Saturday, January 11, 2014


I am a long time homeschooler - my oldest daughter is out on her own at nineteen and I currently have a 5th grader, 8th grader, and an 11th grader here at home - those grade levels being nothing more than an approximation.   Do I have any thoughts for someone starting their own homeschool journey?

Sure, but I guess my first thought is that I have not found any two homeschools that are alike.  Your experience will be unique but here are a few words about my own experience so far...

 Be prepared for odd questions.
I am no longer asked if homeschooling is legal.  That's kind of nice!  How does one answer that question?  The person asking has just let you know that  they think you are either capable of engaging in an illegal activity if not insinuating that you may already be an outlaw.   Hand's down, when I first started homeschooling, this was the number one question.  Today the number one question is..."But what about socialization?" - this question has moved up from the number two slot to number one.   There have been many others.  Personally I have always tried to receive any odd inquiries with a sense of humor and I strive to give sincere answers.

Self care.
I need to take care of myself.  A bit of time to myself has always been crucial.   When possible I have taken classes.  My experiences at Sunbridge College (now Institute) and more recently,  the Fiber Craft Studio have been so enriching.  When a class was not possible (which was the case for many years) I would give myself a regular evening at the library to peruse the shelves and enjoy the quiet.  Time to myself helps me refocus and recharge.  When I do get out sorts, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually things go awry.  This.I.know.

Learn to observe.
Time outdoors in nature is a balm to my soul but also helps me hone my skills of observation.  I have such an experience of awe and wonder when I am in the natural world - I try to take that inner experience back to my children.  I find parenting can stir so many emotions, it is good for me to step back and just look at my children where they are to see what they need.  I also have found that I cannot force my children to fit into a curriculum but that the curriculum is a guide, a framework, a beginning.  Observation helps with the tailoring of the curriculum to the child.  

Establish a start time.
I like the *idea* that our homeschooling days should have this natural flow but I have learned that I need a start time.  The temptation for me to do just one more load of dishes, just one more load of too great.   Some days I choose to do less by ending early - some days have a different feel altogether if we will be out of the house...but on our regular days...we usually start the nitty gritty by 9:00am.  There's a lot that happens before 9:00am but for our daily *these things must get done today*  I keep an eye on the clock to make sure the day doesn't get away.  And of course the things that *must get done* change.  In Kindergarten it may have been circle time and then an activity like painting or baking, these days it's spelling, form drawing, and math.

Spend time at home.
Home is the place where I experience the life enhancing ebb and flow of RHYTHM.  It doesn't mean we don't have outings and classes outside the home but I try to choose activities wisely.   There is a running a joke among homeschoolers about how often we are not at home.  I find that if I am out of the home too much it starts to take a toll on everyone. 

Love it.
I love what I do.  I love being home and offering my children a unique experience.  I do not homeschool out of fear or for religious reasons.  It's an endlessly fascinating work to care for home and my children.  It doesn't mean every moment of every day is a joy (ha) but when asked what I do, I smile inside and I say "I am home and homeschool my children."  I am blessed.

More than a few words, but they are from my heart...and really just the beginning of what I could say on a subject so near and dear.

Joining Sheila at Sure as The World!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Note to self

for next Advent and Christmas...

Take Advent box down on Martinmas.  After years of waiting until the weekend after Thanksgiving to get my advent box down it occurred to me this year that just a bit earlier would help me plan in advance and finish more homemade items.  Maybe I'll even finish my Jesse Tree ornaments that I started two years ago!  Four down, twenty more to go!

Compile Advent play list. This year's favorites for Advent were "Gabriel's Message" (surprisingly I really like the version by Sting) and "Adam Lay ybounden". 

Order pearlized paper for stars.  At a small workshop over a year ago at the Fiber Craft Studio I learned to make Moravian Stars.  For our homeschooling group I offered to bring supplies and show others.  And then I couldn't find my directions.  This video helped me the most but there are many others.  I did manage to get back in the groove and walked a small group through their first star.  The ones Aidan and I made we brought to Hannah for her very first Christmas tree.  Once you get the hang of them they are very soothing and satisfying to make.  My paper strips were a mat color but I think a pearlized color would look great on the tree.
These will make a pretty garland for January.

Collect aluminum cans early to make these.  What a pretty garland these would make!

Buy wrapping paper and tape early!!  I did okay on wrapping paper but when you discover that the grocery store is completely out of tape on Dec. 23rd and you have to have your daughter go out to find tape..let's just not do that again.

Pay more attention to the evergreens.  Our Advent wreath worked so well this year - I picked up a plain wreath from a local garden stand and this variety dried so nicely - it stayed the same nice green but I had hardly any needles fall.   I will also have Aidan make another little beeswax man - he made one this year for no particular reason but the little guy was so joyful looking that he took the place of honor by the fourth candle.
I also thought the rose candle that Katie brought back from Europe added a nice touch. 
"Furrows be glad, though Earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there,
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish,
People look East and sing today!
Love the rose, is on the way!"

But my choice of Christmas tree did not work so well.  I think it was a white pine - I was looking for something soft after years of getting pricked from our usual choice of a blue spruce.  But our tree this year was a little too soft -
No matter how I tried I just could not get my candles to stand up straight consistently.  This was the first year in many that we did not light the candles on the tree.  So it may be back to blue spruce next year.

Bake!  We made a Yule log for my birthday cake this year - great gluten free cake.  We tried one recipe with cocoa powder which had a slightly bitter taste - but it may have been our cocoa and then one with melted semi-sweet chips - so good with a mocha whipped cream.  I'd like to meringue mushrooms to go with it next year.  And these almost look like little acorns.

Until next year.....

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Difference a Day Makes



These days just after the New Year are a little strange, aren't they?   January 1st is a time when I want to put new plans into action, start the new year on the right foot and EMBRACE (my word for 2014)  all that the new year has to offer.  And yet...our Christmas tree resides in our home until the Epiphany; I am still trying to live in the quiet magic of the twelve days of Christmas.  My first attempt to get back to a more everyday routine yesterday was anything but what I had envisioned.  It's ok.  We had a beginning.   And now today we have been gifted a day of snow with  hubby home again.  We stayed burrowed under blankets while the house warmed up.  We had a leisurely morning with a late big breakfast of waffles with steamy blueberries swimming in hot maple syrup and slices of fried ham on the side.  We shoveled snow and replenished the birdseed ornaments on our tree for the birds. 

All in all a good start for the Tenth Day of Christmas and the Third Day of January.  The noon hour has come and I'll be watching for the birds, sipping hot tea, perusing my new books, reading aloud to the boys...and just taking in what the day brings.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Ice Flowers

After tidying up some things in the yard yesterday in preparation for an upcoming storm, I wandered over to the lake...and then to the large pines where I picture in my mind a resting place for the deer...and then up along the stream.  I am always drawn to water.  I could not imagine living in a place where I could not walk to consult with a stream or look for guidance into a still pool of water. 

Not far from the edge of the stream I caught a glimpse of a sparkle in the corner of my eye.  I found these amazing ice structures.  I have been puzzling how they came into being.  They look like they bloomed from the earth.  It is as if the Earth, missing her flowers, created something out what she had available around her. 

I looked carefully to see if the ice had formed on some kind of grass or other plant life, but no, it is ice with specks of earth.  Aidan thinks they looks like claws.  I see flowers from some other world.  Can you make out in the picture above the large gracefully arching structure?  This seemed to confirm that they were not made from something dripping above but a rising up and bending over.

It was cold today but when we got home from our little handwork session I grabbed my phone instead of getting cozy in the house.  It was cold today and will be getting colder - for temperatures to dip below zero in our area is pretty rare.  And snow is coming.  If I didn't find them again today I knew they would buried and lost.  I am so glad I found them again to share with Aidan and then the pictures with the rest of the family and now with you. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Embrace wonder

The day was passing quickly.  Already going on 3:00pm and I hadn't yet ventured outside to collect the moss for our little water garden that I put together each New Year's Eve.  To tell the truth I thought about skipping it.  No one had asked about the little walnut boats...but I asked Aidan if he wanted to walk with me and collect some moss. 

This is one of his favorite family traditions.  He eagerly dressed for the chilly day and armed with a large metal spoon for prying up some moss and a box under my arm to hold our little harvest we set out.  We walked across the dusty dirt road to the path that leads down to a small field.  The forecast told us that soon the path would be covered with snow and by Friday there would be sleigh riding!  Once across the small field we climbed down to the stream which these days is barely a trickle.  Here we find the moss, but without any snow and the sudden freezing temperatures most of the moss was frozen in place.  We found some moss covered stones that were just the right size.   Large snowflakes began to fall as we walked up to the lake to find the spot where the reindeer moss grows.  We reached the lake where the snowflakes were now coming fast and furious and dusting the mostly frozen lake. There was barely a cloud in the sky.  Snowflakes in sunshine.  Aidan exclaimed the beauty if it.  We stopped and took in the wonder of it.  I might have missed it. 

Earlier this week I chose a word for 2014 - EMRACE.  Already I am finding layers of meaning and inspiration.  If I hadn't embraced this little family tradition I would have missed snowflakes in sunshine.  I would have missed little candle lights flickering upon the water.  

Hello 2014, we are going to have a great year.