Friday, May 13, 2016

Our Homeschool Day in the life with a 5-, 3-, and 1-year-old

I haven't written much about our home preschool approach recently, but I'm linking up (a little late!) with the Simple Homeschool day in the life post.  As everyone says, there is really no "typical" day in our lives, but this one was fairly representative (at least of what I hope our days can be like :-)). We are pretty unschooly in our approach with these little ones, so you won't find any set curriculum or required schoolwork here, mostly just lots of play and reading.

This day was actually a Sunday, but we don't discriminate between days for the most part.

6:00 AM
The baby wakes up. She sleeps in our room, so she usually just plays on the floor for a while until I get up (which is decidedly not at 6 AM). Although I have ambitions of waking up before my kids, the baby still doesn't sleep through the night at 14 months, so early mornings just aren't happening this season.

8:00 AM
The older two kids wake up and start wandering in to our room.  I help get everyone dressed and downstairs.

9:00 AM
We have breakfast outside on this beautiful spring morning. I make two dozen muffins that only last us through the afternoon! The kids do some impromptu crafts with construction paper and scissors and then play in the digging/mud area in the backyard.

10:00 AM
The 14-month-old goes down for her nap. She is at an in-between stage when she sometimes takes two naps and sometimes just one. When she takes two naps, like she does today, she and my 3-year-old do tag-team naps and I never have more than one kid asleep at one time.

11:00 AM
I have been reading and loving Playing with Math, published by the Natural Math folks, so I am very motivated to let the kids "play math" as much as possible. I get out our Cuisenaire Rods and we play with them for a while, building pyramids this way and that and making designs and "trains."

12:00 PM
We spread out the picnic blanket in the backyard and read picture books in the sunshine.

12:40 PM
The baby wakes up and we have lunch. While the kids are eating, I read some poetry from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children. I have a list of about eight poems or so that I would like the kids to memorize (just to have in their repertoire, not to recite or anything), so I usually read a few of those every day, mixed in with some new ones.

1:10 PM
My 5-year-old is looking at a dinosaur book and discovers that it has games at the back, so we get out game pieces and a die and play it together (with "help" from the baby).

2:00 PM
The 3-year-old goes down for a nap, and I ride my bike to Trader Joe's (this is the only thing that probably wouldn't happen on a weekday). While I'm gone, the baby takes a second nap, and the 5-year-old plays a computer game with Daddy for a bit.

3:30 PM
Mr. 5 loves workbooks of various kinds, so he does some math games in one of his workbooks. My mother-in-law was the first to buy him a workbook when he was about 3 1/2, and I was none too pleased. I was afraid his creativity would suffer and that he would either become a slave to the directions or shy away from any writing or math as a result. As it happened, I left the workbook around for a while and never insisted he do it; he started picking it up from time to time on his own and doing some of the activities. He will occasionally ask us to read the instructions or help with an activity. We don't correct or grade them; I see them as just a supplement to what he learns through play. The grandmothers add workbooks to his collection, and he does them when the mood strikes.

5:00 PM
Miss 3 is up from her nap, and she and I make the blackberry fool from the lovely picture book A Fine Dessert with occasional help from Mr. 5.

6:30 PM
Daddy takes Miss 3 for a ride on his bike while I make dinner. We eat and then enjoy the blackberry fool.

8:00 PM
I put the baby down to bed while the two older kids get ready for bed. I read them a chapter from Ramona the Brave and lie down next to Miss 3 while she falls asleep. Mr. 5 stays up a bit longer reading and drawing in bed.

It is past 9:30 by the time all the kids are asleep. I do some laundry, and Daddy and I watch a DVD and read some before heading off to bed ourselves.

Thanks for joining us on our home preschool day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Liebster Award - Thanks!


Thanks so much to my friend Shannon over at We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So for nominating me for a Liebster Award! The award is given by smaller bloggers to new or other small bloggers to promote each other's blogs and spread the love. I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy to have my writing recognized by Shannon, who has great things to say about parenting and outdoor living.

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

  • Thank the blog that nominated you in a post on your blog.
  • Answer the questions asked by the blog that nominated you.
  • Nominate 5-11 other new bloggers.
  • Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
  • Notify all nominees via social media.

I confess that I don't think I follow 5 new or small-scale bloggers, so I'm opting out of the chain, but I will share some of my favorites at the bottom of this post for you to check out if you're interested.

Meanwhile, here are my answers to Shannon's questions:

1. What is your favorite topic to write about? (This may or may not be what you write about most often.)

Not surprisingly, my favorite topic to write about is the car-free life and everything related to it, especially how we experience the world around us when we travel sans cars. My motivation is never to make anyone feel guilty for owning or using a car, but to inspire people to find ways to incorporate Slow transportation or transit into their lives and feel the benefits.

More recently, I am also excited to write more about alternative education and our leanings toward homeschooling, but I haven't gotten the chance (or gumption) to write much about it on my blog yet. Stay tuned.

2. What are your highest goals and aspirations as a writer?

I would love to expand my writing to include more creative non-fiction and even, eventually, some fiction. I read non-fiction 80% of the time, so that is what I tend to write, but I aspire to get my creative juices flowing. I also dream of combining some of the advice on my blog with some new content to write a book about car-free living for families with kids, similar to How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, which is aimed at single or coupled folks, but with more advice for parents.

3. Do your family members read your writing? If so, what do they think of it?

My mother-in-law is the one who initially encouraged me to start a blog because she was impressed (horrified?) by some of our parenting approaches and values. She and I haven't always seen exactly eye to eye on such topics, so she told me I could write and use her as the contrast to our parenting philosophy! While I have not taken her up on it, that was a very generous offer and I appreciated her encouragement. I believe she still reads the blog sometimes. My husband also occasionally reads my writing and is supremely supportive. We share pretty much all of the values you'll see expressed here, and he claims that I express them much more eloquently than he could, for which I am grateful.

I haven't told anyone on my side of the family about my blog or other writing. I know writing is about being vulnerable, but what can I say? I wanted at least the first few years of my blog to be a safe place to explore my values and practice my writing voice, and it felt safer not to share it with everyone.

4. What is your best travel story?

I don't know if it's my best, but this story reminds me of the sweet innocence of life before smartphones. When I was living in France during my junior year of college, I was supposed to meet some friends in London for the weekend, but I was traveling to the city by myself through the Chunnel and I hadn't made arrangements to meet my friends at the train station. All I knew was the first word in the name of the hotel where we were going to stay and that it was "near Hyde Park." No telephone number. None of the friends I was meeting had cell phones with them. I was too penniless at the time to afford a taxi or even the Tube, so I knew I had to walk, but I had never been to London and didn't have a map either. I walked out of Waterloo Station, turned in the direction that felt like there was water, crossed the Thames, passed Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, and reached Hyde Park, which is not a tiny place. I asked a sweet old lady for directions (none too helpful) and eventually asked in at another hotel along the northern edge of the park if they had heard of the place I was heading. They vaguely recognized the name and directed me a few blocks over, where I found my hotel and my friends.

I don't know what surprises me the most as I remember this: that I was so ill-prepared to be in an unfamiliar place, that I was so confident that I just started walking without a clue as to where I was supposed to go, or that it all turned out okay in the end!

5. What is your favorite piece of writing OR what piece was the hardest to write?

One blog post I keep returning to (and directing others to) is one I wrote about skywalks in February 2014. Most people don't get what the big deal is about skywalks, even those who are generally in favor of complete streets and walkable neighborhoods, so I was happy to shed some light on the issue. It was also a difficult one to write for the same reason: it's difficult to explain what is wrong with skywalks in a way that is clear and non-judgmental.

6. What is your favorite movie and do you believe it’s the best movie you’ve ever seen? (It may not be!)

This was a tough one! I have a number of favorites, and we check out new movies from the library at least twice a week. But in the end, I have to go with Stranger Than Fiction. It's unusual, it doesn't fit into categories very well, it has some great funny lines that we are constantly quoting around our house ("Don't vorry, it's Vednesday."), and it has some amazing actors in it. It's a little bit meta, but not so much that it twists your brain around too much. It's just a good time! For the record, some of my runners-up were Cape of Good Hope and A Mighty Wind.

7. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever voluntarily done?

Um, I took a ride from a strange (as in unknown) man when I lived in France. It was raining, I was sick, and I was walking to church when I prayed that someone from church would pass by to pick me up. Instead of someone I knew, a stranger stopped to ask for directions and then offered me a ride. I figured that if I was going to engage in Divine Hitchhiking, I had better have a little faith that I wasn't going to be murdered, so I got in. He delivered me to the church door unmurdered. Don't tell my mom. Or my kids.

8. Who is the biggest celebrity you have ever met?

"Met" is a bit of a stretch, but we bumped into Jane Lynch outside this famous tiny crab house in Bethesda, Maryland. She was exclaiming how good the restaurant smelled, which was odd because there were big dumpsters in front that always smelled about how you would expect dumpsters in front of a crab house to smell. We could never figure that out.

9. What is your favorite children’s book?

Just one? No way! I'm going to write whatever comes to mind first because otherwise I will be here all day. I'll try to narrow it to a few picture books and one chapter book I've been reading recently. My favorite picture book from childhood is The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss, my favorite recently-discovered picture book is This Place in the Snow (seasonally inappropriate, I apologize), and how can I not throw in The Little Engine That Could with luscious illustrations by Loren Long? A chapter book I didn't read as a child but recently discovered alongside my 5-year-old is Half Magic by Edward Eager.

10. Where is your favorite place to have lived?

We loved our time in the DC area, but I'm going to have to go with Aix en Provence, France for this one.

11. What was the best part of your day yesterday?

The best part of almost any day is the time I spend reading to my kids, and yesterday was no exception. Extensive reading aloud doesn't always happen on our busiest days, but yesterday, I was able to fit in a chapter from Ramona and Her Mother with my 3- and 5-year-olds. I have to say that the other best part of my day is usually the time after my kids' bedtime, and yesterday was no exception :-) I believe I spent some of that time reading Ida B or The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets.

And my recommended blogs are:

Happiness is Here by Sara

The Finest Muffins and Bagels in All the Land by Elizabeth

Teacher Tom's Blog by Tom

Thanks again to Shannon!