Why the Tree of Life?



Meet Stripes. Stripes is a rainbow sock monkey Uncle Taylor gave Ayla on her 3rd birthday last April. Stripes went with us everywhere for about a month until she --disappeared-- just like that. Where did we leave her? We didn't have the foggiest, and while Ayla asked for her for several days, she hadn't had Stripes long enough for it to be the end of the world as we knew it. But where the heck was it? It was just gone.

And then last week, when Evan took Kirven for his allergy shot, he had to talk to the receptionist about an insurance matter. Normally, we never even make it as far as the reception window because the shot nurse is right inside the front door. Lo and behold, there was a rainbow sock monkey sitting in the reception office with a little bow on her head. Evan decided just to ask where they had bought it, saying he was looking for a replacement for his daughter. The receptionist gave him a wry, little grin and said, "It was just left here," and then she asked, "How long ago did she lose it?" "Oh, a long time ago. Months." His answer fit her memory, and she gave Stripes a hug before reluctantly, but very kindly handing her over. Stripes had been well taken care off and even dressed up for the holidays, she said.

Ayla's very happy to have Stripes back, and we know it is definitely our Stripes because she has the discerning mark of an earlier Grammy patch-job on her arm. Thanks, Allergy & Asthma Center of Austin for taking great care off her while she was away from us!


What We're Up To

I thought I'd post a little about what we're up to lesson-wise and give you a glimpse into our week.  I hesitate to write such a post because it has been the kiss of death to any successful routine in the past, but here goes... for all those curious...

We're doing formal at-home-with-mom lessons Monday through Thursday, from about 9am-4pm.  Sometimes it feels like a lot, but most of the time it feels just right.

We wake up with Dad about 6:30am and have breakfast as a family.  After Dad heads off to work, I read a story from The Book of Virtues, or a picture book of the moralistic persuasion.  Then we all move to the couch for about 5-10 minutes worth of silent worship.  That's about all the kids can handle sitting still, but it is also a good time of day for it because they are still pretty mellow.  I try to clear my mind, but my mind rambles more often than not.

Then I head for a shower while the kids watch either Reading Rainbow or Beakman's World.  It's one of their favorite parts of the day, and I can shower in peace and even braid my hair.  This past week, I started doing about 10 minutes of yoga (just sun salutations) from a DVD after their show.  We'll see how long I keep that up, but it is adorable when Ayla does it with me.  Sometimes the kids wrestle on the bed at this point, but usually these days we head downstairs to start lessons.

Reading is first on the agenda.  Kirven is reading aloud to me for 15 minutes from Warriors: Into the Wild .  I'm personally enjoying the book, and Kirven was interested in it because all the neighborhood kids have read it and have liked to play Warriors in the past.  Dunagan is working through the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  These days, I'm setting the timer for 10 minutes and we get done however much we get done on a particular lesson.  He tells me that he likes to read (as opposed to Kirven who does not).  While I am working with one boy, the other one is doing 10 minutes of silent reading.  Oh, and I forgot, I read a story of her choosing to Ayla first, and then she goes off and does Starfall on the computer.  The kids have their own computers right under the shelves holding all my Enki/Waldorf books.  Oh, the irony.

Then, I read either a fairy tale to Dunagan or a chapter from the 3rd grade Haudenosaunee epic for Kirven (both selections from the Enki materials).  The boys also alternate days between doing a page in their handwriting books or copying a quote from the whiteboard of my choosing (copywork).  Dunagan is nearly through Book B and Kirven is about halfway through Book D.

Then we head in to math.  I am working through the elementary level Life of Fred books with Dunagan, and after we finish each book, I do a block of Enki math stories and activities with him before starting the next book.  Kirven likes to listen in on his lessons, and I think we will continue on with the series as a supplement to "regular" math texts.  Dunagan is also working through "counting-by", and he has memorized through 6's.  Multiplication Unplugged has really helped.  Kirven is working through Teaching Textbook 3 and also memorizing addition facts and the times tables in order.  We are also practicing mental math tricks, which has been really interesting for me.

Depending on the day, next we do either grammar (twice a week), creative writing (once a week) or learn a Latin or Greek root (once a week).  The boys have also picked up a lot of grammar from Schoolhouse Rock and The Case of the Missing Part of Speech.

Twice a week, the boys are doing piano, and we're reading through the Musicland books, and the boys have learned a couple of the pieces  On the alternating days, we take a break to jump rope or dance to music or learn to juggle with Bal-A-Vis-X.

Kirven is learning to type two days a week using Typing Instructor for Kids, and all the kids are doing Spanish on the computer the other two days with free webisodes of Noah Comprende.  They pretty much have done each of the videos a million times, and I found another free kids' website that we're going to give a try.

Finally, we do spelling every day of the week (Monday through Thursday that is), and I love our new curriculum.  I was using Sequential Spelling with Kirven, and I think we will get back to that again much later (junior high), but I recently started All About Spelling with both boys, and I like it much better.

Then we have lunch, and after we have eaten I read a new poem aloud, and then we all work on a poem that we are memorizing.  After lunch, a well-deserved rest!

Used to, I had each of the kids go to their own quiet, secluded spaces for quiet time, but recently, it has become: Mommy is going to go lay down now with the door closed.  Play quietly or I'll separate you.  And don't come in my room unless you are three or you are on fire.

Resting makes a big difference for me.  On the days I don't get to rest, I have a hard time making it through the afternoon without snapping or sneaking chocolate.

Afternoons are a free-er time.  The boys may have some morning lessons they still need to finish up, and we read chapter books and Story of the World. I usually remember to ask them "what happened last time" to get a little bit of recall/narration in, but not always. We are currently reading The Boxcar Children (for the second time-- favorite), and William the Conqueror has just invaded England.  We'll start Paddle to the Sea when we finish The Boxcar Children.  We had been reading The Elements book as well, which is awesome, but we had reached the obscure elements and all of us were losing interest, so we're taking a break.

On Mondays, Kirven cooks dinner for the family, and he also does his own laundry, and we both fold clothes together while watching TV (NOVA, lately) after everyone is in bed.  And on Wednesday afternoons, we head down to my parents/grandparents' house for a visit and dinner.

Somewhere in there, I am also trying to focus on Ayla some, which is really difficult.  She wants me to play babies when I can't, and wants to play by herself when I can.  But she is pretty religiously getting to make playdough on Thursday afternoons.  It's easy enough for me, and easy to clean up.

On Fridays, the boys are going to Freedom Fridays at the Whole Life Learning Center.  They are halfway through the 10 week session with mixed reviews.  After four days of formal lessons, Fridays are a very nice break for all three of us.  The class is run democratically, which has been a good learning experience for them in interesting ways.  I don't think we'll sign up for it again, but rather use Fridays for hikes, museum visits, etc.  I think we'll just do our own Freedom Fridays.

Once a month, the boys are attending wilderness classes at Zilker Park through Earth Native Wilderness School.  The boys loooooooooooooove this class.  And we just signed up for a monthly (for 5 months) astronomy class that starts this Friday night.  It will just be me and the boys, and we're all looking forward to it.  Astronomy=Space=Star Wars=Happy Dunagan.

We're busy, but for the first time in a while, I really feel like I have the balance right for our family between formal lessons and learning through play.  It feels good.  Hopefully, this post didn't just jinx that good feeling.


Architects of Air

Architects of Air came to Austin. I had never heard of this until it popped up in a post on my homeschooling group. We waited an hour and a half to get in.

Here you can see Dunagan and I doing said waiting. I'm in the purple shirt and he's beside me in the tie-dye shirt.
Rolling down the hill...

It was definitely a neat color/sound/space experience, but I'm not entirely convinced it was worth the wait.

Kirven on the other hand *loved* it and just tonight mentioned to Daddy that if it in town again he has to go with us to see it.  Over all, I'm glad we took the time to go see it.

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Wood Village

Completely on their own initiative, my kids and the neighborhood kids have been building "Wood Village" in the greenbelt behind our house.

They have spent hours out there, complete with buildings, private property and land disputes.

They even made currency out of red cheese wax.

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Hillary's Wedding

My youngest sister Hillary got married on January 15th.  She's in the middle, with my younger sister, Bettye, on the left, and me on the right.

Rehearsal dinner...
Silly Bettye...

About to head to the church... Ayla was a flowergirl and I was a bridesmaid... bridesmatron?

Ayla's awesome hair

The kids had the camera at the rehearsal, and we don't seem to have any pictures of the actual ceremony, but this was a cute one of Ayla dancing at the wedding.  Most of the other pictures were too blurry to post.  I think Kirven took this one--- nice action shot.

My best pic of the bride and groom; Hillary and my new awesome brother, Alex.

Bettye and I practicing our facebook faces.  Notice my fake eyelashes!  This was pretty late in the party.
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