Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Halfway Home


With a quiet weekend this week, I have been doing a whole lot of knitting and reading. I am finally working on the border of my Leaves of Grass blanket. I am halfway around the edge, which makes me so excited. As I move around the circular needles, a little more of the beauty of the blanket is revealed. I am so pleased with it. I am hoping to finish this week. I am trying to figure out how to block it while we are away from home. It may just have to wait a bit longer for a good soak. There isn't really space here for such things, but I keep thinking anyway.

While knitting away on my blanket, I finished listening to Coming Home. It was a nice story with likable characters. The story follows the life of a young girl in England in the mid thirties, through WWII, and the time immediately afterward. It is a bit predictable, but I did enjoy it. Some times I just need a good story without having to think too much or be bothered by horrific characters no one would like. This is especially true with an audiobook.

I also finished The Enchanted April. It tells the story of four women who rent a castle in Italy for a month. They begin the stay as strangers but their relationships change as the story evolves. Debby mentioned that her sister really liked the book and told me about a movie version. It is waiting for me at the library. I am curious to see a film adaptation now that I have finished the book.

While at the library last week, I picked up Home by Toni Morrison and The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Both authors I have read and enjoyed in the past. I started Morrison's book first as it is more of a novella. It is a tightly written work full of imagery, complex people and struggle. I enjoyed it a lot. It is quite short and not quite as dense as some of her other works. The idea of home, race relations and internal struggle play out throughout the piece. I enjoyed it and read it in two days. Once that one was finished, I started The Sandcastle Girls. I am just beginning this one, so I don't have much to share. Hopefully next week, I can tell you more.

Phew! It has been a full week. How has your week been? Any knitting progress? Or perhaps you have been reading a great book. Please share.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Staying Home


This weekend was one of amassing piles of books, eating yummy meals and no big plans. On Friday we headed to the library. Amid light hail and rain, we did some grocery shopping and book collecting. Since we took the car all bets were off on the book pile (usually we walk, and I caution the kiddos to only get what they can carry home). I think Aine had 28 books and Eamon 23; both definitely had large grins. Once home we were surprised when Dave came home early. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading, knitting, napping and dinner.

Saturday showed up overcast with more rain. We spent some time chatting with the grandparents via facetime. The kiddos got to see the tree Grandma and GrandDad are removing and the organizational mess that GrandDad is tackling. Four of us played cards while the fifth bounced around with Legos and other toys. We played Euchre and then Hearts. It was Aine's first time at hearts. She was getting a bit discouraged with her score until she ran hearts on the rest of us. Eamon had no idea, but Dave and I were warmed by her giggles and crafty eyes as she launched her plan. Lunch was followed by more lazing around the apartment. Dave did some work while I knit on my blanket.

Sunday was a gorgeous day after the rain. Temperatures were warm and while Dave took the kiddos to pick up something forgotten at the grocery store, I sat on the balcony listening to a new audiobook while working on the blanket border. We still stayed close to home enjoying each other. The kiddos sorted Legos and made all kinds of creations. The evening brought yummy ribs to our table as well much laughter and craziness. Post dinner we prepared for the week. The kiddos sorted out backpacks and clothing for Monday classes and date day. Daddy read books while mama fell asleep on the couch knitting.

It was definitely a quiet weekend full of family and laughter. Talk was made of plans to "do something," but everyone seemed content to just be. I really like those times, although I struggle initially thinking our time here should be "full." I forget that it already is.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

the last hurdle

After a flurry of knitting, the circular portion of my Leaves of Grass blanket is complete. Today I provisionally cast on for the edging. There are 71 repeats, and I have done two. It is hard to see the beauty of the patterning while on the circular needles. I am ready to see it done, enjoy its warmth, and marvel in its beauty.


Friday, February 22, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Writing


Eamon has been asking for a blog for some time. Every time he has asked, I have been in the middle of something. Most recently it was during our preparations for coming east. Finally we had a few moments to sit down together a week or so ago and start his blog. With a little help from me, he set up the blog for himself. We used blogger, which provided a platform on which he selected the header, settings and layout. He invited a few friends and family to share his private blog and has been trying to post most days. He writes his own posts, looks for photos, adds links, and does his own editing.  Dave or I usually lend support with the editing. He is learning more about sentence structure and punctuation. We also have talked about paragraphs and topic flow. He is so pleased when he receives a comment and often wants to post several times a day.
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Often people ask how we teach different subjects. They look at me in confusion when I initially start talking about interest-led or child-led learning. Thoughts of chaos and undereducated children stream through their minds. As I continue to explain how we learn as opposed to how I teach, it becomes more clear. My kiddos know a lot. Much of what they know does not fit into the confines of their grade level curriculum or standards. Some does. They ask questions and as parents we both answer. If we don't know, we spend time together researching the question. We visit the library often, gathering books on a wide variety of topics, both fiction and non-fiction. We read many books throughout the day. And we take trips to museums, points of interest, art venues and other places my children may find interesting.

Writing instruction in our home is not formulaic. The kiddos and I don't sit down to learn how to write. We don't cover nouns, verbs, subjects, predicates, prepositions or participles in a structured way. There are no worksheets. Writing in our household is a dynamic endeavor. We just write. Initially little attention is given to sentence structure, spelling or punctuation. We aim to just get ideas onto paper. If one of my kiddos is struggling with their actual penmanship not matching the speed of their flowing ideas, I will transcribe their ideas for them. I write exactly what they say without editing it.

We talk a lot about words, working on rhyming couplets while young, marveling at onomatopoeia when it arises, experimenting with alliteration and consonance as they get bigger. While reading aloud, I pause to define new words we encounter. Sometimes when we discover a lot of new words, I will make a list for us. These words I then define on an index card to remind us what they mean. The kiddos love discovering new words and learning a "big" word that defines an ordinary occurrence. We spot billboards or signs with new words or quirky combinations of them. We play MadLib games coming up with parts of speech to create crazy stories.

We write a lot. I ask them to help me make lists. We write thank-you letters to family and friends. While traveling, we make sure to include writing postcards telling loved ones about what we see. We have comic layouts for them to fill up with stories and dialogue. We story tell at meal times, weaving bizarre collaborative tales that twist and turn with each speaker. A roll of the story blocks provides the prompt for other story telling or writing. And now we blog. With the addition of this digital medium, we are utilizing yet another tool in the kiddos' writing.

As a big fan of Patricia Wonderfarm, I know all these methods are paving the way for more skilled writing. Everything they do from storytelling to actually putting pen to paper are part of the writing process. They are figuring out how to organize their thoughts and ideas and present them in a coherent way. This is how we learn to write.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trying Hard


I am halfway through the final repeat of chart D on my Leaves of Grass blanket, and it is getting big. Not quite as big as I would like for a blanket yet, but I figure the rest of the chart plus edging will add quite a bit. I have not quite kept to my goal of six rows a day. Life just doesn't always allow for that, but I am knitting a bit on it daily. Logistically, knitting it is becoming a bit trickier. The blanket has surpassed carry along knitting status and moved squarely into sitting on the couch knitting. I did pick up a sock for a carry along project. I haven't done much on it though. I am trying hard to focus on the blanket and my self-imposed deadline. The goal for finishing is still by the first week of March. I don't think I am delusional yet.

I picked up a stack of knitting books from the library today. They are all by Alice Starmore. I am intrigued to read a bit by this author especially her information on fair isle and intarsia knitting.  I am slowing making my way through the last few hours of the Coming Home audiobook. It is still very good; I am just not finding time this week. I did start The Enchanted April as well, but am still early into it. It is about two women who decide to rent an Italian castle for a month. Eamon finished his book from last week. He has been reading a lot of comics as well as various chapter books (he reads quickly and often finishes a book a day). Our family read aloud switched to The Island of Adventureby Enid Blyton. We are a few chapters into it, and the kiddos really like it. Our favorite picture books this week are At Our House,Zen Shorts, Zen Ties and a pile of Elsa Beskow books. Phew! There has been a whole lot of reading. We really like having a library within walking distance and often visit it more than once in a week.

For those of you Knitting Along with Ginny, what are you reading and knitting this week?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Date Day Part Deux






Benton and I set off again yesterday for an adventure. Although Dave was off work, he had a project to finish, so he stayed behind. Apparently date days around here have been equated with junky food, because Benton's first request was to get frozen yogurt. We discussed a few other options instead. Originally I wanted to head to the zoo, but the weather was in the low 40s. That is too cold for us to enjoy walking around the zoo. After a bit of conferring, we stuck with the animal theme and headed to the aquarium for a bit of underwater life.

This was our first visit to the National Aquarium in Washington D.C. Last year when we were in the area, we focused on the Maryland venue of the aquarium. When we visited that site, we became members assuming we would make a few visits. The cost was not much more than the regular admission.  Wit admission card in hand, we headed downtown. This time the metro ride was uneventful. Benton was able to sit in the first seat and watch the tunnel and stops approach. All the kiddos love this spot on the train. After a quick walk we reached our destination. The aquarium is in the lower level of the Commerce building. It consists of tanks with aquatic animals from various locales. Benton led the way running at times from view to view. Often he would ask to be lifted up to see everything more closely. Another patron carried a small IKEA stool which would have been perfect for  the too high views.

His favorite tank was full of turtles and fish swimming around mock ship wrecks. He wondered about the "junk" in the tank. We talked about the Great Lakes and the many ships that sunk in the area covered by the display. He thought it was cool, because Gram, Pap and his cousins live in Michigan. After viewing about half of the Aquarium, Benton was ready to go. The siren song of frozen yogurt was too strong. The timing actually worked quite well, because I needed to get the older two from their class. With cone in hand we came home to daddy and told him of our adventures then off to pick up Eamon and Aine and hear theirs.

Friday, February 15, 2013

{this moment}


{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Terrifying

My heart raced as I pushed my leg between the doors. My hands grabbed the doors as I saw two other passengers come to help. A woman trying to pull with me looked me in the eyes and told me that I had to stop and call 2-4-something. She said it would be okay, but I knew it wouldn't. My 4 and 8 year olds were in that subway car. I was not. Neither was my oldest child. I would not and could not let go. I screamed toward the front of the train while desperately trying to open the doors. It was the last car, and I knew the driver couldn't hear me; but I hoped that when they stuck their head out to check the train before moving forward they could see and hear me. I had to get my babies. Inside, Aine and Benton had no idea. For what seemed like hours I hung onto those doors, encumbered by my bulky winter jacket. Finally, the heavy doors moved open a few feet. I grabbed Benton by the coat and pulled him out. Aine had her back turned to the door, oblivious to the drama unfolding. With increasing panic in my voice, I yelled her name twice. I reached as she turned around and grabbed her out of the door. My heart was in my throat as I pushed them over to a nearby bench. The doors closed and the train rushed away. We sat there on that bench holding each other. Thankfully, we were back together.

So ended our visit into the city center yesterday. We visited the postal museum. It was fun. The ride home was not. While we waited for our connecting train at the next platform, I called Eamon and Aine over (Benton was lounging in the stroller). Aine asked, "Why?" Eamon turned to her and told her that I needed a hug. He was so very right. After a group hug, we again went over our train emergency plan (included here to remind you to review this with your families).
1. If you get on the train, and I am not with you, hold hands and do not let go of each other.
2. Get off at the next stop regardless.
3. Go straight to the metro worker booth and tell them you were separated from your mother.
$. Do not go with anyone.
6. Do not leave the station.
7. I will call the emergency number alerting them that you are by yourself.
8. I will be on the next train. I will get off at the next stop to find you at the booth.
9. Know I love you and will get you back.
The Muppet Movie and big bowls of popcorn were shared once we returned home. I don't think any of us wanted to continue on to the zoo after that ordeal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Click, click, click


I must admit that my Leaves of Grass blanket and I had a falling out. I felt it was betraying my work and not allowing me to make progress. Why, oh, why did that first skein continue to sit there plump and full despite my knitting needles furiously pumping through the first two charts and then part of the third. I was mad and disappointed. One friend suggested it just might take longer than a day or two. She went so far as to say I should enjoy the process. Phffttt. So I set it aside, grumpy and plain, old mad.

After a couple flings with mittens, hats and even the beginnings of a sock, I picked it back up this weekend. Oh my, how the love has returned. With a click, click, click of my needles, it is coming together so nicely. I managed to knit my way out of the six repeats of Chart C and am smoothly sailing through Chart D. Only the edging will be left. I am truly loving this project. It is growing bigger and more beautiful with each row. I am halfway through the first repeat of Chart D and am amazed at the beauty. With my needles on fire I even went so far as to time myself knitting a row. Definitely un-scientific, but with the distractions of my normal knitting life it takes 20 minutes to knit a row. That means I can finish this by my birthday next month if I knit around 6 rows a day. Two hours of knitting is usually a crazy proposition, but 20 minutes here and there is totally doable. Squeee!!! I am very excited.

With my new found love of my knitting project, I have been reading less this week. The beauty of the audiobook has replaced the more traditional pages. I started the second half of Coming Home this week. Despite the romance-style cover, I am enjoying this book. It is a good story about a young girl as she grows up in war-torn England. I would recommend it. The kiddos and Dave are reading A Dog's Life: The Autobiography Of A Strayin the evenings. They really like it and are halfway through it. We also are reading Redwall and Eamon just started Danger Goes Berserk (Brixton Brothers).

Have you ever fallen out of love with a project only to rediscover it? If not, you may want to check your WIP basket. I am betting you may just find a little something in there that only needs a bit more attention which you will love.

[I have no idea what those bud-type pods are. Aine found and collected a pile at the park today. Does anyone else know? And yes, we have started a new puzzle. We are still working on the edges.]

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Third



I often wonder what life is like for each of the children in our family. I have a fairly good idea of Eamon's life since I also am a first-born. The other two baffle me. I recall articles and books I have read discussing the idea of family and birth position. I wonder if so much of how we live and function defines these people I share my days with. I know it does, and admittedly it scares me. I look at Aine and think about her role as only female and middle child. Will it give her a greater ability to flex directionally as the world pulls and pushes her? Or will she aim to please more, attempting to appease those above and below her? As a woman and mother I worry and wonder. And then there is Benton. He is our baby and relishes the role, but his birthday is approaching next month. A baby he is not as he comes up on five years of age. Will he always look to get his own way by batting those big lashes and smiling? Will he learn to get his ideas and words across despite the constant interrupting he endures? Will this give him tenacity and strength? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night!
These next few weeks, while the older kiddos are in a class, find Benton and me together without the distraction of siblings and the role he has assumed in our family. A chance for us to be with one another and really spend time together. So far, we are loving it. I enjoy hearing all he has to say without being interrupted. This little boy has big ideas and even bigger dreams (to drive a front loader, yes indeed!). He loves being the center of my world for a few hours. He leads, and I follow. I say yes to scootering and even a stop at the local convenience store for a donut. Yesterday his biggest desire was to go to the park and just play. But first we had to explore the woods.









As we hiked yesterday we both marveled at the barren trees and the water flowing by the path. He led the way pointing out branches and puddles for me to avoid. As leader he found deer prints in the mud. As I bent to explore them a bit and take a photo of his find he urged me forward. There was so much more to see for this busy fellow. We threw rocks into the stream hoping for huge splashes. Benton marveled at the moss and little bits of green poking through the landscape. He wanted to bring a chunk home, but we decided it was much better growing in its natural habitat. We walked a bit more climbing over the many fallen trees until abruptly he said it was time to turn around.

As we skipped, leaped and ran back along the path toward our car, Benton eagerly told me the rest of his plans for the day. Besides the park, a big ice cream was at the top. He wanted one "from that place with all the toppings!" So we agreed to head home just the two of us and make our way toward ice cream. No zoo no museums, just the two of us talking, laughing and holding hands enjoying our special time together.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Our First Week






Our first week in the Washington D.C. area has been one of easing into our life here. The illness that seems to be snagging everyone has finally found our family, hitting me with a cough, mild fever and scratchy throat. This significantly slowed us down, since I just haven't felt well. 
* We started the week with a trip to the library. Benton walked the whole way which was nice. It took a long time on the way home as we paused to watch some local construction and examine every piece of treasure he found on the ground.
* While at the library we visited our favorite playground. Our time was brief when someone's ears were too cold. This was the same someone I suggested should wear his hat. Next time, I am sure.
* A return to the nature center midweek rewarded the older two with new gems from their gemstone class. Eamon is a fan of all things rock and mineral, so receiving a piece of amethyst is perfection. He is plotting a way to start a business and sell the small gems he receives from class. I try to remind him that we pay $10 for the class, so his profit won't be too big. Benton and I spent the time exploring the center watching the live animals and then playing with a dugout canoe.
* At the end of the week, we joined some other homeschoolers for a Pokemon club day. Everyone was so pleased to meetup with friends again. They played, traded and enjoyed all things Pokemon. Those not as interested played board games.
* Lounging around, reading, playing Minecraft, cleaning windows and knitting rounded out the weekend. I decided to pick up my Leaves of Grass again. I tried to start a few other things even casting on a pair of socks, but the leaves prevailed. I just couldn't ignore it any longer. I am so glad I did resume the knitting. I finished that never-ending first skein of yarn, which really fueled my fingers. I am now 20% of the way through Chart D. I figure each round takes about 20 minutes, so I am hoping to finish by my birthday. We shall see.

How was your week?


Friday, February 08, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Joining Amanda in a Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.