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!

Leftover Breakfast Crumbs

Messy hair,
leftover breakfast crumbs,
baby on the table,
oil pastels smeared into my fingers and on my bare feet.

This is one of those homeschooling days that feels hard. I’m not sure why. Teething baby? Endless messes? Tired mama? Overworked papa? Too many interrupted moments?

Today, I wish I could call a substitute teacher and take a few hours off. Is there a service out there for substitute homeschool teachers?!

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 . . .”

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?

18 — 22 :: Go Dark

Amidst a great deal of talk about our country this week: the transition in leadership; the grace of President Obama as he left office; the inaugural address; what it means to be trustworthy; the importance of our words; the value of integrity and respect . . . While all the while wondering what we can do, in our relatively quiet part of the world, to reach out to our neighbors . . . there was a whole lot of quiet work (and play) happening in our home.

January feels very dark. Not just this year, but especially this year, I feel a heaviness that I cannot shake. I do not know if I should try harder to shake it or try to sit with it. But when I sit here, trying to enter in, fully, to the weight of this darkness, I find myself simultaneously celebrating life — life and the joy that is so very present in each day shared with our beautiful children. Their curiosity. Their wonder. Their questions. Their pureness of heart. This is light.

I think of this poem by Wendell Berry (forgive me if I have quoted this recently. It has really been on my mind.)

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint, 1998: p. 68.

Did Wendell Berry march in the Woman’s March yesterday (or would he have in his younger days)?
Does he outwardly protest? Or inwardly? Or both?
Does he speak out in body? And on paper?
In the light? Or in the dark?