Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We're Off

Zach and I are off to soak up some beach bliss on our annual trip to see Miss T and her family. We will be back on Monday - shoes full of sand, pockets full of shells, spirits recharged.

Adios

Monday, September 28, 2009

Captain Curiosity



"Is time fast or slow?"
 
That is just one of the questions my little boy asked me recently over pancakes and apples. I love this age, this sweet time of pure, unsoiled curiosity about EVERYTHING. True, my head starts to spin sometimes when I am need a quiet moment and the questions are still flying at me. But in general, I just LOVE his point of view on the world around us. I love hearing him work things out in that head, I can see the smoke coming from his ears and hear the gears turning in his mind. He really wants to know. He's really, truly trying to work this whole life on planet earth thing out. Is there nothing more wonderful than that? In a world coated in apathy and saturated in instant information, the real time ponderings of a free range 5-year old are nothing short of nirvana to me.

Aside from making me laugh and smile and even consider things I never considered before -- it makes me remember as a parent that he truly interprets the world around us differently. It reminds me to be patient and consider his point of view. It forces me to realize that although he's been around for 5 years and although he's largely under my influence, he doesn't see things the way I do -- big things or little things, and I need to respect and nurture that.



Here are a few other musings of late -- I know your little ones ask the same sort of questions and have the same deep thoughts, post them in the comments, I'd love to hear their ideas!

I wish I was a rock, because then I could live forever, why does everything have to die? That doesn't seem fair.


I wish there was something that humans wouldn't kill. They almost kill everything.


I wish Buckminster Fuller ate his grow foods so he would be alive today and I could ask him all about making those round houses.


When will the earth die? Where will the earth die when it does? What will it look like when it dies? Will there still be something on earth or in this whole ocosystem (yes, OCO-system) that's still alive even is all the people are dead? Oh, and uh, will all of the stars when they die, will they always be up when the earth and the ocosystem dies?


Can germs get sick?


What's on the other end of the universe? How do you know when you get to the end of it?


Who was the first person on earth? He was here a long time ago, so he's probably dead, but he had to be smart to figure everything out by himself.


Why can't microscopic things grow bigger? Do they eat their grow foods?


Who rules the ocean?


Mommy I didn't know I had European blood in me! How did it get in there? Did some European sneeze on me?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Falling In

We've barely managed to drag ourselves indoors these days. The weather around here this time of year is nothing short of delicious. With a keen awareness of how fast it flees we've walked, beached, paddled, picked, big wheeled, wandered, and soaked up every minute outside possible. Slowly we've made the ritual transition of our wee indoor space from summer to fall. Summer books are set aside, fall reading is front and center (even the book nook got a fall make over by Zach and daddy).


The summer nature table has been bottled up, and the fall nature table is starting to take shape.





My silly boy is insisting on going to sleep in fleece footie pajamas even though it's still quite warm, and hot coco is the morning brew of choice (we make ours with raw whole milk, unsweetened organic coco, and honey -- a little "healthier" and less sweet).

It's not quite time to snuggle inside with a good book, but here are some favorite fall books for kids -- tell me some of your favorites too! We love hearing about new books!

Christopher's Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow
The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger
Woody, Hazel, and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow
Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow
We Gather Together by Wendy Pfeffer
Thanksgiving On Thursday (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Green Ship

All it took was one reading. I think we first discovered the book in the doctor's office waiting room, and I knew we had to find a copy to come home with us.

The Green Ship by Quentin Blake is a lovely little story book about two children who happen upon a garden trimmed out to look like a ship. It goes on to tell of their adventures on the Green Ship with the old lady who owns the garden.

Zach immediately decided a certain part of our marina gardens was the perfect Green Ship, and has since spent many, many, many happy hours there. There's a little tree to climb, a small trickle of water running through some rocks, and grasses galore to get lost in. Even his friends call it The Green Ship.



The other day he invited me aboard. I jumped at the chance to see in this special little world, since normally it's a kids only domain.


I was told about the crow's nest, and the engine room, and the captains cabin with a "view of the blue sky", and the poop deck, and the galley.


To my adult eyes it was a spider web entangled mess of shrubs and grass and overgrown flower beds. But in my heart I knew how special this little tour was.

After my tour I went back to my usual spot, outside the ship on a quilt, peering in from not too far.  My heart sings when I hear the little voices and little feet scurrying about in there, in their own world, on their own adventures, speaking their own language of childhood, in their Green Ship.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

All Summer In A Jar

Last summer when it came time to say goodbye to our summer nature table and start with our fall nature table things didn't go well.

You see our nature tables are primarily nature. I never quite saw the point in spending lots of money on carved figures representing the seasons when Mother Nature herself offers up the real deal for free. We have the odd home made gnome, or a wooden tree or animal from etsy, but rather than empty my pockets on the "perfect set", I let Zach empty his pockets to form our nature table. 



 But as Zach collected his treasures over the season, each one became precious. Each one had a story and a memory and a special place in his heart. Summer seems to offer up such a bounty of natural wonders from shells to turtle eggs to whelk egg cases to sea glass and exoskeletons of molting insects. What little boy could possibly toss these goodies back in to nature come mid-September?

So for summer we came up with the jar. We scoop the precious contents of our summer nature table into the jar, label it with the date and season, and set it up on the book shelf. I can't tell you how many times throughout the year he unscrews that jar lid and inspects his summer treasures. And always he carefully puts them back in the jar for safe keeping.


 
So as we officially welcome fall this week, we'll be adding the filling of the summer jar to our seasonal rhythm... how will you welcome fall?

Friday, September 18, 2009

First Week: Not-At-Home Schooling

One of the things I love about schooling at home is all the rich opportunities to leave home and explore. How lucky we are to live in an area where we have such fabulous resources and museums and culture at our feet. I can't imagine staying in one place all day, day after day, when the whole world and our local community beckons.

Our favorite local resource is SERC - the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. It's a gorgeous, waterfront, nature preserve that happens to offer amazing little homeschool classes taught by amazing, kid-friendly scientists for a very small cost (think, the price of a large latte).

Our "first week of school" we headed over to SERC for a morning of Colonial life fun. This was right up Zach's alley, my boy who has a deep love for all things "old timey" and even likes to wander antique stores now just for the heck of it. The kids learned how to make a compass and why compasses always point north.



They were reminded that there were no cameras in Colonial days, and the only way common folk had an image of themselves as children was through silhouette drawings (funny to these insanely documented blog-generation kids). They played hop scotch and read stories and make pinch pots out of clay.


That afternoon we gathered with some homeschool friends outside on a big quilt spread under an oak tree to continue the theme by making corn husk dolls.


Packs of ready to craft, dried out corn husks are available at the grocery store in the Latin American aisle (used for making tamales). It's about $5 for a HUGE bag of corn husks. There's no right or wrong way to make a corn husk doll. It's a nice, free form, creative endeavor. We layered about 4-5 sheets of husk and folded them over, tying the top off with strong or yarn to make the head. Zach wanted his to be a boy, so we cut up the middle of the bottom and tied off the ankles to make him look like he was wearing pants. You can roll another sheet or two of husk around the back of your doll and tie it on for arms, or carefully make a hole through the body with scissors and push a stick through.


The face can be made with markers, acorns, or even sewn with a really strong needle  and embroidery thread. Then you can dress your doll in scraps of cloth, add hair, bells, ribbon, lace, etc.


It didn't stop at dolls either. They made corn husk snakes, alligators, swords... how fabulous for the kids to use their own imaginations and their own two hands to create the playthings they wanted for the afternoon.


We are thinking of a little road trip to Colonial Williamsburg soon, plus Mount Vernon (George Washington's house) is right in our area. In a burst of enthusiasm he even spent a long morning grinding cinnamin sticks with  a mortar and pestle because, "that's how they did it in olden days when they needed it."

I love being able to see and touch and taste hear the things Zach is interested in. His passion is our curriculum. And the world is our classroom.



Some Colonial Reading for Kids:

Our Colonial Year
If You Lived in Colonial Times
Revolutionary War on Wednesday (Magic Tree House)
Colonial Days (games, crafts, & recipes)

Do you have any favorite Colonial books to add?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Week UN-scool: self directed

It's amazing what little ones will do when they are free to use their minds as they see fit. My sweet boy is what you would call a beginning reader... meaning he sounds outbasic 3-4 letter words. While I was busy with something-or-other during our "first week of school", he decided he wanted to practice reading. On his own. His reading material of choice? Cat in the Hat? Bob Books? Nooooo. The Map of the World.


My instinct was to jump in and say, "Honey, that's about the hardest thing there is to read. The letters for the countries follow completely different rules because the sounds are not always based on English and... well Kazakhstan is just going to tongue tie you!"

But I didn't. It took all I had to swallow my "wise words" and watch him try. I was ready for him to get mad at not being able to figure out the words he was looking at. I was ready for him to mess up. I was ready for him to give up.

I was not ready for him to start reading the words on the map. Brazil. Peru. Japan. Canada. Mexico. Columbia. Egypt. Sudan. Tanzania. India. Poland. Russia. Pakistan. Iran. Mali. Kenya. Somalia. Sri Lanka. And yes, Kazakhstan.

I also wasn't ready for him to start remembering where thse places were after reading them once. He started getting excited about how these places had meaning to him. It all started to click... "That's where Makenzie lives now!"... "That's where Magellan sailed his ships!"... "That's where sushi comes from!"... "That's where our people are from!"... "That's where the pyramids are!"... "That's where Neel's mommy is from!"... "That's where Ricardo lives!" And all I had to do was nod and smile and hold my tongue and once in a while say "That's right buddy, you got it!"

It's a good thing I was there to teach him what do to...

;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Week of UN-school

The first week of unschool is an oxymoron if you understand what unschooling is all about. Life learning never starts or ends. It's always happening from the womb to the grave. But with every other person asking Z when he was starting kindergarten and some of his school-going buddies starting this year, he decided he wanted to have an official "first day". So we planned a special week of fun to kick off our "Kindergarten Year".

At his request, our first day was spent here.

Aboard the USS Constellation. The Constellation was the last ALL SAIL war ship built by the US Navy. Launched in 1854 she carried a crew of 325 men and boys from the United States to the Mediterranean and Africa. They carried out everything from diplomatic missions, to deterring "commerce raiders" (a.k.a. pirates), to intercepting slave ships and freeing captured slaves. She runs 199 feet stem to stern and served the US Navy for 100 years.

We spent the afternoon...

...awestruck...
... at the "food" sailors had to eat...

... at the simplicity of the ship's surgeon's supplies...

... at the sleeping quarters.

We idled away the sunny day...

...drawing...

... talking all the while about what stood out to him, what he would change, what he wanted to remember...


We walked the decks...

...pondering...
... the power of the men who worked the rigging...

... the contents of the trunks packed for a transoceanic voyage...

... the life of the captain in his stately cabin and dining area...


He scurried around the ship...

...plotting...

... how to stow away and blend in...

... what it would be like as a "powder monkey" -- or ship's boy who helps the men load and blast the 16 canons on the gun deck...


We ended our visit...

...dreaming...
It was a good day.
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