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!).


moments from the week

Zion swinging on a rope swing in the woods

new swing

Moments and images from the past week.

ice in a container

first freeze

Harvey and Zion eating donuts in front of the Charlton Orchard stand

fall farmers market

Harvey and Zion coming down the big slides at Robbins Farm Park

big slides

Zion and Lijah, face-painted, doing a puzzle at the library

masked puzzlers

Lijah holding two small serrated pumpkin-carving knifes

fighting stance with pumpkin-carving knifes

Harvey doing his chores, holding his head sideways because of a sore neck

stiff-necked farmer

Zion, Harvey, and friends at work on crafts

birthday party craft table


experiencing some music

A week ago the boys and I headed into Somerville to take in the music and enchantment of Honkfest 2016. They were excited when we set out—we have prior form in Honk enjoyment—and we had high hopes of meeting up with friends and taking in several hours of quality bands.

one of the bands at Honkfest 2016

a lively scene

Unfortunately, while the festival is pretty child-friendly, the boys weren't particularly festival-friendly. With a bunch of busy days and late nights over the previous week they were pretty worn out. Certainly, except for Lijah—who was also charmingly decked out in forehead eye-patch for the occasion—they weren't up for any wild dancing.

the boys sitting on a wall taking in the scene

passive observers

Even a stop at a playground didn't excite them for very long, and pretty soon Zion was in the trailor and down for the count.

Zion snoozing in the bike trailer


Harvey had enough energy to keep upright, but without Zion to play with he wasn't too pleased with things either (nor was he pleased with the food choices I had available). So we said an early goodbye to friends and headed out—though I did have to stop to check out one more band.

And I'm glad I did, because The Party Band was my favorite of the day. We'd seen them a few weeks ago in the Bedford Day parade—where I thanked them for bringing some real music to the event—but it turns out that the group then was only a portion of the whole band. All together they put out some impressive sound, and Lijah and I enjoyed it to the fullest. Or he enjoyed it until he fell asleep on my shoulder: I guess it was a little too much like his old bedtime music for him to hold out. He's heavy, asleep, but I managed to hang onto him until the end of the set, at which point I dumped him in the copilot seat and we headed for home. There was some considerable mirth at our passage—two sleeping kids amidst all that noise was apparently more outlandish than any of the other wild sights of the festival—but Harvey and I were too grumpy to appreciate it.

In retrospect, though, it was a fine outing. I heard some music, the boys didn't whine too much, and we learned that they can do parades (especially parades next to playground) much better than crowded hour-long sets. Next year I'll do the Saturday part of the festival by myself... or maybe Lijah can come with me, if he asks nicely.