Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ebbing and Flowing

It's been a satisfyingly productive week for us, both on the homeschool front AND on the garden front. The kids are settling very quickly into a rhythm that suits them, they're working industriously, and they're having fun with it. We just finished our first Read Aloud of the season: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Somehow we missed this one when we were doing the rest of the series last year. It's a great read, too; Laura makes Almanzo's childhood year sound enticing and delicious even with the realities of 5am wakeup calls, threatened whippings, lots of rules, and brutally hard work. And those Garth Williams pictures are enough to make anyone love Almanzo: there is one charming sketch of him, working his way stolidly through a big dinner, cheeks bulging and eyes closed in thoughtful contemplation. The twins are burning through the last of their Singapore 1 books (we got sidetracked easily last year), Max is working valiantly on the last of his Singapore 5 books (he has the Extra Practice and the Challenging Word Problems as well as the regular set books). We're finishing up our Botany studies and we've already had more than a few history days here: ancient Greeks, anyone?

I feel as though our stride is good so far, too. With history I've been slowing down the pace a bit, asking more questions, requiring more conversation and less written output, and I can tell already that it's more effective, even with Max (aka The Boy Who Is Heading Into Puberty And Can Sometimes Be Grouchy). Yesterday I played Hangman in an effort to liven up my quest for the word PEDIMENT, which we'd gone over the day before, albeit rather briefly. I hauled out our English From The Roots Up and went over the Latin root word PEDIS, then we examined all the derivatives coming out of that word (in more, err, obvious effort to jog their memories). The twins love all this stuff - their zest is infectious, too. Max loves it but hormones and mood swings sometimes get in the way. Heck, they get in my way sometimes. I understand, but he doesn't catch any breaks. (I think reading the entire Little House series has conditioned me more than I want to admit)

On my end, I've finally figured out how to teach the math Max is doing, calloo callay. Yes, you may all chuckle warmly and roll your eyes heavily, but I feel somewhat victorious here. Math used to be one of the subjects I left him to do on his own. He never had any troubles, and I had the twins clamouring for attention, so it seemed a natural peg to hang his independence on. Now it's getting far more complex and he's not able to whip through it so quickly, so I've had to revise. My new methodology is to work through the math first thing each morning (well, after Read Aloud, breakfast, and chores). Max reviews the chapter, does a few sample questions, then I check them. This way he hasn't whipped off the entire chapter before I have a chance to see if he's made any mistakes. If he's having trouble with a concept (or if I have absolutely no idea what he's supposed to do) I get him to work through the problem on the big white board we have hanging in the Family Room (aka the School Room). We work through a few related problems until we're both he's comprehending it. Next day, I write half a dozen of the same problems on the white board, so I he can refresh my his memory, then he moves on. Now why this took me 2 years to figure out I neither know nor care to examine too closely. (Sheila says as she pulls her few shreds of ruffled dignity closer around her shoulders)

On the garden front, I've been pulling in all the produce and either canning or freezing or drying it. I hauled in two buckets of basil leaves last night. They turned into a quart of pesto, in little bags for the freezer. One stayed out to liven up the chopped tomatoes we're having each night for dinner. Eight pounds of green tomatoes and six pounds of the tartest apples went into making a green tomato mincemeat this morning. And yes, I am only stirring it clockwise and yes, I will make sure we all eat a mince tart each day of the twelve days of Christmas. I canned some applesauce, juiced the windfall apples and spiked the resulting juice heavily with cardamon, allspice, and cloves for spiced apple jelly, made some kick-ass hot pepper jelly (great with cream cheese on a bagel), made jam with the plums, more blackberry jam and jelly (if you freeze the berries first, then thaw them in a bowl, they naturally separate into juice for jelly and pulp for jam), more salsa, a few jars of peach jam, dried some celery and green peppers, and then picked the rest of the raspberries. Then we went out and cut the acorn squash and ripe pumpkins and placed them on some straw in a sheltered sunny place to cure. And that's not counting the bread-making and muffin-baking going on around here. No wonder I'm going to bed tired.

Next week the Activities start up: swim lessons, gym drills, Lego League, Scouts, Beavers, and Brownies. I bought FDPG's new Brownie uniform on the weekend and she wore it ALL DAY, clutching her Brownie doll all the time. Is she excited? Methinks she is. Fun watching all that happy excitement, even if it did cost way too much $ to buy the damn uniform.

A friend was over for coffee yesterday, and we were musing back to our university days. I said "If you could zip back to that person back then, would you be surprised to see the person you are now? Would you believe it if someone told you that you'd be doing what you're doing?" We laughed a bit about the people we were then, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that I would never have believed I'd be doing what I'm doing now: stay at home parent, homeschooling, not to mention the Little House food storage/Victory Garden fixations. I'd have laughed that future-teller out of the room. Just goes to show you, doesn't it?

6 comments:

Shez said...

I know that feeling. I never had myself pegged as a stay at home, homeschooler. At 36 and didn't have myself pegged as a mother. Shows you how life changes. A scant 3 months ago I was adamant that I would never be a pet owner and now I make gaga eyes at my puppies.

sheila said...

Well, one of my claims to fame is my ability to make our cat purr without even TOUCHING him. Yes, envy me all you like - I can make him purr simply by talking to him. Not something I would ever do in public, of course, but it's a skill I've honed over many many hours. Good use of my time, I think.

Nicola said...

Love your long posts, Sheila, they make me want to come visit you and taste some of those lovely preserves from your garden.

sheila said...

Nicola, you are always welcome to visit!

Becky said...

You *have* been busy!

It's nice, though, isn't it, being able to admire (and feed your family from) all those jars and bags...

The university me would be blinking, shaking her head, taking yet another sip of drink, and exclaiming, "No, it just can't be" lol.

Vivian said...

How do you do this all? I'm in awe.