Monday, August 27, 2007

I did it!

I finally finished my first lace knitting.

Finishing this sucker was a big homeschooling moment at my house. A major moment!

I know, I know, some of you are a bit confused as how something the homeschooling mom creates in her own free time has anything to do with homeschooling, especially in a major way. But it's true. It does. And I'll try to sum it up quickly before the next child comes out of bed complaining of thirst, or growing pains, or noises outside. Are you ready?

  • I taught myself how to do something completely new. And the children watched.
  • I struggled. For months and months, really, while they watched. They saw me start, fail, rip out all my stitches, and start again. They saw me work, really work at something until I mastered it. To completion. Without giving up. WIthout whining, sulking, or throwing things. Honest.

It was a complete exercise in developing my own will forces. Perseverance. And who knows how much of that rubs off on them. How much of that do they breathe in, just from being here and watching?

If you listen to David Albert of unschooling infamy, one of the best things you can do for your children is to, "Learn something new yourself." Especially if you have a child with perfectionistic tendencies like my Moonshine.

In Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery, Albert says that by learning something new yourself:
"Your empathy with, and humility around, your children will increase exponentially. You'll teach them through example that mistakes are part of the learning process... Just as importantly, your kids will see that learning something new always begins with some level of discomfort, and that's really okay. They will watch you progress and come to understand that mastery of any subject matter-- be it mathematics, crocheting, baseball, or singing-- and self-mastery only come by developing sound learning habits and putting in the requisite time, energy, and effort. And then by doing so, self-confidence grows. And what is self-confidence, really, but the feeling that one is prepared to tackle a future replete with exciting new adventures!"

So here she is, my exciting adventure-- the Adamas Lace shawl, in all her glorious detail. Sunburst, in typical fashion, has been begging to start her own lace shawl. The thought leaves me breathless... I mean, it's a load of knitting! It's all about precision and attention to detail and slippery needles. Is an 8 1/2 year-old really ready for that?

I've been hemming and hawing about it, kind of wavering on the fence. But at the Waldorf homeschooling conference this weekend I got the go ahead from Barbara Dewey to let Sunburst go for it. It's not like she hasn't already knit socks on 4-needles (albeit baby socks) and a two-color hat. Sunburst plainly admitted to me that it might take her a year, or even two, to knit a lace shawl to completion. And she was completely comfortable with that. Undaunted.

To read more of my thoughts (and some great quotes) on perfectionism and homeschooling, GO HERE.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Everyday Entomology

Did you know there is a mama spider that hangs out and mothers her spiderlings?

We've been spending an awful lot of time this summer out in the yard and garden hanging out with the bugs. It's not something we've been doing on purpose, mind you. It's just that they catch our attention and we get sucked in.

In June we sighted this spider family in the vegetable garden. They moved right into the pepper plant and set up housekeeping, or more precisely, baby spider keeping. Just when I thought I understood the habits of spiders, this was more proof that nature will always keep me guessing.

The kids enjoyed watching this Nursery web spider and blowing on the babies in the nursery. Sunburst figured out that if you blow on them they scatter a bit. But they always returned to center, forming an amazing kind of spidery ball.

In other bug news, Einstein came back from a conference a few weeks ago and discovered that in his absence a chrysalis had attached to his bicycle tire. We stuck it in a jar and brought it inside.

And then we watched. And waited. And watched. And waited. And then completely forgot about it.


Suddenly there was a Monarch butterfly. Right there. In the middle of the breakfast table. We missed the emergence entirely, but spent a while with it-- cooing and oohing and ahhing, and watching it pump blood into its wings.

And then it was off...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Made at home

I was going to title this post "Not made in China" but then I read this. And I felt bad. Nonetheless, we're all paying a bit more attention these days. And we should, shouldn't we?

Last month Sunburst helped me sew up this little lovely book as airplane fodder for Kitty Bill. He seemed to enjoy it almost as much as we enjoyed making it. The making is always the best part.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Going to California

We went. We saw. And whew! We're back!

Sometime in July ( I swear the days of this entire month seem to have completely run together) we took a family excursion to California to visit my mom and younger siblings. It was the first time we've seen most of them in four years. You can talk to people every week or so over a four year span and still it's like a smack in the head when you see them in person. Four years is a LONG time!

My younger siblings were born when I was a teenager myself, and I can still remember their babyhoods. Since my last visit they went from homeschooled teens and tweens to college kids, reeking of hormones and hipness. Swords, eyeliner and tattoos. Man, do I feel old!

But going to Grandma's was something akin to Disneyland for my kids. Grandma lives out in the country somewhere between San Francisco and Sacramento. She's surrounded by fields of cattle, horses, and alfalfa. The trees are teeming with crows, and the ground is teeming with ground squirrels, but that's another story. Grandma herself has dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, and a rooster. Just down the road are more horses, baby cows, sheep and llamas. Oh, and the nicest cowboy we have ever met that has the biggest soft spot for little girls who love horses, especially Sunburst.

Cowboy J had Sunburst atop her first and only pony when she was three or four, for a ride around the house. It wasn't much, but she has clung to that memory ever since. Now that she's eight, and mad about horses, she thought it was high time that she do it again. And then some!

Sunburst spent her entire vacation down the road with Cowboy J. He stopped by every day to collect Sunburst in his pick-up truck, and off she went with him having the grandest adventures of her young life: playing with a five-day-old baby horse, washing, brushing, saddling, feeding, and yes riding a horse. Cowboy J. dubbed her the "child of a million questions," and he patiently tried to answer every one. She rode just about every day, and on the last day she convinced the horse to trot and canter, which was a bit scarier for mom and dad than we had anticipated. It wasn't enough for Sunburst to just ride, she had to stick around afterwards and do all the horse care and make sure everyone was put away and fed for the night before she would come in for dinner. Whenever we showed up to bring her home, she shooed us away. "It's okay, Cowboy J. can bring me over for dinner."

Here's Sunburst out in the field doing her "The Girl Who Loved Horses" thing:

And every night she came in reeking of horses and cows and grinning madly. And it tickled her even more that Cowboy J. stayed for dinner each night. Sunburst repaid his kindness by making him a peach cobbler, with peaches picked from a tree in his yard. He reciprocated by giving her a horseshoe off the horse she had been riding. She nailed it to the wall next to her bed as soon as we got home.

Moonshine got to ride a horse, too, but it wasn't the same kind of experience. It wasn't about living and breathing the horse energy, it was simply a ride or two. Though Moonshine fought for a seat next to Cowboy J. at the dinner table, she also loved running through the newly cut fields and messing around with dress-up clothes held over from my sisters' childhoods. Moonshine played dress-up, talked art with the 93-year-old artist that lives at Grandma's house, got to watch movie commentary (crazy how she REALLY LOVES this sort of thing) and got into Grandma's massive collection of matryoshka dolls and sated herself for hours of quiet play.

Kitty Bill did NOT ride a live horse, but he did pet one. His joy of joys was the farm equipment over at Cowboy J's. I didn't know that Kitty Bill can tell a tractor from a backhoe from a car, but apparently he has some inner connection to John Deere that I don't know about.

Einstein had a great time, too. He brought his bagpipes along and played his heart out in the wide open spaces. He even got to joust a bit with my sister Junebug. Nothing like sword play in the driveway, I always say, to kick a vacation into high gear. Since none of us had ever seen Einstein or Junebug fence, this was a real treat for everyone.

And me... do you remember me saying that my younger sibs were homeschooled? My mom thought this visit was a perfect time to clean off her bookshelves and pass on some really great homeschooling and literature resources. I left with 200 pounds of books... need I say more?

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