Why the Tree of Life?



"Mommy? (little one waking me up first thing yesterday morning...)


"Mommy, your chin... underneath... right here... it looks like the part on a cow where the cow's chin hangs down."

Bumpy the Crocodile

Dunagan spent most of the morning as Bumpy the Alligator. Kirven trained him to catch a football on a shoelace (the end stuck into the air hole). At some point, he switched to being a female crocodile and carrying a shirtful of eggs around, looking for a place to lay them. He made a nest of silks and called me down because he thought it needed a picture. He's very proud of his brood.

Honestly, we don't need toys.
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Artisan Field Trips

We've been having an awesome time on Kami's field trips (Austin Tinkering School) to local artisans' studio. On each visit, the boys have gotten an opportunity to make something and really experience the craft. We've been to a concrete caster (Eric Billings), a ceramics artist (Jennifer Pritchard) and a clothing designer (Kathie at Ramonster) so far. We can't wait to see where we visit next!
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Ayla and Dunagan were spontaneously hugging at lunch. She wanted him to sit next to her while she ate.
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Science & Engineering Expo

This weekend was the first annual Science and Engineering Expo, and it was really cool. There were lots of exhibitors, and each one had a fun activity for the kids. We especially enjoyed the presentations on science in the movies and the Physics Circus. Any time one of the presenters asked a question, Kirven's arm shot up in the air. The boys made a bridge out of marshmallows and toothpicks and tested its strength. There were robots galore, and Dunagan particularly liked the animal and butterfly specimens. He learned that the jaw bone we found on a previous hike was from a deer, and a young one at that since its teeth were still sharp. We'll definitely be back next year.
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Scottish Trickster Tales

Some drawings from this week. Kirven's The Eagle and the Wren, and then my version. Kirven's The Fox Who Said He Could Read, and my The Two Foxes.
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Wood Sorrel

My Monday hiking buddy and I are loving our new activity that we have set for ourselves. We identified and tasted wood sorrel this week. I've always called it clover, but clover it is not! Clover does not have heart-shaped leaves, which this plant, wood sorrel, does. It had a sour, lemony taste; reminiscent of french sorrel, and nothing bitter at all. Kirven wants me to mention that the root tastes the same, too. It has lots of vitamin C, but should not be over-eaten because it can inhibit calcium absorption. In fact, all the kids loved it and Ayla was gobbling it up as fast as Kirven could pick it for her.

When we set out for our hike, the kids do a lot of random exploring, and my mom friend and I flip through my guides and see what we can see. When we settle on something, we send the kids off on a hunt for it. Being ignorant as we are, we're sticking strictly to the obvious and easy, which have been prickly pear, Turk's cap, and now wood sorrel. We are also repeating, mainly for Ayla's sake: "don't eat anything that Mommy doesn't give you first."
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Paradigm Shift


Fox and Rooster

Kirven officially started 2nd grade and Dunagan started kindergarten this week. We are beginning with a Scottish cultural block studying John Muir. We'll do a couple of weeks of trickster tales from the culture and then move into John Muir's biography.

We drew The Fox and the Rooster today, and Kirven's drawing and handwriting (above) are really improving. He's really resistant to the whole recall/drawing process, but I'm going to give it a little longer before I rethink this area. Once he finally agreed to draw, he seemed to enjoy it and was adding details that I wasn't leading him on, like adding hay to the barn.

As part of the Scottish cultural block, the boys have been taking Scottish Country Dancing lessons once a week (Dunagan seems to enjoy it the most), and we have plans to go to the Austin Celtic Festival in November.

As I've mentioned in recent posts, I have been rethinking our approach, and I have decided that I just can't pull off the Enki way of teaching reading. I think it would be great in a classroom setting, but I am finding it too much to keep track of at home. I still like the sage/trickster stories and process, and we will still probably read the language arts spelling stories and do the three fold process with those, but I have turned to using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading on a daily basis. I've thought long and hard about this, and there are just too many details that I am not attending to with the Enki method (be they reasons of time, energy or Ayla), so I am therefore short-changing Kirven. The truth of the matter is, when I sit down with Kirven and that scripted lesson book, he makes progress in his reading, and it is easy for me in the sense that I don't have to prepare anything. Yes, it's a little dry, but it feels better; and I can relax a little because it is so thorough and progresses logically. I think I need that logical progression for my own sanity. Best for me to just start admitting that to myself and move on.

And a couple of paintings from craft day this week. Kirven's above and Dunagan's below.

I had pictures of the awesome, five-person cardboard box house the boys built at Tinkering class, but my camera didn't save them. Blast it. The boys love Tinkering Class. It is the highlight of their entire week, I think.
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Tasting Nature

For awhile now, we have been taking weekly nature walks with some good friends. We are blessed with a greenbelt and trails behind our house, and we have been sticking close to home on our hikes these days. Ayla refuses to ride in a backpack, and she wills her legs to carry her only so far. She also has a love/hate relationship with water. She loves to play in it, but if she gets a drop on her, all clothes must come off since they are "wet." Nine times out of ten, we emerge from the woods with her completely naked. Shoes are usually shed before we've even left the driveway. She has hobbit feet. Really and truly.

The boys found a prickly pear, and while we were waiting for our companions to arrive Monday morning, I read a little bit about prickly pears in my Edible and Useful Plants of Texas. I had the bright idea that we could collect a bunch and have a tasting and make one of the recipes. I quickly found gloves (they grow on cacti, fyi for those of you living outside the SW). But we found nary a one. I guess the season is over, though I really felt like I had just seen a ton.

When we sat down to draw in our nature journals, I cut up our one prickly pear so that everyone could have a taste. None of the kids liked it, but the adults could see the potential. It was obviously overripe, and different kinds of prickly pears can be sweeter than others.

We also identified the Mexican buckeye, seen above, and found out that they are very poisonous. In fact, my book claimed, indigenous people used them to make poisons for their arrows. Fascinating tidbit. Don't tell Dunagan.
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We've started a once weekly craft day with a friend. Crafts just weren't happen' with Ayla-zilla. We rotate days between painting, woodworking, fiber arts and seasonal crafts. We watercolored last week, made pencil holders this week, and next up.... felt bead necklaces! Better get busy cutting...

Kirven completed his pencil holder, and my friend had found some awesome fuzzy pencils to put in them.
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Race to Nowhere

There's new documentary coming out: Race to Nowhere
I found out about it through this interesting blog post: Too Busy to Notice

High school was high pressure when I attended from '90-'94, and it has only gotten more extreme, from what I can tell. Our (including my husband's there) experience was a major factor in deciding to homeschool. Considering that so many of my contemporaries are choosing to homeschool for many of the same reasons, enough that it is a topic of public controversy rather than just a weird fringe thing unworthy of notice, I wonder if society is getting closer to a widespread crisis that will bring about effective change? Things will probably have to get much worse before they get better, and honestly, that sort of sea change will be years in the making. It certainly won't be in time for my kids. Because, really, it's not the teachers, it's not the parents, it's not the gobs of money we throw at the problem; it's the heartless, inhuman system. It's the factory model. It's going to take a lot to reverse the momentum of a 100 years of pedagogical and business decisions that have gotten us where we are today. But it needs to be done. The voices are getting louder at least. Now, how to put that in a soundbite for a politician....

Quill & Wrap-up

Kirven has been wanting to make a quill pen for a long time, and he recently came home from the ranch with a turkey feather. Not knowing the finer points of quill making or whattheheck we would use for ink, I put Kirven off as long as I could, until he reached the mama-when-are-we mama-when-are-we phase, and I said, ok, let's do this thing.

I just snipped the very tippity-tip off at a 45 degree angle with a pair of scissors, and then decided that blue food coloring, undiluted, might do the trick. Worked beautifully, and everyone has had a go at it. Kirven has declared that it would be more fun, nay, easier to learn to right with a quill and ink.

We also just got some math wrap-ups. I used these when I was little, and I remembered them being fun. They have been a big hit, which is gratifying. They also work great as keys to your Blackbird spy plane or big, twin-engine boat.
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Book Binding

Kirven finished Grade One this past week, and we just tied the final knot on binding all his work from the past year into a Good Book. Ask him to show it to you next time you visit!

Next up, Grade Two for Kirven and Kindergarten for Dunagan.
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The boys started a Tinkering class with Austin Tinkering School this week. Kami has a real gift with the kids, and is very creative and knowledgeable.

They had two tables full of dead electronics from which to work, and they even had a couple of old dishwashers to dismantle and explore. Towards the end, some of the kids were taking motors they had found and were attaching batteries and other parts like fans and disc drives to them and making them go.

This class will last for another five weeks or so, and then we're hoping to join Kami's Artisan Field Trip class where we will get to see a guitar maker, a welder, a cement caster among others at work.

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Innerspace Cavern

We went to Innerspace Cavern in Georgetown today. There are 6 miles of cave and we were about 100 feet down. It is always about 76 degrees down there, and the water is always 74. With the recent flooding, all the pools and "lakes" were full, and water was dripping from all the stalagtites and trickling over the flow rocks. There were teeny, tiny bats, too, flying around and putting on quite a show. Ayla said we should have brought our net to catch one, and Dunagan and I thought it would be very comfortable hanging upside down in our herpetarium.

Ayla refused to wear her shoes nearly the moment we entered the cave, and she and I were quite covered in cave mud by the time we emerged. At least she left her dress and diaper on. That would have really shocked the uninitiated.
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Above is what I want to make. Aren't they lovely? Our Little Nature Nest always has lovely ideas. Go to her website for details about her flash cards.

Here's what I just bought off amazon instead. Sigh. Part of me thinks it makes a difference that the flash cards are beautifully watercolored to match the characters in the Four Processes stories. The practical and exhausted part of me doesn't think it makes enough difference to make the effort worthwhile.

Addition 0 to 12 (Brighter Child Flash Cards)



I just found this in our house!
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