Truth and Beauty Are Our Curricula

Truth be told I’m just in a waiting game right now.  I meet Henry’s preschool teacher on Wednesday, he starts on Monday; we’re just waiting.

I’ve spent a lot of time preparing myself for what we’d do if this doesn’t work out.  If the transition to going to “school” every day is too much for the family, if he doesn’t like it, if he doesn’t fit.  I feel cool and hip talking about how we’re proud to shun preschool because that’s what all the cool kids are doing, but I haven’t really prepared myself for the other possibility.

What if he really likes it?  What if those couples hours away from home charge up interests in him that don’t happen at home?  What if this is a good fit?

I’ve come to terms recently with the idea that I’m not – except in maybe dire circumstances – meant to be this child’s teacher in his early years.  My personality, temper, and drive are not suited for it.  “Oh I’m sure you’re mistaken” you might be saying, but just trust me on this one – and honestly a big part of it is that I still feel no desire to make this happen and the last thing any of my children need is a teacher without a desire for teaching.

But yet here I am hoping that I might be wrong, even though I can see how it goes down when we try and really faced for the first time with the reality that this is all coming up a lot faster than I had anticipated.

Then I see little glimmers of how it might work out in our family; little snippets of the things I feel more strongly about giving my son.

  • When the thought of arranging co-ops and extra classes fills me with dread I see how I throw myself into finding fun, short-term activities to sign up for in the summer.
  • When the thought of picking out curriculum and making lesson plans sends a shiver down my spine I see myself continuing to guide our read aloud selections towards classic, moral and beautiful books that we can enjoy at our leisure.
  • When the thought of fitting in everything I’d want to cover in a home-school environment gives me a panic attack, I love find ways to incorporate exposure to art, music and language in our normal days.
You see I really don’t think I’m meant to teach my son to read, but I am meant to instill a love of good books and encourage the skill once the groundwork has been laid.  I really don’t think I’m meant to teach my son maths, but I am meant to work maths into our day so it’s a normal, accessible skill.  I don’t think I am meant to fill my home with the latest educational tools, but I am meant to make my home a place where interests and imagination can run rampant.
See here’s the thing, there’s a lot I don’t expect and honestly don’t want my kids learning from school.  In my mind school is the place to learn the fundamentals and learn them well – reading, spelling, composition, basic and advanced math, the scientific process, research, etc.  That is what school is for; that is what I expect from our teachers.  Even if every one of our future teacher sat next to use at church every weekend there are certain things I don’t expect them to fill my children’s minds with – an appreciation and understanding for beauty and truth. 
Now that’s not saying that a teacher can’t talk to my kids about faith or morality or beauty in the arts or natural world – the classroom would be dull and content questionable without these items.  It’s just that I feel more strongly about imparting knowledge of truth and beauty to my children than I am about helping them with phonics or long division.  This isn’t because I don’t trust the teachers – though I’m sure we’ll butt heads with our fair share – but it’s that those are the things I feel it is critical for me to teach as a parent.  At the end of the day, my job is to develop a decent, loving, sacrificing saint – no matter if he reverses his “I” and “E” or if he still needs to count on his fingers.
I feel so strongly about this that I feel strongly that I need someone else to handle the rest.  My relationship and dynamic with my son shows me clearly that when someone else handles the teaching, we are more at ease to deal with the rest.  I’m more likely to have the energy to read a long story at bedtime or play a game if someone else has done the craft projects, the print work, and the phonics.  We both have more patience and time to fill our home stories, art exposure, and music if we’re not cramming it all in at once.
Now of course – this is just me, my family and our dynamic – when I think of my son going off to school it does make me tear up.  I can’t believe I might not be there for all these little milestones or achievements, but when I think of a home able to relax and able to dive into surrounding my kids with these concepts of truth and beauty that feels right.  While he might not read that book thru for the first time in front of me I can’t wait to see him come home waving it and showing me what he can do – all the while giving me to time to pick the next round of books or switch out some art or show him the joy I take at learning a new song on the piano.
The biggest things I’ve got to be ready for in the next few years is allowing myself to make the best call for him, what is truly right for him and his unique brand of crazy awesomeness.  It might not be filled with co-ops and new curriculum and lots of mornings in our pajamas, but it might just what we need to really shape him into the person the world needs him to be. 

In August.

I swear I haven’t disappeared.  It’s just August and there’s so much to get done in August; of course there’s even more to get done in September.

The garden is offer me a few meager handfuls of veggies, though the carrots still need some time.  I’ll be able to get a little broccoli off at least one plant and I’ve gotten a handful of peas.  I’ll have enough basil for a meals worth of pesto, but nothing to freeze this year and we did finally get a few sunflowers.

The peonies are down and I hope the direct sunlight will help the perennials I’ve planted to have one last go before the freeze comes in a few weeks.  We lost a few to virus, but I’m hope the frost will kill that and what’s left will come back strong next year.

In a few weeks we’ll be emptying out the garden beds and putting some new compost and materials in to over-winter and using the wiped out dirt to fill in some landscaping spots and then it will get cold and I’ll start to come up with a plan for next years garden, because wow this year shows me I can’t just trust fate if I actually want yields anymore.  Because (as pictured above) when the best vegetable you’ve grown is the tomato plant that magic sprung up in your hydrangea bush something is off.  At least the butterfly bush is serving it’s purpose.

We had a small snap of cool weather which means it’s time for a pre-fall purge and stock taking.  A few things I thought we could another year out of are clearly too small (who keeps feeding this child vegetables!?!), but for the most part we’ll good to go save a run to the store for a couple sets of thermals and maybe a lined pant or two.  My work is going to uniforms in a few weeks so I’m taking advantage of it to perminitely downsize my wardrobe, which means the chair in my bedroom is currently overloaded.  Same is going for craft supplies, etc.  Time to pass a few things on and keep the supplies reasonable and usable.  Hopefully I’ll be done with a last good sweep of the house right after Labor Day and be ready to spend the next six months inside.

Speaking of being inside – looks like I’m planning on being inside a lot this winter, just not at my home.  I’ve signed up to help teach religious ed, still on the board of our mothers group and possibly join a craft group or two.

And speaking of crafts I’ve actually had to make myself a craft schedule – between Halloween, Martinmas and everything else I need some timelines.  So I made a list out a few weeks ago and am at a good spot so far – everything started or finished that I had planned to start or finish for August, with only a few changes in pattern, etc.

There’s just so much to do, and I haven’t even started on the topic of school, but that’s for another post.

Summer Reading Program

The summer is winding down here (and how excited is this fall and winter loving girl!?).  There was a lot that I didn’t feel we got to this summer and the jury is still out on how I feel about that.  Did we do good just letting the summer go as it did or should we have worked more into our days?  I’m not sure.

One thing we did achieve was completing two summer reading programs with Henry.  Each was a bit different so it wasn’t completely like double-dipping.  One was about just getting books read and the other had a larger balance of literary type activities for pre-school kids.

I spent a good chunk of the summer just trying to figure out where we were in terms of read alouds – ready for chapter books?  How long?  What about pre readers?  Should we still do picture books?
 (The answers Yes. Medium. Annoying. Yes).

If our list seems a little scanty it might be because we also started reading “The Hobbit” this summer.  We’re using a version of the book I have that has illustration from the Rankin-Bass animated movie – you can see here – which can be a little intense for a four year old (it took us about a week of starting and stopping to get through the Goblins and Gollum).  But it’s so much fun to hear him asking “Where’s Gandalf?!” and continually shutting down my use of the Gollum voice.

I will say I’m pretty happy that I got to read the Trolls scene and do all the voices.  My husband was supposed to take over storytime that night, but instead he stood in the hallway listening to me read the whole chapter and I’m glad he did.

Mostly we read early chapter books – not pre-readers (which I think are more for kids learning to read rather than good choices for read alouds).  Most of these books had 2-4 stories each or had multiple chapters that we read over the course of a couple bedtimes.

Mercy Watson – is a good, solid, funny read.  (Though personally I’m learning I don’t really enjoy animal books for some reason? But the kiddo enjoys it.)
Martin Bridge – Probably the longer of the books here, but I was desperately searching for a human boy who has the kind of adventures I want my son to have and that’s how I found Martin.  We have 

Martin Bridge: On the Lookout! on hand to read next.

Annie & Simon – I love these little stories of a little girl and her much bigger brother.  They go canoeing, they go watch a meteor shower and many other things and the stories are sweet and fun.

The Whale – This is actually the second book in the Lighthouse Family series (we’re on the waiting list for Book 1).  We read about half of this book one night and then kind of forgot about it for a few days, me thinking that it hadn’t gotten his interest but last night out of the blue he announced that we really needed to find out what happened to the mama and baby whale.  So I think it was a good choice.

Mrs. Noodlekugel – Fun early chapter book and about a couple of siblings and their new babysitter – a little Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a little Pippi Longstocking.  We have
Mrs. Noodlekugel and Drooly the Bear and Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice next in our line up.

The Littles – The Littles was a fine book, but a little dull I think.  I think we’ll dive into the actual Borrowers books this fall instead.

The Miniature World of Marvin & James – A fun story about a boy and his best friend, a beetle, and the adventures Marvin gets into while James is on a vacation with his family.  A fun, whimsical little story with good illustrations.

Of course the fun doesn’t stop there.  We still have large stack to get through, but I can’t tell you to take my word on these titles quite yet.

Rainy Sundays

Honestly I can’t believe it’s only Sunday.  Yesterday was one of those surprisingly productive days – we slept in, did our usual “Dipping Toast” breakfast (french toast), had some family visit and I still feel like I got a lot done.  Thanks to that family visit we’re drowning in produce – peppers, cherry tomatoes, peaches, pears.  Oh so good.

I had picked up some cucumbers from a farm a few days ago so once the family was gone I set to work remembering how to make pickles.  I guess I cheated a bit, because I used premade pickle spices, but I think that was for the best as I was still remembering steps and timing.  But in the end we have pickles!  Dill spears and Bread & Butter slices.  I also learned that you can can peppers!  So I sliced up (wear gloves!!!) the bunch we had received, boiled a water/vinegar/garlic solution and canned the peppers in small jars.  Ben is under orders to add those peppers to everything he can this winter.

The cherry tomatoes are going in the freezer whole and I’m waiting a few more days for the pears to ripen.  Turns out – pears don’t ripen on the tree, only once they’re been picked which explains why I’ve never had luck picking ripe pears before (the more you know!); once they’re ripe I’m going to just can them in a light syrup.

The peaches are going to be sacrificed to try out this recipe because it just sounds delicious!

A few days I go I boiled/blanched probably two dozen ear of corn and froze the kernels.

Needless to say my kitchen feels quite productive right now!  I can’t wait for a few years down the road when I might have a chest freezer.  I’d love to take advantage of cheap produce in August and get our frozen veggies and a few canned treats ready for winter like this.

I did learn a few years ago to be a bit more selective about what we actually eat when it comes to canning.  While it was fun to make jams, we just don’t eat a lot of jam or jelly so in the end it was big waste of time and money.  After taking a break from preserving last year I still wanted to do something, but a bit more selective.  So far this year feels right – a couple things canned that I know will get eaten, a couple of things frozen that I know how to use, etc.

The second round of my garden is going well enough – peas are flowering, beans have shot up and I might actually get a head of broccoli or two after all.  So maybe not a total wash this year after all.

I’ve also been planning out my crafting for the …. rest of the year.  Halloween costumes to make, Martinmas gifts, stashes that need busting, etc.  There’s a lot on my palate, but I’m excited to show you  these things as I finish them.  If you want to see what’s in my knitting que you can check out my collection of patterns here.  Then I’ve got some sewing to do.  I’m finishing a kimono top this weekend and then I have two dresses and (thanks to a great thrifted fabric score) a bunch of flannel pajamas pants/sets to make before it gets cold.

If I’m not around for a while… you’ll know why.