Saturday, September 29, 2007

Applesauce and Bandages

For second grade I've divided our year into month long blocks. We focus on a primary subject each month, plus do festivals/holidays, music, form drawing, clay work, painting, cooking and etc. Of course all the subjects seem to get covered - which is a good thing.

For the month of September we're focusing on natural science, specifically the topic of harvest. We've been reading books on harvesting and storing food, Nightowl is attending a class on Permaculture, and we're doing a bit of our own harvesting.

We started with apples. During our first visit to the orchard we got the fever and came home with a bushel of apples. Really, it didn't look like that many apples when we were in the orchard, so we also brought home peaches, plums, cider and squash. Whew. Once at home Nightowl said" "Mommy, this is a lot of apples." And how. So, we decided to learn how to can applesauce. A perfect harvest lesson. We went to our local hardware store and stocked up. Cans - check. Peeler- check. Water bath canner - check. Let's go.

At first it all went well and was very serene. Nightowl liked working the peeler. Bearcub was munching on spiral cut apples, the sauce was bubbling. Then, blam, everything changed. You know how it is with little ones, something just snaps. Suddenly Bearcub was screaming and hitting her sister, Nightowl was demanding justice, I glanced at the clock: "11:30 already! It can't be, it's time for lunch." I shooed them out of the way and tried to quickly finish paring a last batch of fruit, when it happened. My knife slipped and I cut, quite deeply into the fleshy part of my thumb.

Now either I came very close to a nerve or I'm just a big weenie cause I hollered. Blood was flowing down my arm and onto the floor. I grabbed a towel and rushed upstairs. My first thought was to clean the wound. When I did this my head started to spin and my vision began to darken. Not good. I put pressure on my thumb and put my head between my knees.

As my head cleared I could hear Nightowl crying: "Mommy what's wrong? There's blood on the floor."

I went back down to the children and was trying to keep pressure on my thumb when, again, I felt my head spin and my vision started to darken. Not good. I lay down on the floor and put my hand up all the while murmuring reassurances to the girls. I asked Nightowl to bring me the phone (which she did) but I couldn't remember a single number. I broke out in a sweat and everything was tilting; I needed help.

Calmly and firmly I asked Nightowl to please run across the street to our neighbor and tell her that I'd cut my finger and needed some help. Quickly now, Mommy's about to pass out.

She tried. She opened the door. She even went outside. But she couldn't do it. Nightowl has a big personality and lots of confidence - unless she is asked to interact with semi-strangers (for example our neighbors with whom we speak daily and attend the same church- I don't really get this) or do something that puts her in the spotlight (such as knocking on a door). She doesn't even like to knock on the doors of folks we know.

As I lay there with blood oozing out of the cloth, drenched in cold sweat Nightowl came back in, crying. "I can't Mommy. I can't do it." I think I might have asked her again - I don't really remember - but in the end I simply said: "It's ok, honey. Mommy will be alright." What else could I say? And then the adrenaline kicked in, my heart slowed down, my vision cleared and I stopped shivering. Eventually I could sit up. I bandaged my finger. I took several deep breaths. I calmed my kids. I made lunch. I finished the sauce.

Everything turned out ok. My thumb has pretty much healed (I didn't even need stitches, guess I am a weenie). The applesauce and plumb butter are quite tastey. And Nightowl and I learned that emergency plans are necessary. We now have a list of names and numbers near the phone, that she can read and is comfortable dialing. We've spoken with our neighbors and she's practicing asking for help. Eventually we'll practice ringing doorbells. All in all, we learned way more than I ever imagined.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Second Grade Begins

It's hard to believe that it's nearly October! We started our school year on September 1 and the month has just flown by. So far, the best part for me has been my lack of anxiety - I feel kinda seasoned and really happy to be back at it. Our new schedule is working great so far - we've been using it since mid-August and refining as we go. It's going to change on us as Chillymama will soon be working evenings. But hey, we're flexible - at least in theory.

For our first week we did some simple back to school activities to ease our transition. We started by reviewing Nightowl's work from Grade One. For some reason I was surprised by how much joy she took from this activity. She read her books with rapt interest, reciting details from science, reading and math. All of the things we did really made an impression and, of course, that makes me feel wonderful. It's working! Hooray!

After reviewing everything I gave Nightowl a white cardboard portfolio and explained that this is how we would store her Grade One work. I then offered her our beeswax crayons; she could decorate the portfolio if she wished.

She took this task very seriously and spent two entire main lessons working. My only instruction was that she draw in the way we had practiced last year - without outlines. The rest was up to her. To my delight she decorated the portfolio with images from all her Grade One Lessons.

You can see the Lovely Lady, Divide the Math Gnome, the sister from the Six Swans, and an illustration of the Golden Goose. She's really quite proud of this work.

We finished our Back to School week by creating a September Calendar (pictured above - I plan to repeat this exercise each month), drawing up our weekly schedule and by attending our first Coop Class - which was pretty fun. All in all a good start to a new year.

Keeping House

In early August I attended a two-day conference with Barbara Dewey. One of the things I took away from this event was the charge to put one's house in order before planning the school year. I had taken a small stab at scheduling near the end of summer and it had glorious results so I was game. I did some serious thinking about what needs to happen in our lives before schooling. The short list I came up with:
  1. Bearcub's nap,
  2. cleaning the house,
  3. one day to do my paid work (yes, I have an outside job!),
  4. family time,
  5. church,
  6. care for the pets,
  7. home cooked meals, and
  8. a general sense of calm.
Sounds good. Then I looked at our outside activities - for all family members. They are:
  1. Nightowl's Violin lessons - twice a week,
  2. Horse back riding - Nightowl - one a week,
  3. Homeschool park day,
  4. playgroup,
  5. Rehearsal night - me (I sing in a group),
  6. Bookclub - me,
  7. Bookclub - Chillymama,
  8. church committees, and
  9. Spanish class - Chillymama
Ok, things are getting full. Next I looked at our weekly homeschooling activities:
  1. Main lesson,
  2. form drawing,
  3. painting,
  4. clay work,
  5. music practice,
  6. Coop class,
  7. permaculture class,
  8. handwork/crafts, and
  9. circle time.
Alrighty, there's a lot on this list. But I took small step, started with the first list, and reflected on Nightowl's rhythm, when Bearcub naps and other items that are inflexible (lessons, rehearsals etc.). Then we plugged them into a grid and - wow - we've got time for everything.
I drew up a grid and as one of our starting second grade lesons Nightowl and I filled it in with illustrations. It now resides proudly on our fridge. We look at it every day.

As long as I don't get over zealous we can make it work. Priorities are different for me this year. For example, I don't feel that every homeschool activity needs a product for the main lesson book (more on this in future posts). I'm also coming to terms with cleaning house in bits and pieces. Plus, I now realize that activities don't need to be hours long - some just take a few minutes. And most important: as much as possible I let go of the clock. There are no times on our schedule. I can remember when the inflexible things happen but as for the rest - it fits in as it can. And you know, it's working. I'm more relaxed because there is time, planned time, for everything. That nagging worry of when it will get done is gone. What a relief.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Grade Two Books, Resources, and Lessons

This page is a record of my materials and sources used for Grade 2. I plan to keep it updated.

General Grade 2 Curriculum
Path of Discovery Grade 2 - Eric Fairman
Inspiring Your Child’s Education - David Darcy
Materials from Marsha Johnson -

Waldorf Math Grades 1-3 -
Barbara Dewey
Math Lessons for Elementary Grades - Dorothy Harrer
An Overview of the Elementary Math Curriculum - David Darcy

Form Drawing
Form Drawing for the Homeschooling Parent
- Barbara Dewey
The Clown of God - Tomi de Paola

Science as Phenomena for Homeschoolers K-8 - Barbara Dewey
The Handbook of Nature Study - Anna Botsford Comstock
Exploring the Forest with Grandforest Tree

Suzuki Violin Method Bks 2 and 3
Wolfhart Etudes for Violin, Bk 1
Rise Up Singing

Handwork for Homeschoolers
- Barbara Dewey
The Knitted Farmyard - Hannelore Wernhard
Knitted Animals - Anne Dorthe Grigaff

Language Arts
An English Handbook - Dorothy Harrer
Stories of the Saints - Siegwart Knijpenga
The Fables of Aesop - Edited by Joseph Jacobs
Indian Why Stories - Frank B Linderman
The King of Ireland's Son - Padraic Column
McGuffy Readers 2 and 3

Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children - Shakta Kaur Khalsa
Come Unto These Yellow Sands - Molly von Heider
The Dance Steps of Hairspray - Hairspray DVD

Books We've Read Together
Little House Series
Martha Years Series
Biography of Martin Luther King
The Incredible Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Wind Boy (2nd Read)
Peter Pan (15th Read)
The Adventures of King Arther and the Round Table

Books Nightowl is Reading
Magic Treehouse - series
The Lighthouse - series
Marvin Redpost - series
The A-Z Mysteries - series
All books by Dick King-Smith (Babe, Sophie's Snail etc.)
The Wizard of Oz
Rainbow Fairies - series
Pixie Hollow - series
Dinotopia - series
Peter Pan
Misty of Chincoteague
Stormy - Misty's Foal
Black Beauty

Monday, September 03, 2007

Summer's End

It's been a busy summer. Nightowl asked that I post a few things as reminders of her fun and learning during these past three months. Bearcub was always along for the ride and had a good time too!

#1 - Chris comes to visit! Wackiness ensues!

#2 - Trapeez camp - Mommy did this too although, fortunately, there is no video record of my performance. This little movie of Nightowl shows her form on the knee hang and the wonderful safety lines that help while she attempts the back-flip dismount - yikes!

#3 - Musical theater summer camp with her good buddy Sunburst. It was their first production. So great!

#4 - Chickens. That single word sums up most of Nightowl's focus this summer. Oh sure we did swimming (very fun), tried gymnastics (a disaster), hung with friends (good times) and a variety of other things. But the best was the chickens. It is due to chickens that Nightowl is learning about caring for the living creatures in her world, learning to read, and attaining a new level of self confidence. Here are a few of pix that she took of foul at the fair.

Pictured: Polish, Buff Orpington, No-Idea

Pictures: Golden Lace Polish, Bearcub preferred the goats

#5 - Pastured Dairy Farm Trip. Very fun. Note that her main interest is not cows.

#6 - Watching the garden grow? It did grow - but not well. We learned that gardens need lots of sun (we only got about 2 hours a day) and lots of water (there's a drought here) and that bunnies will eat just about everything.

#7 - The Michigan Women's Festival. No photos from this but it was incredible - check out their site!

#8 - Bearcub discovered the joys of paint - what an artist!