I’ve moved

I’ve decided to fold up this old blog (almost four years old now!), and move over to some new stomping grounds.  I haven’t been feeling inspired to write much here, and I suddenly realized it was because homeschooling is no longer the “main theme” of my life.  We’re still homeschooling, but most of what I want to write about is other stuff, like our organic/simple/green lifestyle, my work as a Director of Religious Education, Unitarian Universalism, and my personal spiritual practice. 

I love my blogland friends, so please, come on over and check out the new blog The Curriculum of Love.  I’ll still be posting some about homeschooling and books.  I’m a bit sad to move, actually – this has been a great “neighborhood” for many years now.  Huge thanks to Andrea for making this homeschool community – it has been wonderful.  (And I’m trying to copy all my archives into word documents, so please don’t delete me too quickly!).

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Off again

I’m headed out to a leadership school for a week, and then the family is going on a trip to visit our grandparents.  I won’t be posting again until we get back!

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A spacey week

This week has been pretty spacey, with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing and a once-in-a-century solar eclipse.  A great time to talk about space, read books about space, play with space toys, etc.

We took a field trip to the Seattle Museum of Flight, and toured their very nice Space exhibit.

astro boy

space capsule

Both of the kids loved the exhibit.  Hypatia loved to push buttons and pull up little movie clips, and she was entranced by this cool swirling planet display that could be changed to all the different planets of our solar system by pushing buttons.  Carbon pointed out that they still had Pluto on as a planet – just think how many educational materials went out of date just like that when they reclassified Pluto!

Carbon was thrilled to find models of the Mars rovers.  He has been obsessed with Mars rovers for quite some time, starting back when I wrote this post.  He really wanted to touch the models, and I bet he was actually itching to take it apart and see how it worked.  We visited the gift shop on the way out, but they didn’t seem to anticipate a child’s love of a Mars Rover, and there were no Mars toys or models.  Both kids picked out astronaut action figures and a toy space shuttle, and played space mission in the car on the long drive home.

Linky love to Mind Games for her cool Moon Landing art project this week with her kids.

Posted in Field Trips | 1 Comment

What Your First Grader Needs to Know

The series of books titled What Your X Grader Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. has been around for a long time.  My mother used them quite literally with us for a few years of our homeschooling, actually reading literature excerpts out of them and having us memorize the “favorite sayings”.  I had the type of personality as a child that really enjoyed the books, because I could check things off that I had done, and think that I actually knew everything I needed to know.  It gave the illusion that you can actually complete your education, with a finite amount of “core” knowledge being enough.

You might get the feeling, from my use of italics and general tone, that I no longer believe this to be true.  In fact, I now believe that this can be a dangerous idea, because when we establish a canon there are always things left out, and whoever establishes the canon gets to decide what will be left out.  This standardization of education is to the benefit of the dominant narrative in a society, such as the eurocentric view of history that so many are taught, or the marginalization of “her”story.  It may be fuzzier and messier, but I prefer a multicultural education to a classical canon, for those reasons.

However, a roadmap may be useful, if only to tell you where everyone else is going while you are wandering in the educational backroads, so I’ve just borrowed Hirsch’s book for 1st grade.  Skimming it quickly tells me this about our educational plan for Carbon next year:

In Language and Literature, our plan already generally follows Hirsch, except that I had forgotten to include some poetry. 

For History and Geography, we are using Story of the World and that covers all the world history Hirsch suggests.  He also suggests some American history, which I think we could begin now.  However, my version of American history is going to spend a whole year on “pre-Columbian” history, and his list has only four topics before the Arrival of the Europeans.

Then Hirsch lists Visual Arts.  Oops – I wasn’t planning on doing anything in visual arts!  I’m going to have to look into that one.

Music.  I am teaching Carbon the piano, and we learn to sing both favorite children’s songs and hymns together with his sister.  We listen to a variety of music, but I might want to identify styles and types for him.  We regularly attend things like the symphony and the opera, and he’s interested in going with us, so I think he’s going to be exposed to those things in a more natural way than sitting down and giving him a little lesson at home about them would ever do.

Hirsch next looks at Math, and there is nothing in this section that we won’t be covering with our plan of continuing on with Math U See.

The last section of the book is Science.  Carbon is very interested in science and has a good understanding and recall of what he is exposed to, but I’ve decided to take a different approach to this subject.  We are not “covering” topics in any particular order; Carbon’s interests take the lead in his science studies.  My only direction is to help him maintain a science notebook, to teach the habits of careful observation, questioning, and record keeping.  One section in Hirsch’s list is Measurements, and that would be an excellent thing to encourage him to include in his notebook.  Perhaps I could get him a weather station or something else that would require lot of measurements.  Another section in Hirsch’s list is Stories About Scientists, and that would also be a nice thing to add to his read-aloud time.

In Summary:

Skimming through Hirsch’s book gave me a chance to be reminded of things I had forgotten to include in our 1st Grade plan.  I didn’t mean to leave these things out, but it reflects my own biases that things I am less interested in (poetry, visual arts) weren’t included.  It’s good to have a check against my own biases, so I’m glad I took the time to check this book out.  I need to add into the plan: poetry, visual arts, american history, measurements, and stories of scientists.

Things Hirsch leaves out:

Foreign Language. 

Home Economics/Shop/Life Skills

Physical Education and Health and Safety

Nature studies

Personal religious studies

Posted in Homeschooling and Education | 2 Comments

learning to relax

summer time in the yard

Summer – popcicles, sprinklers, and just trying to stay cool.  It’s a lazy time, but we are not a family properly set up for it.  I wanted this chair at IKEA, and DH’s first comment was “yes, but will you really use it?”.  I want to use it, but in the three weeks I’ve had it I have sat in it for less than 30 minutes. 

We are hard at work on a patio expansion, on the premise that if you build it, they will come.  Only in this case, the “they” is actually just me.  If I have a really lovely patio, with a “vacationy vibe” (as I saw described in a magazine at the doctor’ office), then I should be drawn to go outside and sit there.  I want to go outside and sit with a book.  That sounds lovely.  But I currently only rest in two locations: my bathtub and my bed.  A little fresh air and relaxation would do me good.

So, DH and I are digging and laying stone, and making our patio bigger.  We’ll move my hottub to a new location and then call in an electrician to hook it up right this time and fix it (it had a little electrical burn issue and has been out of order since Christmas).  I dream of also having a picnic table and a porch swing.

Yes, but will I use it?

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Sharing the love

Here are some recent blog posts that I’ve loved:

Start with a short, but idea-packed post, featuring a thought provoking quote,   “our willingness to reimagine” at Camp Creek Blog. 

Then, if you feel like some home-recycling, you could make a sunshade for your car out of juice pouches, with the hot seat at Betz White.

Expressing a common frustration of homeschoolers tired of explaining themselves, Homeschool Gardener asks “is there a synonym for homeschooling?”.

Reminding us all that it can be hard to accept our surroundings, Organic Sister wrote “doing, thinking, accepting, flowing”.

And, finally, just some super fun stuff that Angry Chicken really likes.

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The Dumps

Yesterday I had to run an errand that I never enjoy: I had to take a load of household goods to the landfill.  Pushing stuff out of a pick-up truck into big collection bins always makes me feel guilty.  Could I have saved it/reused it/recycled it/found someone else who wanted it?

goodbye, old sofa

Well, someone might have wanted this, if they hadn’t had to smell it!  A friend tagged along and stuck an old mattress in the truck too, and as we were pushing that stuff out of the truck we wondered out loud if we were doing the right thing.  I don’t know anything about the history of her mattress, but the thing looked pretty sad.  My sofa looked pretty sad, too.  But really – this sofa was a hand-me-down to us, and we used it for 6 years.  I had a home-daycare with kids jumping on this sofa, until the back broke.  It got a whole in it that filled up with toys and food bits and coins.  The fabric became food and dirt stained, and children and pets peed on it.  I washed it, mended it, tried to fix it, and finally a month ago, we couldn’t stand to sit on it anymore because it smelled too bad.  We actually sat on the floor in front of it for two weeks before we got a new one.

Did I do enough to “fix it, use it up, make it do, or do without”?  I did all I felt like I could do.

Goodbye, old sofa.

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From the archives – Last Child in the Woods

  • I originally posted this in February of 2007:
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  • I’ve got Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods out from the library, and I’ve kept it way overdue. It’s a very good, thought provoking book, and it speaks very eloquently of the need to bring nature back to childhood. In Louv’s analysis of childhood today, he finds five trends:

    1. a severance of the public and private mind from our food’s origin

    2. a disappearing line between machines, humans, and other animals (cyborgs, etc.)

    3. an increased intellectual understanding of our relationship with other animals

    4. the invasion of our cities by wild animals

    5. the rise of a new suburban form (one with even less open space and with covenants that keep people from having overgrown yards or gardens)

    Louv mentions John Dewey, and his warning not to overemphasize “secondary experience” in life or in education. I think that is a big part of the problem with the way we raise children now (and live ourselves). We just don’t get dirty enough. Everything is too removed, processed, artificial, or simulated. Even reading is a secondary experience – reading tons of books about knitting won’t teach you to knit and reading books about nature won’t replace going out and experiencing it first hand.

    Even when we are outside, so much of what we do is artificial. Playgrounds and sports fields replace natural settings, and we are left with fewer chances to observe wildlife or plants. Physical activity is important, and I don’t want to see it gone. But we need the garden and the woods and the meadow too. Louv cites a study that found that children in natural settings had more creative/”fantasy” play, while children in traditional school yard settings had hierarchical play based on physical competence (p. 87). I thought that was a very interesting idea, and it made me think about my own childhood play. My fondest memories of playing with my brother are all in forts we made in bushes, or when we were doing an “archaeological dig” in our backyard, or playing commando in a neighbors wooded lot. We were never tempted to play in the large open sports fields.

    Louv suggests that getting back into nature could fight the obesity problems we have now. In discussing the fearfulness that leads parents to restrict their children’s outdoor play: “so where is the greatest danger? Outdoors, in the woods and the fields? Or on the couch in front of the TV? A blanket wrapped too tightly has its own consequences” (p. 131).

    In education, we have a disconnect with the places that we live. We teach about the rainforest, and about climate change. But we don’t teach how to identify the local wildlife and plants, or how to live with those species. It’s hard for a child to want to save the environment if they don’t have some connection with it. Louv suggests a daring idea – that attachment theory applies as much to place as it does to people, and that we all need to feel rooted in a stable home.

    It’s very thought provoking, and it has inspired me to envision a space in my yard where the kids can build and make their own little forts, etc. It also reinforced my plans to study natural history with the kids, and to teach them identification, gardening, and hands on wilderness skills.

    One last quote: Emphasize opportunities for children to get their feet wet and their hands dirty … Yes, we need playing fields and skateboard parks, but put them where they belong, on already urbanized land – on multi-use school sites, for example. Prize the natural spaces and shorelines most of all, because once they’re gone, with rare exceptions they’re gone forever. In our bones, we need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chapparal, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience. Future generations, regardless of whatever recreation or sport is in vogue, will need nature all the more. p. 256.

    And once you are inspired to create a more natural, wonder-filled space for your children, this book will give you ideas and jump-start the process:

  • I love the photos in this book – I wish I had grown up in that garden!

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    Kitchen design

    It seems like the most complicated room to put together is a kitchen.  Getting the set up and the storage and the workspace just right is hard.  And people spend a lot of money on kitchens these days.

    I’ve been wanting to redo my kitchen, and I really do need to modernize it enough to fit a dishwasher into it somewhere.  But there are some other areas where I could spend a lot of money, or not.  The workspace is one of those areas of variable cost.  I have/had an unused wall in my kitchen, and I’ve been surfing the internet and checking out kitchen design books, trying to figure out what to do with that wall.

    A baker’s cabinet was an appealing option, but they range in cost from $1000 and up.  There are actual antiques, replica kits like this one, or gorgeous cupboards like this one from Plow and Hearth.  I’d love to have that cupboard in my kitchen, but it’s expensive.

    So I was reading Country Living Storage Style and they had lots of pictures of kitchens with open shelves and salvaged, funky cabinets.  It got me to thinking, about how I coud spend $1500 on that cupboard from Plow and Hearth, or I could hang some shelves above the wooden bench I already owned.  Practicality won out, and I spent a total of $55 on two big wicker baskets, two shelves, and the hardware to hang them, hooks, and a magnetic knife strip.

    I still need to buy more glass jars, but really – this is such a practical way to go here.  There are other places to spend money – like on a dishwasher.

    Posted in Domestic Bliss, Voluntary Simplicity | 3 Comments

    Kitchen love

    my latest kitchen set up

    new kitchen shelves

    I am loving this new set up in my kitchen – in fact I’m wondering what took me so long to put shelves on that wall.  I’ve got lots of hooks and a magnetic strip for knives, so that my tools can be right there where I work.  I’m putting all my flour and sugar and baking stuff in glass jars to go on the shelf, and the top shelf can store things I don’t use very often.  Down in the baskets I’ve got root vegetables and bags of pasta and rice.  I put the cat litter box and the worm bin in the corner, and then it occured to me that my card table would fit over the top of them, giving me another surface in there. 

    I love this work space in the kitchen!

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