A little poem by Anna

Anna (13) wrote this poem and I thought I’d post it in honor of the season.  She’s quite a prolific poet these days and I love watching her poetry evolve.

When We Were Young

When we were young
the simplest of Christmas lights
were a thousand stars in our eyes.

The mechanical reindeer
were unimaginable,
how did they move
if they weren’t alive?

The snow on the ground
was like the fine sand on Florida beaches,
and we made angels
for the sun to melt
like the tide washed our castles away.

When we were young,
Santa brought all our presents
and we were in bed by nine
waiting to see if we would hear
the bells on Santa’s sleigh.

When we were young,
candy canes were the highlight of the season,
along with our stockings
stuffed with bobbles and toy cars.

When we were young,
the world was a million times as large as it seemed,
and the full December moon
fit in a nutshell.

(Rhiannon Bayer)

Well, I'm glad that's over!

Is it sacrilege to admit I’m happy the holidays are done with? 🙂  We don’t even have stressful holidays.  They’re rather nice and low key, but the whole tone of the world is so frantic and annoyed this time of year, and you can’t go anywhere at all because of the masses of people out shopping day and night.

And the disparity among the children — my kids have some teenage friends who got new cars and computers, and others who got next to nothing (some family friends weren’t going to be able to have any Christmas at all but that has been remedied).  I’m always acutely aware of how tough it is to be a really poor kid the week after Christmas.

Not to mention the friends who are dealing with grief this time of year — death, divorce and so on.  The only thing harder than dealing with something devastating is dealing with it while everybody else seems to be blissfully happy.

In any case, we had a nice holiday (or set of them).  We celebrated the Winter Solstice and opened our presents together Solstice morning, then Daryl took all of the kids to the matinee while I cooked and visited with a friend who stopped by.  We had an evening feast that night.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, braving quite a lot of snow and terrible roads to get there.  We had a lovely feast there too, and the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with family.

 

And now, I’m preparing for the new year and all sorts of goals and resolutions.

I am not at all the type to make New Years resolutions other than ones like these better homeschool resolutions for 2014 but I am looking at the new year as a time to try to implement some fun schedules and changes.

They go along with the new winter schedule that I posted recently, wanting to have some daily activities (reading aloud educationally and for fun, math each day and so on) and some weekly ones (messy art on Wednesday, field trips and literature on Friday, and such).

I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all better… homeschooling such different ages, spending quality time with five kids, keeping up with four columns and two blogs, cooking, chores and so on.

I think it ought to be one of my personal goals for 2014 to be completely caught up on laundry even one day.  🙂

In any case, I’m working on it and will report back on anything that works well.

In the meantime, here’s a few odds and ends that might be of interest…

Bradshaw & Sons: how to make snow lollies...  Maple syrup, snow & a stick. Looks fun!

How to make snow lollies (boiled maple syrup, snow & a stick)

Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it's cold outside?

Cold weather exercise ideas… Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather science!

Vaporize hot water in the air, blow frozen bubbles, testing the freezing points of various liquids and more… Cold weather science!

Waldorf ~ 3rd grade ~ Math ~ Vertical Subtraction ~ main lesson book

An interesting (Waldorf-inspired) way of doing subtraction (I couldn’t find a link, just the graphic on someone’s Pinterest page from their iCloud, but it is pretty self explanatory)

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

And more… Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

Graphing with sponges from teachertipster.com (no more info, just the pic)

And a nice little set of goals…

Now on to that laundry…..

 

 

Our Winter Schedule

I like to keep a seasonal schedule to help keep myself on track in terms of homeschooling, meals, housework and so on. I am not any good at all with rigid structure, but a loose schedule helps immensely with a family of our size and with all the pans I always have in the fire.

Each day has a general theme in terms of food, activities and homeschooling focus. We are free to deviate from it, but it helps to keep things running more smoothly to have it as a general guideline.

Here’s our winter schedule, which I have posted above my desk.

Each day has a theme next to it, and the lunch is listed under it (kids make it when they can).  The dinner (or dinner theme) is listed at the end of the line.  I also list what area to clean and what HS area to focus on, plus anything unique to the day.  Along the side you can see what we have to do every day, chore-wise (dishes, laundry, pets, tidying) and at the bottom is the HS/personal stuff we do every day.

The schedule is very loose, like if we’re snowed in for Friday field trips we can still walk up to the library uptown (our whole town is like 8 blocks wide, so “uptown” is a relative term!).

And in case you’re interested, here was the fall schedule. I loved having it to refer to all during autumn.  I found that it made things just seem easier.

Since I cook from scratch and we have a lot of dietary needs in our house (various members are gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian, not to mention general tastes), it really helps me to have a general weekly meal rotation for the seasons.

Some of the benefits of this system are:

  • Weekly shopping lists are easy to compile since they don’t change that much during one season.
  • Meals are centered around seasonal foods, which are cheaper and fresher. In the winter, that means a lot of root vegetables and dried beans.  I also rely on the foods we put up earlier in the year.
  • It’s easier for me to quickly make suppers, since it’s rather routine.
  • Having a general theme instead of a specific meal plan lets me shop the sales and account for extras we have to use up. For instance, stir fries can include just about any vegetables and proteins.  Mexican can mean anything from burrito bowls to enchiladas to tostadas.  Baked potato night usually involves a horde of possible toppings, including any leftovers that sound like good toppers.  And obviously soup night leaves thousands of possibilities.  🙂
  • The meal themes are loose enough to still allow for variety. “Use it up day” lets me make use of things in the pantry and fridge, so foods aren’t wasted and I need to buy less.  Feast night on Sunday allows us to have a little fun and satisfy our cravings.
  • The general meals are incredibly frugal. With a family of 7 and our budget (and my insistence on still buying healthy, whole foods and lots of organics), this saves me a ton of money.  On Saturday nights, we have the comfort food from my childhood — cabbage, potatoes and carrots.  We just boil it up in a pot and top it with butter and salt.  A lot of families survived on that type of food five nights a week or more in the past, and while it’s not a favorite for any of my kids it gives me a night off of cooking (Daryl takes care of it).  Other meals in our rotation are heavily reliant on affordable staples like rice and beans.
  • Having this system lets it become routine to do prep work. For instance, knowing that Monday night is always Mexican night, I automatically put some black beans in the pressure cooker to soak overnight.
  • The kids know what to expect, which they like.
  • I don’t have to panic at 5 p.m. about what’s for supper. That’s the biggest plus for me!

The same holds true for the homeschooling routine and the chore routines. They are loose, but they allow for a little bit of predictability and just enough structure.  It is too easy for me to feel overwhelmed at everything that needs to be done in the house or all the things I “should” be doing with the kids, but if I can look and see that today is a day to focus on poetry, making the day magical and cleaning bedrooms, I can handle that!

Winter is actually our calmest season. We don’t have any work to do in the gardens and all of the harvests have been put up.  It’s too soon for starting seeds, the snow keeps us from going too far from home, and there are not many activities even offered this time of year.

In Homeschooling Through the Seasons I talked about the possible winter homeschool environments:

Winter is an ideal time for slowing down and doing longer projects. You can introduce lots more read-alouds of both fun fiction and history, science and other educational subjects. Winter sports can include ice skating, skiing and playing in the snow, but can also incorporate more inside activities like Wii fitness games, yoga and using mini trampolines. Homemaking skills can be part of the learning, teaching kids skills like bread making and knitting (if you don’t know how to do these, this is a perfect excuse to learn along with them!). Computers can play a bigger part in homeschooling this time of year, using educational sites like Khan Academy, online curricula such as the free ACS chemistry curriculum and educational online games. This is also an ideal time to use educational videos from Netflix or the library. The Christmas season offers its own challenges and opportunities. Homeschoolers are lucky that we can take full advantage of the season without having to squeeze in the same schedule as usual. Many homeschoolers cut back on the traditional lessons during December and let Christmas (from baking to budgeting to religious education) be a main part of homeschooling.

Today, however, our routine is off a bit because we’re deviating by traveling to Sioux Falls to pick up Victoria from the airport.  She’s back from a fantastic week and a half with friends in Oregon so we get to bring her home.

What do you think of the new hair?

I swear Fiona is more of a fan than she’s letting on there!  😉

And now I’m off to tidy the bedroom and grab some poetry books for the car……

 

 

The One Room Schoolhouse Has Taken a Surreal Turn

This is what happens when you are homeschooling little kids and also have older siblings with a penchant for social justice in the house.

Victoria mentioned a few minutes ago that three teenaged boys were arrested in Rochester, New York, recently for “blocking pedestrians” by waiting for a bus.

Alex was playing in the living room next to us and shouted, “What?! That’s ridiculous! Why did they arrest them?”

Victoria, ever the social activist, told him, “Institutionalized racism.”

That, of course, led to Alex wanting to know what that was, and Victoria explaining about how some people think bad things about other people just because they have darker skin.

This outraged Alex, who then went off on a six year-old tirade about institutionalized racism and how ridiculous that was.

He went on to blast,

“I could understand it if the boys were super strong and they were snapping stop signs in half!

Or if they were half shark and half human and eating the people at the bus stop!”

He came up with some very good scenarios for when it was okay to arrest boys at the bus stop.

Then he moved on to another tirade.

“AND — I think girls should be allowed to vote!”.

Victoria told him that girls can already vote.

“Oh, well good,” he answered.

So at least there’s that.