Monday, November 25, 2013

What We're Reading: Thanksgiving Week

We've been taking a bit of a history jaunt the past week, veering away from the very interesting-looking chapter on "The Bottom of the World" in our history spine to give homage to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I was fortunate to find several good books at the library:


The story of the first Thankgiving told from the prospective of Squanto, who is incredibly important, but usually sidelined. I think I always thought as a child that he somehow just magically knew how to speak English! I appreciating reading the context of what has going on with the Native American nations as the first English settlers were arriving.




This story chronicles s child's perspective of making the journey across the Atlantic on the Mayflower



After reading so many more accurate historical descriptions, this one stood out as a more romanticized picture of the pilgrims. It was interesting to contrast it with the other more grim representations. The artwork really is lovely though, and makes for a nice picture study. 



And to counterbalance the romanticized view, a depressing one! 
I will warn you at least, lots of people die bluntly in this book. But there are lots of engaging illustrations and the author certainly does not shy away from presenting the suffering that the pilgrims faced. My sensitive daughter looked a bit ill. But its true that its difficult to appreciate how relieved they were at the time of the first Thanksgiving without understand the difficulty they had already undergone.



I found this a really interesting modern tie in - what would a modern day pilgrim look like? Who today is looking for religious or political freedom? How might the beginnings of our own country change they way that we should respond to such people?


I'm thankful my library has done such a nice job curating their book selections. :)

Hopefully we will get to some art projects and such...



Thursday, August 29, 2013

A New School Year!


We're halfway through our second week of "official" school and things are going well. I was a little nervous about this year honestly, since my older son is being added to as an official student (kindergarten), and even though we don't do a whole lot of structured stuff for K, I wasn't sure how things would go. Probably the best analogy for homeschooling several children is spinning plates - you start one kid with something, get them spinning, then go start another, then come back and check the first -ok, they're fine, now go start the third kid...and so on. Its a bit exhausting, but with a sense of humor its totally do-able. And really all this is during the individual work portion of our day - those subjects like math and language arts that, because even though they are close in age, they are on different levels, so we don't do together as a family. Subjects we work on together are my favorite - history, science, literature / Shakespeare, art, music, and nature study. They involve relaxed cuddling on couches, narration, and discussion, projects and experiments.

Because I know it can be fun and helpful to see what others are working on, I'll list out what we're planning on doing this year. Warning: if you a not a homeschooler it will be long and probably boring. Maybe even boring if you are a homeschooler, I promise nothing. :)

So in general, my approach is inspired by the philosophy Charlotte Mason, but I use  The Well Trained Mind heavily for our overall structure, and really like materials published by Peace Hill Press for history and language arts. Mason's philosophy of education resonates strongly with my goals and vision for my children's education, and I also find it incredibly practical and a pleasurable way to learn and teach. Whenever possible I like to use interesting, conversational, whole books (referred to as "living books," by Mason). Frequently the way this works for history and science is to use a book that covers a topic broadly as a spine - we read it most weeks, and I use it to plan the overall structure of our study - and supplementing a variety of other interesting books as appropriate. We use our library a lot to supplement, but I usually end up buying books along the way as well.  I am not vehemently anti workbook, but like books, I think care should be taken to find the very best quality, and look for those that do not talk down to the child or waste their time unnecessarily.

Math

It looks like we do a ton of math, but really its a balance. I love Math-U-See's extremely concrete approach, and Singapore Math's mental math and challenging word problems. Beast Academy is a new addition, and I'm intending it more as a math enrichment for my oldest.



(everyone - various levels)



(everyone - various levels)



Beast Academy 
(3rd grader - 3a)


for review and drill:
Math Is Fun math facts practice- I love this free online drill site - I have tried many, but this one is set up just right that it really helps them build automaticity.

Splash Math (iPad app) - we have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade, and I would try the Kindergarten level but it is not supported on my 1st generation iPad. They are about $10, which is expensive to me for an app, but have absolutely been worth the money. Fun and motivating, and excellent review.

Language Arts

First Language Lessons ( everyone at various levels - 2 lessons/ week)



Writing With Ease (2nd and 3rd graders - 4 lessons / week)



Explode the Code (2nd and 3rd  graders - 2 lessons/week)



Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (Kindergartner - daily)



Bob Books (Kindergartner - daily)


English from the Roots Up (3rd grader - to be determined)



Prepared Dictation exercises from Spelling Wisdom (once a week - 3rd grader)



D'Nealian Handwriting for everyone as needed







Literature


My 2nd and 3rd grader are both accelerated readers, and read pretty voraciously for pleasure. I try to guide them toward high quality books using various literature review books and book lists, but since sometimes the books they choose for pleasure reading aren't sufficiently pushing their abilities, they always have an assigned independent reading book that they are to read for about 30 minutes during schoolwork time. We check in together a few times a week for them to chat with me about what's happening, and they have book journals to record the books they read and their responses. My 3rd grader is interested in starting a blog, so we might incorporate some book reviews into that. I choose assigned independent reading from books I think they would like and that would provide sufficient challenge. My 3rd grader is currently assigned The Secret Garden and my 2nd grader is reading James and the Giant Peach.




For my two little guys, in addition to just reading out loud lots, we're using Five In a Row (volume 3) because I was able to borrow it and the literature set for the year. Its the first time I've used the program at home (though I used Before Five in a Row with a homeschool co-op preschool class I co-taught last year) and I don't know yet to what extent I'll do the supplementary activities, so we'll see. In two weeks of reading the books though, I've liked the book choices, and I'm impressed by how much they really do seem to enjoy reading the same book five times over.



For Shakespeare we read one story a week from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit.

For poetry we will be reading and memorizing Christina Rosetti's poetry. A CM friend of mine and I are planning on taking turns hosting a recitation day once a month or so where our kids plan to give the recitations they've been practicing, plus have an excuse for cupcakes.

Everyone also listens together as I or my husband read to them right before bed - right now I'm reading The Little Princess and when Dr. Horrible is around, he's been reading The Hobbit or a compilation of early 20th century sci-fi short stories (no, most of them are not getting them, but Daddy reading is a treat that they hang in there for). Since he frequently works late, this arrangement works out well for us.

History

We are on the second year of our four year history cycle, and will be studying the Middle Ages. We will be using The Story of the World again, and I'm already excited to be doing volume 2 of the series. Flipping through I think it will be interesting and that even I will learn a lot, as it covers the Medieval period all over the world - I really only have much exposure to Europe in this age. As we did the last two years (we took two years to go through volume 1, we just kept getting side tracked by lots of corresponding reading!), we'll use the Story of the World book as our spine, and supplement other books collected from the library. I love the activity books that go along with this series - they include map work, coloring pages, activities, reading lists, and projects.  We also rely heavily on referencing our Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. The kids have history notebooks that they record responses to what they are learning, and we also find places we are studying on our big mark-able world map, and keep a book of centuries (or timeline in a book).

Science

We follow the four year science cycles recommended in  The Well Trained Mind, and this year we are on Earth Science and Astronomy. We've done it a little out of order in the past, doing Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in the past 3 years, so I'm looking forward to something totally different. I've gotten the Real Science 4 Kids Geology and Astronomy books to use as spines, but I also have ordered DK First Earth Encyclopedia (for the little guys) and Smithsonian Earth (for my extremely science oriented and inquisitive 3rd grader) to serve as either heavy supplements (meaning we refer to them pretty much weekly) or they might end up being spines if needed. I never know with the RS4K books - sometimes they're great but not meaty enough on their own.  I'm planning on using the experiments in the Real Science 4 Kids teacher book, but might also use some of the plans from the Geological Society of America and other online resources if the RS4K experiments turn out, well, lame. The kids also have science notebooks and also a separate nature journal for our nature study walks.

Bible

We use a memory box system to memorize scripture, and I cheat a bit by using passages that are set to music on Seeds Family Worship cds, so its pretty easy.  We just review our memory box everyday when we start our combined subjects. I also am teaching them the Shorter Catechism using a simplified version and just reviewing a few of the questions daily. In the past I've just read bible stories from various children's bible versions (my favorites are The Jesus Storybook Bible and Read Aloud Bible Stories), but lately my oldest has started reading her own bible on her own, and I wanted to start something a bit more structured, so I've ordered the first Telling God's Story book (again from Peace Hill Press - I thought there's a good chance I'll like it, given my track record).

Spanish

We will add this in a bit later, as the school year progresses. My idea would be to work out having a tutor, but I'm not sure if funding will allow that. I have Song School Spanish, which I might try again (we only did a few lessons - it sort of fizzled out last year when I tried it).

Art / Picture Study

We are continuing on with Artistic Pursuits, which I love for many reasons, but partly because I find that it combines picture study (art appreciation) with hands on art activities. We are still on the K-3 book and still not nearly done! Its a bit expensive upfront, but a good value as its spread over several years.

Music

My older girls are continuing their violin and piano lessons, respectively. We do hymn studies maybe twice a month, and otherwise incorporate music appreciation into our everyday listening.

P.E.

Does frisbee playing at the park count? Check! Seriously, the kids are outside everyday, riding bikes, doing yoga and barre exercises along with me, and generally running around everyday. But this year we're also adding in a group P.E. class for homeschoolers the meets at a local park. Some things are easier to learn and more fun in a group!


Hand-Crafts

We try to get all of our academic work done in the morning, so the afternoons can be free for independent play, pleasure reading, and hand crafts. Handicrafts Charlotte Mason style are any practical, hands-on activity that produces something of value. This year my girls want to learn to sew, so we are working our way through Sewing School. Its all hand sewing, which buys me some more time to get my act together with my demon possessed sewing machine...

Painting, modeling with clay, typing, computer programming, knitting, cooking, baking, scrapbooking, and organizing are all projects they work on for handicrafts. Usually we try to focus on one area for a month or so, but frequently the projects get sprinkled through the week and picked up here and there. It keeps everything interesting!

Whew, there it is. Looking forward to an interesting year of plate spinning! I hope this might provide some ideas for those putting together their curriculum for the year!

















Saturday, August 10, 2013

Learning to Mind Our Own Business, or, Getting Out of the Mommy Wars For Good

Recently Time magazine unleashed another wave of mommy war teeth gnashing with its article on childless living: The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children" by Lauren Sandler. Since I haven’t been reading Time lately -  I did not renew my subscription to Time after being so irritated by the bizarre article on Dr. Sears and Attachment Parenting they ran last year - I first saw mention of it via a friend’s Facebook post. I was particularly interested in the way the article linked in the post phrased is was something along the lines of, “Even women like us who don’t even have kids yet have now been pulled into the mommy wars! Women can't make anyone happy whatever they do!” Later I happened to catch a radio show with the article's author and was struck by the personal angle she was coming from - she had felt judged as a mother with only one child, and saw her childless friends also feeling harassed, so concluded that an article exploring the benefits of not having children would be a great thing.

But really what the article and the radio show came down to me is that women in general feel a tremendous pressure to conform to a cultural ideal of two children. Women who have no children or only one child feel that their motives are openly scrutinized and naturally become defensive about why they want to live “childfree,” all for reasons that most parents can agree that yes, are easier without children (more time for oneself, more money, more time for career, etc). What I desperately wanted to point out reading this was that actually women on the other “wrong” side of the cultural idea also get tremendous loads of scrutiny put on them for their larger families. Any women whose family portraits veer much to either side of this two kid norm experience uncomfortable - and inexplicable - pressure to conform. While it might be appropriate from a sociological standpoint to ask why our nation’s birth rate is falling, and what steps might need to be taken as a nation to support childbearing in general, these are not the tone of questions being asked. Most voices in the media seem perfectly gleeful to stir up debate over what decision is superior for various reasons, but the question I want to ask is,


“Why is any of this anyone’s business in the first place?”


Why something as intimate, nuanced, and personal as childbearing considered to be open season for public critique? Why do we feel  comfortable venturing questions of family size or timing with anyone but very close relations? And if a question is asked and answered, how can any of us really feel comfortable telling that woman what she should do? Of course we hope its that we want the best for her, but in reality, we won’t be the one juggling career and baby, or wondering guiltily if we are missing out by staying home with them, or any of the myriad considerations that having children involves. We are the village around that woman and possible children, certainly, but what kind of village are we? Instead of warm and supportive, we have become shrill and combative. Its no wonder that the “Mommy Wars” have become such an apt description of the tension women today feel over their family decisions. When someone is judged and berated, they usually respond with defensiveness and will naturally feel threatened by others who are not in their camp. Its become such a vicious cycle that some women feel completely alienated from friends and family who make different choices than them, and this is truly ridiculous.


Fair disclosure: I am a mother of four children, who while not being perfectly timed, I am thrilled nonetheless to have had just when they happened to be born. I know the bone tiredness, the emotional stress, the overwhelmed days, the financial juggling - I know them very well. My husband and I agreed on the decision that I would postpone my career to take care of our kids at home while they are young, and now we even homeschool them, pushing back my reentry into the paid economy even further. Both of these decisions I wholeheartedly believe are correct for us, but I also consider them deeply personal and not at all transferrable to the general public. The fact that this is what we have chosen to do does not mean that we think everyone else should do it. Its simply not our business. We will happily share our hopes for this lifestyle with others who ask (and I have been asked a lot - rolling in scientific and academic circles we are not at all the norm), but we try to do so without pretension that ours is universally superior, but only that after careful thought, it is preferable to us.


Unfortunately today it seems that just the act of making decisions for your family has become synonymous with choosing a side in hyped-up war. I have learned from being at the awkward answering end of casual  questions about “will we have more?” to being told by a stranger that I have too many kids and need to "get a new hobby," that a woman’s reproductive activity has been snatched out of from under the protection of culturally assumed privacy and thrust into the realm of vocal public scrutiny. After fielding these kinds of questions for years (a youngish mom with a gaggle of children in the grocery store always seems to draw attention, even when everyone is behaving themselves), I’ve become convinced that any leading questions to a woman about kids - when she’s having them, how many she wants to have - anything - are usually unwelcome and not really appropriate. We need to kindle a sense of deep respect for the privacy that the process of family planning - whether that family decides that they want no kids or fifteen - deserves.


The real problem - and the root of the mommy wars - is that  we as a culture have suddenly been presented with more options than ever before for what a woman’s life can look like and we just cannot accept that one woman’s ideal can be - will be -  different that another’s. But we are not automatons, and one size, one life, does not fit all. And this is not only okay, its wonderful.


I want to challenge every woman especially to  refuse  to buy into the tension and drama that swirls around us. We need to let go of the judgmental attitudes we've bristled under and nasty comments we have heard in response to our decisions and make a commitment  to support and encourage other women in our lives - especially those women that have made different decisions than we have about family or career. Give insight when asked, but no judgement. No snippy comments or veiled insults. Let’s be comfortable enough with our own decisions that we don’t feel the need to convince anyone else to make the same ones. Once we do this, the mommy wars will have no fuel to burn on, and all women - those with and without children - will be better off for it.







Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tips for the Brand New Homeschooler

So you're planning to start home educating your child this fall? Welcome to the world of the homeschool parent! *high five* I don’t know what brought you here - maybe you’ve got a kindergartener who can read but can’t sit still and don’t want to subject her to a classroom of “be quiets” and “sit downs!” Or maybe you’re pulling out your 5th grader because he hates everything to do with learning and it breaks your heart. Maybe your child has learning requirements their school can’t - or won’t - accommodate. Maybe you’re just fed up with the toxic social situation your middle schooler is dealing with and feel her stress level (and yours) would reduce coming home to learn. In any case, you’ve taken the step into the unfamiliar and are wondering what comes next.


Get That Legal Stuff Taken Care of

You’ve probably already looked into this, but if your haven’t, you’ll want to soon. No one wants to be in that awkward situation of being afraid to go out with your kids during regular school hours for fear of random truancy reports! Look into your local homeschool regulations, and figure out what you need to comply. Local homeschool support groups or just a local homeschool friend can help you out enormously with this. If you don’t know anyone, go ahead and ask on a local homeschool Facebook page or Yahoo group. We’re generally a pretty friendly bunch that tries to help out newbies.


Do Your Research


Take a few weeks to explore the major approaches to home education. Websites abound, including forums, Facebook pages, curriculum vendors’ websites, Pinterest boards, and of course myriad blogs.  Google terms like Classical, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Unit Studies, Waldorf, and Montessori along with “homeschooling” and you’ll find plenty of information to get you started. It can be overwhelming, its true, but if you can get an overview of styles most likely one or two will appeal to you and strike a chord - “THIS is what I want my kids education to look like!” And then you can go deep into whatever chose philosophy with books and curriculum vendors’ pages, as well as more specialized websites.


Start Out with a Plan, But Be Flexible


I started out homeschooling with an everything-in-the-box curriculum from Sonlight. It was great - literature based, all planned out, lots of fun. Having everything planned out but still flexible was exactly what I needed as a homeschool newb - I wasn’t even sure what all this should look like.  Even though I went through a chunk of early childhood education classes in college, I wasn’t clear on how to schedule and manage our days. I look at Sonlight as my training wheels. I felt security knowing that it was a well planned out curriculum by people who knew what they were doing. Once I got a good sense of it, I began to branch out. In later years I took what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I wanted to add, and began to put together my own program. But those first two years of using Sonlight really helped me to build confidence and find what worked for me and my kids. Another approach is to think in terms of subjects and put together a plan from there - find individual math, grammar, writing, spelling, handwriting, history, literature and science programs. I now use the book The Well Trained Mind heavily in my planning, and its really not much harder to plan than a box curriculum to plan. Whatever you use, consider your first year or so to be a learning period - it can take some time to find what works best.


Don’t Go Crazy Overboard

Maybe its just me, but when I go through homeschool resources I start to lose touch with reality a bit. Sure, I think - we can do Spanish....and Latin....and LEGO Robotics....and Rhetoric....and that amazing looking class on underwater pottery! Yes! YES! Then I remember the many times I have introduced an awesome new subject or activity only to have it fall with a thud because it was just one.more.thing.to.do. Start with your basics - Math, Language Arts, History/Social Studies, and Science are usually the core subjects. Art, Music, P.E., and various electives should be added in, but thoughtfully and realistically. Not every subject has to have a classroom-like lesson. Art for us usually consists of me introducing various art mediums (watercolor, pastels, clay, etc) and looking thoughtfully and discussing beautiful works of art. Fun, low-stress, and easy to fit into a laid back afternoon.


Start Looking For Your Tribe

Join local support groups (check for links of off state organizations, yahoo groups, facebook groups and meetup.com groups). Go to whatever meetings you can find - just to check it out. Check out local co-ops and social groups. As in anything, you won’t click with everyone. Some groups will rub you the wrong way, but hopefully you’ll find a few families that you and your kids click with. Maybe you'll find a group to play at the park with, a co-op, or even an experienced homeschooler that can field some questions and offer encouragement.


Reconsider Household Routines

Homeschooling really is a lifestyle. Your day will look pretty different from your neighbor whose kids leave at 8:30 am and come home at 3 pm. In some ways this is great - no rushing around in the morning packing lunches and signing permission slips, no nights of homework. But you will have your kids at home with you. All day. If you’re starting homeschooling from the beginning with your Kindergartener, or you already have young kids at home, this won’t be a big deal, but if you’re going from no kids (or just a few) at home to everyone suddenly, I can imagine it might be a shock to the  system. Be open to adjusting housekeeping expectations and planning when your will be out of the house alone (when your spouse is home? or hiring an afternoon babysitter?). Just knowing that these will require adjustment can be comforting during the transition.


Consider Deschooling

Whatever educational approach resonates with you, if you are pulling a child out of regular school you might want to consider a period nondirected, discovery based learning . This is commonly called “deschooling,” and the idea is that it allows your child to calibrate themselves to the rhythm of learning out of an institution by allowing them the time to explore their own interests, no strings attached. We do this for at least 2 months out of the year (we call it summer break, hah!), but it seems to be particularly cathartic for older students who have developed negative associations with learning.  You can read more about deschooling here.

Much luck in the coming school year! Sending your virtual hugs and cups of coffee (and maybe glasses of wine if that's more your style). :) It will be an exciting year!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mitera Magazine

"How to Be a Happy Introvert Mom," a runcible life's most read post (although that's not saying a whole lot! :), has been included in the spring issue of Mitera Magazine. I am thrilled to be included and have enjoyed the many insightful articles included in this issue Check it out: Mitera Magazine Spring 2013


Monday, April 8, 2013

5 (Possibly Unexpected) Things I Use Everyday to Homeschool

Its would come at no surprise that we use lots of living books and  lots of art supplies in our day to day home learning adventure. But here are a few a little more off the beaten path resources that I've come to rely upon...

1) Split page journals
 

These are like regular notebooks or composition books, but provide a large space for drawing.
I started using them years ago for my oldest daughter's copy work, since she loves drawing and could be compelled to do just about anything if drawing was also involved. Since then we have begun to use the format for nearly every subject - each kid has history, science, and copy work notebooks. I like the narrow ruled Bienfang note sketch books for science and history notebooks (more room to draw) and the Mead primary journals for copy work (more explicit handwriting guides). After reading our daily selections in history and science and hearing narrations, I have them record a response to the day's reading in their notebooks. Often this is just a picture with a sentence (or few, depending on their age). This solved the reporting  issue I had with my Charlotte Mason approach - I have provide work samples for subjects that the primary work comes from reading and narration, which is a bit tricky to show. Their notebooks provide an easy, low key way to show what we are doing, and gives my art loving kids a creative outlet built into their days.I also find that if we don't do official art that week, I still have plenty of artwork to show, and its nice to have everything contained in one space. I also love the somewhat Waldorf element it lends to their work - they are in a way creating their own textbooks.

2) Primary Handwriting Dry Erase Boards


Like this. I use it everyday for writing out passages that we do for copywork. The handwriting guide style helps me make sure I'm writing out in (nearly) perfect form, and is easy to reuse everyday. I do like to use wet erase instead of dry erase markers though, since with dry erase my careful printing can come off on little misplaced fingers.I use a second board to write out weekly spelling words to copy out daily, or various other passages we might be memorizing and copying.

3)  Singapore Math Videos from Khan Academy

My oldest is using (among other things) Singapore Math 3a right now, and I was thrilled to find that Khan Academy has a series of explanation videos for it. Although the videos don't exactly match up to the workbook sequence (or maybe they do in a way I haven't quite deciphered), they are proving useful, and are free! I hope they continue to add on for more of the series.

4) Play Away Books


These are mp3 player pre-loaded with books and extremely easy to use. Even my 4 year old can work them with a little help. Although I use this more for quiet time entertainment than school work, I have found a few that I could use as a lazy (or exhausted or vocal-resting) mom's helpers for our daily read aloud novels. A few I've gotten I've used for school work from the library have been The Princess and the Goblin, The Jungle Book, and The Hobbit. Even though I also frequently check out traditional books on cd, these just make things easier, as they only require a set of headphones for individual listening. They would be too expensive for me to buy individually, but if your library doesn't offer these, definitely suggest them to your librarians!

4) Home Science Adventures Kits
Microscope Explorations Unit

My husband (the physics professor) is extremely into hands-on science activities, to a point where I was overwhelmed with my lack of ability to fit in enough said hands on activities to meet his or my science-devouring children't expectations. My hands, or really my brain, is pretty exhausted after our everyday work, and beyond a weekly experiment (which is more than a lot of people do, right?!?!) I had a hard time providing enough. These kits have come to the rescue! They include really well written guiding worksheets to follow as well as everything you need to do the experiments  The best thing (aside from never having to hunt for a length of wire or rubber ball) is that they are (at least for my 6 and 8 year old) able to be done independently. That being the case, they are easy to use as a child supervised science exploration activity. I.e, it can be done with mom in a hammock, reading. Score! Of course you could also probably use it as your main science curriculum - there's lots to do and plenty of opportunity for living book supplementation.

5) A Trampoline


Seriously. Studies have shown that children sitting still for more than 10 minutes start to lose learning capacity. So an easy, centrally located activity-generator is a perfect solution. A mini-trampoline doesn't take up a ton of space, but gets out a ton of energy. We do of course have to have strict rules for its use: one kid at a time and no hanging on the bar! But we have yet to have anyone injured on it, which for my children is saying something. It amuses me that they treat it like a hamster wheel - hopping on through out the day, bouncing happily for a few minutes and going about their business. I think it helps put them more in control of managing their energy and stimulation levels, which I think is a great step toward independence.

What about you? Any kind of weird standards that you wouldn't want to homeschool without? I'd love to hear them!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

How Can a Life be "Runcible?"

"The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear


When my oldest daughter was about four years old, her Dad often read to her from an enormous poetry compilation (he just doesn't do picture books). Her favorite poem in it was by far Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy Cat." It was the first poem she ever memorized (pretty much unintentionally), and of course there were quite a few unfamiliar words for a four year old. I found myself looking up "mince," for example (any finely chopped food) and "quince," (kind of like a pear). But when I got to "runcible," as in "a runcible spoon," I was delighted with the definition: there is none. Lear just made it up!

Now maybe I was just in that particular state of young motherhood where everything seems so overwhelmingly serious - I had to choose the RIGHT way to (choose any of the following): work outside the home or not work outside the home,  feed babies/children, vaccinate or not vaccinate, co-sleep or crib sleep, nurture children, respond to husband, share housework with husband or assume it all...well of course you get the picture. And strangely, many of the individual choices to be made had silent, sometimes illogical ties to others - like not vaccinating if you breastfeed, or not teaching first time obedience if you co-slept. It was like picking a team more than anything else, and for one with divergent ideas, maddeningly stressful. But in this poem it was as if Lear, upon not seeing the perfect word to use in this particular poem, decided, "well dash it all, I'll just make up my own!"  I longed for that exact freedom in my own life, and that is why the word resonated with me. I'm apparently one of those quirky literary types who draw things like this out single words of poetry, but there you are.

So it is in that spirit of responding with creativity to the considerably serious questions of home, family, and education that I began writing "a runcible life." Here you'll find posts on what we're reading and doing right now regarding our home education,  notes on things that I've found that have worked well for us that I hope to share with others, occasional longer essays on various topics, maybe a review here and there.  I hope that you will enjoy it, comment, and stop by often!