Seven Quick Takes: Smack down edition

One: In accordance with the cosmic law that Low Must Follow High (I know it’s not true, but it feels true), I am here to report on the smack down that followed my last message of hope and encouragement.


“That’s right.  It’s not true.  It just feels true.”

Two: It happened on Monday, when we had one of our worst homeschooling days in a long time. There were tears (not just mine, which the children have come to expect so that they [the tears, not the children] make less impact than they might), and by the end of the day- when the work was still not finished- I locked myself if my room saying, “I don’t care what you do now, but I’m going to do some yoga.” I don’t think I slammed the door.

Three: We spent Sunday pulling out the garden, since it was going to freeze anyway.  You may recall that I had planted mostly butternut squash and a tiny bit of carrots and broccoli, since everything else we get from our local CSA. I felt pretty boss when we brought all that squash inside. Also, we harvested a broccoli that was almost as tall as Phoebe.

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Four: I made pot pie this week and thought I would be smart and put in some of the broccoli stem for extra bulk and nutrition. It seemed a little tough when I peeled it, but I figured it would soften up as it simmered.  Spoiler: it did not. It remained the consistency of wood chips, and we had to pick it piece-by-piece out of the pot pie.  And then it snowed.

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Five: We spent the morning after the snow pulling out snow clothes so we could make a snowman and play outside, which was extremely fun for 17 minutes, and then the snow melted and I was left with snow pants or boots on every available surface. I will keep tripping over them until I put them away next May, when it will promptly snow again.

Six: I went for a run a few hours after the above photo was taken. I wore several shirts, my hat and mittens, and wool socks and dissolved a puddle of sweat after approximately eight minutes. But at least the view was stunning.

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Seven: Now it’s Friday, and I cleaned all the old food out of the fridge. Look what I found! (I rock at this housekeeping thing.) I’m thinking that’s Aspergillus growing on what might have been cream cheese several years ago. I may have to feed my family actual wood chips later, but at least we’ll have a good science class first.

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Of invisible growth and winter blooms

As my oldest child is applying to colleges, I’m doing some heavy reflecting. Our time, which once stretched seemingly forever (I’m just talking about between dinner and bedtime, here) is now short. No matter how many times he comes home after he graduates, I will no longer be his primary educator. I wonder what I neglected to cover and what we spent too much time on and should have breezed over.

Many years ago, my friend Erin gave me a Christmas cactus. It was beautiful, covered in trailing red flowers. It was just the thing for my dull, hard winter. And then its blooms faded and fell.  I’ve been waiting for it to bloom ever since. We’ve moved homes twice in the intervening years. I’ve moved it around our houses, searching for the best light. Watering it faithfully. But nothing. Nary a bloom to be seen.

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There are lots of websites with instructions for how to force a Christmas cactus to flower. They recommend cool darkness and drought. For whatever reason, I never tried any of the tricks. I’ve just been watering it faithfully once a week for seven years and moving it from house to house.

There have been many seasons in our homeschooling where it seemed that there was nothing happening. Despite our faithful daily math and daily reading, progress was invisible, maybe even non-existent. I looked for short-cuts and magic curricula. Perhaps I needed to put the kids in a local school, where they would flourish. (Especially in February. Every February, the grass always looks greener at our local school.) My lofty goals and ideals crumbled into shards of I-wish and what-if.  What if he never gets this? I wish our days/school room/crafts/history lessons looked like the ones I saw on fb/pinterest/instagram.

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Last February, something looked different on my cactus. Almost imperceptibly, the tips of its fronds (leaves? arms?) turned red and then opened. It was blooming. I hadn’t done anything different: same windowsill, same weekly water ration, same morning sun. But all the invisible, internal work it had been doing burst forth in blossoms.

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I’m seeing the same phenomenon happening in my older children this year. Habits I used to have to enforce daily now happen without my reminding them (most of the time). Where I used to hear, “I’m bored,” now they say, “I need more time to finish what I’m working on.” It’s amazing, especially since I haven’t done anything different. It’s just their own invisible process finally producing fruit I can see.

Please help me remember this come February.

7QT: Mom, we don’t have anything to eat

One: My kitchen is full of really, really great food.  I have a rainbow of tomatoes.  I have three  gorgeous, shining eggplants, one of which looks just like Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Two: Just naming this eggplant Cyrano made me look for the scene from Roxanne in which C.D. tells all the nose jokes in the bar.  After watching it, I remember exactly how I felt the first time I watched it: sad that he had heard it all before, and that that scene wasn’t nearly as funny as the rest of the movie.

Three: Anyway, as I was saying, my kitchen is full of all this incredible food, but my children can’t find a single thing to eat.  Seriously.  Jonah went to pack a lunch the other day and said he couldn’t make a sandwich because there was no cheese. (We did have turkey, bread, bagels, peanut butter and four kinds of jam (seriously:4!), tomatoes, pesto, pears, grapes, and leftover pasta with homemade sauce. Not that all of that could have gone on one sandwich…)

Four: On my run the other day I listened to a great podcast from Another Mother Runner, in which Sarah and Allison interviewed a registered dietician about healthy snacks for families. It was good inspiration to come home and prep for a bunch of easy-to-eat snacks. I instapotted (verb, past tense) several pounds of beets to freeze for future beet smoothies and Can’t Be Beet Hummus (recipe from Eat Slow, Run Fast), hardboiled a bunch of eggs, and peeled five pounds of carrots (which I store in jars of water to keep them from getting dry and ashy), and froze about twenty pounds of peach halves, also for smoothies.  Then the children proceeded to eat all of my hummus and carrots in about seven minutes. (Seriously?)

Five: On the AMR podcast, the R.D. guest mentioned she had a free downloadable chart to hang in your cupboard to help your kids pack their own lunches, to encourage them to select foods from more than one food groups.  What a great idea! I envisioned a list of proteins one might keep in the cupboard or fridge: hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, beef jerky, and individual packs of hummus and PB. I thought this amazing printable might have a list of quick-to-grab fruits and veggies, and a selection of grains.  I have to have that list!, I thought.  It will save me hours of pain and hassle every week, if my kids will just look at it and make themselves a balanced snack out of all the amazing food in our kitchen!

Six: So I looked up the name of the RD, found her blog, signed up for her mailing list and opened the email with the Free! Downloadable!  [insert unicorn glitter emoji here] Magic Cupboard Printable to Teach Your Kids How To Pack Their Own Lunches!

Seven:  Guess what? It’s blank. It’s just a piece a paper with the different food groups on it, and you have to write your own list of foods.  Back to square one.  Who wants some fried eggplant noses with purple hummus?

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Hey there! Did you know…

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Did you know that I have another blog? I’m transitioning my chatter about writing and books over to my book blog.  I would love to connect with you there, if you’re interested in books (instead of the homeschooling and gardening and daily life that I share here.)

I’m also posting more photos on Instagram (link in the sidebar), or @momco3, and I’m sharing medical articles and thoughts on Twitter @AnnDominguezMD.

And just because we both know there’s not time to do it all, I’d love your thoughts on “work-life balance.” I shared mine here, on my other blog.

Daybook: mid-September

Outside my window: Today is the first day in a few that the air is clear again.  The smoke from the fires has meant I’m seeing lots of asthma in my office, and terrible allergies at home.  Y’all know how it kills me to run the A/C, but it’s hot enough in the afternoons still that keeping all the windows closed is unpleasant. First world problem, I know. At least I have windows.

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It didn’t occur to me until well after I took the photo that perhaps this wasn’t the healthiest air in which to run.

In the garden: It’s time to bring in the 13 butternut squash we grew.  I say we, but of course I mean the soil and sun and water.  All I did was prune the vines when they tried to take over the lawn.

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said vines, said lawn

In the kitchen: The farm has been giving us lots of tomatoes and corn, good summer food.  We’ve been freezing lots of marinara (anybody have experience using their Instant Pot as a pressure canner?) and peaches.  I’m going to be so grateful for those peaches when we finally remember to use them in my smoothies and crumbles.

In the school room:  We have been taking field trips.  It wasn’t my intention to start in so early with field trips, but I couldn’t pass on the eclipse, or on MSF’s Forced from Home exhibit last week.

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We were pretty impressed even with the partial eclipse leading up to totality.

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And then we were blown away. Midday darkness, cold, and the corona… it was incredible. Even my skeptical husband was impressed.

The MSF exhibit Forced from Home is absolutely worth a day. (Find the upcoming stops here: Forced from Home.)  The exhibit begins with an introduction to the work of MSF (a.k.a. Doctors Beyond Borders) and then allows you to walk through the refugee/IDP experience in an interactive fashion, forcing you to make hard choices with inadequate information.

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I hoped the exhibit would give us all a better sense of what our refugee friends went through, and it did that in a small way.  The bigger, more surprising impact it had was the opportunity to show my kids and dad what my experience in the Cholera Treatment Center was like. (NB: I did not work with MSF, but with Samaritan’s Purse which was working in the same area of Haiti.)  The MSF volunteer led us to a model of a cholera treatment center, and talked about the gritty details of it: the cots with holes cut in them for patients too weak to make it to a toilet, the IV poles, the buckets used for toilets… My family were able to see some of what I had done, and what was a transformative experience for me.

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Forced from Home is a great exhibit, staffed with actual MSF volunteers who are articulate about their work and why they do it.  Definitely make time for it when it comes near you.

Grateful: that our school rhythms are beginning to become habits.  For Sam and Phoebe’s good trip to Chicago. For meaningful work and the inspiration of others who are so brave. For my friend Lori & her crew’s coming up to go to Wonder Woman with us. For a weekend walk with Christy.

Praying for: refugees, IDPs, asylum-seekers, migrants and others forced from home, and those who work alongside them. For families who lost loved ones on 9/11. For the ability to listen to one another.  For many near to me who are hurting and afraid.

2017-8 School Year Plans

These are our plans for school this year, with a 12th-grader, 9th-grader, 8th-grader and 4th-grader. A copy of this will remain under my pages (found in the sidebar and in the tabs under the header photo) for future reference, though I will update it at the end of the year to take out what we didn’t like/do or what we added.

History: US History. In the past I have wrapped US history into our world history by period, but I recently discovered that didn’t count for Colorado’s high school graduation requirements. This year, we will study US History and add in what’s happening around the world at the same time for context.

Our 12th-grader is taking US History at the community college. Depending on where he decides to go to college next year, we will either take the in-state guaranteed transfer credit, or have him take the AP exam next spring.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades I’m shaking things up. Instead of reading the spines we’ve used in the past (The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, and Genevieve Foster’s The World of George Washington, etc.), I’m using investigative strategies I learned from Yohuru R. Williams’s excellent book, Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook.

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I purchased an assortment of collections of US history primary sources called Researching American History (found at Rainbow Resource Center) for the kids to use in their research.  I don’t expect my 4th grader to pull from multiple sources, but for the older kids, I have asked for at least 4 sources per project.

I’ve assigned US history books (biographies, autobiographies, novels and picture books) for them to read independently, and they will present their findings (travel brochures, PowerPoint presentations, reports, posters, comic books, movie trailers, plays) to each other every 2-3 weeks.  We will also play Timeline regularly to help us cement a mental timeline. We have a list of US history movies to watch. My older two will participate in National History Day in the spring.

Geography:

For 12th-grade, Jonah will be reading Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography and Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America. Then, with the idea in mind that the natural resources and paucities of a region help determine the political struggles of that nation/region, he will do a series of case studies of different regions in the world.

For 8th and 9th grades, we are studying US geography in the context of history, incorporating historical maps and states’ geography.  For my 4th grader, we will work through 36 states week by week, hopefully incorporating some out-of-state travel. We like these coloring books and games for geography.

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English (Composition/Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation):

My 12th grader will be doing an essay-writing intensive (aka, writing tons of college and scholarship essays).  His US history class also has weekly writing clinics and lots of assigned papers.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades, we will use Spelling Power for the first time. Additionally, they each have a daily grammar review with a one-page grammar exercise. I’ve tried lots of Charlotte Mason-esque “gentle” or “natural” grammar reviews, and they don’t seem to work for us. I think the problem is me. Anyway, this year we’re trying something less oral and more written (and formal).  The Spectrum series of test prep books works well for us to teach writing concepts in small chunks, which we then try to reinforce with writing assignments.

English Literature:

Shakespeare: This year we will read The Winter’s Tale. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and seems to flirt the line between tragedy and comedy. It covers serious ideas of betrayal, suspicion and grudge-holding, but it has a happy ending. Something for everyone.

Poetry: We will read Emily Dickinson, Claude McKay, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Edna St Vincent Millay, and Langston Hughes. My older son will read some Gwendolyn Brooks, Bob Dylan and Tupac Shakur.

Read-alouds: We have a limited time all together as a family for reading now that my oldest has two days each week on campus, and the kids are still attending their once-a-week school.  We began by rereading Because of Winn-Dixie, but I haven’t entirely decided what our other read-alouds will be.

Independent Reading: A significant portion of my younger kids’ literature will be historical reading, including Phoebe the Spy, Little Britches, Steve Sheinkin’s The Notorious Benedict Arnold, The Port Chicago 50, King George: What was his problem, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, and Most Dangerous; the Little House on the Prairie series, Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg series, Elijah of Buxton and The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now. I also have a collection of other MG and YA literature on the list.  More booklists to come.

Picture (Art) Study:

Our picture study will focus on Normal Rockwell and Edward Hopper. But I’m also planning a unit on Native American textiles and pottery, and a unit on the quilter Harriet Powers.

Math:

12th grade: AP Statistics. 9th grade: Singapore NEM Level 2 (continuing). 8th grade: Singapore NEM Level 1 and the Life of Fred: Geometry. 4th Grade: Singapore Primary 4A and 4B.

Bible: Everyone is doing some Old Testament reading to improve our Bible literacy, and we will finish the Gospel of Mark (again) and some epistles (yet to be determined).

Science:

12th grade: Chemistry with Lab

9th grade: Veritas Academy’s online Chemistry and Biology through the enrichment school.

8th grade: We’ll be using biology modules from Science Fusion, including Cells and Heredity and Diversity of Living Things.

4th grade: We are planning weekly nature study with a focus on plants, although we started with the total eclipse.

Foreign Language:

12th grade: he is taking a year off FL.

4th, 8th and 9th grade all are taking Spanish through our enrichment school. Hooray!

If you have any resources you think I should include to make this a better year, please shoot me an email. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.

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Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.

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I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”

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Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

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