Christmas Tree Drawings.

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Inspired by a post of form drawn Christmas trees on instagram @waldorfeducation, we tried our own. We’ve listened to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Fir Tree many times, so we decided to make ours fir trees too. We started with the inner form in green. Then the boys shaded those, added a stem and colored the surrounding space yellow for the glow from the candles. They finished with a border. A lovely little start to decorating this season.

One Quarter of the Way.

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We follow (mostly) Ambleside Online’s curriculum, which is basically a killer book list. In truth, we have to supply our own math, spelling, and science (and whatever else I forgot offhand) but it covers geography, literature, nature study, and history through amazing living books. It’s a lot of reading. I get really excited about that.

We are now one-quarter of the way through this year’s curriculum. I like the find the books used, so now I start looking for the next school year. I start pouring through Ebay, Etsy, thrift stores, local book stores and library sales for really cool vintage copies.

I found this beautiful copy of Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels, which I’m equally happy to use as decor on the bookshelf until we read it. I’ve got a sweet version of Wild Animals I Have Known coming for $5.22 from Ebay this week. It’s a fun orange hardcover with tiny drawings of animals on it. How cool is it that I can vintage shop for my boys’ curricula?

Another useful thing about Ambleside is that it gives me a planning structure to work with. I don’t really follow Ambleside’s book list for my second son. It’s redundant, seeing as he is listening to his older brother’s books everyday anyways. Instead, I use that structure to plug-in other fabulous living books. I have a little stack of books I save from my thrifting for possible choices. I’m looking forward to reading David McCaulay’s Castle with the boys next year, along with some other fun building titles. The search goes on.

Outdoors in October.

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The boys and I have been out and about quite a bit. We’ve been out apple picking, pumpkin picking, learning sweet moves at sword fencing class (while Dear Husband and I spectate), playing at school group meet ups, visiting with Grandma, and just running plenty of errands. We’ve also had our very first flat tire together this month en route to fencing class, too. Oh my, did I forget to mention my sister and nephew’s visit too?  We did the Foo Fighters concert in Nashville. Phew, I do feel like we are squeezing every drop out of this beautiful month!

Sam Davis Home.

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On a beautiful summer day, perhaps a touch warm, I took the boys an hour South for the Sam Davis Home Heritage Days. On the amply shaded grounds we meandered between too many stations to squeeze into a day. We visited what looked interesting first and whittled the day away indulgently. I enjoyed the “old-timey” photographer but the boys had little patience for it. We all listened to the candle maker, baker, and butter churner thoughfully. Honest Abe spoke about his boyhood home and chores and how he met Mrs. Lincoln, and the boys walked away saying he “wasn’t so bad after all.”

Let’s see, we also fed chickens, saw bees, wool, pigs, and mules. The boys played baseball with the 1865 rules and league members who play throughout the year. I was asking tons of questions in the shade while the boys sat on the bench and waited their turns in the sun. Why no gloves? (not yet invented) Where do you get the balls? (China… unfortunately) How many strikes and balls per batter? (doesn’t matter) and so on.

The potter was fabulous. We’ve seen him before. He chats away shooting spelling and math questions to the kiddos while they watch pots form in his hands. Then he cuts them loose and shares them around, to smash and shape again.
Stones River National Battlefield brought a cannon to the grounds and drilled the kids like soldiers. The boys liked trying new positions for this as they’ve done (and enjoyed) the drilling.

There was plenty to see and do. The boys liked the baseball best. I laughed as they batted and raced around the bases crying “home run” when they arrived back home. They actually were out at first base, but ignorance is bliss. On that high note, the grounds closed to get the school kids back in buses. We headed off, happy to have seen another Civil War Era site.

Mammoth Cave Bats.

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Loaded with snacks, water, and light coats, late Saturday afternoon we went to Mammoth Cave National Park to watch for bats. The National Park had a special night connecting the public with the scientists who study the bats.

We arrived when it was light to browse the museum and walk around the main area. I always love looking at the old train cars that brought the visitors of yesteryear. We also walked to sunset point and saw the old (new to us) cemetery. After we walked, snacked, and explored we were ready to see some bat research.

Atop the walkway to the natural cave entrance Rangers prevented us from the activities until precisely 7 PM. To keep us occupied they presented facts about bats (their M&M jar featured 1000 candies, about how many bugs a bat eats per HOUR) and answered questions guests had (we enjoyed the preschool boy’s musings about sharks eating bats). This was the hardest part for the boys. They just wanted to get to the night vision goggles.

Finally they were set free to descend upon the cave and see some bats. We were the third group to step down  into the natural entrance and try the night vision goggles. I do think the boys could have stayed there the night. The goggles were fascinating, probably more so than the bats they were seeing. We did have to move on and decided to see the volunteers set up “mist” nets to catch the bats. (That does not involve water, it’s actually just a very fine net).

Here is where we waited. It wasn’t quite dark enough to set up the nets, so we talked with some friends and waited some more. I wanted to see this whole process. The boys must know me well enough by now, because they didn’t complain or ask to move on. They waited and chatted. We saw the net roll up and almost a minute later they caught a bat.

The volunteer displayed the wings, explained what type of bat it was, and put it in a brown paper bag to transfer to their research set up. We hustled over to get a great view of the scientists as they identified, collected samples of fur, tagged, searched for white nose syndrome (a very horrible fungus rapidly diminishing their bat population) and so on. My younger son gave me stink eye when I put the camera down, “Mom, they are getting the fur! Take a picture.” I laughed and told him I took about seventy.

Knowing this was a one night per year adventure, I asked the kiddos if there was anything they’d like to try one last time. Night goggles. We went back into the cave and looked for a longer turn as it was the end of the night and the crowd had thinned.

Hiking back up, snacking and drinking, we talked about our night. It’s really fun to stay out late and chat with the boys about what we did. We finished up our audio book on the drive back and settled in for a good nights sleep. Hopefully then the bats got some peace to dine by.

Cursive.

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Twice per week my older son has to practice his cursive writing. He gets to choose the days he does it. He copies a few words and a couple of sentences. Inevitably it gets shoved to the end of the week. He’s just not a fan.

“Why do I have to do this anyways?”

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I was even going to bother with it. I read an article about how cursive is illegible for teachers and their preference to remove it. That makes sense. I’d not want to read thirty cursive scrawled three-page papers either…ever, let alone weekly. Typing would win in my book.

Then I read an article (ugh I can’t find it anywhere to link it, I’m sorry). It was about an ex-soldier who incurred a brain injury. He was able to write in cursive after the event, but not print at all. It pointed out that cursive writing is stored in a part of the brain separate from printing. This represented cursive as a totally separate skill from writing, akin to another art form completely.

Later, I was volunteering at the local National Battlefield when two kiddos were signing their names on their Junior Ranger booklets. The ranger behind me took note. “That’s a very important skill you have there,” he pointed out as the child wrote her name in cursive. “You know, if cursive writing isn’t taught in schools who will read our country’s historical documents?” That was my second motivator.

If cursive writing is deleted from the school curriculum, and I’m fine with that, I believe it will become an art. Children learn how to knit, sew, fish, and frankly loads of other useful things not taught in schools. I believe cursive would just get added into this pool.

So, I told my son cursive is a way to write with speed, but more importantly it’s a way to expand his mind. It’s also a skill he may have that people around him may not, like calligraphy or weaving or whatever. It’s easy, cheap, and possibly useful. I mentioned the above reasons for clarity.

“Oh. Okay. That sounds good.”

He pressed his pencil down to his paper and started swirling his copywork of the seasons. And while “because it’s good for you” may have sufficed, I think he appreciated the reasoning. This fella is the type that would be proud to offer his abilities if needed. Until then, it’s another little something he’ll have learned along the way.

The First Step.

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The first step is to get out of bed.

We are getting back into our school days. Dear Husband lovingly set my phone alarm and helped me wake this morning before he left.

I’m excited to start another year with the boys. I thoroughly enjoy our curricula and books. Jacques Cousteau, Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Greek Mythology, I’m on it. Even my older son said he “doesn’t mind” school work, though we are still getting little fella over the hump on that one. However, I’m definitely going to miss my solid chunks of time in the day to tidy, do yard work, run errands, make phone calls, mow, grocery shop, and whatever else nonsense comes to the surface. Now that ALL gets squeezed into little pockets which make me stress out my load is too much.

What I have learned is that nothing is perfect. Priority and possibility chose homeschooling for us and I take that very seriously. It is the most important thing I tend to daily. The other stuff will fit. It has to. I’ve done this before. I remember.

The first step is to get out of bed.

Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang.

rejectionproofbyjiajiangpailandpie1A brief description touted a man on a quest for rejections to rise above his usual fearful response. That sounded intriguing. I started reading.

The pages started flipping quickly. I followed as Jia Jiang attacks his fears in a remarkable way, he seeks it out daily. On his journey of 100 days of rejections, including asking someone to plant a flower in their yard, asking for a job for a day, asking strangers to take money from him, and so on, he transforms.

What started out as a way to overcome his personal rejections, changed this man into a walking fear laboratory. He starts to tweak his questions and boldly asks why he got a no. Then he starts to understand where no comes from and why to never take it personally.

While this book is sold as a business guide, I must say it does a darn good lot to explain anxiety in general. It was very entertaining for me and the boys to read through and apply to our average everyday. In fact, the other day I was explaining a concept to them in the car and the next day my older son said, “Mom, you’ll never believe this. When my friend didn’t want to play racing, I used the idea from the book and it worked. He said okay.” (Don’t worry, it’s not mind manipulation or anything.)

I bet children get told no more than anyone else. Whatever my boys picked up from this title will be valuable for life.

I seriously encourage you to check out his entertaining website complete with the 100 days of rejection he filmed along the way. The boys and I enjoyed his inspiring journey.

(Blogging for Books provided this title in exchange for an honest review.)

Rainbow Queen Anne’s Lace.

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We dyed some Queen Anne’s Lace last week to see how plants use their stems to move water. The boys put cut flowers in small bottles of red,  yellow, and blue food color dyed water (about 20 drops per bottle). The next morning I had an idea. I asked the boys what would happen if we switched the stems to different colored water the second day? They knew of course. We would enjoy a rainbow.