Thursday, February 28, 2013
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Our neighbor, Mike, loves to fish. He has been wanting to show Amabel and Ellen his ice shanty—waiting to find the perch (or for the perch to find him). And early this week we got a phone call: the fish had arrived! We all suited up and ventured out on the ice (for those interested, we were out on North Lake Leelanau).
It was late afternoon and the light was fading behind already thick clouds. But deep below, in the hole inside the shanty, the water was a vibrant glowing green (hard to describe and even harder to photograph). The girls were enthralled looking down into the water—twelve feet deep—watching the fish coming and going. We completely lost track of time, cozy in the little house, gazing down into the world beneath the frozen surface. Nearly three hours later we emerged from Mike's shanty with a bucket full of perch.
Well, the bucket wasn't exactly full, but we did catch nineteen fish. And, my, how the girls were pleased when we spread them all out on the ice to have a closer look!
It's hard for me to express how much this means to me—that our neighbor is willing to share his love for fishing with the girls. (Maybe it has something to do with my own fond memories of fishing years ago with my older brother?!) Experiencing the lake this way in winter was so unexpectedly wonderful. And to have a friend share his enthusiasm with such generosity of spirit—it was a tremendous adventure, just right for the girls.
To top it all off, after we all arrived home, Mike showed Amabel and Ellen how to fillet and clean the fish. And Paula invited us into their warm and toasty home for a perch dinner!
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Do you remember our magic beans from last fall? Here they are, dried and wrinkled now. Not quite so vibrant, but full of magic just the same. Full of possibility for the season ahead.
It isn't even March yet, but I have a confession to make. I bought some potting soil yesterday. The owner of the plant shop had to bundle up, venture out into the cold, and pull it off a snow-covered pallet. I lugged the big bag of frozen earth back to the car, with Amabel and Ellen trailing behind, catching enormous snowflakes on their tongues. There were no other cars in the parking lot. I was filled with warmth for a moment: alone with my daughters, the snow, and a bag of dirt.
After a day inside, the soil thawed out. This afternoon I pulled a basket of seeds from the back of our refrigerator (and a handful we saved from our garden last year—including the magic beans). Then I planted a few things. Just a few seeds. It isn't really time to power up the grow lights and start the garden babies. We need to wait a few more weeks for that. But I couldn't resist putting my hands in the dirt today . . . because at the end of frozen February I'm feeling the need for little boost of hope and a tiny bit reassurance in the way of green thoughts.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
I just never know what I'll find tucked into a corner;
on a shelf top;
in a desk drawer; or set up all over the floor.
There was a lemonade stand in Amabel's room this morning after a performance of the Wizard of Oz. Although to be precise, I should say that it was actually a rehearsal for the Wizard of Oz. And a failed rehearsal, because Amabel abandoned the idea after trying in vain to get Ellen to memorize lyrics from the scarecrow's song ("I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain . . . if I only had a brain."). I rescued Ellen from her strict director sister and suggested that we do something else for a while. Ellen and I snuggled up to read books and Amabel set up the lemonade stand. Everyone small was invited.
I never tire of watching and listening to them play (except, maybe, during heated arguments and at bedtime). As they play, tidbits of stories, poems, songs, conversations, and impressions from their little lives are woven into the worlds they create. I love to witness this process. The learning process is incredibly complex and yet as simple as, well, child's play.
Last night Jeffrey and I listened to a sample French language audio lesson. Amabel and Ellen inevitably found their way into the room and perked up their ears. For the rest of the night, Amabel repeated the phrase "Es-que vous comprenez l'Anglais?" over and over again, delighting in the musical sounds and securing the words into her memory where they were retrieved and made use of this morning—in play. (I requested the language program from the library. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing a lot more French flying around our house over the coming weeks.)
I've been wanting to give you some sort of an update on our homeschooling work. But when I look back over photos from the past two months, I keep returning to photos of play. So, I've been thinking about homeschooling: work and play. When I get questions about our homeschooling, I usually start by explaining the curriculums we chose for math and reading; how Singapore Math and All About Reading are a really good fit for our learning and teaching styles (and it's not just Amabel learning and Jeffrey and I teaching—thanks to Amabel's memory and insistence on getting everything just right, my spelling is already improving!). Then I might mention speaking a bit of French, attending choir rehearsals, and the wonderful instructors at clay class. All this intentional work is good, really good. But there is also a whole lot of play going on over here. Games. Songs. Mini-performances. Epic dramas (tracking Baba Yaga through snow drifts, for example). Then there are stories and books (Amabel will go on an on about our current favorite chapter book: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street). And all sorts of spontaneous projects—just ask the girls what they've made at Grandmommy's house! (Have you ever seen a genie in a bottle? How does it fit in there? They can tell you.) Play—which is impossible to fully describe and yet so very essential to Amabel and Ellen—is at the heart of what we've been doing around here.
How do you balance work and play at your house? (I sense a theme running through my recent posts: balance). I admit, I tend to let play continue, uninterrupted, even when there is work to be done. The thing is, I recognize how much learning happens through play. So I try not to let our work get in the way of all the playing/learning happening so naturally. Listen to me—justifying my lack of discipline! Fortunately, I have discovered that if Amabel and I make a to-do list in the morning together, she will hold me to it throughout the day. And that has proved to be very helpful in making sure we accomplish our work as well as our play.
Speaking of work, Amabel has become much more interested in my work. Particularly editing work. She sneaks up on me and then wants to know what all those little marks mean. And why do I write in cursive sometimes? Cursive. She loves cursive. (She recently made a "secret" wish to learn cursive, and then confided in me.) Alas, I should be working right now, not "playing" on my blog. I'll say goodnight and sign off, eager to hear your thoughts on work and play.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Thanks to all the snow we've had this winter, Amabel is getting lots of practice on skis, and she is becoming very good at going up and down hills. Watching her learn to ski has been one of my great joys this season. Not only is she growing in balance and confidence, but in stamina too. The first few times we went out, I really had to coax her along. But now she asks me if we can go skiing and once we're gliding along, she wants to down all the big hills!
Growing up, I spent many, many hours skiing with my younger brother and our dogs. We explored the forests and fields all around Gousty, traveling miles and miles on skis. I have particularly wonderful memories of sliding noiselessly through the woods in the moonlight. Cross-country skiing is still my favorite quiet way to explore the winter world, and I'm so grateful that Amabel is finding her own love for being outside on skis.
Last Saturday one of our neighbors saw us skiing along with Ellen in tow, and he decided that Harry should be put to work. He pulled out a harness from his garage, et voila—Harry the sled dog!
Harry made a valiant effort to play the part, but in the end we took turns helping our Irish Terrier pull his load of skis and girls up the hill!
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Our kitchen table has been a busy place this week with Valentines's Day around the corner and the release of Alphabet Glue: Volume Eleven! There is so much to love in this issue, but the very first thing to jump out at us was the foldable file cabinets project. After much debate over who they wanted to make these for (which dolls would it be?), Amabel and Ellen decided that we should make our file boxes and folders even smaller than Annie's pattern. So, we printed out the templets at 25% and made mini-mini file boxes for Sally and Molly's doll school.
As usual, I am in awe of the projects that Annie comes up with using the simplest of materials—in this case, paper, scissors, and glue. This little project inspired a whole afternoon of play at our house. Amabel and Ellen soon filled their colorful folders with miniature math tests, tiny lists, coloring pages, micro mazes, reading lessons, itty-bitty letters, handwriting practice sheets, and all sorts of other bits of paper. Little, little love.