Ah, nowadays much of the storytelling happens on the home school blog, which is private. You, the three readers of this blog, aren’t missing out on much, though, as my own stories there are mostly about curriculum. I hope one day to share the more philosophical and ethical musings in homeschooling as they pertain to homesteading – most of which haven’t found expression yet anyway. What you are missing, however, are Amie’s stories, like today’s, of her snowball fight with her dad.

So this is what the day looks like:

DSCF4139

I just love that tree, all angles, and the big pines further back. The sky is snow-laden, and though there was a short bout of tinkling freezing rain, mostly it has been soundless fluff.

Here’s what transpired:

DSCF4152 DSCF4145 DSCF4153

They were still good buddies after that:

DSCF4170

Homeschooling is going even better than I had expected. We are sticking to a strict schedule in the mornings, with a steady core curriculum in math and language arts. In the afternoons we do Latin and, after that, we launch into our history/science module. I’d say the last one is our favorite along with logic, Latin and word roots. This is the pile of books accumulating in the subjects we’ve chosen for our science/history module:
DSCF4116
Yes, I know. But Amie and I both agreed we couldn’t start “History” with written history, or with the first humans, or the first life, or even the formation of our planet and so… we began with the Big Bang. And obviously we can’t do history apart from science. So: wonderful stuff!

Our first home school field trip was to the NOFA Mass Winter Conference. During lunch Amie went shopping at the stalls, all by herself. She had $5. After chatting with each farmer and herbalist and activist and whatnot, she got some fancy lip balm. We also bought bumper stickers. This one is her favorite and ended up on her cello case:

DSCF4119

On Friday we had our next field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a great homeschool program. I got to walk the halls for an hour and a half, and located this poster:

IMG_20150116_110323

Soon we’ll have to open those seed catalogs and start planning the garden. At the NOFA conference I picked up a lot of information on trace minerals. We went with a group and divvied up the workshops among us. Next week we meet to discuss the many gardens now in play: our personal gardens (about four, some of them quite large), three large Community Garden Plots, and some School Gardens as well. These come with town-wide compost systems that take in scraps from the schools’ lunchrooms, pounds and pounds of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, and now, also, kitchen scraps from the local Whole Foods. Lastly, the surplus goes to Food Pantries and shelters in the neighborhood.

I’ve not had time to write much here, but please stay tuned!

On the very last day of the old year, about an hour before they closed shop for their New Year’s Eve, DH and I walked into the Volkswagen dealership and bought a brand new VW Jetta wagon.

DSCF3965_500

It was a surprise to myself as well, since we are thorough second-handers. The idea had been to replace our cars with one new (see below) and one second-hand one. However, the second-hand car market in this area is ruined: it’s all dealers and their prices are highly inflated. Individuals sell cars with high mileage and getting on in years. After DH’s car being towed twice in a week, the risks were too steep, the assurance with a new car too enticing. And this dealership had a great deal – ending on December 31!

It’s a diesel and is supposed to get 40 mpg on average. DH has driven it to work and back (his shuttle stops over the holidays), on the highway and in downtown Cambridge, and he’s barely made a dent in the tank. The nifty on-board computer tells him he averaged over 50 mpg. Compare this to his 1998 Volvo, which barely got 20 mpg!

My car will need replacement too – it’s as old as DH’s, though it has held up better. We are waiting for Chevrolet to announce the new Volt: it might be a five-seater, have a better engine, and be cheaper… worth the wait. Our home school plans include a road trip, and though our VW would be up for it, we’d rather have an even more efficient car.

Ah, the dreams of the road trip! Our friends who were here over the holidays are in on it too. We’re thinking the Crooked Road…

It’s been a while since I blogged. The reasons were house guests over the holidays with whom we gladly dug in like hermits, eating wonderful home-cooked meals, playing board games with the kids when we could locate them, and reading books by the fire. Also, we watched Sharknado 2: The Second One together. It’s a ritual, better not to ask any further. And we played with Google Cardboard.

DSCF3928_500

I also prepared a lot for homeschooling, which started yesterday. Here we are at the beginning of our first day:

DSC_0012

That’s my newest excuse (for not cleaning too): homeschooling is taking up a lot of time, but it’s a blast and both Amie and I have taken to it. We go from 9 to 3, learning awesome stuff – as you can see, I’m also adopting nine-year-old vocab. We started a home school blog where both of us post every day (so far), but because Amie is also writing there we decided to keep it private to those whom she knows personally. As a long-time blogger I know how fraught with difficulties public blogging is, One of the issues is not knowing who one’s audience is and, this way, she can picture her readers which makes it easier for her to write.

I’ll be sure to write about homeschooling here (the homestead-related angle) as I slowly get my head above water. Scheduling is a challenge, also creating pockets of time when Amie can work by herself so I can do “my own” things, like blogging and Transition work (and cleaning). Though, admittedly, a lot of what I teach in home school is also “my thing”. For instance, I’m revisiting my beloved Latin and learning about the Big Bang and first life and the evolution of humans, with my daughter. How awesome is that? Ha.

DSCF4114

One more thing I love about homeschooling is that there is no rushing out the door, waiting in line, etc. We keep a tight schedule (start at 9 sharp), but our first day, for instance, we remained in PJs.

During our hour of lunch and recess we visit the chickens, feed them, collect eggs. Today we did so in gently falling snow. It’s good to be out in the fresh air, and the hens are so happy to see us with warm water and kitchen scraps.

I just went to check on them. Our chicken coop door opener is a fantastic little machine and ultra convenient, especially in the mornings. But we do check on it every evening after dark to make sure it closed and that all the hens made it inside before it did.

The moon is just over the cusp of full, very bright still, high in the black, naked sky. The Pleiades twinkled through her light, though not so much the Milky Way (which we learned about today). The shadows were very crisp on the fresh blanket of snow, creaking under my boots. It is 8 F (-13 C), and falling, falling to a predicted -5 F tomorrow night (that’s – 20.5 C).

There’s only one chicken I’m worried about: one of the Buff Orpingtons. She looks scruffy and her comb and wattles are pale. The bees I worry about constantly. I’ll check on them after this cold snap.

Happy New Year, everyone.

The juncos have arrived from up north.

DSCF3812

This morning we were all still in bed when there was a loud rap against our bedroom window pane. I jumped out of bed, knowing it was a bird that had just collided with the glass. I looked out and there, among the flock of juncos grazing in the grass, was a spread out, unmoving one.

I threw on my jacket and scarf and rushed outside with a kitchen towel. There is was, still not moving. Normally I’d leave it, watch it from a distance, but it was cold and a bird in shock like that would probably not recover, or get eaten by a cat or what have you. So I picked it up and wrapped it in the towel. It was only as I was bringing it into the house that it revived a little.

DSCF3809

We kept it warm for ten minutes, then it started squirming and got away from me, demonstrating its desire and ability to fly. I caught it and brought it outside to let it go. It flew off in a jiffy and we rejoiced.

DSCF3810

I dropped off the homeschool letter at the Superintendent’s office. They’ve been very supportive, and almost everything I asked for – if Amie can keep coming to school for out-of-hours and even in-hour classes, if she can keep using the online platforms for math and typing, etc. – they’ve given us. So now it was just the paper work.

I want to blog about homeschooling but perhaps not here. Or perhaps here, but then other content needs to move elsewhere. I’ve been having trouble, fitting it together: chickens eating yogurt, kid art, gardening and… despair work, criticism of culture, depressing poetry. You catch my drift. Maybe the heavy-duty stuff should leave and the chickens can stay along with the homeschooling…

A snapshot of the complexity and diversity of our lives: at the library I got
+ The Story of the World. History for the Classical Child
+ Michael Light’s Full Moon, about the moon.
+ Michael Light’s 100 Suns, 100 photos of nuclear bombs going off
+ and Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought
The librarians know us and they’ll get to know us even better come January.

Now I add these books to the stack of books that I own and am in the process of reading, on pioneers and anthropology of shamanism and Arctic Circle indigenous people and death and Beowulf and Mongol gers and… Sometimes you just have to let the waves crash over you and tread water for your life! Except when there’s a shark. Apparently, standing up in water you look like a dead fish. Best to swim or float horizontally, then they might leave you be.

DSCF3776

Here we’re weighing our heads with our new kitchen scale:

We decided – Amie, DH and I – to homeschool Amie for the coming semester and probably also fifth grade.

DSCF3804

We love the school she is going to at present. It’s a smallish (ca. 400 kids) neighborhood K-5 school where kindness really matters, where the teachers are deeply caring and the staff a charm. Amie loves her teacher and her classmates and she is well-liked in return.

But she has been bored and frustrated, as she waits, a lot, Not sitting and waiting, thank goodness, but repeating and repeatedly hearing material she already mastered. Her vocabulary, use of grammar and spelling are at above elementary level and she regularly aces (over-aces, with extra credits) math.

Because everything comes easy to her, her work ethic and work habits aren’t very good. She has no confidence and shuts down when she meets a challenge (something that is only exhibited at home, when she is challenged by cello). She makes a clear and tragic division between (school)work and play.

School has introduced her to topics in science and social studies that interest her a lot, but she was never able to investigate very deeply because so much attention in Fourth Grade goes to Math and Language Arts. She wants to work, but hasn’t had the opportunity to go in-depth on a topic and as a result is losing her intense curiosity.

Now, you might say, why don’t you give her the more stimulating project work after school? Why not enroll her in Kumon Math or what have you? But that won’t work for us or for our kid. She would feel that her time is even more disrespected if we kept her waiting for hours every day (and that kind of waiting is not, by the way, relaxing), then replaced her play time with extra work. On top of that, she’d be even more advanced, more bored in class, which would only exacerbate the problem.

On the topic of having one’s time respected, for a long while we were stumped about her frequent complaint that she doesn’t have enough time in her day. We’ve always guarded against too many extra-curricular activities, so much so that unfortunately sports/physical movement have fallen by the wayside. Still, even though she just has 1 cello lesson and 1 orchestra lesson a week, and even though she doesn’t get a lot of homework, she insists that she never has any time. Where was this coming from? We realized that she means that her time is not valued. This feeling (or rather, fact) of having her time wasted is always present to her and sabotages any attempt at in-depth projects.

At home we can give her individualized attention (something that is difficult in a big classroom) and she can go at her own pace. It is not the intent to accelerate her, but she needs to have more freedom. One of her math curricula, for instance, will be Khan Academy Grade Four. She has already been playing with it and was allowed to pick and chose her modules (addition, multiplication, fractions, etc.), so she is not tied to a linear progression but can skip around.

Also, we’ll free up waiting time for project-based work and for more physical activity to build her physical resilience.

We’re aware that she will be missing out on a certain type of social interaction (working on groups, waiting, taking turns), which at her school was unreservedly positive. We are looking into opportunities to keep her socially engaged – especially crucial because she is, after all, an only child. There are other homeschooling families we’ve already connected with, art classes at the local art museum (especially for homeschoolers), and group sports. Thanks to our wonderful school district, she’ll be able to still go into the school and see her friends at drop-into-art and chorus, and she’ll continue in her school’s strings orchestra.

All this is possible in our home setting (though I do wish we had a school room) and in my own life. As I excitedly tell friends about this amazing development I become more and more aware of the luxuries I enjoy of 1) being qualified and confident and 2) working from home and choosing my work and 3) a relationship with my child that makes this a natural fit. And though she will miss her friends, Amie is also looking forward to it.

We start in January and, as you can see, I’ve already started buying lots of books!

This is a cool tool. Put yourself on the north pole, or at, say, 74.8 degrees N latitude.

Is this nature study?

I’ve rediscovered Tim Morton’s books on ecology, among them Ecology without Nature and The Ecological Thought, where he introduces the concept of dark ecology as a means of expressing the “irony, ugliness, and horror” of ecology. Yes, that’s what we need, or what I need: to ditch the neutral theoretical ground on which to articulate ecological claims. Instead, all beings are always already implicated within the ecological, necessitating an acknowledgement of coexistential difference for coping with ecological catastrophe that, according to Morton, “has already occurred.”

With a friend I’m also working on a series of events and a documentary film about dying, death and burial. How can it be that death is a rumor? And I also suspect it is about endurance as well. “The Sovereignty and the Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed,” by Liz Waldner:

“Time” is a word. “Love” is a word.
Between them are words and between them

an entrance. I pray to be
entranced, starting right now again I do.

I am old enough to understand
being willing
to go on is a great gift.