Saturday, January 31, 2015

shifting gears

Transitions are so hard, aren't they? For as much promise of growth change holds, it is not always easy to roll with new plans or let go of disappointments. This is something I in particular am working on, as Dan could tell you...

We've had a couple days of snow this week - not a lot of snow, but enough to close the city schools and keep me from wanting to drive.  Which has meant cancelling plans with friends not once, but twice.  Monday we missed a mozarella-cheese-making birthday party and today some precious hours with our friends-in-the-woods.  My choice not to drive was not popular with either of the girls, but today they handled the disappointment with such grace.  I cleaned up from a late breakfast while they painted (Ani) and read (Eliza). By two o'clock the sun was shining and though it was incredibly cold, I coaxed them out on a mile's walk to the cafe on the river.  Our seats in the window felt like they were planted in a greenhouse, they were so warm, and we sat with our coffee and steamers, writing in our journals and soaking up the sun like we were lizards.  It was easy and so nice, being with these two loves.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

is there a typical day?

I enjoy checking in at the Simple Homeschool blog because, in addition to exposing me to new resources,  it reminds me that there are hundreds of different ways to live this life. They are currently featuring a series of "day in the life" posts from their frequent contributors, and have invited readers to link to their own posts in February. So here goes...

I had to take myself by surprise for this one.  Too much pressure to produce an exciting, full day otherwise, and we know how that goes (see meandering post here).  Today is Wednesday, and depending on how our Tuesday goes, this can be a slow, easy day, or a more normal get on a roll early and ride it till it's done kind of day.  I was exhausted by the end of yesterday, but our Monday was a bit of a derailment after a busy weekend, so I determined that I wanted today to be a bit more on track, if at all possible.  (What "on track" means varies, but this week I'd settle for some togetherness and a little juice, some new discoveries, creations, connections.)  

We started off well - no one slept in too late, though Eliza's been coughing still at night, poor bug. We breakfasted more or less together (Ani made her own eggs and toast), chatting with Dan while he made hummous before leaving for school. Tried to put in "kid laundry" (they do their own, together), but the neighbor who shares the laundry with us still had several loads in process, so we'll have to save that for tomorrow.

Ani's morning plan was to include piano and a bit of writing - maybe a note to her great grampa for his birthday? Or writing out the lines of verse we're all working on memorizing? Off she went to piano, and I joined her quickly with my cup of coffee. Eliza, meanwhile think she was reading. Or blogging. A bit of both.

Ani decided she wanted to paint at her desk while listening to Harry Potter V, so she did that for about an hour, while I went through old baby and kid clothes to see what I can pass on to my cousin whose baby is due in May (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!). 

I had lots of help from the girls with this one - they'd pop in and oooh and ahhh and "I remember this! I wore it while I was riding that turtle statue with Dad!" (Central Park Zoo, second birthday) It is bittersweet, sorting through these clothes.  It just doesn't seem that long ago that they were in rotation on my sweet babes.  I don't wish they were still little (well, not often), because life is pretty rich and full right now and don't say anything, but they are really getting along famously well these months and I am so grateful! But I wish I could visit their little selves once in a while. They were fantastic little beings in gorgeous clothing!

Mormor, she wants a new one of these, please!
I took a break to go downstairs and work through math with Eliza while getting lunch ready, and Ani came down with her verse written out and Eliza and I quizzed each other on our own memorization (first few lines of Oberon's speech, Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, sc i - we've got it down.)  I offered to read during lunch, and the girls chose Story of the World - about The First Emperor of China and the Great Wall - while we ate salad and hummous that Dan left for us.  Found an engaging video about The Great Wall that included footage of farmers creating a wall in the same way much of the wall was originally created, by framing a few feet of dirt and then tamping it down. They sang as they tamped, walking slowly in an oval, and it kept them all in rhythm together. That was pretty cool to see.

Ani got out the giant jenga blocks and the regular jenga blocks and started building a dam and a fortress and telling herself a story.  Eliza got on the computer to write some poetry and I went to put away the pile of baby clothes on my bed.  Our friend Savannah, who is moving to NYC this weekend (sob!) stopped by to bring a few books for the library and for us, and to sit and relax for a few minutes.  We all think so highly of her - she is an amazing, capable woman and a sweet friend.  I'm so happy to see her leaving our little town to explore the world, but we are going to miss her.

The girls and I had made a plan to get out in the sunshine before making dinner, so out we went to the bike path.  

It didn't take long before I was between the girls - one striding out ahead, and one lingering behind. When I finally caught up to Eliza, she asked why Ani was going so slowly, and I told her she was deep into telling a story, and Eliza grinned and said, "me too!" and went on to tell me her fantasy of living in Seattle when she is nineteen. Or maybe twenty.

We came home and drank steamers and they drew while I read Trumpet of the Swan and we warmed up. Oh my gosh we love this book. 

This turned out to be quite a relaxing day.  We made grilled cheese and tomato soup for supper, and with Dan at a potluck meeting the girls asked if we could watch an episode of Once Upon a Time, so we did and that brings us to now.  Dan is relaxing with his computer, I'm on mine, the cat is between us, and the girls are reading in their rooms (Ani is reading Wildwood and Eliza just finished reading the play The Revenge of the Space Pandas or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock by David Mamet.)

Somewhere in this day Ani also made a shadow puppet of a very large chipmunk, spent time looking at a huge book on dinosaurs and swept the kitchen floor because it was dirty.  I cleaned the bathroom, and actually mopped the floor, which unfortunately was dirtied by a cat within the hour. Ergh.  I had a chat on the phone with a dear friend, Eliza video-chatted her dear friend, and we added a few things to our timeline (Buddha. Gandhi.).  

Was this a typical day for us? It was not an unusual day, but tomorrow could look quite different, with more together (I've got mapping and drawing parabolas on my hopeful list tomorrow) or more apart (that reading thing, you know, it takes up a lot of time!).  What is typical is that we are generally here in the mornings and out in the afternoon, and we try to anchor some together exploration over lunch, which sometimes looks like reading aloud and sometimes Bill Nye or a documentary or trying out Visual Latin on youtube, or there is always Vi Hart luring get the idea. It is in my nature to have many lists to guide me, and remind me of where I'd like to take us in the day, and it is also in my nature to throw lists to the wind if something else is working and engaging us...and I am deeply grateful for the freedom to do so.

I try to write this kind of post once in a while, as a reminder to myself of the how of our days at different ages.  If you want to read through any of those from the past, click on the "the daily do" tag at the verrrrrrrrrrrrrry bottom of the page.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Little Library check-in

(If I manage to write this blog post it will be a minor miracle.  Dan is listening to Philip Glass' Einstein on the Beach while simultaneously playing a clip from The Brady Bunch.  He is giggling, and I think my head might explode...)

I watched someone approach our house today, through the kitchen window, and I panicked for a moment, wondering, "Are they going to knock on the door? Are they going to talk to me about God? It is Sunday afterall..." but they were just checking the little library! I saw my first stranger taking a book this week, too.  I'm not exactly spying, but I was sitting at the desk and heard the creak of the door, and peeked outside to see a young woman I don't know taking a book and continuing down the street...Hee hee!! So happy. (It was a book I thought about borrowing myself - The Devil in the White City - but I hesitated too long and there it went. I have been thinking I need to shore up some good trash to make it through February, so maybe that's why Twilight has suddenly appeared...Coincidence or manifestation? You decide.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

metaphorical waves...

After our easy and flowy day of reading, drawing, watching animated Shakespeare, learning some lines, and making waves together, I was feeling so good.  It was that perfect balance of productivity and spontaneity, where I had some loose ideas of what we could do with the day - Wednesday is the day after a long homeschool coop day, and we often need it to be open for recooperation - but I didn't feel attached to the outcome.  Of course, when it did turn out so well, I felt boosted, affirmed, accomplished, capable...So you can imagine how yesterday went, right? By 5:00, when I met with my friend Jen (for a massage - the very best part of my day for sure!) she took one look at me and said, "Ohhhh, you're paying for your good day, aren't you?!!"  I was.  I do this on a regular basis: ride the high, feeling very attached to what I see as the successes of the day, only to begin the next day with even higher expectations, so when we have a normal day - that is, with its own ups and downs and unpredictability - I fall hard.  It wasn't even that it was such a horrible day, but without the magical flow, I felt defeated and exhausted by its end.

Here comes the wave part.  One of the things I grocked the other day looking at waves was how it is energy moving through matter that is the wave - not matter being moved along.  Does that make sense? The image that did it for me was of a boat floating on the water. A wave comes along and obviously the boat moves, but it moves up and down, ending up in pretty much the same spot, while the wave moves on towards the beach.  The visual I saw showed the boat making little circles up, around, and down, while the big waves moved on past.

Do you see where this is going? I would like to be more like the boat, or a particle experiencing the wave, but not to be caught in the wave.  I would like to feel grounded enough so that my experience of the days does not push me greatly in one or another direction but merely moves through me.  What this mostly means is not getting so attached to the great days because it makes the less-than-great days seems so much worse than they really are.  

I lay there during my massage, thinking through my day and listing all of the great things that had actually happened.  I think of myself as a fairly positive person, but man, can I wallow in the bad moments. Listing the good stuff in my mind - sitting with Ani as we worked really slowly through our map drawings of Greece; holding my tongue when what I was going to offer after piano lesson was unhelpful criticism, not support; snuggling on the couch after dinner to watch one more wave video (Bill Nye, dontcha know); having a little energy left at bedtime to sit with each girl for a while as they each recounted the current happenings in their bedtime readings - put the day in perspective.

We have also been reading about Buddhism, and unattachment, which I've never really understood, but with the pinging about of ideas and connections (which is the juiciest way for the days to unfold) - from waves to parenting to learning to Buddhism and back again - I am getting a little closer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

making waves

Well, I'm going to call it "science" but really it was playing with "kabobs and jellybabies" and eating more gummy bears than you'd find us with on a normal day (Ani favors the citrus, Eliza the orange, and I like the white ones, whatever they're supposed to be).  Ani's taken to staying home to read while I run errands, but today she was incredulous that buying candy and skewers was top of my list, so I had company.  The cashier also got a preview of the day's events. "A wave machine, made from three elements: duct tape (which she says with distinct "t's" which I find fascinating, but she caught me today listening too closely and she asked, are you listening to me saying duct tape?), skewers and gummy bears!"  That about sums it all up.

Isn't it so pleasing? We played with it for a long time, making big ripples, and making it go for a video to send a friend.  We liked the spiny structure of it, the bony skewers with their colorful gem tips.

We also found this PBS animation online, which gave us some more information and good visuals about waves. It was a happy way to spend the afternoon...

Monday, January 19, 2015

the week

Last week was our first week consciously trying to fit a few things into our days - you know, something other than watching Dr. Who and reading Garfield.  We get bucketloads of that...So, sometimes my suggestions of things to do are a hit and sometimes they are a bit of a flop. I'm trying to come up with some ways to play with math that will appeal to Eliza - I'm looking for a hook, an in. She has a grasp of basic functions but does not enjoy math at all, finds it intimidating and horrible. One approach to this would be to just focus on the math that comes up, which is a lot of what we do: measuring, figuring out finances, etc.  Another approach would be to pile on the math, which doesn't really make sense to me. Hate math? We must not be doing enough of it!! 

My brother-in-law, who has a keen interest in how and what we are doing around here, being an avid learner himself, thinks the "in" might be geometry, appealing to the artist in her.  I mostly want it to be playful and interesting.  I do ask myself (an echo of my daughter), why is it important that she work on math? My answers vary.  One, I think it is good to challenge and stretch your brain and know a little about a lot of things.  Math is like gymnastics for your mind.  I think it can also deepen appreciation of art, architecture, science, and even history, understanding how people saw and thought about the world hundreds of years ago.  The reason that we keep plugging away at our math program (Teaching Textbooks - terrible name, fine program), to varying degrees of satisfaction, is that we are required, as registered homeschoolers, to provide evidence of progress and learning. Ugh. This does not feel like a real reason, but there it looms.  My solution just now is to do a little of the lessons - one or two a week - to keep a hold on the things that have been learned, and to find what else is out there to play with. 

This week it was a Vi Hart video about snowflakes, which lead to some snowflake cutting, of course. We also played a little Euclid The Game, but got stuck early on and it just didn't catch on. Another day, perhaps.  Ani wanted to make another times table and was really enjoying the patterns, especially in the nines, which she and I are rather enamored of right now.  I've also picked up a book called The Adventures of Penrose, The Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas that she and I are reading through.

Math came up while were reading the materials that came with Mapping the World with Art (Ellen McHenry's Basement). There is a brief chapter with each drawing activity, focusing on the history of mapping.  The first lesson talked about how people actually figured out that the earth was more or less spherical a very long time ago. The second lesson talked about Strabo, the ancient Greek geographer, and Eratosthenes, the mathematician and geographer who figured out the circumference of the earth.  Math!  Ani and I had come across Eratosthenes earlier, reading The Number Devil, and played with his "sieve" of prime numbers.  (Wow. That sounds pretty geeky. Math geeky. Me. HA!)

Ani's Nile
Mesopotamia by Ani
We started back with the homeschool coop this week - no it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating - and the girls seem excited about their classes.  Eliza is taking a fashion/sewing class and spent the next day and several hours since at her machine.  We've been moving things around in her room trying to take advantage of the light and clear things out a bit.  She is feeling so proud and happy about her space...

...and having a friend come down from Columbus for the weekend was good incentive to keep it looking good!  

That brings us to the weekend! It was gorgeous. Spring gorgeous. Dan and Ani and took a couple hours to walk down the bikepath and around across the river.  Bluebirds, Pileated woodpeckers, blue beautiful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

our solstice calendar

I've been wanting to make an advent-type calendar for years, but I never remember to do it until it feels like too big a project to accomplish in time.  I've drooled over Annie's embroidered felt solstice calendar, loving the native landscape it depicts and the beautiful handwork that went into it.  This year I missed my deadline again, but on the night of December 1 I decided to go for it anyway, exchanging the medium of felt for paper and letting it evolve as we moved deeper into the season. My kids have already asked if we could do this at all of the cardinal points of the year - the equinoxes and solstices - so I think it was a success!  (bear with the dismal photographs - inside and dull paper colors made it really challenging for me, but you get the idea)

It started pretty empty - some bare trees and a log.  The first couple of days the girls found mushrooms (of course) and weeds, and a few little animals...

...a moon on the full moon, and an owl to appreciate the moon...and a couple of my favorites, the underground dwellers, a field mouse in its burrow and the vertebrae of a snake that never quite made it to its wintertime meal...

Every day the girls took turns pulling a new detail from a pocket and deciding where it should go in the scene, and glueing it on.  I loved the collaborative art aspect of it, and I would listen to them talk about what was happening in the scene and figure out what should maybe come next..."a red bird, bringing decorations of some kind to the tree!" or "I hope it snows soon!" It's been a lovely way to celebrate the changing of the seasons...

Monday, January 12, 2015

date night shenanigans

Have you ever wondered what happens at home while you're out on a date? I picked up my camera yesterday and found photographic evidence of a Friday evening that our kids enjoyed IMMENSELY by the look of things, with our friends Sarah and Ellie...See for yourselves...
the culprits
some kitchen magic?
assessing the pizzas, shaped like Africa and Australia

There is video, but this gives you a good idea of the massive lovefest that took place while we got a bite to eat and sat in the dark watching a movie...Love when your special night out is really just getting out of the way for a special night at home. Lucky girls...