visiting Danahy Park

Last week my parents were out of town, so instead of going to their house the boys came in to work with us. Leah took them to a friend's house nearby in the morning, then we had lunch together, and then it was my turn to watch them while she worked. The first thing I did was make them do some schoolwork (because it's still October—and I needed to finish up a couple things myself). But then we headed out into the beautiful fall day to explore new playgrounds.

Harvey on a leaning tree trunk over a swampy pond

urban oasis

Danahy Park is right around the corner from our church and workplace, but it's still not the closest playground, so the boys had never been before. At first sight they were unimpressed with the play structure, but delighted by the grassy expanse. It made them want to play golf.

the boys running down a big hill

lots of room to run

Besides the grass there are also a few woodsy and marshy nooks, so it feels like a place you want to explore. And explore we did!

Harvey and Zion disappearing into a thicket of reeds


When I got tired of managing the pace disparity between Lijah and the other boys I shepherded them over to the play structure, where they managed to find things to do after all—especially when they let themselves be engaged by a braggy four-year-old who wanted someone to play with. Then school let out and the crowd got a little overwhelming; but it was fun to watch all those kids show off their complete comfort with the playground they visit every day. We might go again sometime too.


dessert buffet

As the weather turns cold again, we have more incentive to turn on the oven. And the bread is never ready to go in first thing, so more often than not we get a dessert out of the deal. Today we had friends over who are experiencing the same thing at their house, so after lunch the kids got to choose between brownies, apple crisp, pound cake, pumpkin spice chocolate cookies, banana chocolate chip muffins, and pumpkin bread. They were so overwhelmed I felt bad and let them have a little bit of their top four choices. Life is good at our house these days!

moments from the week

Harvey looking through a window in wall of straw bales


Moments and images from the past week.

Zion on the swing in a hoodie towel


Harvey on his bike at a train crossing

watching for the train

the boys running on a big sloping lawn

urban park

Zion and Lijah playing on the floor at the Lexington community dinner

catered to

the boys and friends running into the fall woods

fall energy

Harvey making waffles for Lijah

waffle maker

two hens sitting on a pole

young hens keeping warm and dry on a wet fall day

Harvey and Zion waiting at the entrance to the hay maze

seasonal entertainment


there's this election campaign going on

So I've had things I wanted to write about here, but instead of concentrating enough to find words I've been reading about the presidential election—and, last night, watching the debate. I never watched a debate before; why on earth did I think it was a good idea to watch this one?! I'm so ready for this all to be over. Or really, I'm ready to cast my vote in a cathartic rejection of the horrible Donald Trump. And more: I'm really looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton.

I've never voted for a Democrat for president before, since I've always felt like there were better options and—especially since I've only ever voted in Massachusetts—I don't see any need to worry about tactical voting or even electability. But this time, not only do I want to send the Republican candidate to a crushing defeat in which every vote counts, I'm actually excited about voting for the Ds. Clinton may not have the best music (though you'll notice that her media and design team is immeasurably better this time around!) but as I slog through the disgusting rhetoric swirling around the campaign I'm more and more convinced that only one candidate this year offers a truly hopeful message of what we can accomplish all together.

I voted for Jill Stein last time, and I agree with her positions and respect her passion—but for whatever reason I've found her frustration and aggresiveness off-putting this cycle. I figure: Greens can't win, so why don't they take the moral high ground and talk about how their policies for saving the human race will bring us all together? As it is, maybe if we smash the Republicans enough the next four years will give politicians an opening to start seriously addressing climate change—to say nothing of racial and economic inequality. That's where we're at for national politics.

There's lots more to say on the subject, but my point here is really that politics is occupying too much of my time and brain space lately. So enough for now!


homeschooling ups and downs, all in one day

I've written more than once about my degree of nervousness around unschooling. Mostly it's not about whether the boys are learning, but rather two other things: how well they can demonstrate that learning to other people, and the pace and scheduling of their skill acquisition.

For example. Because he lives with obstinate introverted anarchists, Harvey has become increasingly reluctant to "perform" in any situation where he's not completely comfortable. This is a problem when he needs to do a math pre-assessment for us, or when he needs to follow teacher directions in Kids Church, or when I try and get him to answer any single question he thinks I already know the answer to. No Socratic method for this boy! Zion, similarly, needs to work on how to hold a pencil and make marks on paper in any sort of deliberate way. But since he can't draw the pictures he wants, he won't work on it at all!

But maybe you see my mistake in the previous paragraph. It's all those "needs to"s. Because of course, from any rational perspective none of those things are strictly necessary at all. In one of those posts linked above (the one on "once") I mentioned worrying about the 4-year-old Harvey's pencil grip and artistic ability, and now he's a totally confident draftsman whose work often impresses (and sometimes confuses) unrelated adults. Not that he's an artistic prodigy by any means; just that he's comfortably middle of the pack. I have no doubt Zion will follow a similar trajectory—just maybe a little bit later, since he does lots of things later. He doesn't need to "practice"; more experience will do the trick.

In a perfect world, that would be that. Unfortunately, we really do need to make a portfolio, and showing progress via assessments is kind of useful. So how can we combine that sort of artificial process with the real learning the boys are working on? I don't know... that's what I'm working on! Today, we did our morning schooling at a friend's house, and worked companionably on our separate tasks. In the middle of his math, though—that pre-assessment, third try this year—Harvey got frustrated and stomped off. And Zion, as the youngest school-age learner there, was disengaged from any formal activity the whole time. So we gave up, and played instead, then had lunch, then walked to a playground. Then we drove home and had a rest, then Harvey and Zion played legos and fought, then we played catch and baseball (while Lijah listened to books on the ipad and Leah painted the interior trim). Then the boys played on the new swing while I fixed the fence, then they played in our neighbors yard while we made dinner.

Then I reminded Harvey that there was still that math to finish. He pulled it right out and got to work. Zion asked me if he could do some math too, so we talked about place value while Harvey worked independently. Zion did some drawing on the chalkboard. Lijah came over and asked to do math too; we gave him some dinosaurs to count, and he counted two and three. Then we thought up rhymes together. Lijah wanted to take a bath and wanted Zion to join him, but Zion wanted more math; he only went after I promised him "math in the bath". After our bedtime story together Harvey took a flashlight into his bed so he could keep reading his Magic Treehouse book, until I cut him off at 8:00.

So that all worked out pretty well. Besides just good luck and a little bit of patience, I think a new organizational scheme we just started may have helped things along. But it's brand new, so I'll let it settle in for a while before I start bragging about it... it's not the first new scheme I've come up with! Tomorrow is day two. We'll see how it goes (but don't expect an account this complete every day!).