Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Thomas' timer rings and I meet him as he gets up off the "time out stool". Is he ready to apologize? Yes. He's sorry for disobeying. Then, unexpectedly, he throws his arms around me and hugs me tight. And I hear, whispered in my ear, "Mommy, I still love you from here to North Africa, even when you give me time outs."

I want to remember this forever.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fun times with little boys

I have to admit that I'm really enjoying the change of pace now that Jonathan is in school in the morning/early afternoon. It gave me some space to really see where Thomas and Siah are right now, and you know what? They're really fun!

Here are a few photos from our past week.

We've been building some great train track set-ups. See the lake and the river?

I've been getting creative with lunches - initially to encourage Jonathan to actually eat them while at school, and continuing because it makes the other kids smile. If you're ever looking for fun and creative lunch ideas (yet still reasonably easy) Wendolonia is a great blog to explore.

Thomas is fascinated by our Risk board game. Thus far our playing consists of setting up all kinds of armies, and then knocking down the "bad guys". Sometimes Raskol knocks them down for us...but he's not very discriminating as to good/bad guys!

It is fun to listen to Thomas talk about the battles - he can't ever remember how to say "cannon", so he's always telling me about the canyons or the cannonpults.

Gabe just looked over my shoulder and said "aww, preschool time with the boys. Teaching them to conquer the world."

Yep. I think the world better watch out for this one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Art study: Claude Monet

A couple of weeks ago Jonathan asked me to spend part of a Saturday morning studying (and copying) one of our "art study" paintings. We chose Claude Monet's depiction of Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers. Here's the picture hanging on our wall, ready to be copied.

Jonathan was a lot more willing to dive in with the paints this time (previously he's been more hesitant, worried that he won't be able to do it "right"). He started with the vase on a red table, added green leaves, and then painted his flowers on top. Orange and blue background strokes finished his work. He was quite pleased with the result:

Of course, he wanted me to paint alongside him. Here is my result:

I actually liked mine better before adding the background! Oh well. I like the vase best. I'm glad that homeschooling last year made me jump in and try painting. It really is a lot of fun!

More of Josiah's creative grammar:

"Mommy, is I'm old enough, now I'm three?"

Isn't that interesting? He's the only one of the three boys who has made up his own grammar in this way.

{He thinks that he's already three, because we had a big family joint-birthday party last weekend.}

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bible memorization

Jonathan was working on his homework with me this evening, writing sentences that use his spelling words. For "be" he volunteered: "Be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy." This was clearly a Bible verse, but neither Gabe nor I knew where it was found (or why it was at the forefront of Jonathan's mind). So Gabe asked if Jonathan knew where it was in the Bible...and Jonathan said "um, Leviticus 19:2, I think."

Hello. My six year old just tossed off "Leviticus 19:2".

We looked it up. He's right.

{Turns out this is one of his Sparkies verses, and he's been listening to them on the Sparky cd during his quiet times. Yay Awana!}

Friday, September 16, 2011

Help midwife Katie McCall

*I'm choosing to disallow comments on this post, as I don't want to host an argument on the merits of the case.*

Katie McCall was my childbirth teacher, and she assisted at Thomas' birth. Last year she was (unjustly, I think) prosecuted for practicing without a license. She was sentenced today and thankfully will NOT be serving time in jail. (So glad for her kids' sake!!!) However, she does have a $10,000 fine, and her license has been revoked, thus taking away her profession and source of income. If you support midwifery, would you consider supporting Katie?
You can donate at http://www.supportmidwifekatiemccall.com/

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Today Thomas and Josiah were extra tired, and I let them spend some time watching Bambi. From the kitchen, I heard Thomas saying "I'm not scared, are you scared?" And I'm so happy that I had my camera next to me to capture this sweetness:

Pumpkin Pie

One of Thomas and Josiah's favorite things to do with me in the mornings is baking. Muffins, or waffles, or bread, or cookies...they love to help measure and crack eggs and mix things together. Yesterday we made pumpkin pie!

We even made the crust (usually I skip that part and just make pumpkin pudding.) :)

Sue Baumann's Pie Crust (I adapted and used whole wheat flour and sucanat)

1 and 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 T. sugar
1/2 c. cold butter
3 T. ice water

Place flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and whirl. Cut butter into chunks, add, and process till pea size. Do NOT over process. Add ice water gradually and touch process. When dough balls, stop immediately. Put dough ball in plastic bag. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Roll out between waxed paper. Makes one single pie crust.

Almost ready...!

And this is what happens when I bring out the camera these days:

I guess they learned it from their Dad.

Monday, September 12, 2011


{I know that it isn't Monday anymore - I started writing this yesterday but finished today.}

I just looked at all Jonathan's graded papers from last week. There are 35 pages. 13 of them are homework pages, and that was from a 4 day week.

As today is Monday, there is another 2 pages of math in his homework folder (due tomorrow), and a packet of spelling (to be written, and written, and written, ad infinitum) throughout the week. Each day there will be more pages sent home. And we're supposed to be filling out a reading log, too, tracking how many minutes of reading we manage to smush into the day.

When did we lose touch with reality in our pursuit for academic excellence? Jonathan goes to school from about 8:15 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. By the time we get home and into quiet time, it is 3:30pm. He has an hour of quiet time (for lego building, and listening to audio books, and drawing pictures), and believe me, he needs that hour. Until he gets that break, he will cry over anything and everything, no matter what it is. He's just tired when he gets home. It is hard work learning and being good!

Then we have evening chores to get ready for dinner, and dinnertime together as a family, and then some time to play outside. And then guess what? It is time to get pajamas on and brush teeth and have a story and do bible study with Daddy. And then it is bedtime.

Homework doesn't fit. I am not at all convinced that it should be made to fit. But I also want Jonathan to respect his teacher and do what is asked of him, and so I'm not sure what to do.

I don't want to be that awful mom who makes trouble for the teacher. I was the teacher, and I met my fair share of awful moms. But...he's six. And I've read too much child development theory (and educational theory, for that matter!) to think that this much paper and pencil work is good for him. Even "science" is paper and pencil work. "Draw lines between the roots on both trees" -

I have a friend who used to be an early elementary teacher. She used to send homework home with her students, too. Now she's a mom ("on the other end of things!") and she's choosing to homeschool her son. Another friend used to teach kindergarten, and is now considering homeschooling her kids as well. Apparently there is a disconnect between the teachers in the classroom and the mommies in the home.

Based on the graded in-class work that came home today, it is clear that Jonathan is getting quite a lot of handwriting/sentence structure/word usage/spelling practice during his school day. I also know that his class spends time working on math facts orally during the day. I have grave doubts that doing more of the same every evening will actually aid his learning. Wouldn't it be better to focus on reading together (we're in the middle of a chapter book that he's really enjoying, but don't always have time to get to) and playing outside, and being part of the family for those 4.5 hours that he's home in the afternoon/evening?

I'm certainly not the only one who is concerned about this. There is a worldwide movement, seemingly about five years old, which is against homework as part of standard education. Stop Homework was originally a website, but is now a busy Facebook group filled with parents who (like me) are questioning the value of the piles of papers. The creator of the site, Sara Bennett, is also the co-author of The Case Against Homework. Other authors have written in a similar vein: The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing, and The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning. (The titles alone give you an idea of the passion and frustration driving this movement!)

Interestingly, there are some schools (both public and private) that are listening to the concerns and have acted to reduce homework. Some have policies in place specifying time limits to homework, some make it non-mandatory and ungraded, and a few have gone so far as to eliminate homework entirely. And they are finding good results!

While I know that I'm only 2.5 weeks into this new lifestyle called "school" (and thus don't want to jump overboard or burn bridges quite yet!) I'm also doing some hard thinking. When we choose to put Jonathan in school, are we choosing to accept "school" as a package deal (including homework) regardless of the impact that it has on him and/or on our family? Or do we retain the right as parents to choose school without choosing homework?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Symphonic interpretation

Today we were listening to a classical music station while driving to pick up Jonathan from school. Thomas commented "Mom, it sounds like a very scary polar bear. In the snow, running!"

This is what he was was hearing - his comment came toward the end, around minute 9.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Auditory learning

As I look back over last year, and the long process of finding what worked for Jonathan's education, one thing stands out as a shining, glorious success. We discovered that Jonathan is an auditory learner, and that he loves audio books. We are lucky to have access to the huge Los Angeles County library system, which includes free requests from any library in the system. That has been a tremendous opportunity to expand Jonathan's education, far further and in far different ways that I had been expecting.

We started out with stories of all kinds, read by Jim Weiss. He's a fabulous reader, giving interesting (and consistent!) voices to each character in the story. There are so many options - Arabian Nights, Greek Myths, Animal Tales, Shakespeare, the list goes on and on.

Jim Weiss is also the reader for Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World. He doesn't do as many neat voices, but it is easy to listen to, and most importantly Jonathan loves it. We made it a habit to listen in the car last year, as we drove around town on errands, or to CHEP classes, or to church. Even this fall, he still requests to listen to it in the car on the way to and from school.

Speaking of the car - some of our long car trips (to visit family) have been made far more bearable by audio books. A favorite memory for me is the time we listened to the entirety of the Narnia Chronicles on the way to and from my parents' house!

At home, Jonathan listens to stories during his daily quiet time and as he's falling asleep at night. Some of his favorites from the last year include Little Britches, Beatrix Potter stories, Cheaper by the Dozen, and The Wind in the Willows. Currently he's listening to the original Winnie the Pooh, read by the truly brilliant Peter Dennis.

These stories are jewels just as they are, never mind the "learning" that comes with them. And yet there is learning, and a lot of it! Jonathan's vocabulary has expanded at an incredible rate this past year. And it isn't just the vocabulary itself, but the way in which he's learning to use it. He often surprises us with an unexpected turn of phrase that is exactly right for the occasion, and sounds like something that Pooh Bear would have said. :) (Of course, once I caught him saying something entirely NOT appropriate for the occasion, and we had quite the conversation when he protested "but the dad in Cheaper by the Dozen says it!")

Then there is philosophy in Wind in the Willows, and theology in Narnia, and what it means to grow into manhood in Little Britches. Humor in Cheaper by the Dozen and Beatrix Potter, and...everything? in Winnie the Pooh.

All children love stories, but Jonathan seems to be wired with a special ability to absorb (and then recite!) them. I'm grateful for the writers who gave us stories with such depth, and goodness, and humor and joy. And I'm grateful for the readers and publishers who gave them to us in audio form. Because while I can't read to him for 3-4 hours every day...the cd player can!

{I also want to mention a few lovely audio books for the younger crowd. Bedtime for Frances is perfectly sweet and has really captured our little boys' interest. And Arnold Lobel reads his own Frog and Toad stories with delightful voices and humor!}