Category Archives: Homeschooling

flowers and books and wool

I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird again, so that it will be fresh in my mind for discussing with the child I’m assigning it to.  That’s one of the nice things about homeschooling, you find yourself actually re-reading the classics instead of just thinking you should.  I am every bit as in love with Atticus Finch as I was twenty-odd years ago.  I’ve moved on to Sensible Physics Teaching (I know how you all envy my crazy, madcap life!).

What a difference a week can make, in terms of both weather and knitting alike!  I don’t want to jinx myself by saying it out loud, but in the back of my mind I’ve kind of been thinking that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance of finishing this vest in time for his birthday?  Of course all of those ends in need of working in must be taken into consideration.

He selected all of the colors.  All except for one are very close to the shades in the original.  He couldn’t find a yellow in the yarn we were using that suited, so went with a dark green instead. I’m not sure it has enough pop.  That star motif seems kind of murky to me.

In other knitterly news, I finally broke down and bought a set of interchangeable circular needles.  Remember Seraphina’s sweet little birthday romper?  The part I didn’t mention was that I managed to break 4 needles on that collar!  The first one was a valid break, just the strain of a great many stitches (almost 400 I think) on a well crafted teeny-tiny wooden needle.  The next three however were complete negligence on the needle manufacturer’s part.  For my birthday, Iain and Elijah plopped down what turned out to be a really cheaply made set of circular needles in front of me and declared that I was never allowed to complain about not having the right needle again!  This was a very sweet an thoughtful idea of course.  But when I couldn’t slide the stitches down the needle at all or the needle slipped right off the cord, dropping most of my stitches off the end, I quickly found other things to complain about!  Thankfully they were in bed at the time, so I was left twitching, muttering to myself, and wishing we kept hard liquor or some sort of sedative in the house, away from their scrutiny.

With a sigh I realized I needed to replace two of those broken needles for Elijah’s vest.  The more I thought about it the more all this buying a needle here and there, as needed, was getting ridiculous.  So with a friend’s encouragement and after assuring my family that chipping in for this would be an early Mother’s Day present that would make me deliriously happy, I took the plunge.  And can I just say, I LLLLLLOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVE them!  I mean so much.  I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

After a whole lot of deliberation I went with the 4″, small tip set with regular points and I am very happy with them.  Also almost every size needle I ever knit with is all organized in this one tiny packet.  I’m still amazed by that.  It seems like nothing and yet it’s everything.  Brilliant.


Week in the Life, Tuesday

Steamed broccoli, topped with leftover turkey and gravy for breakfast.

Can you hear the constant clicking from there?  Sometimes it’s maddening, but mostly it’s fun.

Happy-at-home clothes: an old beloved dress (I bought this one when I was 14!) and my folded, both of which have seen better days!

Glorious day!  We brought as much of our schoolwork outside as possible.

A lot of melting and a lot of splashing!

Feeding the birds at our neighbor’s house where the chickadees will eat right out of your hand.

These days, no matter where I am, I always have a bit of work with me.  Sometimes just managing to sneak in a stitch here and a stitch there is the only way anything ever gets done.

They tapped a few birch trees on one of the last days of gathering maple sap.  Tapping birches is a first for us this year and part of a self-directed Woods Day school project for the younger set.

Frost burned pansies uncovered around Seraphina’s apricot tree.  She asks to go and visit her tree everyday and tells people about each of our fruit trees.

Cassava Oven Fries for a late day snack.  A real treat!

She helped me pull all of the evergreen boughs off of the lavender, a delightfully fragrant job.


Week in the Life, Monday

Clearly I’m having trouble keeping up with Week in the Life this year.  I took all of the pictures and made a few notes, but actually putting together these long posts, at this moment in time, is a struggle.  I’ve considered just completely scrapping the project several times now, but I really try to do it once a year because these are the posts that I enjoy looking back at.  And I think with life being as busy as it is, it’s perhaps all the more important to try to record a few details.

Iain and Elijah stayed after work for a lesson.  We woke to a dull, grey and dreary day.  The kids wanted a bath.  I thought I would sit on the bathroom floor embroidering.  It sounded like a lovely and relaxing way to start the day, but ended up being stressful and frustrating.

Together we fixed brunch: yams, sage and onion sausage patties, sauerkraut and rooibos tea and filled the dehydrator with apple slices, while listening to an Easter Sparkle Story.  Realized we are not eating eggs right now, what are we going to do for Easter?!?

Brunch all together, alongside a game of quiddler.

At every meal this little munchkin eats and drinks what she would like of her own share and then scoots herself over to the other side of the table to see what of interest might be left over there.

We normally go out in the morning for our walk before her nap, but today she was very tired and asked to go to sleep early.

Homeschool work while baby sleeps, heavy on geography and measurements.

Trying to find a bit more variety on AIP, I made a whole turkey for dinner, along with squash and gravy, thinking we would be able to eat leftovers throughout the week.  Mairi and I managed to find a bit of fresh thyme to season it, under all the old growth.

More supplies in the mail.  It’s been a strange week that way, so much happening all at once!

A small plane flew over while we were on our nature walk.  She mistook it for one of her brother’s little quadcopters and pulling off her mitten, held out her hand saying, “catch fly-fly!”.

The experience of water is a strange thing to them right now, frozen in some places, flowing in others.

Whenever it is warm enough to take her mittens off she goes skipping down the street making them flap and singing out, “skippin’ mittens!”

At dinner Seraphine laid her tummy on the table and started biting the giant turkey in the middle!

Always a project going on!  Right now it’s Wizard of Oz themed figures.

More quiet time to work on projects for my big boys once most of the little ones were in bed.

A late night for me working on our newsletter.


Week in the Life, Sunday

Him: knitting

Her: making a friendship bracelet

I have paint colors swirling through my mind.  Our favorite paint company is going out of business and I frantically (before it all sold out!) picked out colors for our next several projects.  It’s just arrived and I’m amusing myself by painting a swatch a day so I can see each color in place.  Today’s selection is “Delicate Peach”.

We had tuna salad for breakfast, which contained “Q-mummers” (cucumbers), one of my favorite baby words at the moment.

This is what life really looks like here right now!  Always food in progress, always dishes in progress, clothes drying, the latest projects unceremoniously scooped from the dinning room table and dumped on the ironing board- which never seems to get put away, boxes of next-size and season up kids’ clothes sitting about, waiting for me to finish sorting them, people everywhere; hectic, cluttered and full.

Goodies in progress for the shop.  One of the things keeping my hands so full of late.

I managed to leave the house wearing all clothing I like!  Of course, we don’t have a full-length mirror, so photos of myself are uhm, educational.

A day of gathering supplies: for the shop, for upcoming birthdays, for home improvement projects.

He wants to sew himself a shirt.

Out past nap time, poor little love!

Back home with our bounty for the beef and veggie stew that simmered in the crockpot the whole time we were away.

Iain secretly bought Mairi Rose the tiny sewing kit she had been coveting.  So sweet.

Beautiful fabrics, each one intended for something different, looking very comfortably harmonious all together.

Stopped in at Goodwill, hoping to find a bunch of mugs and bowls.  We’ve broken so many lately.  All it yielded was a single specimen to add to my collection of random, mismatched, floral pottery mugs.  And this little enamelware bowl!

Which I quietly packed away, along side a tiny 25-cent pot.  One to serve Seraphina’s birthday treats in and one as a gift to add to her kitchen set.  Three dollars well spent (including the mug).

Later in the evening our dear neighbor stopped round with a gift.  And inside…

Just what I was needing!

Homeschooling these days takes place at all hours, on all days.  The older boys are preparing for an important presentation.

Complete with very stylish pointers!


In Honor of President’s Day

Apparently we’re getting a whole winter’s worth of weather in this one week.  It’s particularly bitter tonight.  Steve and I are taking shifts feeding the fire so that the pipes won’t freeze.

Photos from last year.  Goodness they’ve changed!  A glimpse at American history at our house.  Are you familiar with George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation?  It’s a handbook of maxims to guide a gentleman in proper conduct, a translation of which was copied by Washington when he was 14.

A sampling:

  • Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.
  • Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.
  • Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.
  • Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
  • Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.

My kids would do well to apply that last one to their relations with one another.  At some point we started compiling our own rules of conduct taken from the life experiences of our community and more suited to our lifestyle.  It’s been a long running joke and we add to it from time to time.  Great pearls, such as:

  • Place not the lamb upon the futon, for if you do, she’s sure to pee.
  • Partake not of the scum produced by boiling sap.
  • Heed thy neighbor’s wisdom and urinate not upon electric fences for if you do, more than your companions shall be shocked.
  • Kick not at the mink whilst naked, lest you attract an audience.*

George Washington would be horrified, but I like to think that Teddy a least would have appreciated the stache.

*Let’s just say that there was a situation involving a friend on a rural farm, a violent middle of the night chicken attack and house guests that were forgotten in the heat of the moment.  On the up side, she did mange to pull her boots on as she ran out the door.



I want to be finishing up Galen’s birthday sweater.  His birthday is in three weeks.  I only have the sleeves left to go, which should be easy, except I’m always afraid to take it out and start working.  He keeps popping down at night, for all manner of reasons.  I really think that there is some sort of conspiracy amongst my children to stop me from getting a decent night’s sleep ever.

Beyond Lyme Disease reads rather like a school report, but there is a lot of information in it.  I’m sick of trying to be informed.  Trying to find answers.  Trying to get better.  Bleh.  So much of life wasted on something I would prefer to ignore.  But can’t.  sigh.

Bark is fabulous.  The younger kids and I have been working with it on Woods Day.  The older boys can already identify all the trees in our area, dormant or not.

I’m trying to get back into the habit of daily walks.  We need it.  I need it.

Iain, Elijah and I are working on a large project for Galen’s 10th birthday.  I have no pictures of that.  We work on the one night of the week when he’s at dance.  We run around like crazy people every moment that he’s away.  Just a few minutes before he walks in the door, we rush about packing up saws, sweeping and dusting off sawdust and generally trying to hide every sign of our efforts.  We try not to pant as all causal like we greet him, behaving just as though we spent the evening lounging about, leisurely cooking dinner.

We’re trying to convert a section of our upstairs hallway into a little mini-room, a cosy-creative nook just for him.  It’s supposed to be a surprise.  We’re kind of trying to do a custom pre-fab, sort of thing.  We’re making all of the pieces in chunks so that they can be rapidly installed on the morning of his birthday while he’s on a little outing.  There are so many ways that this can go wrong, but he’s going to be absolutely thrilled if all goes right.


Thanksgiving Snippets (and 48/52)

Since Wednesday is our regular woods day, we divided it between Thanksgiving preparations and time in the forest where they gathered decorations to grace our table.  Inside we cooked and tidied and sewed a new set of napkins from fabric that the children had picked earlier in the week.

Moonrise, glimpsing that glorious, great, golden orb through the trees.  I’m feeling a little alliteration happy tonight!

The birds were our main entertainment on Thanksgiving morning, all flocking to our feeders for a feast of their own.  Spotting the finches was a treat.  Especially the purple ones.  We don’t often see them.

I still try to avoid giving the little one sweets, so she had her own wee pie, full of pumpkin, coconut cream, and raisins to enjoy.

On Friday they were back out in the woods again, gathering baskets upon baskets of greens for garlands and wreaths of all sorts and sizes.  I don’t think they will be holding up well come Christmas, but I guess at least we’ll be festive until then!  The kids are more than ready for advent.  I’m not prepared in the least.  All the same I am quietly tucking into the season and trying to let go of any expectations or worries, so that I can enjoy was comes.

In some ways I think the Friday after Thanksgiving might be the nicest day of the year.  It is the only day where I never have to cook or worry about what to make.  Pie for breakfast and a buffet of leftovers for the rest of the day.


November Days

One of the downsides to where we live is that almost everything is far away, but the view on your way there is almost always beautiful.

Paint samples mingling with family art.  Just a daydream right now.  A happy thought for way off in the future.  I’ve already decided just which one I want.

It was in this month that I finally gave up on the rest of my tomatoes, piled up in baskets in the mudroom, waiting to be dealt with.  They are now for the wildlife to enjoy.

Iain built me an arbor to grow my roses up, lovely boy.  Steve and Elijah helped a bit at times, mostly holding things in place, but it was designed and built almost entirely by Iain.  It’s going to look gorgeous all covered in blooms come summer.

Following their interests, our “woods day” has mostly been taking place fire side for the younger ones, with the older ones stopping in to visit from time to time.  We tend to cook at least our midday meal on the fire.  Last week it was apple, yam and raisins topped with cinnamon and a bit of oil, cooked up together in a tidy packet.  A little spit for roasting apples has been erected.  They like to roast apples every week.  What Galen really wants is to roast a turkey over the fire.  They are working on new burn bowls.  Galen has been making paintbrushes from found wood and bird feathers.

I got such a wonderful head start on Iain’s birthday sweater this year!  At some point I got distracted and put it aside, knowing that I had time to spare.  Suddenly it’s November and occurring to me that I have this giant man-sized sweater to complete and very little time to do it in.

I’ve been sewing and sewing.  I’m wrapping crafting and the holiday season about me like a comfortingly soft old quilt.  And on the subject of quilts, I up and decided to make Iain a “quick” last minute quilt.  As if there is really such a thing as a quick quilt!  I’ve had the fabric for an embarrassingly long time and the child will be 16, it’s feeling like now or never.  I’m really enjoying the process.  It’s mostly quiet sitting work, which is just my speed these days.

Experiments with various types of barometers.

Wood gathered for sugaring off on the other side of the year.

I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around Thanksgiving being in just two days.  In fact, I keep thinking it’s Friday and the week is over.  I think we’ll be keeping things fairly simple here.



Backwoods picture by Steve.  As a treat to himself upon completing a chainsaw safety course, Iain has invested in a chainsaw of his own.  After much research he went with this one, which he has been very happy with.  He’s been helping Steve to clean up some dead and down wood on our property, with Elijah along to assist.

We’ve recently come to the conclusion that the boys have outgrown the wilderness program they have been attending for the last year.  Together we have decided that for now they will continue to immerse themselves in nature after a more self directed fashion.  We’ve set aside one full day out of the school week where, after the basic daily math practice and language arts have been completed, the rest of the day is theirs to devote to often experimental, adventurous, passionate, outdoor education.  For now I’m letting them go where they will with this, but from time to time I’ll have assignments for them; things to look for, to think about, to explore, to hopefully inspire.  So far the older boys have been devoting the bulk of their time to gathering wood for sugaring off in the spring.  As you can see, the wood gathering mentality has proved contagious and is trickling on down through the ages.  That little one there?  Never one to be left behind, she scaled the wall one day when she heard them off in the distance!

They are all very excited and pleased with our new plan.  Today I watched Galen make a tidy stack of shingles for a structure he has in mind.  Given support and space, I’m always awed by their creativity and determination.


pack basket 2.0

I was looking to start the school year off with a bang.  And well, if nothing else, this project sure had a lot of banging!  You literally pound the log all over with a mallet.  Then you are able to peel off strips as the growth rings break apart.  Pretty amazing stuff.  Also, thoroughly exhausting for the record.  My seriously hearty, extremely active kids were tired and I mean truly tired, after taking long shifts pounding splints.

The kids were taking part in a wilderness program this year (which they kind of, sort of, already aren’t all doing anymore- it’s a long story and probably beside the point).  Most of their backpacks did not survive last year’s adventures.  I got it into my head that it would be an incredible experience for them to use materials sourced from the wild to build their supplies for venturing out into the wild.  Me and my big ideas.  Steve felled the tree for us.  Black ash is supposed to be the very best wood for this type of project, as this wasn’t an option for us, we settled on white ash.  I think our technique could use some serious work.  I feel like there is some magical element we’re not privy too that would just take it too a whole new level.  We learned a bit from one basket to the next, but if we continue at this rate, we will have to make approximately one thousand and four baskets before we get anything that looks right.  It is functional at least.  It was so much work!  I think Elijah is the only one who’s still keen on trying to make baskets for everyone.  Maybe in time.  Spring, when the sap is rising is a good time for harvesting.  Perhaps we’ll try again then.  Which gives me two seasons to try to figure out what we’re doing wrong!  Or if not exactly wrong, at least not quite right!