Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ruminating in Week 3 of School

Today we were doing a thing I hate to do (school in the car). Ezra was reading School of the Woods, and suddenly said in his kind of strident, fixated tone, "When was this book published?" He checked- 1902. Then he read another minute and in a more strident tone asked, "Where did this supposedly happen?" I said I had felt like it could have been France. And so on.

The point is, in reading this chapter, his puzzle mind turned on and he began drawing in what he knows from a variety of places, and before too much longer, he was certain the author must have lived in New England or Canada. When we got home, we checked, and he lived in Maine and Nova Scotia. And that is one of the ways Ezra is very smart.

As an observer, I then reflected on the girls' special kinds of smart. Ezra's happens to wow me pretty easily because it is not the way I am smart, but I am aware of the gifts of all three children. And the third week of school is a good time to notice the ones that have an academic use.

Phaedra has a will force that can devastate. This certainly presents a few difficulties, but it means that once she has committed to do something- multiplying fractions or punching her brother- she will see it through. Add to this her clever hands and you have a seamstress and a designer. Phaedra can also use these skills to transfer her many well-formed opinions to paper.

Sylvie's academic side is only a bud, just barely opening. Still, I can see that in the same way she leaps from one physical challenge to the next, she is undaunted by any new territory in math or reading or drawing or music. She only wants to know if she has reached the highest peak.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Outdoor Hours 2 and 3

Last week, we looked at trees. Part of what we were doing was our art lesson, but I enjoyed hearing what my children had to say about trees. Each of them has a favorite- Ezra likes the big maple, Phaedra likes a birch grove, and Sylvie likes a particular beech tree near the back pasture. Each detested the assignment to draw their favorite tree. Another outdoor hour bites the dust.

Today, we just took a walk, I had another art assignment in mind, but I'm a little sick and more flexible for it. So, as we walked, we found deer tracks close to the orchard. They were easy to see in the open dirt left by the excavator that was here last week working on our new spring line. I started checking trees for the signs of deer browsing. I went immediately from lover of nature to neophyte orchardist pissed at Bambi.

The good news is the deer have thus far only been eating the crabapple trees. One must wonder how long that will last. Maybe I'll put up pretend electric fence.

Anyway, back to lover of nature: We found places in the golden rod and asters and fleabane where the deer had bedded down. And we looked at the places they had nibbled. Then, we came back inside and read a little about deer. The girls drew pictures, and Ezra just listened. Round three did go better.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Outdoor Hour 1

I have tried repeatedly to include a regular nature study in our homeschool curriculum. One thing I confront is my belief that the best way to learn abut nature is to have free time outside. The other recurrent problem is that we are often DONE with school before I feel like I have time to do a nature walk. Now, I'm trying this outdoor hour challenge to see if I can follow someone else into the great outdoors for a more deliberate look at nature.

Our walk today took us into the pasture. We have had lots of rain recently, and what the children immediately noticed was that we have lots of mushrooms and lots of different types. We talked about why there are so many and then we talked about how careful one must be with mushrooms. Then, we gathered as many different kinds as we could find.

We brought them into the house and laid out the ones we thought might make a mushroom print. We pulled out our mushroom field guide and tried to identify a couple of them. We washed our hands, as at least one of them looked like a poisonous variety.  Lastly, we took out Handbook of Nature Study and read just a little about mushrooms.

I felt some disappointment that the children were completely done by this point. I feel this each time I try this, because I keep thinking i must be doing something wrong. Other times, I've forced the issue a bit. This time, I want to be more "go with the flow", because even little short lessons like this are better than nothing. And nothing is what we get when I push too hard.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just a funny Story

I was washing dishes the other day when Sylvie joined me. She told me about the adoption of her Chinese baby (doll). She told me how the baby's mother had four babies, but only liked one of them, so she gave the rest away (cringe!). She was going on and on when Ezra walked in and said, "Why didn't the mother quit having babies if she didn't want them?"

Sylvie said, "You can't just not have babies!"

I tried to quell the argument, because there are things my 11 year old knows that I'm not ready for my 6 year old to know. Ezra toned down what he was saying, but continued to insist that the mother could NOT have had a baby if she chose. I washed dishes with ears alert.

Then Sylvie shouted, "I know ONE way for a lady to not have babies!" My entire body tensed as thoughts raced through my head like, who taught my six year old about abstinence!

Then she said, "You just have to marry another woman!"

I relaxed. That's a good enough answer for now; I'll explain better to her later.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Last Saturday, I went out to putter about in the garden. I haven't been able to spend the kind of time out there that makes it look tended, and I was finally able to give a couple of hours to all those little tasks that do not HAVE to be done, but the garden is happier for it. I started at the beans, which just do not get eaten at our house. Phaedra was picking cucumbers, and said, "That tomato has blight."

I cannot remember if I wrote about blight last year, but it's a big deal. You pick tomatoes one day from healthy plant, and the next day they look like they have black mold on their stems and the fruit is rotting on the vine. To top it off, it effects potatoes, too. (Remember that Irish potato famine?)

I sent Phaedra in to get Jason, and we started pulling all the tomatoes out of the garden and putting them in the compost. We picked the fruit that was not too green and not spotty. We checked the potatoes and they looked fine. And then it was time for our dinner company to arrive.

The next day, a hurricane blew through our neck of the woods. It was the sort of rain that kept a body inside, so I did nothing about the potatoes.

Monday dawned clear and cool and clean. I spent the day dreading the task of digging potatoes. I placed calls to a couple of people who might be able to tell me whether there was any point. By late afternoon, I called the girls and we began digging potatoes.

It turned out to be really great. We cleared the potato patch and put maybe 100 pounds of potatoes in the basement. The potatoes all looked fine, but it was better to be safe, because the blight will rot the potatoes in the ground if there is a living plant still above the ground.

Today, I discovered blight in the greenhouse. The good news is that we are done with tomatoes. We have 80 quarts put up for winter. We gave one friend 15 pounds the other day, and another friend came to do the final picking today. She took home maybe 40 pounds of tomatoes that all looked pretty good. There was only a plant or two showing the first marks of blight, and all the fruit still looked good. Her plan was to process tomatoes today, so that should work.

I just have to clear put the greenhouse and find out what to do about the blight in there next year. I know it can stay in the soil. I'll have all winter to ponder that. It's time to turn our attention to tidying things and mulching to carry them through winter. Also, we have no applesauce in the larder. The list keeps going, but at least we know what's on it this year.