Thursday, July 21, 2016

When You Choose Learning

Or...where there is a will, there is a way. This is a good friend and client who is so inspiring to me, that I asked her if I could publish a couple of photos from our last training session.

Why are we conducting our session on the sidewalk in front of the house?
That is where we are, for real, after several aborted attempts at other venues that same day. She is an aspiring interpreter and I am helping her train, in English and in medical ethics for interpreters. She is a hard-working, studious, ambitious young woman. She has taken a bus for 2 hours to meet me to work on her English. She has found a way to work full-time and go to school and succeed at it, in a country that is not her own. The challenges have been many, and include a cute little baby who has become a very active toddler.

This is the adorable little pumpkin who, 5 minutes prior to this photo, was running amok in the library and giving fabulous renditions of his own screamo act all over the place.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Graduation Party That Finally Happened...

Duncan was always going to graduate, in fact, he officially did so back in March. Whether or not he would attend the ceremony or want a party, he waited to decide until really the very last minute. He did decide on both, and each event was a lot of fun, maybe especially because I did not stress about it for two months ahead of time...just a few intense days before the event. My gratitude to Duncan, for being a gracious, charming host, and to Kyle's mother, Wendy and his step-mother, Heidi, for planning the whole dang thing and just giving me jobs to do and a list of groceries to bring. We pulled it off; never would have happened without you! And I am so very grateful to my family who found out about this at the last minute and drove for hours to be there, thank you!!! To all who braved the sticky, humid heat to join us to celebrate, and to those who sent well wishes, thank you.  You make my world the beautiful place it is to be in. 

Here are a few snapshots of the day; in spite of the temps in the 90s, this picnic shelter overlooking a lovely park was a shady, breezy, comfortable haven. (Thank goodness!)

 The boys:

Why You Need to Camp

I have a love/hate relationship with camping, I'll admit it. I think many people do; there are bugs, the lavatories are far away and spartan, it can be hot, wet, cold, is outside, after all. I believe however, it is an essential part of life. There are experiences, pleasures and lessons that can only be had living outside, and camping, especially tent camping, is the simplest path to to outdoor living. 

In the photos from yesterday, you can see one small thing that happened to connect the children to the environment while living out of doors. The tiny bird was found while exploring, close by our campsite, and for 36 hours it became part of their world.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Camping 2016

Campsites are one of the things that America really does well. Our standard picnic table and firepit per site get my full endorsement. The midwest may seem short on spectacular scenery and architecture from the middle ages, but our camping grounds are the best. A few shots, between and during clouds:

 Taking turns cooking meals
 Exploring the banks of the creek across the way

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Camping Out...and Back In

Today's post comes to you from our local laundry mat, as the sleeping bags, pillows and towels go round and round in two separate dryers. But never fear; the intrepid camping father is hard at work, reorganizing the car so that we can hop back in and head back to our wet campsite. Never say die.

Yesterday was a fabulous first day of camp. We had lunch in a terrible fast-food place on the way there (we are between two trips, after all) and arrived to find every single site of our destination open for set-up. Nobody for miles around. Perfect.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bike on Water

Bike on water...or along it, to all the beautiful, wild places you did not know were right in your backyard until you saw them from your bicycle. I am still bowled over from the beauty of my morning ride today. 

The Mississippi? A big thing to get across to get to work, an event, school. That's from your car. On your bike? It becomes mystical, magical world of its own, ever-changing, ever alive. 

The bike path along the river that winds its way through Davenport, Moline, Bettendorf and Rock Island is like a road through France; a small country with huge landscape and climate changes in a matter of hours. In ten minutes of biking today, I went from mist surrounding the far banks, making the hills appear to be distant mountains as I rounded a bend in the path, then swirling and dipping into the water like the gulls and pelicans along my way, to the sun rising on a jungle-lined section, clear blue water, and suddenly,

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cool Sirop de Menthe Recipe for All That Mint Outside

If but for the squirrels...well, not only the squirrels, there is also the invisible-ish fence I put in place for the dog who chases after the squirrels, over which I continually trip, and the dirt that is all over and has to be replaced and put back nicely and cleaned up after the darling beasts have finished digging up my foxglove, red onions and geraniums yet again. Besides this, gardening is pure joy, especially when I have a day when I can just be out without interruptions. The kids wander out and around, help out when I give them a job...or not, sometimes. 

Today, sirop de menthe is on our always is in the summer. This is the French equivalent of Kool-Aid;

Da Good Counts Maksh da Good Neighborsh, but the Good Compost?

...I'm afraid my Portuguese neighbor's old adage; "good accounts make good neighbors," as he was giving me change for 5 centimes, or making sure he paid me for a 35-cent baguette, was not one that will hold up to the stench of my newest compost bin. Good compost? Yes, the compost will probably be very nice, if there is not a court-order for its removal before I can use it. As for our dear neighbors to the left; I had really better go ask them if it is a problem for them. Maybe the wind always blows from the north in the summer. any case, it smells like something died and decomposed in it, and except for its daily hosing down, I am not sure what to do about it.

I have tried every method you can imagine of storing and mixing and using compost. I have battled roots growing down into the ground from plants that really looked dead when they went in, or maybe they were banana tree seeds, who knows.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cuisine Renovation

I knew my creative energy...or simply all of my energy that was not spent cooking, cleaning and chauffering, must have gone somewhere the past few months. As I was arranging my brand new spice jars, I realized just where that was; the kitchen! It started with an obligatory floor do-over when I realized there was a water-stain slowly spreading outward from the sink or somewhere in that under the dishwasher. Et, zut. New floor:

The desk was the dismay of the playroom/schoolroom which inherited the contents. Then things really got out of hand. There was this wonderful new space in my kitchen with so much possibility. I asked for opinions. This can be, in certain circumstances, a good idea. In this case, what I originally wanted to know was whether or not they agreed with my husband's desire to suspend out pots and pans from the ceiling in order to make more room in our terribley over-crowded cupboards. Good for the part about creating space. Bad...too many bads. They would block my view to the rest of the house, our pans are seriously ugly. Pure utilitarian. Not copper. We would require new pots. That would need quite a budget. Mmm, but copper pots are so pretty. They need what? Polishing? Ha! I'll take utilitarian, thanks anyway.

Instead, thank you to my father and my friend, Rebecca, for the winning idea, the insane idea. The project in which we turn the hall closet inside out to create a pantry in the kitchen. Easy as pie. The sort in which you convince 4 and 20 blackbirds to calmly crawl into a piecrust while you cover them up with another layer of dough and stick them in the oven. And the miracle, when you are finally finished and everyone is still in one piece, ready to sing...or cook.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Green Again!

Here is the first produce out of our garden this year, this was April 28th. The chives, oregano and thyme simply returned, like the tulips and now the irises. Joy! This is a "bouquet garni" tied up for the soup pot.

And we can finally play, eat and experiment outside again!
 My youngest and his little cousin.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Small Things Yarn Along

I picked up this book while dusting the other day and had a look back through it; it is all about the lost arts of housekeeping. (No, I did not stop dusting to read it...or not for long.) I brought it home when I was a young wife and mother-to-be in France, the country of the spotless and the creative.

I saw it, years ago, as my ideal of making things around me as beautiful and old-fashioned as the whitest, prettiest vintage linens you could imagine. A house that smelled good,
was nicely appointed, and held all of the warmth and welcome of a really happy place. I guess I wanted to be Tasha Tudor years before I had ever heard of her.

Monday, March 21, 2016

How it All Started

I am supposed to be writing a speech. A short one about homeschooling and what it is, and to introduce myself. It is for a panel on education. I've never been on a panel. All I have to do is remember why we began this journey.

That's easy; it all started in France with "la maternelle," or public school at age 3. It was a good fit for my daughter, the teachers were caring and wise and patient. She learned to say very interesting things like "caca boudin," which roughly translates to "sausage poo," and the whole class waltzed in sweet ball gowns and tuxes made by one of the grandmothers, for the end of the year program. This, despite the fact that the entire class had come down with chicken pox in the last two months of the school year. The teacher/headmistress was desperate; "forget the two-week quarantine, I have to teach them to WALTZ!"

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Little Nostalgic...

...for the days when I was homeschooling five kids, making candles, taking hikes, having all the time in the world and not knowing it.

Immerse yourself in the joyful chaos that is the gift of today.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sled, Experiment, Build

February is always the month where spring starts to sound like a really good idea that is really far away. I love the winter though, and there is not quite enough snow and cold here anymore. Here is a tribute, then, to what can be done when homeschooling in the winter months, with or without the snow.

Remember the Elephant Toothpaste Experiment I told you about a week or so ago? Here is what it looked like in my driveway:

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Journey Through Time in Rhythm and Rhyme

This is it, the one poetry volume you need from pre-school to high school and beyond. It contains a beautiful selection of classical poetry as well as poems and verses you may never have heard before. There are ballads that last for pages on end for older children to learn, finger-plays, blessings for meals and teachers and everything in-between; a Wordsworth, easy to memorize and digest, poems about trees, about parts of speech and numbers.

Because, did I mention? It is written for use with a Waldorf curriculum through all the grades.