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Monday, September 29, 2014

People-Powered


Today we got where we were going by people-power.  The boys have been lobbying for a while to ride our bikes to a town 6 miles from us, where we do a lot of this and that.  They learned to ride their two-wheelers early this summer and have since been tearing around the yard and woods and riding the long driveway/road across the street from us.

The issue wasn't really a question of whether they'd be up for the ride or not.  They've got reserves of energy that never fail to amaze me.  And it wasn't a lack of interest on Jim's and my part; we thought it was a great idea.  The problem is that we live on a very busy main road with a high speed limit and not much shoulder room for bikes.  And I didn't have a helmet (I can't actually remember the last time I rode a bike?  Maybe before G & D were born?).

But for my birthday I got a helmet!  And we decided we could walk our bikes the half mile or so until we could turn onto a much quieter, slower road.  So we did it.  It took us about 6 times as long to get where we were headed, (twice as long on the -uphill- way back).  But what a great experience!

There were any number of things that we were able to notice that we wouldn't have - or not in the same way - in a car.  It was a beautiful day, and we got to be fully out in it.  Our bodies felt good and strong and alive (and sore...).  We had the time to realize how many people we know who live along the route we took - and to stop to visit some.

And speaking of people - that was maybe the biggest surprise for me of our ride: biking is so much more friendly than riding in a car.  We passed by other folks biking or walking along the road, or folks working in their yards and exchanged greetings.  We noticed the drivers who were kind enough to give us a wide berth and acknowledged them with thanks.

As we were riding back, and being challenged by the hills, D & I were lagging a bit behind, and were talking about how nice it was, and how proud of ourselves we felt - for making it happen in the first place, for keeping on peddling and using our bodies to get us where we needed to go.

I wish that this could be a more regular thing: we live just a mile or two from a grocery store, and within half a dozen miles of pretty much all the basic places we'd need to go.  Unfortunately this road we live on is an obstacle.  At least for the time being.  But obstacles can be maneuvered, now and again, a reminder of the power we have - literally and figuratively - to get us where we need and want to be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Birthday Chicks


Ok, so they're not really related, but it was this morning, on my birthday, that I got my first glimpse of our little puffballs of chicks.  For some reason they didn't make it all the way to our post office yesterday, so we got a call from the main branch about a half hour away that they had chicks waiting.  So last night Jim headed down to pick them up.  They made it through their first night just fine, 27 surprisingly loud peeping chicks.  It is hard to believe the mammoth meat birds they will come is hidden under that down.

For now they are tucked into the shed, in an unused plastic boat sandbox.  It won't be long until they are bursting at the seams there, and it will be out to a fenced area in the yard.  This is not our favorite endeavor, raising meat birds.  But because we eat meat, we'd rather do the work if we're able, to know it was raised well.  And it is just one more way we can become a part of the cycle, rather than separate from it.  Present, and aware: of the cute chicks that just fill pint-sized hands, the care that is needed, and the work required to provide the meat that will fill our plates and our freezer for the winter to come.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Patience


I'm reading Ben Hewitt's new book, Home Grown and really enjoying it.  Just like his other books, this one is a very enjoyable and quick read, while also being full of good ideas to mull over.

We don't unschool, though I've mentioned before that the more time we spend homeschooling, the more I lean that way.  But one of the reasons I love this choice so much is the freedom it gives our boys to just be boys.  There is no anxious rush to fill them full of facts.  No need to force any skills they're not ready for yet.  Ben Hewitt says it this way:
Which is to say, we wanted them to have less guidance than school would provide; we wanted them to experience a degree of freedom and simple playfulness that is increasingly imperiled in modern America.  In short, we wanted our kids to be kids, to develop and learn at their own pace, and in their own style.
G & D don't read yet.  And they're probably "behind" in math, too.  And that's fine.  There are a whole lot of things they do know how to do, or they do get to do because of this choice we've made.  We get to take our time, and as we do, connections happen, and moments of understanding. 

When I look at the public education system today (the system, not the teachers), I see this big knot of anxious urgency.  Anxiety that our kids will be "behind!" (behind what?).  Urgency to "makeitallbetter!" right away.

People generally and consistently guess the ages of the boys to be younger than they are.  And when they're next to other more "mainstream" kids their age, they do seem younger: more open, more playful, more curious.  That's a total generalization, but I've seen it play out many times.

Today I felt deeply grateful for the gift this path is for us - for me, for G & D - as I read them a story to review some basic math work, as I listened to them completely absorbed in their play, and as I called "'bye" to them as they ran out the door into the fall afternoon.  It is the opposite of that anxious urgency (not that it doesn't come with its own anxieties sometimes).  It is patience, and it is listening, learning to wait and see, and to trust in the process.  To trust in them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Familiar but New

D working on de-husking walnuts he & G gathered from the woods ~ so much to learn just by doing and being fully engaged... so much they discover all on their own.

Yesterday was our first "official" day of homeschool for the school year.  It happened to be the first day of autumn, too, which was unplanned, but serendipitous. 

It feels awkward to me to declare an official "first day of school" - just the same as it felt arbitrary to declare a "last day of school" three or so months ago.  As if learning has an on/off switch.  Obviously it doesn't, and there are practical reasons (much needed reasons) to take a bit of a break from anything structured.  All the same, I hesitate to create those lines in the boys' minds.  I find as more time passes that we're homeschooling, I'm leaning more and more toward a very unstructured kind of learning. 

I have to admit I was a little nervous to see what the boys' reaction would be to starting "school" again.  Every so often as the public school year was starting, someone or other would ask D & G "so are you excited to start school again?!"  To which their usual response was a half-hearted, questioning "yeah" as they looked sideways at me.  To my relief, it was a good start when it came.

Coming from the Waldorf tradition, and with Michaelmas next week, I decided to start there - a good story of strength and light and courage.  I couldn't find any story that seemed right, so I ended up writing my own.  We read that and let it sit while we took a (rushed - that transition time chaos of finding our groove) nature walk around the yard to see what signs of fall we could notice then they drew a fall picture in their nature journals while I cooked up some lunch.

Simple.  And enough.  Easing into it & finding our way into the familiar rhythm that is also new: new stories, new routines and structures to our days.  New abilities and responsibilities.  And the constants that stay with us all through the year.

And speaking of constants, it is time for some morning reading...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Through Chaos to Rhythm


Transition times are chaotic.  I like to believe they can be smooth, and some do slide along more smoothly than others.  But I was thinking today that it's not really fair to expect transitions to be seamless and easy, and that's ok (regardless of how it feels).  The more I remind myself of this, the better.

I am in the midst of that mild chaos right now.  Transitioning from being away, then home, then away, and now back home to stay for a while.  Transitioning to a new homeschool year; from laid back summer time to more scheduled, structured fall time.  Big transitions and everyday ones.

It all feels familiar and at the same time new and uncharted.  There is a worn-in rhythm waiting on the other side of the turbulence, but maybe the deal is that it takes the steady and determined steps through that turbulence to do the wearing-in, in the first place.


~ An essay of mine about how we are raising the boys to be makers of things was published today in the new Autumn issue of Grounded Magazine.  It looks to be a great issue, if you're interested to take a look! ~

Monday, September 8, 2014

Making




Just a little bit of (finished) making that has been happening around here.  Simple little things.

pick up sticks and a set of checkers pieces (of which, in the last minute rush to wrap them up, I forgot to take a picture) as a birthday present for a good friend of G & D's.  We made the checkers pieces out of some slices of a maple branch that Jim had cut and I had sanded to use for a different project ~ but they were just right.  A little paint, a little beeswax polish, and they were ready to go.  The pick up sticks game we made by cutting bamboo skewers in half, rounding the ends & sanding, then painting with a bit of acrylic paint.  I ended up having to sand them lightly again, as the paint went on a bit globby, but they turned out very nice and was an easy, fun project for the boys.  Plus, they made a set for themselves at the same time, so now they get to enjoy the fun.

little notebooks for myself because I can never have too many notebooks... One will be a journal for a class I'll be taking soon, the other to carry with me for jotting down writing notes as they come.

an apron for myself spurred on by a materials list for another class I'll be taking.  This was one of those projects where my motivation was not the best and I really should have bagged it.  To be honest, I could have just used an old shirt.  But do you ever - like me - get it in your head that you've got to do something "special"?  Something that will "show off" your creativity?  Make you feel "in the club"?  Cooler than just an old shirt?  Ok.  So that was this project for me.  And though there were many times I could have (and perhaps should have) thrown up my hands in defeat, I am stubborn, and so on I kept, even though my first "this will be perfect!" idea fell completely apart.  So, simplified by half, for better or worse, I now have a new apron for messy, non-cooking projects, and my stubbornness has been appeased.

I'll be away for the rest of the week ~ I hope you have a good one!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Late Summer Garden



This year we've had our best garden since moving to this house five years ago.  We really struggled to get it going, starting from scratch.  There have been some successes here and there, but this year we've had some momentum, some luck, and a few years of preparations behind us.

Usually we get to a point where the weeds take over, and all hope is lost.  But this year we've been keeping up well enough that it has mostly been manageable (except for a few areas that were sacrificed for the good of the rest).  We've been harvesting quite a bit, and have managed to have some meals made almost entirely from food we grew or raised.  Simple, but exciting nonetheless!

For the first time, we've managed to do some replacement planting - putting in beans and carrots in place of peas, and spinach and radishes in place of beans.  Not everything has come up - the carrots have been very patchy, and the spinach never made it up at all.  But I'm thrilled with the simple act of planting.  It is a step.

There was an "L" shaped area around the garden, outside the fence that had been tilled at one point, but this year had grown up entirely in shoulder-high weeds.  Jim recently cut those down, tilled the area and planted red clover seed.  The little sprouts are starting to peek up, and we're crossing our fingers it will come up strong and have a chance to blossom before the cold sets in.  The hope is to provide food for the bees, tea herbs for me, and some good green manure for the soil.

In the course of prepping that area, Jim also moved some poor neglected asparagus plants that had survived several years of weedy overgrowth, to a new home in a cleaned out bed by the patio.  They've almost all sent up new shoots, so hopefully we'll be back on track for a good asparagus patch.

There is some non-plant beauty to be found in and about the garden, too.  For a little while we had an indigo bunting that would visit every day to feast on the weed seeds in one of the neglected patches.  The bees have been feasting on the oregano blossoms.  It has even been the backdrop to a homemade concert or two, as well.

There's a long way to go to where we dream of it being, but of course that's the way it is with gardens - and there's always next year.