DVD that came in the mail today.

Within all this one could look at them and think they are just "playing". But they do so much with play. Sometimes I think this is what many kids are missing with the early pre-school and such. Free time that is available to them to explore is a key component of growth and discovery. I sometimes feel that I went through all those years of public school and college and still don't know what I am good at - or what I want to do. Maybe being a homeschool mom is what I was meant to be. What if all those years of public school were preparation for helping kids discover their passions.

We had a good day - and it is nice to watch them all grow and learn and play. I am always amazed when I look over their day and see the depth of their play - the seriousness of their endeavors, whatever they may be and the way in which they simply love life!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lego Playing Google Leaders...

A recent article by TIME on the leaders of Google made me smile. Check out the article opening...

TIME's Adi Ignatius got the Google triumvirate of Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page to sit for a talk around a table covered with Lego pieces, for which they have a known fondness, during a break at Google's recent sales conference in San Francisco. Page, who as a student built an ink-jet printer out of Lego bricks, is snapping pieces together to make a kind of endlessly ascending staircase; Brin is working on a robot. Schmidt seems too grownup for this.


BRIN: I was hoping to build a Lego nuclear reactor, but I think I have a bazooka-wielding robot.

PAGE: Hey, I know. Let's build Eric out of Legos.,10987,1158956,00.html

See and all this time I thought Chase wasn't really listening while playing with Legos ;-) This is the latest creation an "International Space Station", complete with green alien and lizard?? We were reading the book Space Station Science - life in free fall by Marianne J. Dyson and LIFE in Space. Apparently inspiring the creation.

Actually I knew he really was listening and have figured out that especially times where he is supposed to be quiet ( like in meeting) he will be playing with something and you don't think he is really listening but then later on he will come out with something profound about whatever was going on around him. Legos are a good thing...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Learning Compassion

Yesterday we all had a lesson that none of us will forget. It is amazing the things that happen in everyday life that make you change and grow.

After our church meeting on Sunday, it was our turn to drive home an elderly man who attends meeting. I was alone with my three children, as my husband was at a brothers retreat weekend. As is our custom, we took Bob out to lunch. As we were sitting in the restaurant, Chase notes that the man sitting in the wheelchair in front of the hotel next door did not have any ankles. He kind of giggled a bit and this became for me a lecture on how one should be thankful that we all have legs and healthy bodies. We watched this man for a bit, and he seemed really close to the very busy main road and seemed to be struggling.

We finished our lunch, got everyone in the car and as I was about to drive past the hotel, I looked at the man and all of the sudden felt that he really needed help. So I pulled in and stopped and went and asked him. He did not have legs, had a bunch of things in his coat, a bag at his feet and looked a little worse for wear. He explained that he was meeting someone at the top of the hill and was trying to wheel himself up. This is in Baltimore - the traffic is horrendous and there was not much side space for him to travel on. He was going about 1/2 mile up the road. I was really concerned - I wanted to help and my first thought was just take him in the van. But I felt that fleeting concern that here I was with three children and an elderly man in my care... I often want to help people that I see looking for a ride and such, but tend to get concerned with safety when I have my children with me - or am alone.

So, I went in and asked the lady at the desk at the hotel about this man - and she was very unconcerned. I expressed that he was struggling and right at the entrance to the hotel where cars are turning and wondered if he was someone that they saw often. She really didn't have much to say, didn't seem to want to help. So I just followed my gut instinct and went back out and asked him if I could take him in the van. He seemed so relieved that I would do this. So I get the kids to move to the back seat, and this man gets in to my very high van, slowly and painstakingly, refusing my attempts to help. He said he maneuvered himself all the time - and wheels himself all over, but was just having trouble with this hill.

The kids sat in silence as I drove....and believe me, they are never silent! The man proceeded to tell them (and me & Bob) how he had lost his legs and just had the most positive outlook on life despite his infirmity. He said 'Life is hard without is hard with legs for that just need to keep a positive outlook and always keep pressing forward."

He was thankful that I stopped and said most people don't notice or care. I told him that sometimes for me it is fear that holds me back. Just because someone is in a wheel chair, doesn't mean they don't have a gun in their pocket! And especially being in Baltimore - I am not local; I don't really know where I am going. I just felt in this instance that it was ok.

The kids did not stop talking about it all day. Lexi said she thought it was scary that I took a stranger in our car. The kids watched as he struggled to get in and out of the van. We have a conversion van and so it is rather high up. He was adamant that he would be fine - and as we left he mentioned that the only thing he has not tried to do without legs was to swim - and maybe he would try. Brianna said it was really nice that we helped him and she was glad that we did. It was the first thing she told her Dad when he called. Chase noted how sad it was to have lost your legs. (No more giggling about missing ankles from him again, I'm sure)

The thing about it is that I think it did more for us, than it did for him. I have been having worries about money -and feeling lack. I had been worrying about going to lunch because we really didn't have the money, but it has become a bit of a habit to take Bob out to lunch and I can tell he enjoys being with us and enjoys the company - so I didn't want to not go. Being with this handicapped man - with such a tremendous spirit, just made me feel such gratitude. It made me thankful for the opportunity to help, because sometimes in life you feel that everything you do has selfish motives, or will benefit yourself in some way. It made me thankful for all that we have...and I certainly did not feel any "lack".

The Bible notes that "men have entertained angels unaware" - and there are times when I wonder if people are placed in your life for a reason. If angels do really give you a message of hope. If these are things that are meant to help you to see the big picture.

I do know this - this will be something that all of us will remember for a long time.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Homeschooling and Stay-at-Home Motherhood

Today John and I had a discussion about money - and worries.... As he is just starting his new business, it takes time for things to get going. Luckily we have saved a bit over the years - and are doing ok. However, I am feeling a bit sad at the fact that I seem to be telling the kids that we "don't have the money" to do this or that, very frequently. I was thinking of taking them to a play at our favorite local theater York Little Theater but even the cost of the tickets, which is comparable to going to a movie, yet far more interesting, is more than we can do this weekend. So, we wound up renting some movies using our Blockbuster gift card from Christmas - and snuggling up together with comforters and ice cream. This actually worked out better because Brianna really wanted to audition for the play that is going on at YLT - Robin Hood, but it came at a time that was really busy for us.

So - in our discussion of "how do other people do it"... we almost always come back to - "well both people work". And starting your own business may not be as financially difficult if one person is providing a steady income and health insurance while the other gets established. I know there are other homeschooling moms, who work or do home businesses and they amaze me. I do assist with college courses - for money, which helps, but there are days like today when I don't feel that it is enough.

I was reading tonight on the New American Dream website and find it really inspiring. There is an art to staying home. A savings both financial and ecological. Would you really want to cook from scratch and find things on sale, if you were working full time and trying to do it all? Would you really be trying to find interesting, cheap (or free) fun excursions for everyone if you were working full time? Would homeschooling be as free and unstructured if you faced the time constraints that one has while working? I try and remind myself that even when we don't feel that we have the material things, or extra money for entertainment, we have time and creativity that we may not have developed if financial concerns were not an issue.

I am working on not being grumpy about it. Sarah Ban Breathnach states often in her book that there is a fine line between abundance and lack. You decide each day which one you want to inhabit. There is so much abundance here and it is a good character growing experience to understand that "All we have is all we need". And God really does provide - I am certain of that.

I took Lexi with me today to the natural food store. This one has a great bulk section where you bag you items yourself (pastas, grains and things) and you have to write out the bin number on a little twist tie tag that is attached to the bag. Lex did a great job of figuring out what numbers went on the tags and writing them for me. We then went home and made homemade pizza - which was really good. Finished planting some more seeds for our garden and sat down to our movies and ice cream.

So in reality - there was much abundance in today. And despite my worries of "lack" we all got a treat - chocolate bars, Big Sky Granola and organic coffee for me ;-)

I am certain that when the kids look back they will not feel deprived - but rather full of abundance of time and interesting things that we do together and I am thankful that I am home with them sharing their days.

Although I will not be opposed to John's business taking off... and I will look back at this post and remember that reliance on God and a bit of creativity - and not money is the key to abundance...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Spring is on the way!

Yesterday the weather was absolutely beautiful! Those poor school kids stuck inside! My kids were my helpers as I continued to paint the garden fence - which I never got to finish last year. The great thing is that they love to help paint and with this job it doesn't matter how much paint they spill - it is all outside! I wish I had some photos of yesterday. With the painting and Chase in his bathing suit, covered in mud making a mud "brain".... Well, I tilled one half of the garden and last night the kids planned what they wanted to plant this year. We have some potatoes from my friend Jenny's farm - Swissland Acres, sugar snap peas, lettuce, green onions, carrots, beets, arugula (or rocket as per Jamie Oliver). We headed off to Home Depot today to get some more seeds. Inspired by a seed variety called "Bloody Butcher" tomatoes, I decided to get stuff to start some seeds indoors. The girls picked watermelon, little yellow pear tomatoes (inspired by the book written by a fellow Homeschool mom, Demian Elainé Yumei), tomatillos (love that salsa verde!), sunflowers, larkspur and lavender. I added cilantro, chives, basil and other tomatoes. The girls all had fun, planting the seeds. Hopefully they will grow out in the sunroom until it is time for them to go out into the garden. Lexi also wants to plant a tree for Arbor Day - and we decided on a plum tree... so we will be figuring out when and where to plant it in the yard.

My other errand involved trying to fix the bathroom sink. I bought a new facet - and then found out the sink needed to be replaced. And of course there were hoses that John needed that didn't come with the facet. So, back I go to Home Depot - this time with Chase, who assured me he would help me find the correct hoses. (And he did!) He didn't want me to get help from the Home Depot people - but said “Just hold me up and I will find the right one". Amazingly, I came home with the right ones! Chase wanted to see all the tools, and we must have spent an hour, where he just walked through the power tool section, looked at all the interesting tools and noted all the prices on the things he liked. He noted too that they were "expensive" which was good because he has a habit of taking John's tools and leaving them in weird places. John got him his own tool box and he has quite a few tools in them. He makes all kinds of things. The other day he nailed some broken pieces of the girl’s bunk bed into an L-shape and it became a "wooden leg". Perfect for playing pirate.

I always find myself amazed at how children really do follow what interests them passionately. I was getting bored in Home Depot with the tools. I like to get in, get what I need and get out. I hate to go back for things that John needs because I always wind up getting the wrong thing. Now I know to just bring Chase along ;-) Chase is so knowledgeable about tools and fixing things - I remember taking him to the zoo a few years back and they were doing some electrical work. He was more interested in checking out what the electricians were doing. He would squat down beside them and they would usually tell him about what they were doing. He sat alongside John when he wired the upstairs of our last house...and followed the electrician around, when he wired our pool this summer. He just absorbs it all. I am sure that whatever he does in his future he will have these amazing skills (like his father;-) to fix anything! Imagine he was instead bored to death in school. These are the days where I am so thankful for unschooling....

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Great Backyard Birdcount

We all had a great time participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Our feeders had not been full for a bit so it took the birds a little bit to find us. We made some homemade suet which so far attracted Starlings and a Grackle. The kids really enjoyed trying to figure out what birds were which. They seem to have a good sense of the birdfeeder regulars, such as the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Chickadees, etc. Since the bird count we have seen several kinds of finches as well. We spent a Saturday at the Nixon Park nature center where they had all kinds of bird activities for the backyard bird watch weekend. We watched a presentation on cavity dwellers and the kids made bluebird boxes. We have since mailed one to Grandma and have put one up in the pine trees and one near the front garden. The kids are excited because they learned that they can look at the birds and it shouldn't disturb the nest. We also are going to participate in Project Feeder Watch through Cornell. We just received our lab materials in the mail and are ready to go.

Chase has a special thing with birds. It is one of the activites where he actually will sit still ;-) For him, this is a great outlet for his interest. During the course of the park day, the kids made Bluebird Boxes: