saints among the animals

as part of Nico’s kindergarten year, we are reading storybooks and studying saints–one for each letter of the alphabet.  it’s been more difficult than i expected to find saint stories for each letter.  and then there’s the problem (!) of the regular cycle of saint day celebrations.  where do they fit in our studies?  already this week we’ve celebrated St Michael defeating the dragon and St Jerome taming the lion.  on Saturday St Francis will bless all the animals.  today we read the story of the lion with a thorn in his paw from a book called Saints Among the Animals by Cynthia Zarin.

Mabel also read aloud to all of us from Fox and Crow are Not Friends by Melissa WIley.  i love the Mama Bear character of course, and the twists in the story always surprise and delight me!  in today’s reading when Fox + Crow weren’t quite as sly or as smart as Mama Bear, Nicolas added that he didn’t think Mama Bear was as sly and smart as Odysseus!  maybe not, but it was still a happy addition to our morning of books!

IMG_2290this is Mabel’s fox made with inspiration + direction from

the Nature Pals workshop at Creativebug.

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.

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.

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.  

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!



the magic of Shakespeare in the Park

we went to see a wonderful production of Midsummer Night’s Dream this weekend.  the comedies are not usually my favorite thing to see.  and i’ve seen this particular one way too many times.  but the lovers were silly and cross; the rustics were endearing.  oh Bottom!  you made me fall in love with an ass.

if you live in town, you’ve got one more weekend to see this Portland Actors Ensemble production…and it’s not to be missed.  it was worth all the toddler wrangling that’s necessary when we bring our show on the road.  it just wouldn’t be summer without Shakespeare in the Park.  we’re even starting to dream about next season: the Scottish play and Taming of the Shrew!

end of summer

woman + firefliesif you keep track of the seasons using the old English reckoning, then August 2nd is the first day of Autumn.  that might seem strange at first…isn’t August high summer?  but really it’s the beginning of the harvest.  in our CSA this week we’ve got melons, tomatoes, peppers, and corn to prove it.  and we’ve picked our first tomato from our front door garden.  but for us, for now it still feels like summer.  AP is around, we are watching so many movies, we have lunch in the park a few times a week.

and most of all, we haven’t started school yet.  i was planning on starting next week, to give us a trial week while Andy was still around for backup, but we are having house guests instead.   there will be lots of conversation, lots of drawing, lots of margaritas.  see it can’t be Fall yet, we’re still drinking margaritas!

i am slowly getting our bookshelves + learning spaces organized and ready.  and we’ve got a passel of graphic novels about Greek mythology coming from the library.  this is Nico’s kinder year, so we are going to travel The Alphabet Path again.  really we won’t be following Elizabeth’s plans all that closely.  but we will be making plenty of room in the schedule for lots of picture books.  i think everyone will be happy with that piece of the curriculum.  we will also be making ABC Snacks and even trying our hand at some bento fun!

i’m looking forward to a bunch of free webinars coming up in September.  Julie Brave Writer will be speaking on September 9th, 17, and 23rd.  i heard Julie speak about helping your struggling writer.  i don’t have struggling writers, but even still, it was time well spent.  her “authentic writing voice” really shines and her gentle, loving, grounded approach to writing and homeschooling can throw the lights on for you.  and did i mention it’s free?  go sign up already.

one more thing…i’ll be signing up for the fiction writing MOOC offered by the Iowa Writers Workshop.  it doesn’t start til the end of September, but that gives me time to get school underway and dust off the novel that needs to be completely re-written.  if assignments help you get your work done, if you love hearing working writers talk process, if you want feedback from readers on your work, then this is the place for you.  and i would be foolish not to plug ModPo again.  hands down the BEST MOOC out there.

word + image


a few weeks ago Lori at Project Based Homeschooling mentioned Storybird.  it’s a site that offers illustrations to go with *your* stories.  you can also use the pictures as prompts for your writing.  but i had poem drafts piling up, so i started plugging them in!  i was really taken by so many different images, loved seeing how the feel of a poem shifted depending on which image it was paired with.  my poem are usually small–short poems, short lines, fairly limited subject matter.  i loved pairing my small things with really epic, even mythic pictures.

imaginings by jamin still

there are three options at Storybird: poetry (one image with “magnetic poetry” tiles to move into a poem), a longform book (you write + write and add pictures where you want them), and the picture book (many pictures with a small space for text).  this is what i used.  i finally settled on wonderfully evocative art by Jamin Still.  i feel honored to get to use such fine work.  though the site is generally easy to use, it was difficult to see what the finished product was going to look like before printing the zines.  of course you don’t have to print anything.  you can look at + link to your stories for free on their site.  but for $2.99 you can have online access as well as pdfs in three sizes: 8×11, 3×5, and one so tiny it must be for fairies to read.  plus the artist get a bit from royalties!

i hope you + your children check this resource out.  i look forward to seeing what you make!  and if you’d like a copy of my poetry zine, just let me know in the comments!