Notebooking

Working on covers.
Sitting together
during precious nap time minutes.
Listening to “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.”
Watching a robin flit back and forth.
Admiring clouds.
Noticing that it’s easier for me to sketch things close up.

Robin Mapping

It started with a question: how much territory does a pair of nesting robins like to have?

We came across the following information, and today Amabel started making robin map!

“Somewhere out there, a robin ‘calls’ your backyard its home territory. A robin’s territory — the place where mating and nesting occurs — is usually less than half an acre. Territories often overlap, perhaps because of the feeding grounds that neighboring robins share. If you think robins are everywhere, you’re probably right!

Robin Squabble Story

One summer a Minnesota woman had a pair of robins nesting in her backyard. A pair of robins also nested next door on one side of the yard and yet another nested on the other side of the yard. A fourth pair of robins nested in the yard behind hers. After a few territorial squabbles, the robins pretty much kept to their own yards for feeding. But this woman had the only birdbath on the block, so two of the neighboring pairs of robins started sneaking into her yard for drinks and baths. At first, the male and female robins who “owned” that territory spent a lot of time chasing the intruders away.

But when the female started incubating her eggs, she stopped chasing off the other females. The male chased off the other males until the babies hatched. Then he had to spend so much time searching for food for his nestlings that he stopped chasing off the other robins — unless they started exploring beyond the bird bath. As long as the neighbors flew directly to the birdbath along the shortest possible line from their territory, he left them alone. But if they veered off that path for just a few seconds, he charged the birds!

For several weeks, the woman observed where each robin spent the majority of its time. She noted where each robin could range and be ignored by the others, and where each was when disputes took place. This information gave her a clear picture of each robin’s territory. She could have drawn a simple map with each territory outlined.

Activity: Map A Robin’s Territory

Observe your own robins and see if you can map their territories! Here’s how:

Begin by drawing a map of a small part of your neighborhood. Mark in the trees, bushes, houses, fences, and other things that robins might notice. Mark any robin nests you find.

Use this map to study the robins in your neighborhood for a week or two. Give each robin a letter, number, or symbol. See if you can start to recognize different individuals and notice where each spends its time.

Mark a bird’s letter, number or symbol in the right spot on your map every time you see that bird. Do the robins spend more time in some areas than others? Can you draw territorial boundaries on your map based on where the various robins spend their time?”

(All information from: www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/TerritoryStudy.html)

A Single Shard

“A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park may have been one of my favorite homeschooling books we’ve read so far this year. The beauty and simplicity of the story and especially the integrity of the characters really captured my imagination. As the girls and I were talking about the orphan boy who works as an apprentice to a Korean master potter in the 13th century, we agreed that we will not be likely to forget Tree-ear and Crane-man.

Book Stack

“Words make worlds.” — Krista Tippett

On my desk this week: Moby Dick (by Herman Melville), Workshops Work (by Patricia Zaballos), The Poetry Handbook (by Mary Oliver), The One-Straw Revolution (by Masanobu Fukuoka), Becoming Wise (by Krista Tippett, and Project-Based Homeschooling (by Lori Pickert). I’m reading bits and pieces of all of them — because that is how my reading happens right now: in little snippets of time in the midst of very full days.

I might be hiding upstairs in my room right now, taking one of these mini reading breaks . . .

The French Lesson

We incorporate French into our days in a few different ways, but the girls have been asking to do more. We read French children’s books, sing songs and rhymes, and use French in our nature journals. Sometimes, if I’m feeling especially inspired, I will do a little “puppet show” with tiny animals who speak French.

I would love to meet other French-learning families out there. How do you teach and use French with your young children? What do your children find most engaging when it comes to learning a new language?

(Yesterday I found baby Wallace sitting in front of the doors with a picture book; just reading some French words to himself!)

p.s. Not pictured is the rest of the deconstructed house around him. Toddlers!

Learning Shakespeare

Have you discovered the book “How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig? I brought it home from the library last fall and it sat in a stack of books, unopened, for three weeks. It wasn’t the right time. Or maybe I was intimated by the thought of Shakespeare? Where to begin with Shakespeare?

Well, I brought it home again last week. And this time I managed to open it up on my lap on a quiet Sunday morning when everyone else was still asleep. The result? I’m hooked! I love it. We’re learning Shakespeare. Memorizing it!

I love Ken Ludwig’s philosophy and his emphasis on the importance of hearing Shakespeare’s poetry aloud and memorizing passages with your children. He writes:

“With Shakespeare, memorizing is the key to everything. . . In order to memorize something, you have to be very specific and very honest with yourself. You have to work slowly, and you have to understand every word of what you’re memorizing. There was a time not long ago when memorization was considered to be one of the basic tools of an academic education. Students were expected to learn hundreds of lines from the Greek and Roman classics, then, later, from poetry in their native tongues. This tradition has faded from our lives, and something powerful has been lost.” (p. 6 & 8)

Reading this I realized how much memorization was part of my own education — and yet I hadn’t thought about it much before. So many choir songs; solos; lines in middle-school and high-school plays; passages from the Bible; and French! Oh, the French memorization I did in college was endless.

But when I studied Shakespeare in high school, it was all in written form. Always read silently, to myself. Never spoken — let alone memorized. And so the thought of learning Shakespeare through memorization, right from the beginning, was completely new to me — and yet it felt absolutely right. And so we dove right in with A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows . . .”

April Joys

I never grow tired of this scene! Give little Wallace a screwdriver and a few rocks and he will entertain himself while the girls and I plant seedlings.

Right now we’re still bringing the baby plants inside at night, but during the day, it is a perfect plant nursery and toddler playpen.

Marching Along

I have been taking photos (almost) every day this month — I just have not been posting them. Now I am sitting here wondering if my blogging break has caused, or at least contributed to, the feeling of blah that is hanging around me.

Well, just in case it is a contributing factor, I’m going to break out and share daily photos of where we’ve been . . . Marching along through this month.

I just finished reading “Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World,” by Ben Hewitt. It is a deeply satisfying book about homesteading, homeschooling, and paying attention to the vibrant world around us.

It is rare for an author to be both deeply sure and openly uncertain about his path in life. In this way, Ben Hewitt reminds me of Wendell Berry. I’m very grateful to have read his story and for the way it is helping to buoy me during these final weeks of winter.

“Like most people I know, I experience moments of uncertainly about choices I have made. There are so many permutations of what it means to live a good life. There are so many ways to be. How can I ever choose between them all? But then summer comes, and I’m riding the hay wagon behind Martha, and I’m dripping sweat and my arms shake as I pass another bale back to Penny and the boys, and I feel the quiet comfort of knowing there is nothing else I want or need.”

— “Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World,” by Ben Hewitt, Roost Books, 2014: p. 156.

We usually wait until the first day of spring to collect Pussy Willows. But . . . what can I say? We are especially eager this year!

We had to rescue the branches from Wallace pretty soon after I took this photo because he was more interested in ripping them off than in “petting” them gently.

Thanks to Jeffrey and the girls, the greenhouse is up. Tomorrow, on the first day of spring, we will plant our first seeds.

40 :: American History

Studying American history feels especially significant at this moment in time: the Declaration of Independence; our three branches of federal government; separation of powers; the Constitution of the United States of America.

Do these documents, these ideals, still serve us? How are they being tested today?