Saturday, October 31, 2009

Plans for Thursday

I know what we'll be doing for science on Thursday: candy experiments!

HT: Maxine at Faith & Family (in the comments)

History & Culture, Colonial Times through the Revolutionary War

I can hardly believe another month is gone already. For October's history and culture we read books from colonial times through (and including) the American Revolution.

Tattered Sails by Verla Kay and illustrated by Dan Andreasen. This poem, with beautiful illustrations, is lovely. It has few words on each page but follows the story of one family's journey to the New World (on a ship traveling later than the Mayflower). I love it, but the kids were only mildly interested. I probably should have read it a bit later, but I was waiting on books from the library so we read it first without any larger context for the poem.

We then read three books by Kate Waters, all illustrated by photographs of children at Plimoth Plantation (one of my favorite living history museums!): Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy, Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl, and Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times. I thought these were fascinating peeks at the real lives of Pilgrims and the Native Americans who lived near-by. The children were not as interested as I hoped. First Daughter liked best when Sarah had to chase the chickens. First Son seemed to like Tapenum's story the most. (Thanks to Tiffany for suggesting Books to Build On where I found these.)

Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey by Jean Van Leeuwen, illustrated by Thomas B. Allen. I love this portrayal of the Mayflower journey. It doesn't hide the difficult parts, like infants that were buried at sea, but it is beautifully written and illustrated. The kids, especially First Son, preferred Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Elroy Freem. I found the illustrations more mundane and the writing wasn't as poetic, but it did an adequate job conveying what the journey and first year were like for the Pilgrims.

Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Greg Shed. I mentioned last month that we enjoyed some stories by Joseph Bruchac. This is one of the books I found by looking for more from him and it's worth your time. In it, we follow Squanto as he is kidnapped, taken to Spain and makes his way back to the Americas. I think this is one of the few books to tell of the first Thanksgiving from the Native American point of view in a positive way. The illustrations are also wonderful, warm and realistic.

Thy Friend, Obadiah written and illustrated by Brinton Turkle. This is exactly the kind of lovely picture book around which we're building our history & culture story times. The story is about a young boy who is befriended by a seagull. Though he is annoyed and teased early on, he misses the seagull when it stops visiting and helps it when it returns with a need. We learn a bit about the life of Quakers in colonial Nantucket, but we also learn about friendship and kindness. There are, in fact, a few books following Obadiah and his family. I'm requesting them over time, rather than in a bunch, but so far we've read Rachel and Obadiah, which I loved. It's a delightful tale of perseverance set against the backdrop of ships returning to Nantucket after long voyages, and the wives they left behind.

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand. First Son was enthralled. He loved it! He especially loved tracing the routes on the map on the opening pages. We've looked through the illustrations in a few different picture books of this poem and many of them are wonderful.

They Called Her Molly Pitcher by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler. I was afraid the battle depicted in this book might disturb the children, but Kansas Dad thought they'd be fine. First Daughter didn't actually listen much. (She often doesn't.) First Son was mainly interested because of the battle. The design of the book is wonderful with illustrations crackled and burnished to appear as if they were period paintings. The text is printed on a linen background as well. I also appreciated the brief notes at the end on Molly Hayes and a list of important dates of the Revolutionary War. (I didn't read these to First Son, but they gave me a few ideas when he asked questions.) The story is quite enjoyable and informative, just as a biography should be. I was a little worried the kids would want to know more when we read "The only fault her employers ever found with her was that she swore like a soldier." After all, they don't really know what swearing is. They didn't mention it, though, so neither did I.

Johnny Appleseed a Tall Tale retold and illustrated by Steven Kellogg. We intend to read a few of Mr. Kellogg's tale tales. In fact, First Son's love of Paul Bunyan was one of the inspirations for our history and culture story times. Whatever the benefits of reading such stories to create a common culture for our children may be, they're just good stories and worthy of our time.

The 18 Penny Goose by Sally M. Walker, pictures by Ellen Beier. This easy reader (Level 3) tells the story of a young girl's worries for her goose when she and her family hide as British soldiers approach their New Jersey farm during the Revolutionary War. My mom found it at a resale shop and I'm in favor of using what you have. This happens to be a story the kids enjoyed, too.

George Washington: A Holiday House Reader by David A. Adler. He has a large list of books, including many in the Picture Book Biographies series. I read through many of these (around 25) and considered them for our history and culture study, but eventually decided against using any this month. All the Revolutionary War ones contained a great amount of details on the Sons of Liberty, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. We will, of course, study all of these in later years, but I didn't want quite so much information quite yet. This easy reader gave enough of George Washington's life to be pertinent without being overwhelming. Plus, First Son could read it himself, though he didn't. (Incidentally, the picture books I liked best were A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth, A Picture Book of Dwight David Eisenhower, and A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison (his poor parents: he was kicked out of school and burned down the barn, not to mention the chemistry lab he set up in the basement). We might read some of these later. Outside the Americas, my favorite ones were A Picture Book of Louis Braille and A Picture Book of Florence Nightingale.)

I had intended to read The Courage of Sarah Noble, right up until we didn't. I decided at the last minute it was too long. I couldn't read it in one session and I didn't want to add another book to our more extended readings. I still think it's a wonderful book and know we'll read it eventually.

In the next two months we'll be reading all the way through the end of the Civil War.

Friday, October 30, 2009

More Pumpkin Goodness

I've still been cooking lots of pumpkin - almost one a day though I think we'll slow down a bit now.

We've tried:

Pumpkin Soup - This was alright, but I think Kansas Dad isn't a pumpkin soup for dinner kind of guy. Next time, I'd like to try a more robust recipe like this one.

Money Saving Mom's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
- These were good, but we think we like the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking one better. (I just double the pumpkin bread recipe and make 18 muffins as well as a loaf of bread. Bake the muffins for 18-25 minutes, depending on the recipe and the oven.) We also want to try the Cooking Light pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips. They were pretty good!

I made some of this pumpkin bread recipe, too. I substituted 1 cup of the white flour with wheat and some of the oil with ground flax seed. I also included the cloves. It was pretty good, but they seemed a little strong on the spices so I might leave the cloves out if I make it again.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies (The link for these was wrong in my earlier post.) These are excellent soft pumpkin cookies. They taste just like little cakes. I didn't bother with the glaze, but I think that would be a nice touch. I wish I had stored them with wax paper in-between. They stick together a little.

By far the best thing we have tried is Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. It is scrumptious. Kansas Dad says it's even better than our blueberry oatmeal. (The kids wouldn't try it, though. More for us!)

I thought I had a long list of new recipes to try with all our pumpkin, but then Money Saving Mom posted a link to The Finer Things in Life list.

I have some more baking to do. (Just as soon as Kansas Dad gets home with more butter.) I really want to try Brandy's oatmeal pumpkin cookies!

Quote: The Young People's Book of Saints

But it was not, of course, Albert's learning that made him a saint. The reason he was interested in all natural things was because he saw in them a reflection of the wisdom of God, Who had made them. He had a passion for exact truth, because he was sure that all truth, of whatever nature, must lead to God, Who is Truth; and he was always very careful to distinguish between what he had actually seen for himself and what other people had told him.

Later:

One of his sayings was: "It is better to give an egg for the love of God when you are alive than to leave money for a cathedral full of gold when you are dead and do not need it." And, above all, this great scientist knew that there is such a thing as 'excessive' searching after knowledge--the kind of idle curiosity that just wants to know things for the sake of knowing them, or even for pride in discovering them, and not because that knowledge leads to God Who created everything.

Hugh Ross Williamson in The Young People's Book of Saints from The Catholic Company

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Small Successes XVI

Each week, Faith & Family hosts Small Successes, where we celebrate the small things we accomplish each day.

1. I took the kids on two field trips last week and an evening out and we all survived. The house doesn't even look too terrible. Now a cold is running through the family so we've skipped our outings for this week.

2. I've baked and pureed about half of the pumpkins Kansas Dad grew. We've been eating some yummy treats with more on the way (just as soon as I get more butter).

3. I just realized two days ago this is the last week of the month, but I managed to request our November books and CDs from the library for Kansas Dad to pick up yesterday.

None of you have asked, but I know you're wondering: I'm still exercising. I missed it on our crazy day last Friday, but I made it up on Saturday.

Check out more Small Successes at Faith & Family.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maybe We'll Skip that One

One of First Son's next few math lessons includes counting backwards from 10. Last night, he counted backwards from 100 sitting at the dinner table.

Quote: The Young People's Book of Saints

The school at Seville was the first of its kind in Spain. All the ordinary school subjects were taught, and the boys were made to work very hard. Isidore, like many boys, disliked hard work, and one day he played truant from school. In fact, he intended to run away altogether; but, as the sun was very hot and he soon became very tired, he sat down to rest beside a little spring that gushed over a rock. As he was resting in the shade he noticed that the stone on which the drops of water fell had been worn away, and he thought: If drops of water can actually make a hole in a hard stone by never ceasing to fall, surely if I persevere with my lessons I shall gradually get to like them and not find them so dull and difficult. So that evening he went back to school and before long became the best scholar there.

Hugh Ross Williamson in The Young People's Book of Saints from The Catholic Company

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out and About

Last week we had two trips away from home. I feel like I'm still catching up on the laundry, but I think it was worth it. (Not that we made more laundry, just that Wednesday and Friday tend to be big laundry days on the Range and I wasn't here to do any of it.)

Last Wednesday, we met some friends for a delayed trip to the zoo. It was still cool and gray, but the rain held off until the drive home. One of the tigers was pacing.


Second Daughter has no fear of wandering off. First Daughter kept asking her, "Are you sure this is appropriate?"


Then, on Friday, we had the opportunity to visit our dear friends at Blessed Nation Ranch for a farm field trip. We saw chickens, cats, a dog, pigs, bulls, cows and a calf. Not to mention running around with all the kids. First Son especially adores their oldest son, who is so gracious and wonderful when playing with the younger kids.


First Son even milked their cow a little. He's still talking about it. (First Daughter was invited but declined.) I was chasing Second Daughter around. First Son also followed a bunch of the kids into the coop and came out with an egg. I'm so glad he'll be ready to do the collecting when our hens start laying!


Second Daughter loved the chickens. She loved all of it and would have wandered their yard all day, but it was a little chilly so we spent some time inside.


We did not make it home in time for naps. It was after 3 pm before we finished lunch, so I had to start packing up again right away to go to a family fun night at Kansas Dad's university. First Son loved the slide most of all.


Oh yeah, he looks ready for bed, don't you think?


No naps, junk for dinner, candy (cotton and otherwise) and lots of bouncers and games. It was a great night.

Will It Float?

Our science text (a term I use loosely), Bubbles, Rainbows and Worms, suggests an experiment called "Floating Objects." Last Thursday, we took it to the next level.

First Son and I wandered the kitchen and living room, filling a bin with items to test in our bathtub. (I was originally going to use a storage bin of water, but First Son wanted to test a couple of pirate ships, so we needed something bigger.)

Before we placed any item in the water, I asked the kids if they thought it would sink or float. First Daughter would just yell whatever came into her mind, but First Son had a theory. If it has a hole, it will sink. If it doesn't have a hole, it will float. You won't be surprised to learn that his theory didn't work so well. By the end, he seemed to be revising it a little but he was still wrong quite often.


We did, however, have a lot of fun. Until Second Daughter managed to climb in (on her fifteenth attempt, all previous ones stopped by Mama) and the experiment came to an abrupt halt.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Sleep (or the Lack Thereof)

I've been mulling over a post on sleep since we returned from our vacation.

Last Christmas.

I've been waiting and waiting for Second Daughter to sleep well. I'd hate to tell you what worked for us if it wasn't working.

Well, it's still not really working, but I'm getting tired of seeing this post in my list of drafts, so I'm going to modify it a bit and publish it.

Maybe then she'll sleep.

We were having lots of trouble with both daughters, specifically in getting them to go to sleep (Second Daughter during the day for her nap and First Daughter in the evening who would talk and sing for hours). I was so happy to discover the biggest part of our problem in Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition: we were expecting them to sleep too much. Second Daughter, in particular, was sleeping about eleven hours at night, so of course she wasn't tired for a nap during the day. We delayed bedtime an hour (from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm), encouraged earlier waking, and saw immediate benefits. I found much of interest in Dr. Ferber's book. Our sleep training methods (when we employ them) are a combination of his suggestions and those found in The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. (You'd be surprised how well they can be blended.)

Mostly, though, our kids have been relatively good sleepers, so we're not very well-versed in sleep training methods. Mind you, I write "relatively" for good reason. I think it's unreasonable for a parent of very young children to have undisturbed sleep at night. Even First Son will occasionally wake at night and need reassurance.

The main problem we have now is how often Second Daughter wakes up to nurse at night. (And by we, I mean mainly me.) One of these nights I plan to pay attention to the time and limit her. I expect after a few nights she'll get used to it and eventually sleep better all night long. It's just so much easier to nurse her to quiet her down and I'm usually too sleepy to think straight. The real problem is my hope that, all on her own, she'll just start sleeping without nursing. First Son did, so I know it can happen, but I think it's rather on the rare side. I should decide to either night-wean her or happily night-nurse her.

Eventually this time will end and then I'll probably be sorry to realize how quickly she's growing. I think that's partly why I haven't taken more action.

But mostly I think it's because I don't think about not nursing her until after I realize she's nursing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Recipes


Last Thursday, Kansas Dad and I baked a pumpkin. Well, I asked him to cut it in half for me because I was a little nervous to handle the knife myself. Then I baked and purred it. It made a lot! You can read a nice post on baking and processing your own pumpkin here. I mainly followed these instructions. I just baked them cut side down (no water or anything) in the oven for an hour at 350. The ice cream scoop mentioned on the Money Saving Mom post was much easier than a spoon, but I didn't bother cutting off the stem. It pulls right off after baking if it seems to be in the way. (All based on my vast experience with one pumpkin on Thursday and one today.)

I think Kansas Dad said we grew Connecticut Field pumpkins. They may not be the best for baking, but we've been enjoying everything so far. We've made:

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and Muffins from Whole Grain Baking (I modified the recipe and didn't like it as well as I remember. I'm going to try it again without modifications.)

Pumpkin Muffins which were light and fluffy. I topped them with turbinado cane sugar instead of the brown sugar mixture and they were delicious. (I keep it on hand for our sour cream blueberry muffins so it was easier than mixing something up for a topping.)

And the Ultimate Pumpkin Waffles, which really are tremendous. Mmm...

Of course we saved the seeds. I made the Fiery Pumpkin Seeds from How To Cook Everything and the Savory Seeds mentioned here.

First Son wouldn't try one, but here's First Daughter enjoying a pumpkin waffle:


There are lot of other recipes I want to try here and maybe this one, too. Oh, and these and this! I may also try out Money Saving Mom's pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

I've got pumpkins on the counter and on the floor and about twenty cups of puree in the freezer, so there will be lots of pumpkin for experimentation.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quote: The Young People's Book of Saints

And not before the Emperor put off all his royal clothes and put on sackcloth and in the sight of all Milan confessed his sin, promised amendment, and lay on his face before the High Altar was he allowed once more to receive Holy Communion.

Later:

And the Emperor so loved and respected Ambrose for showing that the law of God is greater than the law of even the most powerful man that he said, "Ambrose is the only man I think worthy of the name of Bishop."


Hugh Ross Williamson in The Young People's Book of Saints from The Catholic Company

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Music Review: Here Comes Science

Here Comes Science from They Might Be Giants has been much enjoyed by some friends of ours, whose sons love science in all its forms. Our kids aren't quite as advanced as their boys, but we're always looking for ways to have fun with science so we checked it out from our library.

There are some great songs introducing scientific concepts and terms like the elements and the periodic table, but there are a few songs we did not enjoy.

Science Is Real is the first song and the most problematic:

I like the stories
About angels, unicorns and elves
Now I like those stories
As much as anybody else
But when I'm seeking knowledge
Either simple or abstract
The facts are with science
...
The proof is with science
The truth is with science

The song doesn't specifically mention religion or faith with the stories, but we felt it was too easy to say the stories of our faith are not sources of Knowledge or Truth. Whenever we played the CD, we skipped this song entirely. You can find the complete lyrics here.

Electric Car. Kansas Dad thinks this one just doesn't seem to fit in with the main theme of basic science (the elements, planets, etc.). We don't have anything against electric cars necessarily, but I have to wonder what they're going to tell my kids while they're riding around in the car...probably environmental indoctrination of some sort or another.

My Brother The Ape. While the theory of evolution isn't excluded by our Catholic faith, at some point, people became human, in the image of God, and set above the animals and other creatures of God's Creation. This song blurs the line between people and animals a bit too much for our taste.

There were, however, some songs we really enjoyed.

I Am A Paleontologist because that's what First Son want's to be. It's also catchy. (Though I hope First Son is much more than just a paleontologist, if he ends up pursuing that dream.)

Roy G. Biv First Son and First Daughter's absolute favorite (and how they request the album). It's very catchy. In fact, I dare you to listen without getting it stuck in your head. There's no way you'll ever forget the colors of the spectrum once you've listened to this song a few times.

And I just like What Is A Shooting Star?. It's performed as a round and it's fun and informative.

We've enjoyed many of the songs on this CD. If we wanted to own it, though, we would import the CD to the computer (or just buy the MP3 files), then burn a CD without the three songs I mentioned in the first half of this post. I think many of the songs (like Meet The Elements, Why Does The Sun Shine?, and Photosynthesis among others) could be wonderful supplements to a science program, especially for older children.

Kids and Charcoal

Last Tuesday was art day and I pulled out some of my favorite art materials: charcoal and newsprint. I showed the kids how they could use different parts of the charcoal to make different size lines and different shades and I showed them how they could use their fingers to blend and soften the lines.

They had a fantastic time, even if some of the subtlety of the art form was lost on them. First Son's only concession to the new media was to give his Veggies (the same five pictures he always draws) shadows.


First Daughter was more abstract. (I actually love this picture.)


She was also very messy.


I was a little concerned by the warning on the package to wear a mask, but didn't find anything terribly frightening about letting kids use charcoal when I looked online. So we just opened a window and cleaned up well. The charcoal was easier to oversee during the actual art time than painting (which we did last week), but the clean up was a bit more time-consuming. Art is important for a lot of reasons, but I'm glad we focus our messy art energies only once a week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quote: Home Education

[T]here is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get [in] touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things[...]

Consider, too, what an unequaled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun -- the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for? Besides, life is so interesting to him, that he has no time for the faults of temper which generally have their source in ennui; there is no reason why he should be peevish or sulky or obstinate when he is always kept well amused.

Charlotte Mason in Home Education

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Empty No More

My parents gave us a dresser for the kids' room. We had to move it out when we moved the bunk beds in and I found new homes for all the clothes. My mom decided she'd like to have it back, thinking she might like it more than the one they originally kept. So it's sitting in our living room.

First Daughter discovered it today.





Guarded All Our Lives

Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman with pictures by Ben Hatke

I foolishly did not believe all the reviews I'd read of this wonderful book and am so glad I finally decided to read it myself. The story follows one little baby in the womb until birth (and a bit after). The baby converses with the angel, learning a bit about life and the world to come. The angel is depicted as a group of stars, which is not only beautiful, but gave me an opportunity to talk to the children a bit about how we don't know what angels look like, since they do not have bodies (though they can appear to people in certain situations). In fact, I think all the illustrations are lovely.

The angel, present from the very beginning of life, promises to be with the child always. The baby says, "I don't like this world. It is too cold. It is too big." The angel replies:

It is very big, but you will grow big. It will feel better and warmer which you are bigger. But there is another, bigger world outside this one. Someday I will take you there.

Such a wonderful way to think of our journey to the next life, in the care of our guardian angel.

This book is, of course, promoted widely as a pro-life book, which it is inasmuch as it portrays a baby's thoughts from conception. It is more than that, though; it is a lovely book all on its own. It would be a wonderful book to share with older siblings as they anticipate the birth of a new baby brother or sister (especially as the baby is never identified as a boy or a girl). We read the book in honor of Respect Life Month (not that I mentioned that to the kids). I think it could be a good book for the Feast of the Guardian Angels as well, conveniently also in October.

First Son and First Daughter were both enthralled, and we talked about how they grew in Mama's tummy, just like this baby. And they also have an angel all their own.

For those that may be concerned, the birth itself is not depicted, just as a time of "moving." The few pages after the birth also give an opportunity to talk about why newborn babies cry when they are cold or alone.

I love the very last picture, as baby, who has grown, is toddling along, holding onto father's hand.

Grammy's Favorite Verse

First Son has memorized his first verse! He can say Psalm 118:105 by heart. Starting today, we're working on Grammy's favorite verse (another one selected from the first grade suggestions in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum).

Be still, and know that I am God.
-- Psalm 45:10

I'll be making a folder with all of our previous memory verses. For now, we'll read through them all on Fridays (all two of them). After a while, I may set some of them aside to read through only once a month. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Still Going Strong

Second Daughter is fifteen months old today and she's still nursing. First Son weaned himself just a few days shy of fourteen months. I weaned First Daughter completely by the time she was thirteen months old. Second Daughter has shown no signs of giving it up. Though she only nurses a couple of times during the day (before nap, before bed), she still nurses quite a few times at night. I've never nursed a fifteen-month-old before.

It seems very much the same as nursing a twelve-month-old.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On Home Education II

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone--body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good.


I am still reading Home Education though I had set it aside for a while. Now that I've picked it up again, I can't think what seemed more interesting. I've just started reading Part II, "Out-of-door Life for the Children" and I feel I'm being scolded a bit. (The kids and I have been staying inside far too much!)

It seems amazing that this book was first published in the 1880s. Today, the pressure to put our children in school begins so early and is so pervasive that it's almost invisible to us. (What daycare doesn't offer educational activities?) Even those of us struggling to provide more playtime, more experiential time, find ourselves planning too much. (Some day I'm going to write a post on all our preschool activities, or lack thereof.)

Ms. Mason encourages taking tea outside, saying "meals taken al fresco are usually joyous, and there is nothing like gladness for converting meat and drink into healthy blood and tissue." Just a few weeks ago, when it was still warm, I discovered the joy of the outdoor snack. The kids were delighted and I had no dishes to clean. It's been a bit chilly lately, but I suspect the kids wouldn't mind continuing snack time outside.

All the time, too, the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence they will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the white tablecloth; and sunshine, children's laughter, hum of bees, and scent of flowers are being bottled up for after refreshment.

I'm reminded of my recent post on our revised (and more relaxed) nature study time.

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this--that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space; wherein to wonder--and grow. At the same time, here is the mother's opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers. Then, there is much to be got by perching in a tree or nestling in heather, but muscular development comes of more active ways, and an hour or two should be spent in vigorous play; and last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in.

Ms. Mason encourages mothers to join their children outdoors, to enjoy the time together, resting and letting baby get dirty. (For a woman with no children of her own, she seems to understand Second Daughter very well!) Don't bring a book! (Or, at least, don't bring a book to read to the children.)

For me, the battle isn't so very much between playing outside and providing lessons. I'm relaxed enough about our lessons to recognize the greater value, in may ways, of the fresh air. The real battle is order and cleanliness and productivity. You see, I can start dinner cooking in the slow cooker and prepare the pie crust for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie while the children play inside (as I did yesterday). Not so much if I'm outside with them. (Being Saturday, Kansas Dad actually took them out while I worked in the kitchen, but that's not our usual day.)

Contrary to Ms. Mason, I think I would be happy enough to send the children out under the care and watchful eyes of their big brother when he's old enough. I wonder when that will be...

Remember, you can read along online here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Clothes


The girls received matching outfits from Gram and Papa, so we decided a picture was in order.

On the Way to School

After reading My Name is Sangoel, I requested another book written and illustrated by Catherine Stock.

Where Are You Going, Manyoni? is gorgeous. The illustrations show Manyoni's long walk to school against the backdrop of the Limpopo River in Zimbabwe. Ms. Stock lived and painted there and all the animals, except the leopard, are sketched from life. I love how little Manyoni is in some of the pictures, completely dwarfed by the beauty of the landscape. Without showing a single minute of the school day, Ms. Stock has given us tremendous insight into education in Africa: how far children sometimes travel for school, what value is must hold to each student and the family, the games children play together.

Other things to love about the book: a list at the back with pronunciations and two pages showing the animals shown in the pictures along with their names. It's a delight to return to the pages and seek out each kind of animal.

Really, you must find a copy of this book to share with your children!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eggs and More Eggs

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long.

I love beautifully illustrated nature books and this is one of the best. Ms. Aston provides some simple text and more detailed observations about specific kinds of eggs while Ms. Long's realistic illustrations complement it well. The book covers all sorts of eggs: insects, birds, reptiles, even fish. It's just an introduction, of course, with much left to learn, but it's fascinating and provides much to examine at leisure, especially on the end pages. The first few show eggs of all shapes and sizes while the ones at the end of the book show all the animals that emerge from those eggs.

For those that limit children's exposure to the theory of evolution, be warned one of the egg facts is on fossilization and covers "creatures that died millions of years ago."

I've requested A Seed Is Sleepy and hope it is just as wonderful.

By the way, we also have Chickens Aren't the Only Ones and enjoyed it.