Here is just a smattering of stuff that has happened since I last posted in September. Blogging has taken a backseat to life at this point, which is as it should be, I suppose.
School: We’ve been squeezing the more academic bits of school into the spaces of the day when Will sleeps or when we’re gathered together anyway (specifically mealtimes and bedtime). I find it especially helpful to associate certain things with mealtimes. We do morning prayers after breakfast, poetry at lunch, and bedtime math (using the iPhone app) with supper. We just finished up our study of Henri Matisse (we especially like the books Matisse: the King of Color, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, and Henri’s Scissors). Bea was particularly taken with Matisse’s colorful cut-out shapes and was inspired to try her hand at it on a couple different occasions. Adeline has been using Xtra Math for extra practice, which we both like. We recently watched Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and now the girls have taken a fancy to stop motion animation. We’ve attempted a couple little videos of their Lego people using our Nikon. Fun! But it sure is a time-consuming process!
Halloween: We had a monarch butterfly, a bumblebee (for the 2nd year in a row), and a tiny raccoon. When I asked Bea what she was going to be for Halloween, she said, “My bumble costume that’s my Halloween costume.” As though it is customary to wear the same costume every year. Actually, I rather like that idea…
Weather: Those mums and everything else in the garden is dead, thanks to the dip in temperature to 1 degree last week. Now we’ve got snow and grayness. The sun, when there is any, has begun to slant in across the living room floor and illuminate all the dust bunnies under the couch.
Other stuff: Jake built us a table! The baby is crawling! Adeline is about to turn seven! The girls are slowly taking over responsibility of their laundry!!! (Note which of those announcements rates three exclamation points.) And so much more that I’d like to share, but alas, time is not on my side. If I don’t hit publish now, this post is likely to linger til after Christmas, when none of this would really seem relevant anymore. So here it is, half-finished (like many of the projects in my life right now – mine and my family’s – most of which are piled on the kitchen counter).
“One way to neutralize [a child’s] fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing. Persuade a child that a giraffe he sees once every couple of years is really impressive, but the wren on the fence post is only a drab little bird- though he warbles out a love song in the morning, cocking his stubby tail, and is in general one of the bravest and most cheerful of birds. Persuade the child that the Grand Canyon is worth seeing, or Yellowstone National Park, or Mount Rushmore, or the breakers of the ocean on the Florida coast. But ignore the variations of hill and valley, river and pond, bare rock and rich bottom soil, in your own neighborhood.”
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
One thing I hope for my children is that they grow to love the world around them — and I mean “around them” quite literally. I want them to know what a rhinoceros is and be able to identify New Guinea on a map and to imagine what it might be like to live in the rain forest. But even more important, I want them to know, really know, the place they live in — and to know that this place on the prairie is just as full of fascinating and wonderful creatures as any tropical rain forest or African savanna.
And so this summer we’ve been working on identifying the trees, bugs, birds, flowers, weeds, and all manner of things that we find in our own backyard, or down the street, or at the lake. We’ve been using two wonderful books as inspiration: The Nature Connection and We Love Nature. We’ve observed the life stages of boxelder bugs and watched a black swallowtail caterpillar make a chrysalis on the backdoor frame. We now know more birds than ever (still using our favorite trusty bird guide) and are learning to identify some by their songs using this (so handy to have the Kindle edition on my phone!). My six year old can tell the difference between a honey locust, an American basswood, and a Russian olive tree (which is something I couldn’t do as a twenty-six year old). We are all learning together, and I’m just as fascinated by all this new knowledge as the girls. And nothing makes my heart swell like Adeline saying, “Mom, I heard a cardinal in the tree and then I saw two red admiral butterflies! What a lucky day!”
How we kept busy indoors this winter:
Adeline got really into making her own comics (templates here and here). She’s still using the techniques she learned from Ed Emberley’s thumbprint books.
This accordion turned out to be a very worthwhile Christmas gift.
Sometimes an impromptu photo shoot is a good way to pass the time.
Ed Emberley again — this time we were inspired by The Wing on a Flea to make pictures out of simple shapes (we printed some from here to cut out.)
I am in love with Mr. Printables. We’ve spent many hours printing, cutting, gluing, and playing with the wonderful creations there (including the dolls above and the calendar below). Cutting out and pasting all the elements onto her own calendar really helped Adeline understand how calendars are organized — but it was quite a lot of work, and February might be the only one we make this year!
Made by Joel is another site for great printables and inspiration.
We’ve been studying a bit of Shakespeare with the help of this great book, watching this animated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Adventures in Learning blog has some really fun ideas.
We “joined” the Dinosaur Train Nature Trackers club.
We’re loving the Willowbee Tree stories from Sparkle Stories.
Spring is nearly here and I feel as though we’ve been sprung from a cage. But in many ways our time indoors this winter has been full and pleasant, so I’d like to take a minute to record what we’ve been doing. I’m sure by next winter I’ll have forgotten most of these ideas and the links to them if I don’t write them down now, and perhaps you might find a little inspiration, too.
Adeline and I have been slowly working through Drawing with Children (an amazing book I learned of here), and during our last lesson Bea was more eager to join in than before. We collaborated on the above drawings (I drew the palm tree and the baby birds) and I must say it was wonderful to work with a child who is not as much of a . . . perfectionist as my other child is.
We’ve been studying Mary Cassatt and we made these parent and child drawings (Adeline’s is on the left, Bea’s are the two on the right).
We read a really sweet book about a girl who makes a butternut squash into her doll, at which point Beatrice decided to adopt the squash that had spent most of the winter on our kitchen counter as her own “Bernice.” She’s been with us for many weeks now, only slightly more soft and dented than she started out.
I was inspired by this post to get the girls involved in planning for this summer’s garden, and I was very surprised by their enthusiasm for the project. We spent well over an hour one night poring through seed catalogs and drawing up plans, only stopping reluctantly for bedtime.