the grammar of housework

sept 12 035

i am edging toward a cleaning routine, making time to keep house, encouraging our environment to support our work.   last night i was giving the bathroom a once over and noticed that the tub wasn’t really all that grimy.  it’s been cleaned it in recent memory.  and the regular cleaning is having a cumulative effect.

and i wonder if our children’s education isn’t like that as well.  small attention over time–like reading poetry each morning with breakfast–can reap exponential benefits.  maybe the trick lies in discovering the rhythms and routines that support that kind of learning.

toward a poetry-centered curriculum

this morning after i had nursed the baby back to sleep, i argued with myself about the benefits of taking a walk in the dark + rain. i finally got up + dressed + out the door. the grey sky was beginning to lighten, mist still on the West Hills.

finally back home, i pointed the girl to her cereal, poured myself a cup of coffee, and looked at Twitter. as if to reward my diligence in walking, i happened upon a poetry discussion in full swing!

this is just the sort of question i think we should be asking ourselves. here’s more of the conversation via Storify–it’s a graduate course in poetry + curriculum design!

wednesday (with words)

we’ve had a string of out-of-the-house commitments for the last week.  i prepared + planned, gave the children plenty of downtime in between, got rest myself, and had a wonderful time.  but now the big push is over and it’s only Wednesday!  longest week ever!  the upshot of course is that i get to post here about the wonderful novel i just finished called Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss.

it’s the story of a year that a young man from a ranching family named Bud spent working in Hollywood westerns.  not my usual fare.  i’m not a rancher, don’t really like horses, or care much about Hollywood.  but Molly Gloss creates characters that are rich, thoughtful, and honest.  characters that you love to spend time with, that you can’t wait to get back to.  time itself is almost a character.  it pools and unfurls in unexpected ways.  a single incident grows rich with meaning while years lay quiet and unheeded.

It was a relief to be away from the concrete sidewalks and under the shade of those big old canyon oaks.  And a shock, almost, to hear quiet for the first time in two days.  Once I left the road and hiked down into the gully, there was almost no traffic noise, no rattling streetcars, no buses whining through the gears, no muttered voices through cheap hotel walls, just a lot of bird chatter–California birds, their strange sounds not the ones I recognized–and the understory buzz that crickets and grasshoppers make, and every so often the dry rustle of a snake or a squirrel or a gopher moving off through the brush.  I think that may have been the point at which I realized I’d been taking such things for granted my whole life.

the novel will be published at the end of October.  it will be a wonderful way to spend an Autumn evening or two or three.

fall is for learning

this has been the year of online learning for me.  and i am so happy about that development!  last fall ModPo exploded.  then there was a journaling class + a master class with Lori of Project Based Homeschooling.  each one has brought challenges: new ways of thinking and expressing myself, new things to think about and discuss.  and now i am in the midst of another spate of fall time learning.

a few weeks ago we discovered Creativebug and have been watching, drawing, and stitching like mad ever since.  the topics range from embroidery to drawing, and the videos are fun to watch.  when you sign up, you get 14 days of free access.  after that you can choose to purchase single classes or monthly access to the entire site.

next week a MOOC entitled Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring her Work + Writing Life begins.  i’m over the moon that there are “required texts” for this course–a first for me with MOOCs.  i can’t wait to dive into this fiction again.  meanwhile Joseph has discovered our collection of My First Little House picture books.  he loves the the good old bulldog Jack, the excellent mouser Black Susan, lovely Ma, the dancing, and the bright moon.  such finely made books!

and thanks to goodreads, i got an advance copy of Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss.  it comes out at the end of October.  here’s what you need to do. get a hold of The Hearts of Horses.  there are some related characters in the new book, and you’ll get a wonderful introduction to the lovely writing, thoughtful narrative, and emotionally honest characters that Glass creates.  her work is among the best.

refreshed project spaces

IMG_2291ever since the baby became mobile–oh, a year ago!–i feel like i’ve been a little behind.  he would gain a new skill, and i would scurry to move things to safer, higher ground.  after a while i ran out of higher ground and just started tossing things onto the sunporch.  

ah, the sunporch!  it’s one of my favorite things about this house.  it’s totally unfinished: no heat or insulation or even a door to close against the basement cold.  but it has pretty windows and a door that closes it off from the main living spaces.  i love that i can use it as a holding spot for items till they can get put away permanently.  when we visited Devonshire years ago, we stayed in a house that had a similar space.  they called it the conservatory.  it had a woodstove, bookcases and greenery.  it was where we took our tea and biscuits.  it’s the place i think of almost every time i enter the sunporch, a place with potential even if you have to do some creative cropping to not see the extension cords and bird seed.


the children were in need of a place where they could work without Joseph having complete access to their needles and Sharpies.  for a while now Nicolas has used a desk out on the porch as Playmobil Central.  but that table was holding a lot more than just his toys. it’s almost cleared off now, and i added a table on the opposite side of the room for Mabel…it has a great view out the east facing windows.  and Joe?  he’s always moving, always getting into things.

sabbath rest

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.

Romans 13.10-11

homeschool :: two weeks in

IMG_2215still not quite up to full speed with our studies here.  life just keeps asking to be lived.  first we had a houseguest, so our learning year started a week later than i was planning.  but that week was filled with drawing + conversation + good food.  

in these last two weeks we’ve had long mornings at the park, bento-style lunch outside, oats + poems, a morning with our midwife friend picking green beans, tomatoes, and apples, another morning with our neighbor, Joseph.  he lost his wife three weeks ago, so his children got him a tiny kitty named Bella to keep him company.  we had a wonderful time playing with all two pounds of her!

we are right on track with our ABC Saints + Storybooks studies.  two favorites coming up for C Week: Barbara Cooney + St Columba!  we’ve got another full week with park days + game nights + movies together on the big screen.  and AP is squeezing in a few more house projects before the weather turns.  new gutters!  clean windows!  refreshed spaces!

even though we’re only doing a minimal amount of school, our time hasn’t been wasted in any sense.  

Wednesday (with words)

one of the gifts i received for my birthday this year was a copy of Laurie Bestvater’s book The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.  reviews that i had read made me interested in the book, but i was afraid there wouldn’t be any new ground covered.  i was wrong!  Bestvater’s elliptical, reflective, associative style drew me in immediately.  i choose to read the book straight through–without copying down or even marking quotes.  i wanted to just take it all in the first time.  i am only now beginning to re-read and have only made through the preface!  Bestvater (and Mason behind her) put names to ideas that have been percolating in me.  i’ve been seeing shadows and hints of Mason’s glorious large room.  listen:

Mason had shown me that the notebooks can be forms of vitality, literally the shape and outline, the liturgy of the attentive life.

They nurture the science of relations and the art of mindfulness.

They teach us to see the very brief beauty of now, to know the landscape of here, to be present in all our pleasures and pains.

Through them we, haltingly dwell in a world of ideas and connections with an ever-higher opinion of God and his works and as truer students of Divinity.

–from the Preface, xv.

more goodness can be found over at Dawn’s place


first day of school gif

IMG_2262-MOTION                          :: cooperative drawing with new Draw Write Now books ::

we’re beginning our first year with two students!  of course Nicolas has been learning right along with us for a few years now. and even though we’ve waited to introduce formal lessons, he can already read beginner books.  declaring this his kinder year really just means that i will be a bit more focused, strewing his path with good things.  

each week we’ll focus on a letter of the alphabet a la Elizabeth’s lovely plans in Along the Alphabet Path.  we’ll read an ABC of storybooks by the author or illustrator’s name, study a saint and make a letter-themed snack using the free resources at All About Reading. 

i’ve been wanting a way to organize + keep track of the storybooks that we are reading…so much harder than tracking chapter book read alouds.  i didn’t like mixing the titles into my goodreads list and i didn’t like signing in + out to keep a separate list.  so i’ve started gathering them at Pinterest.

go take a look at what i’ve got planned so far!