posts tagged with 'harvey'

how we deal with cold weather

The cold weather is upon us. I react by switching over to my winter outfit: long underwear, wool socks, and lots of layers on top. I love the cold, but I hate and fear being cold. So I wear the right clothes; the two things are connected. Harvey, on the other hand, doesn't need any such precautions. Today the temperature was maybe peeking into the 40s and, after a few minutes of running in the yard, he had to take his boots off because his feet were hot. At Market Basket the other day the elderly cart-retrieval man commented (positively!) on his choice to wear shorts with the windchill in the 20s. And while he has a new winter coat, he hasn't felt any need to wear it yet—just its fleece liner, over a t-shirt.

Lijah also hasn't worn his coat much, but that doesn't mean he's as cold-tolerant as his big brother. On the contrary, he complains bitterly whenever he's uncomfortable—yet still tries to go out for the morning walk in cotton pajamas. He said a blanket over him in the stroller would be enough; I convinced him to at least put on a sweatshirt and hat. (The hat is important, actually. When you're three your head is like 40% of your surface area, so...) For playing outside this afternoon I actually got his coat on him—the first time this year—as well a pair of actual pants over his PJs. No boots, though: only slippers will do for this determined boy.

Still, we all adapt in our own ways. We're getting used to this cold thing. Now all we need is snow; this morning we were placing bets on when it would show up. Do they make snow slippers?

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Harvey's Lego day

Harvey blowing out his candles amongst a delighted throng

happy birthday

Last Sunday Harvey celebrated his birthday with his friends. He wanted a Lego theme, and he was only interested in inviting five peers—which meant that, with siblings and parents, we had 14 kids and eight adults sharing the fun. As a group of mostly homeschoolers, the kids would have been fine entertaining themselves, but a themed party needs activities and I was there to make them happen. We started off with "brick tag" (blob tag, but more thematic), and then I invited anyone interested to try and spell out "Happy Birthday Harvey" with the big pile of Duplos we'd dumped out on the lawn. They managed it, and even added an exclamation point!

many of the kids on the stage with the Duplo

saying happy

Up next was dinner of hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. After we ate it was time for the main event: the building contest. The kids got together into teams—well, mostly; the bigger kids all chose to work alone—and I asked them to think of a theme they'd like to focus on for the contest and write it on a slip of paper. Picking out of a real hat, I drew "castles", and they were off!

kids building with lots of legos on the living room and playroom floor

the best kind of work

Harvey picks his friends well—almost all of them, ages six to eleven, could have kept building indefinitely. As it was I let them go for about an hour, which gave the adults some nice quiet conversation time to themselves outside. Unfortunately, the judging process—which I left to them—was a little disappointing. They didn't entirely appreciate the energy and effort the kids put into their creations, so the prize delivery was a little underwhelming for the kids. Still, Harvey and Ollie's flying castle-ish pirate ship quite deservedly won best in show... and then we had cake. I wished I could have gotten the frosting on a little smoother, but even with the indifferent texture I'm still going to go ahead and say it was the best yellow one-by-two brick cake anyone there had ever seen. And pretty tasty too: chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and buttercream frosting. Harvey approved.

Harvey, Zion, and the gang with the Lego cake

Legolicious

So he's totally eight now. And we have even more legos in the house. Maybe we should have given some away as party favors?

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our strawberry boy

Last week Harvey saw the first ripe strawberries in the garden and proclaimed, "yay, that means it's going to be my birthday soon!" Let's hear it for a homeschooling curriculum that prioritizes teaching natural and agricultural rhythms for reference over actual dates! So Harvey knows well that his birthday falls in the midst of strawberry season.

Harvey holding up a pair of strawberries

it's his season

Our strawberry harvest has been coming in well, and so has the birthday fun for our biggest boy. He kicked off his celebrations with a party at Grandma and Grandpa's last week. They gave him a gigantic Lego set that took him two days to put together; it hasn't been demolished yet, which must be some kind of record. On his actual birthday yesterday his parents failed to offer him any gifts or other birthday delights, as seems to be typical for us lately. But we did write "happy birthday Harvey" on the schedule chalkboard and let him be in charge of meal planning for the day. He picked oatmeal for breakfast (I had mine with strawberries, but couldn't convince the boys to switch from their usual banana) and peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich for lunch (the rest of us had pb-and-jam like boring regular people). For dinner we were guests at friends' house, but per Harvey's request we brought along chocolate chip cookie bars for dessert.

His party with friends will be Sunday afternoon. There's a Lego theme, and I'm very much looking forward to making the cake and taking part in the building contest. Also playing with all his presents!

Happy 8th birthday Harvey, and may your 9th year be as fruitful as our strawberry patch!

strawberries growing under netting

more coming

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the reading child

As I predicted, now that Harvey can read there are definitely those moments when we lose him to the charms of a book. This afternoon we spent a while at the Lexington Library, where he found a new comic book (bande dessinnée really..). He spent the whole time there reading it, read in the car, and then established himself on the couch to finish it up. Never mind that we brought his friend Megan home with us and the house was full of fun and music and dancing. In his defense, he had spent a couple hours at Chuck E Cheese for Lijah's birthday outing, so maybe he just needed a little quiet time to recover.

So far, though, he's not as bad as I remember myself being. He's more extroverted, for one thing, so he won't start reading a book if there are lots of other things going on. And he's generally not prepared to commit to chapter books at this point, though he did make an exception for Stone Fox—a Christmas gift—and Wayside School is Getting Stranger (I need to write a whole post about that book—or maybe two..). Oh wait, he also read the Dory books. And I kind of wrote this post before, a couple months ago. Clearly, the record-keeping for the literacy portion of our homeschooling program is not particularly rigorous. Maybe if Harvey gets into a book tomorrow I can work on getting things up-to-date.

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the primacy of reading

Harvey is really reading now, and as I predicted it's taking him away from other activities—like doing his chores. I totally understand how other parents wish they had this problem, just like when he was younger I wished I had a child who would wander off rather than just clinging to me or looking to play with me all the time. I suppose now he's wandering off in books. He read a whole chapter book in one sitting the other day, 150 pages (with pictures). In his defense it was a pretty good book, and I recommended it highly.

cover image of Dory Dory Black Sheep

It's called Dory Dory Black Sheep, by Abby Hanlon and it's apparently the third book in a series about Dory, a six-year-old with a tremendous imagination. In this book she's feeling bad because she doesn't know how to read. While I loved the book—and yes, almost all my reading comes from the kids section of the library these days—I'm a little troubled by the implicit assumption that it's a good thing for imaginative, well-adjusted (by some measures) six-year-olds to be reading. In the story she's exposed to reasonable first-grade teaching methods, but it's peer pressure that makes her want to read: her new best friend is reading chapter books, and Dory is afraid the friend won't like her if she can't read.

So it's a pretty sensitive treatment, and probably true to a lot of kids' experience in first grade. That means I don't fault the author—and I'm looking forward to reading the other two books, and reading them to Zion—but wish the culture were such that Dory could be telling stories to her friends in school and being valued for that skill. Because, once she can read, will she stop living half in an imaginative world of her own creation? Few authors can compete with real kids' imagination. But when you can read, books are tempting, tempting!

Still and all, I'm pretty proud of Harvey. And imagination-wise he's long been someone who looks for official sources for his imaginative worlds—he's an oldest child, and needs to make sure he has things correct—so probably the more books the better. Just as long as he keeps feeding those hens too!

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a nice evening for a birthday

Harvey turned 7 today. He has a great birthday; the longest day of the year means plenty of time for fun and excitement. He spent the end of the day today playing outside with the neighbors and shooting video on the new tablet device he got as a present yesterday (thanks Grandma Beth!), and we capped the evening sitting in the front yard watching bats as we listened to the 9:00 taps echo over at the Air Force base.

As well as birthday celebrations—which'll continue all week—today also marks the end of the school year in town. That doesn't mean so much to us, but since I failed to ever update anyone on Harvey's progress throughout the year I thought I'd better put together a "year-end" report before it was too late. It's nice to have deadlines. I did it all online, so you can take a look if you're interested in what our homeschooling looked like this year, when packaged for public-school educators.

Tomorrow we're getting up early for strawberry picking, if all goes well... why can't we have long nights and long days in the summer?!

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unschooling: so far so good

As you may know, I'm a little nervous about this whole homeschooling thing. Well, sort of. I mean, I'm a pretty self-confident person once I get going on something, so it's not like I'm going to all of a sudden decide that I don't know what I'm doing—much less hear that from anybody else. But I've never been solely responsible for anyone's education so far, and I'm using some pretty non-mainstream methods, so I'm very interested to see if it'll actually all work. And so I'm very pleased to be able to report another positive result.

All this time I've been saying we're not teaching Harvey to read—because we haven't. Like, not at all. We did lots of fun pre-reading practice with rhyming, and we played around with the alphabet, but there's been practically no direct instruction in phonics or anything. Oh wait, that's not true; I did make sight word flash cards one time, and we went through them five or six times together. And of course, we read a lot of books, and I almost always answer Harvey's question when he asks about words or letter sounds. So I suppose the lack of instruction isn't as stark as I imagine.

But still! Harvey didn't know how to read, and didn't know how to read... but he seemed to be spending a suspicious amount of time with his nose buried in a book—and to be able to recount plot points for books we hadn't read to him. So the other day I tested him on a text he'd never seen before:

Although it is difficult to grow good food in Norway because the summer is so short, Knut plants wheat, rye, and barley on his land.

(From The Time-Traveller Book of Viking Raiders)

I gave him the "although" and we'd already talked about how to pronounce "Knut" (and the analogous "Canute" in Old English)—the rest he got perfectly by himself. I was particularly impressed with "rye".

So yay! And yet he's still not sure he can read, because he can't pick up any book and understand it perfectly. I told him reading development is a life-long process (I didn't tell him lots of people never even have that as a goal!). The next day he picked up a chapter book and read "as much of it as I can" in the car on the way to the feed store. I offered to help him with strategies for the words he couldn't get on his own, but he was non-committal. He's been doing fine so far—why change things now?! After all, this is the boy who taught himself to ride a two-wheeler...

At least I get to teach him math. I can't wait to see what he learns to do next!

Harvey drawing at the playroom table

at work on his "Mad Birds" video-game-on-paper

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Harvey sharing books

We don't devote much daily time to "school work" here, and pretty much none at all to reading instruction. Our literacy time is all taken up with read-alouds, story-telling, and, this month, poetry. But nevertheless, while I was doing the dishes the other day this is how the boys were occupying themselves in the other room.

Harvey reading to his brothers on the couch

good brother

A couple different things going on. Like me Harvey doesn't want to work on something unless he's good at it, and unless he has a good reason to; he also likes to be helpful, especially when he doesn't have to work too hard. Practicing reading with me is frustrating and annoying to him—totally understandably! But he's spent a couple hours a day with his nose in a book every day for at least a year, slowly figuring things out by himself. So when I ask him to read to his brothers while I do some other work, he doesn't see a pointless difficult task, he sees a chance to be useful while showing off a developing skill—and being the focus of uncritical attention!

Don't tell him, but it's all great practice. He's moving up to comic books now—whether they like it or not!—and apologized to me for not being able to do the voices. I pointed out how well he reads with expression from the books he knows better; I'm sure the comic books will come in time too. His audience is delighted either way.

Of course, remember: he still doesn't know how to read.

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stepping out

Harvey and Zion bowling on neighboring lanes

first time at the lanes

Ollie's birthday was yesterday, and for his party Saturday he invited us to join him for bowling. The boys had never been before, and, while they were excited to be there, they were super nervous at first when it came time to actually roll a ball down the lane. As I expected they would be!

They're generally nervous of new things, both of them, and they may a fear of bowling birthdays in their blood; I still cringe when I remember forgetting, not once but twice, to wait for the machine to clear the pins fully before sending another ball down. I was 10 or 11 and bowling big balls—being away from New England at the time—and it turns out that if the ball hits the sweeping mechanism it stops, and gets stuck down there at the end of the lane. Someone needs to go get it, and the whole thing is very embarrassing.

Of course it's also embarrassing, as a father, to have both your older boys seize up and refuse to take part in a party where they're the only guests. So I encouraged them a little, and I'm proud to report that they both rose nobly to the occasion (much better than I would have done at their age, I'm sure!). Harvey took just one hands-on lesson before he saw that the thing was neither complicated nor particularly scary and he was launched on his own as a competitor in the kids' game. Zion, who as the youngest of the six kids present had to play with the adults, took a little longer to warm up to the proceedings; but after three frames of a substitute bowling for him (twice me and then once Harvey) he had it figured out, and took over for himself. Being Zion, he quickly developed his own way of doing things.

Zion lying down to watch his ball hitting the pins

interesting technique

And not only did they manage to participate, they did surprisingly well! In his first game Zion managed to finish ahead of Bridget—despite rolling his ball so slowly that once it reversed course two thirds of the way down the lane and slowly, slowly made its way back to him (all the other times we saw that when a candlepin ball hits the pins at such a slow speed it bounces sideways among them, potentially doing a great deal of damage). And Harvey won the second of his two games with a score of 92, which was also tied for the highest score of the day by anyone (tied with me, natch; clearly lucky bowling results are also in his blood).

After the bowling and some ice cream we were back at the Stevenses for the birthday dinner, where again the boys impressed. They didn't eat much 45 minutes after giant ice cream cones, but how polite they were!

Harvey sitting next to Ollie and Eliot at the birthday dinner table

birthday buddies

Bowling was the top moment of the day for Zion when I asked at bedtime. Harvey had different choice: playing King of Tokyo with the kids downstairs after the birthday dinner. But he liked the bowling too, and he's asking when we can go again.

And then yesterday morning was the big Kids Church Christmas performance. I don't have any photos because I was busy being in charge of the whole thing, but I can report that Harvey played a pivotal role. He didn't want to act (nor yet sing, under his father the musical director) but he jumped right into his job as set crew, designing sets and painting backdrops under the direction of non-family adults and then volunteering to be a part of the stage crew proper, bringing props on and off stage (ok, a prop; it was a short play). Yesterday evening the play—specifically, painting stars—was his day's highlight, and as he went to bed he asked—again—when he could do it again.

And it seems unbelievable to me, but for next year he's even thinking about pushing himself a little further. "Maybe I can be an actor next year," he told me. "Because I'll be a year older!"

Absolutely! And he's already braver today then he was two days ago; just imagine what he'll be managing to accomplish in 363 more!

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this moment

Harvey working at the coffee table in the lit-up living room

quiet evening work

A moment from the week.