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.

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

Next time remind me not to go in. Definitely, if I do go in, not to visit the Nature section. And if I get there anyway, not to listen to Amie!

She had checked out the Children’s section already and found nothing of interest. Then she joined me in front of Nature – I don’t think she’ll ever go back to Children’s. It’s only two cases, so she read title by title, calling them out to me – siren song! We were no better than each other. We spurred each other on. It’s the fault of neither one of us.

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Amie chose chicken and goat books:

  • Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer
  • Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin (not only about chickens, but it has a chicken and an egg on the cover!)
  • The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese by Margaret Hathaway

I chose the following (bear in mind that the word “choose” is sued here in a loose sense):

  • The Frog Run: Words and Wildness in the Vermont Woods by John Elder (there are a few authors I’ll buy any book from: Bass, Lopez, Harrison and Elder)
  • The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (Just curious)
  • The Wild MuirTwenty-two of John Muir’s Greatest Adventures by John Muir: wonderful illustrations by Fiona King
  • Finding Home: Writing on Nature and Culture from Orion Magazine by Peter H. Sauer (Collection of Orion articles from before I became a subscriber (1992).)
  • Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination by Barbara Hurd (Intriguing title)
  • Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling through the Dark by Barbara Hurd (Comes with the one above)
  • An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field by Terry Tempest Williams (Need I justify this one?)
  • Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death by Bernd Heinrich (I’ve read Mind of the Raven, or was it Winter World? I forget, but it was good)
  • Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear (I like reading biographies, and Carson is of course a hero of mine)

PS. We did not get to bury Nocty. Both ground and chicken are frozen.

Amie and I will be traveling over the next two weeks, so posting will be sporadic, if I post at all. We have a 9-hour plane ride ahead of us (BANG goes the Riot), and my main concern right now is which book to take. That, and getting a letter notarized in which DH gives his consent for me to take our daughter out of the country.

I’ve whittled it down to three:

Death, Sex by Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan

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In the Loyal Mountains by Rick Bass

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Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner

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I’ve read about 1/3 of each of these and still can’t decide. Of course I would take The Book if only it weren’t so voluminous – both volumes will come along in my suitcase, though, along with Holmgren’s Permaculture.  Amie will read Charlotte’s Web. But hopefully we’ll both sleep on the plane.

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In Home-grown Kids’ Hundred Books-A-Month Challenge, we made it to

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in the span of a month. I blame it partly on our bad record keeping skills and the crazy weather, which lured us outside all too often for this time of year.

It was great fun, though, keeping track (mostly) and being aware of how much we read. I think, regardless of whether we do the challenge or not (not in December, but January maybe?), we’ll keep a list of Amie’s reading, and I’ll throw in my own titles too.

Thanks Leslie for a great idea!

Amie has often expressed an interest in my journal – in the book itself (the journalist Moleskine) and in the process. I haven’t been writing in my journal regularly, but over this weekend revived my resolution to do so. This morning I pulled it and she asked if she could have a journal too, just like mine.

So…

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Several hours later:

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I told her what I write in my journal: what my day was like, what I wished my day had been like, what I plan to do, TO DO and other lists, all kinds of information, drawings and photographs, etc. And I showed her the baby journal I kept for her all too briefly.

I proposed she write it herself but if she gets tired of that, she can dictate and I will write it down (literally) for her. When she does choose to write it herself, I help her with the spelling whenever she asks, and if she proposes her own (phonological) spelling, I don’t argue.

I hope she will get as much joy out of journaling as I have over the years.

Over the weekend I attended a two-day Training for Transition – during which she was constantly on my mind. I learned so much, and am still exhausted, it was so intense. Will report on that soon (oh, add it to the list).

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Here is our list so far – click for larger but not necessarily for more legible.

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We just got a batch of Roald Dahl in, and more Cynthia Rylant books. Amie also loves Lauren Child’s books, for the stories (e.g., Charlie and Lola) as well as the illustrations. So I was excited to see she has illustrated Pippi Longstockin, but once I leafed through the book I doubted Amie would be charmed. Can anyone recommend a well-illustrated Pippi for me?

And in other news Amie caught the flu – probably H1N1 because it is the only flu in town at the moment. She was doing so well since we started her on daily raw milk, elderberry syrup, and an elevated dose (800 IU) of vitamin D. She came off the puffer (asthma medication) almost immediately – the month before we started, she needed 2 puffs every night. When she caught a cold 2 weeks ago, she had only the runny nose and some coughing, and no wheezing, so no puffer – a first!

Still, yesterday the first symptoms started and now she has a mild fever, a sometimes persistent cough, and mild trouble breathing. She’s mostly sleeping, but when she’s not, we’re reading books.

And in the meantime we’re 20 November and it’s 65F out.

We’re all retreating into the living room around the warm fire. There’s so much to do in this contracted world.

  • Art

Not a day goes by when Amie doesn’t work at her art. She’ll often pronounce “I am practicing because I want to be an artist.” She enjoyed discovering the technique of splashing by rubbing an old toothbrush over a net. She also likes our instruction book on how to draw basic animal figures (ours is an out-of-print Usborne). She was intrigued when I drew some circles and proposed she draw the basic emotions. She got them down right without my help, contorting her face to feel the shape of her mouth, her eyes and nose.

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Lions, step by step, from How to Draw Animals

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Trying the toothbrush and net splash technique, and the result:

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Emotive faces

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Girl on a bike, from a (paused) video

The last drawing was made from a tiny video still, and Amie became very frustrated with it because it wasn’t turning out exactly the way it looked on the screen. I explained that it was a very difficult subject – the word “subject” is now her favorite – and that the example was really too small. Still, she was nearly in tears, and I cursed myself for not gently leading her away from the project. l will be conscious of  this perfectionist streak in her and help her keep it under control. I know how it can ruin the fun! (Also read Lori’s helpful advice in the current Camp Creek Blog thread).

  • Reading

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Our 100-books-a-month table, with list

Amie is reading spontaneously now, here and there. Only last week she deciphered “Reese’s Buttercup” and “travel” and “cheese,” all of her own accord. Three-letter-words are read fluently, as well as certain sight words like “the” and “and”. Four-letter-words will soon be rolling off her tongue as well.

I know that at her preschool (Montessori) she uses cards and lists of words and all kinds of reading aids, but here at home she just reads books. She has mostly stopped trying to guess what the words could be by looking at the pictures – not all “first books” are clever in that regard! – but she’s good about using the context of the story and the sentence to speed up her reading. In our 100-book-a-month challenge we are aiming for 1 out of 4 to be read by her.

  • Writing

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Amie lists another title

Writing does not come as spontaneously as reading does, but she has gone from penning nonsense words and collections of letters to spelling out real words. When I suggest she write the title of a book we’ve read in our 100-books list, she readily grabs the pen and sets to the job. She will read the words and spell them out as she writes them down, or she’ll copy the letters of the more difficult ones and wonder aloud why some are spelled the way they are. What can I say, English is a funny language! For the latter though I’d rather she use invented spelling than mere copying, which becomes automatic and then she mindlessly forgets letters.

We are now starting to pay attention to her penmanship: the size of the letters (I draw lines) and whether she wants to use capitals or small letters. She still feels more comfortable with the capitals.

  • Math

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Doing algebra

Amie will happily spend half an hour on algebra exercises, but usually only with constant encouragement or if we sell it as “homework”. She’ll also do basic exercises on DH’s Ipod. She can solve:

5+8 – _

5+_=13

13-5=_

etc.

For anything under 5 and the addition or subtraction of 1 she no longer needs her fingers, doing them in her head – though sometimes it helps her to imagine cookies. She’ll still resort to her fingers, and her toes if need be, for the higher numbers, and we usually stay under 20. We don’t use flash cards but cheapo math books, because she likes to make that mark. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but she does like a sticker as lure and reward, and it helps if the math is presented as a game, like a maze.

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I discovered the Home-Grown Kids 100-books-a-month challenge through Sherry’s blog, and just knew Amie would go for it.

We already read about 100 books a month, only they’re often the same ones. (Could it be we sometimes read the same book 100 times? It sure seems that way sometimes!) So our challenge will be to read 100 different books.

Part of the challenge will also be to give Amie a better idea of what “a hundred” means. She is in her exaggeration stage: everything “a hundred and a million!” nowadays. And though she needs no help with addition and subtraction (up to 20), those hardly contribute to estimation.

We also discussed what “challenge” means. We agreed on a definition: “something we do that is not easy, but a bit difficult but still not impossible for us to do and that is fun and that we learn from”.

Amie is in charge of keeping the list – I hope she catches on to the fun and usefulness of keeping lists. We might also make little notes about whether we liked the book or not, and why, and if we would reread it. Amie will also be reading to me, so watch out for some “first books” on the list as well.

So far (today) we’ve read:

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Last night, Amie woke up around 2 am, with a scream. She had had a nightmare and, as usual when that happens, she demanded the nightlight be turned on, then proceeded to lie awake, eyes wide open, for two hours. Mama knows because Mama too was awake that entire time – oh the pleasures of co-sleeping

This evening at dinner we discussed the nightmare and for once she remembered it. She explained:

- I dreamed about Mudge eating the blue snow glory and in my dream his mouth was a big triangle and he gobbled Wall-E up in one gulp!

Wall-E is from Wall-E. Mudge is the dog from Cynthia Rylant’s Henry and Mudge stories, which we’ve been reading non-stop. He is a big dog, but the sweetest, gentlest creature ever to be put down in a children’s book. Still, his size and him eating a blue flower in one of the books was enough to earn him a trip to Amie’s nightmare land.

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- So no more Henry and Mudge as bedtime storied? I asked. I was saddened, because I love reading them to her: they’re so funny and sweet, I love the mother and father, and Henry is, like Amie, an only child.

- No, said Amie, better not, because Mudge is just too scary.

As Henry would say, Aw, Mudge!