Monday, November 21, 2011

a hat for uli

one of our very favorite little friends in all the world had a 5th birthday recently! uli has a very distinct sense of style & sense of self, and i wanted to make a special hat that suited her.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


yesterday was a tough day. today, we made what used to be the play room into our designated "school room". i'm feeling better already.

i've also had time to reflect on the difficulties i was having with the house & not feeling like we could have school in a chaotic environment. and the answer i came up with is the answer i come up with to so many perceived difficulties in my life - go outside. next time i am having a day where i feel like i'm up against the wall and nothing is going right, we are going outside. we are so lucky to live in this beautiful place, we could go to the ocean, or the forest, or the mountains, or all 3 in one day. how could that not put things in perspective? i always feel better when i go outside, it doesn't really matter what the weather is like. and i know for a fact the kids will play by the ocean in the pouring rain and be happy for it. and the educational part is a life lesson. when all else fails, go outside.

Monday, October 31, 2011


when i decided to blog about our homeschooling experience, i wanted to be completely honest about the whole thing. well, i'm really struggling, in several aspects, with our schooling. when we made the decision to homeschool, i was enthused. but there were a few things that i was nervous about - mainly, where schooling and family dynamics collide.

our children are very imaginative, they love to create little worlds and to make art and we allow them a lot of freedom in that. however, with four of them working together, they can make a room look like a bomb went off in all of 5 minutes. a mess that takes literally close to an hour to clean up (give or take, depending on who's helping). our 10 year old & 6 year old girls have an obsession with tearing paper of any kind (including kleenex & toilet paper) into teeny tiny pieces. it may be food for the dollhouse, or blankets for the dolls, & it ends up all over the floor, the furniture, everywhere! and even though i've told them many times not to tear up paper, it's like they just can't help themselves. i really think they are obsessed with it.

this being the case, having them here in the house all day every day doesn't leave any time for cleaning up. i am behind in laundry (as in, if i'm realistic, i probably have 15 loads of laundry in the wings, at the very least), the kitchen is always in disarray, the kids rooms are a disaster, our room is a disaster, the play room is unrecognizable as such. i'm the type of person who feels most creative & motivated by an clean, organized environment. when my surroundings are a mess, it's hard for me to function. when my kids were in public school, i could use that time to keep things at least maintained. now, i don't know how or when to get things to where i can feel sane. we don't have any family here to take the kids for a few hours, or a day, so that i can do housework. it's too much to ask of friends (and anyway there are only 2 friends i would even dare ask, and they both work). i find that during the time when we need to be having school, i'm doing housework. and then the day is almost over, and we haven't done school. not good!

how do homeschooling families get the time for keeping up their homes? many homeschooling families are large families like my own, so i know i'm not the first and only person to struggle with this. i don't know how to be organized about lessons in such a chaotic environment.

today, i want to run away.

Friday, September 9, 2011

worker bee

here is a photo of amalie, my little worker bee. we have already ascertained that our oak meadow curriculum isn't quite enough straight-up "work" for her, so i dug into the collection of workbooks we have from over the years to give her something to do when she's done with her assignments & waiting for me to give instruction for what comes next. today we are being kind of relaxed about school, and she chose to do a workbook on letter writing. she will most likely complete this entire workbook by lunchtime. it makes her happy.

earlier while all 4 kids were at the table working, 2-year old aven with her papers and crayons said to alia, "alia are you learning? yeah, we are learning. just so you know, we WILL learn this stuff!"

paul's first day of being the kid's teacher went well. he was pretty stressed about it, and told me he didn't think it went very well. but when i asked the kids how it went, they all had only wonderful things to say. "daddy's a great teacher!", they all agreed. :)

over the last few days, we have had so much going on, my head is spinning. being new to the homeschooling, i didn't realize how much goes on in terms of orientation/back-to-school type activities for homeschool groups. i'm pretty sure the veteran families aren't starting school until next week. here we are trying to have school & attend these activities, juggle a really crazy evening soccer practice schedule, as well as the work schedules. next year we'll be in the know.

wednesday night we attended an open house/orientation for the waldorf homeschool cooperative, where alek & alia are taking a spanish enrichment class, and amalie will be going for 2 1/2 hours every wednesday and friday. it was a very nice atmosphere, and there were so many nice families there, i'm excited for us to be a part of that group. then yesterday morning we attended the back-to-school kickoff for the skagit family learning center (the public school system's homeschoolers school) downtown at the lincoln theater. they had "the reptile man" do his presentation, which is always awesome. did you know that an alligator never stops growing? and they can live to be up to 100 years old?

one thing i must confess about attending these events, is that while they are wonderful, and the families incredible, it's hard to be the new kid at school, even home school. a lot of these families are new just like us, i'm sure. but i can't tell which ones. i can, however, tell which families are already familiar with the way all this works, and who recognize each other and have strong friendships. a big part of why we are homeschooling is to connect with families just like these, to make new friends with people like us. but right now, in this very beginning stage, i feel kind of lost. it helps me empathize with my children, who are slightly (or not so slightly) apprehensive about attending classes at the learning center and at the waldorf co-op.
i'm the new kid, too. and i'm pretty darn glad we at least have each other.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

our first day

our first day of home schooling. it went along right on schedule. we were all dressed & full of oatmeal by 9 a.m., when we ventured out for our morning walk. the kids decided they wanted to walk down to the park to make observations. we talked about the things we could see, what we were hearing, and how the breeze & the sunshine felt on our skin. we talked about the sweet smells in the air. alia (9) stopped to look at a dead beetle she saw on the ground. she looked at it intently for several minutes (never touching it) while the rest of us waited for her. it was the first really great moment for me in this new way of schooling. i didn't have to rush her for fear that we wouldn't make it to school on time. this was our school! it was ok for her to take the time she needed/wanted to check out something she came across. as we were heading back home, alia said "so far i love home schooling!!"

by the time we got back to the house, it was exactly 9:30 (the time i was planning on being home, but i hadn't brought a watch), which was what i had roughly planned on. the kids set down the items they gathered on our walk, & we sat on the rug in the living room & recited a poem together. then we sat at the table & got started on lessons! this is the part that will have to evolve, it's hard to figure out who to start with, since all three kids are in different grades. luckily, alia's syllabus (she's in 4th grade this year) is directed toward the student, so i was able to just show her what to read. alek & amalie needed a little instruction on what to do.

the only minor issue we had was that alek didn't want to do part of his assignment. his curriculum called for him to draw an illustration of a story i had read to him, which he just plain wasn't interested in doing (even though he LOVES to draw). so i gave him the option of writing a summary of the story instead. his response, "i don't like writing." i really didn't want to get into any sort of argument or power struggle on our first day. so i asked him if he would like to read from one of his reading assignments instead. this he said yes to. so i left it at that. after this week is over, i will decide what we need to do to change things up a bit for him. writing is too important to just neglect entirely, so i'll have to find something that engages him.

as for aven, who is 2, she contentedly sat at the table with the group, and drew pictures for everybody, which she delivered as a crumpled up ball she called "wrapping".

at 11:00 we had a snack, 11:15 we continued with math, 11:45 we had our closing circle time & a story, done by noon! easily covered all lesson material for the day by that time. ate lunch, went to the library, found out our favorite children's librarian home schooled both of her sons! one is now a teacher, the other is in his senior year of college.

for the next 2 days, i have to work in the mornings, so paul is going to be teaching the kids. i'm writing up their lesson plans for him so that hopefully it's smooth sailing. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

here we go ....

two significant things happened in the last week.

the first being that our oak meadow homeschooling curriculum arrived!! complete packages (except for the literature that we can borrow from the library) for grades 1, 3, and 4. WOW. alek found the box out on the porch, we brought it inside & unpacked it all together. each child took their syllabus and sat down quietly looking it over. everyone is pleased. ;)

the second major event, which would normally seem minor if we were returning to public school in the fall, was that the kids each brought home a survey form from school asking what our plans were for the next school year. would we be returning? if not, where are we planning to attend? i checked, on 3 separate papers, that we would not be returning in the fall. that we would be attending "homeschooling" next year. this felt very final to me, even though i know that if, for some reason, the kids would have to return to public school, we are zoned for this school and can't be denied attending there. but still, it is making my intentions known in writing for the first time.

both of these events felt like major commitments towards our plans for fall. we are doing this! :)

separately, this past saturday was the last day of my mom's 2 week visit before she headed back to wisconsin. she was here to help me get some rest and recovery time, so we didn't do much but stick around the house, some yard work & gardening, & neighborhood walks. we wanted to do at least one fun, adventurous thing before she left. we decided on spending a day on san juan island, so we took a nice 1 hour ferry ride from anacortes to friday harbor. we spent about an hour exploring the little town of friday harbor, and then headed out to the countryside to explore along the beaches. it was a pretty fabulous day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

curriculum order? done.

one MAJOR step closer to our homeschooling next fall. i just finished ordering 1st, 3rd, & 4th grade curriculum from oak meadow for the kids. since alek and alia are only one year apart in school, and as far as i can tell mostly on the same level, i thought about just having them both use the 4th grade curriculum, which may have been easier in so many ways. but since it's the first year we will be homeschooling, and our first experience with this curriculum, i thought it best to play it safe. even tho it was to the tune of over $700 .... yikes!!!

all the same, it still feels right. i am very much looking forward to our adventures in homeschooling. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

working towards better health

in recent weeks i found out that i am severely anemic, as well as completely vitamin d deficient. my anemia has been slowly building over 2 years, since the birth of our 4th child. there are several major risks that come with being so anemic, and although i have always been a healthy eater, and a vegetarian for over half my life (the vegetarianism is NOT the cause of my anemia, confirmed by several doctors), i am forced to look at my diet, and make changes. i am embarking on the largest change to my dietary habits since becoming veg at the age of 15, which seems both daunting and exciting at the same time.

this morning i made a raw strawberry oatmeal recipe (from the raw snack cookbook raw energy), which was very successful! the oats & almonds that went into it had to soak overnight, then be rinsed & blended with the other ingredients in the recipe. when it was finished, i ate a serving, and the kids ate up all the rest! i was amazed, as it is cold & not served warm like the oatmeal they are used to. it also has a small amount of cayenne pepper in it (to aid circulation) which i thought they would notice, but they didn't! they asked for more & more servings until the whole batch was gone. :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

spring is on it's way!

on our walk home from school today we passed a beautiful rhododendron bush beginning to bloom (bottom pic)! and when we arrived at our house we had a few small blooming flowers next to our front porch. i have seen several robins hopping around the yard, spring is coming! it's the only season we haven't yet experienced since moving to our new part of the country. our winter had been my favorite of any winter i can remember anywhere, as it was frequently filled with sunshine & a few weeks of snow on the ground. the one thing i will not miss about winter is being cold inside the house! our house is not insulated, & has one very inadequate heater located in the living room that is the only source of heat. my smartwool socks have been a necessity on our hardwood floors.

now for a warm cup of coffee ....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

technical difficulties, gnomes & fairies

i have been cut off from the cyber world for quite some time, as my macbook pro required extensive repairs, which ended in it having to be completely refurbished. this included replacing the hard drive, hence the loss of anything we didn't have backed up, mostly pictures from the last 6 months of our lives. :(

the upside is it's quite pleasant in many ways to have no inkling of what is going on in cyber space, and i had so much more time for knitting! for a while now i have been searching for a pattern for a gnome/fairy style hat, something pointy but not outrageously so. i was frustrated with what i was finding both online & in the pattern books at the knitting shop. eventually i ended up modifying a pattern for an adult hat from a book i've had for a long time, "stitch n' bitch nation". the adult hat version has earflaps & i had always thought was unattractive for a grown up. however, for a child it was exactly what i was looking for! i really enjoy working this pattern, which begins at the top on double points.

i am very happy with the results, and i think i can use up a lot of the extra yarns i have that i've never quite known what to do with. the first hat i made for my 5 yr old, whose favorite color is yellow & has been asking me to make her a yellow hat for quite some time. for this one i used spud & chloe outer (in cornsilk), a nice, bulky, but very soft and warm 65% superwash wool/ 35% organic cotton blend.

the green & pink i created specially for my adorable 21 month old niece, fern. i bought the green a few months ago with the intention of making something for her, but hadn't stumbled upon the right pattern. after making the yellow hat, it struck me that the yarn i had purchased for fern would look really neat in this pattern, and it turned out to be probably my favorite had i've made yet. i can't wait to see her in it!