Why the Tree of Life?


Christmas Morning

K didn't wake us up too early this year, but once he realized Christmas morning had arrived, he was nearly impossible to keep in the bedroom until we were all ready to go out to the living room as a family. We finally made him sit on the bed so that he would stop bouncing off the walls.

Still waiting...

Finally allowed out!

K gave D a sleeping bag just like his. We're all looking forward to doing more camping soon.

K and D gave me some new house slippers. K insisted that I would love the color and style! :) I'm very proud of my new slippers.

After opening gifts, we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to visit relatives. Merry Christmas everybody!


Monday Friends Christmas Potluck

We had a great potluck Saturday afternoon with our Monday Friends group. We made apple cider, and everyone brought a snack to share. All the parents visited while the kids played, and then we sang Christmas carols (only the fun and fast ones, of course) and played instruments. K was the most energetic of all. We ended the party with exchanging homemade gifts. We had made four colors of playdough for everyone, and K and D received some art hangers, finger-knitted necklaces, gingerbread men and painted ornaments.

Toddler-Proof Christmas

We noticed on a good friend's blog recently that she had a lovely, fully decorated Christmas tree in the background of her portrait with her first-born daughter. Ah, the memories...

We have had three people, all on seperate occassions, charmingly declare, "Oh, you're decorating!" as they walked through the front door. Nope, we're done.

Happy 4th Birthday, K!

K had a great 4th birthday party with lots of friends and family and a much anticipated firetruck cake! We had beautiful weather for mid-November, and everybody had lots of fun.


Junk Art Day at Monday Friends

Austin's hottest young artist was kind enough to pose for a brief picture on the way to his lastest art opening. K Evanovski, shown here with his latest work 'Beneath the Rising Tide of Angst', prefers the 'found-art' medium, but has also been known to work in crayon, tempera and playdoh. When asked why he chose a heavy title for such a light-hearted looking bear, the artist replied, 'This bear, he is empty. Where honey should be, there is no honey. The eyes, they are the many eyes gazing down upon him. I do not make these arts for the world. I make these arts for myself. I do not care if the world gives the appreciations to me. The world does not love what it does not understand.'

Amy's Ice Cream Tour

We took a tour of Amy's Ice Cream Factory with Monday Friends back in October. Our tour guide Joe is making the ever-popular sweet cream flavor here in this picture. This is the base for all their flavors. Everyone enjoyed a bowl of ice cream at the end of the tour!




We tried to go camping at the ranch mid-October. The temperature was great, but it was very desolate. We ended up going back home. The cattle came up very near to us, hoping we would feed them. They never really did move on away from us. They had eaten every bit of green around the tank that they could find, including the poison ivy and bull nettle. Where we were walking should be underwater. We're headed to go fish in what little water there is left, but we didn't have any luck.


Time for Trick 'r Treating!



We went to see the Treehouses at the Dallas Arboretum. They ended up being more like interactive sculptures rather than what we were all expecting treehouses to be, so they were more interesting to look at than play in. But it was a beautiful place to spend the morning. And I just liked these two pictures.

Fountains, Smoothies and Styrofoam Cups

Ohhhh!! A fountain!!! With fish in it!! Let, me just take this frying pan and see what happens when I put it in with the fish? What about this sand sifter? Hmmm.... there's just too much water in here....

Oh boy, smoothies! How come I don't get one? Well, I'll just take K's. He won't mind. Mmmm, it goes great with bites of styrofoam. Huh, now I'm a little sticky... well, a lot sticky... nothing another dip in the fountain won't fix! Good thing I'm washable!


Too Much Too Soon

Newsweek has an article this week that really illustrates some of my recent conclusions about early education.


Enki Education

So, we are officially changing directions in our home learning. When we first decided to homeschool, we seriously considered using the Waldorf method, but there were many aspects of Waldorf that we just didn't like or didn't fit our family or our beliefs. Then I came across The Well-Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason and thought I had found a better fit, especially with Charlotte Mason's philosophy.

But as K has gotten older, and I have tried to implement a few of the 'preschool-ish' things recommended by the classical approach, namely getting him to read before first grade, I am realizing that this is just not what children of his age need to be doing. There is no joy in it, and this whole push to read and choice in classical method is really more about my fears that he (and D) will somehow reach 18 not knowing how to read, and my concerns about others judging our family by how smart my children are, than about what my children's deepest needs are.

So, I re-evaluated what is working for our family *right now*, and most of it stems from the Waldorf elements that I picked up earlier. We have a minimal amount of toys, most open-ended; art supplies, musical instruments and books. We're out in nature as much as possible, and I'm conscious of our daily rhythm and including them in the real work of homelife as much as possible. And we read a lot.

But sitting down to work on learning to read now, even though 'everyone else is doing it' and The Well-Trained Mind recommends it, is not where Kirven is at right now. We could do it. I could push it. But it would be painful for both of us. He would know how to read, but at what cost?

So, where did that leave us? I still really like a lot of Charlotte Mason's thoughts on the child and education, but not everything. I also began to drift back to more Waldorf resources, but was still not sure where we fit.

Earlier in the year, I got a chance to view an acquaintance's Enki Education materials and discuss them with her. I initially thought Enki was just another Waldorf curriculm, but really, it has turned out to be its own wonderful thing.

Beth Sutton, the developer of Enki, is a former Waldorf teacher, so there are all the elements of Waldorf that I love in her program (teaching through stories, handicrafts, working with beautiful materials, music...). But she has also brought in strengths from Montessori (particularly in math, using real-tools, the three fold lesson) and discovery learning from John Holt, and there even seems to be some Charlotte Mason (quality living books, nature study). She has also kept up to date with current understandings of child psychology, which supports our choices in parenting, and she is Buddhist and has brought a contemplative spirituality to the whole process, which fits very well with our Quaker faith. On the whole, I feel really blessed to have chanced upon her work in education. So, that's where we are now.

I have been reading through all the guides that came with my kindergarten package, and I have set a date for starting kindergarten next year: May 1. It seems like an odd date, but we have decided to take the months of April and October off because those are the best months in Texas. We will have a Winter Term (November 1-March 21) and a Summer Term (May 1- September 21).

The Whole Thing

D has started doing something that I don't remember K doing. When we are eating or snacking, just handing him bites is no longer ok. He will reach toward your food, asking very politely, but when you offer him a bite, he will shake his head no. You might try bites of your other food... no... sippy cup? no... He wants the whole shebang. He wants his own plate with his own *whole* servings, and he wants to feed himself, thank you very much. It took several days for me to figure this out, and when I did last night, you could see the relief on his face.


Frere Jacques

I wish I knew how to put audio on here because D has started singing the tones and rhythm of 'Frere Jacques'. K likes to sing this song all the time, and now it is coming out of D with the exact same intonation and phrasing, but no words; just "da-da da-da da da, da-da da-da da da..." You probably have to be familiar with K's rendition in order to catch D's interpretation, but it's there nonetheless.


Knob Turner

D learned a new skill this evening. He can now turn knobs if he can reach them, which he can if he happens to be on the chair outside the door to our bathroom. So, our primary babyproofing tool is now obsolete.

Hot Air Balloons

We woke up bright and early (5:30am) to make it to a local ballooning organization's flight this past Saturday. It was out at Mansfield Dam, which was a very lovely spot. The weather and temperature were perfect. K was nervous about the noise from the burners at first, but he couldn't help being excited by the atmosphere and seeing the hot air balloons filling up and finally lifting off the group. It was really very serendipitous that I heard about this event. We had just been reading about hot air balloons, and this really brought them to life for him.


New Things

D's doing some new things. He's really beginning to understand what we are saying and is even responding to simple requests. Today, he helped me move wet washrags into the dryer. I've also noticed that every time I tell him something is hot, he starts blowing (like he's blowing on his hot food), but he has also carried this into anything he needs to be cautious about. When he's standing on top of a table, he will start blowing as I'm coming closer to take him off. And I've seen him start blowing as he tries to grab Molly's (our cat) face.

K's imagination has really taken off. We have had the couch cushions off for over a week as he has been playing out this whole plumbing, broken pipes and sewer rats scenario. It has really become quite elaborate. He and D scoot around under the cushions 'fixing' pipes that the sewer rats have chewed open. E and I have yet to figure out where this is coming from, but it is pretty funny to watch.

After Another Night of Teething...


NO & Bye-bye

So, we had a false alarm several months back when I reported that D was waving bye-bye. Well, he really is waving bye-bye now, in earnest, starting last week. It is so interesting to see how he interprets 'bye-bye'. We get waves now whenever we leave a room or have to move on to a different object of attention.

He is also shaking his head, emphatically, when he wants to say no. You can ask him just about any question now (whether he wants something or not) and he can give you an answer. It's so exciting to be communicating! His whole body says 'no'.

Last week, after nap, as K was slowly waking up, D was sitting beside him next to his head. D was really ready for K to get up and play, and he was pulling his hair and poking his eyes, and just generally experimenting with K's head, so I decided to take D out and let K wake up a little more gently. So, I said, 'Come on, D, let's go out here...' D looked up at me and shook his head, 'NO'. And smiled. So, I started walking toward the bedroom door, 'Come on, D,' I said smiling and motioning. He just grinned and started waving bye-bye... see ya later, Mom!


Austin Nature Center

We went to the Austin Nature Center with a group on Wednesday. I took my camera, but forgot to use it! We had a great time, and the nature center is a beautiful place. They have trails, a pond area, and an exhibit of live, native animals and birds, all rescued. K especially loved the beehive. It is the first thing when you walk in, and it is between two sheets of plexiglass with a separate entrance to the outside for them. He also liked getting to feel bobcat fur and fox fur. And for some reason, he really loved the barn owls. He asked me on the way to the enclosure if they had barn owls (don't really know how he knows about barn owls), and I was glad to find that they actually did have barn owls. By that time, D had gotten hot and tired and hungry, and he was DONE. So I let him out of the backpack, and then he was very happy and walked back with us (with a few detours to pick a choice rock for sucking on) most of the way to the car. We had brought a picnic, but wisely decided to go ahead and head home and let D take his nap.


Cathedral of Junk

We visited the Cathedral of Junk today with Monday Friends (our homeschool group). This man is literally building a cathedral out of junk in his backyard in a South Austin neighborhood. It is a work in progress, but you can climb all up in it. He loves having people come visit and appreciate his work. It was really fascinating, amazing, and a lot of fun! Pictures can't do this place justice. Notice the spiral staircase?

Workin' Man

Butterfly Farm

We went to Wild Connections Butterfly Farm last Thursday with a homeschooling group. It is on a beautiful old ranch just south of Austin on Hwy 290. They have hiking trails and a butterfly house. If you look at the end of this girl's hand, she is catching a blue butterfly. We all got a piece of overripe fruit to try our luck at getting a butterfly to visit with us.


Mudpies! Want Some?

We got a little carried away this afternoon... I would post a picture of K too, but he ended up sans clothes.


Ballet Folklorico

We went to Children's Art Day in the Park at Symphony Square. It happens every Wednesday during the summer. They have a featured guest, a section of the symphony plays, arts and crafts, lemonade and an instrument 'petting' zoo. It was a lot of fun, and we enjoyed watching the Mexican folk dances.


Birthday Party

Happy Birthday, D! We had lots of friends and family over for swimming in the kiddie pools and playing in the sandbox.


D's Birthday-Children's Museum

Daddy took off Monday for D's 1st birthday. We had a great day spending time as a family. We slept a little late, ate breakfast, opened presents, and went to the Children's Museum later that morning with lunch downtown at Las Manitas. By that time, D was completely worn out, and we headed home for long naps.


Singin' the ABC's

First Haircut

We forgot to take our camera to the barber shop, but here's a before and after. With D's hair being so blonde, we didn't realize how long it had gotten!


First Words

Ok, E and I swear that D is saying, 'Yeah' when we ask him questions like, 'Do you want to play?' or 'Are you done?' He's said it lots of times and in the right context, but we just can't believe that he already has a word. K has also been informing me that D has said, 'K.' So, there you go... two words, I guess.


Cornstarch Day

Monday Friends was at our house this week, and we played with cornstarch and water. If you have never played with it before, it is really strange stuff: it stays solid in your hand, but then becomes liquid when you let go of it. At the beginning, it was only the mommies and K who were playing, then it degenerated into painting the porch and each other which got everyone else interested. Cleanup actually looked a lot scarier than it was, and K and D had a great time scraping and washing the porch and filling up the washtub for playing in later that afternoon.


Easter Morning

K woke up every fifteen minutes from about 6am on this morning, asking, 'Is it Easter yet?' We were able to hold him off until a little after 7am. We decided to let D sleep and go check and see what the Easter bunny had left. K found that the Easter bunny had moved the egg candles he had colored into the Easter baskets with the grass (we'd been watching them grow and carefully spraying them with water for the last week), and that he had also left them each a book, some window paints and a flying butterfly. Then K and Dad made blueberry muffins to go with sausage and hashbrowns for breakfast. After we ate, I went and hid some plastic eggs in the backyard for an Easter egg hunt.

Easter Baskets

Easter Egg Candle-dipping



Camping Trip

Dad and K went camping this weekend. K caught two fish on his own! No kidding. He also loved his new racecar sleeping bag, and enjoyed getting to eat *two* s'mores instead of one since 'they were camping'. The sounds of the coyotes did bother him a little that night, but they had their fearless canine companion, Geena, there to snuggle with them.



D has started playing peekaboo on his own. He will pull a playsilk or sheet up over his face and wait until somebody notices and says, 'Wheeerrrreee'sss D?' Then he'll pull it down giggling as we say 'PEEKABOO!'


Young Photographer

K took this picture.

Children's Museum

We went to the Children's Museum this past Monday with some friends. D enjoyed the toddler area, and K had a great time with the air exhibit. He is pulling up a bowling bowl and then releasing it to shoot the tennis ball. We did that activity many, many times.