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moments from the week

Lijah playing on the wheelbarrow

spinning wheel

Moments and images from the past week.

the interior of the playhouse under construction

playhouse progress (view from the loft)

Lijah sitting in a basket holding up a toy cat

cat basket

the kids woodworking in the basement

woodworking in the basement

Zion and Jack hunting in the woods

some of the hunting party


good morning hens

Sunday we were out late, playing Pokemon and eating lots of delicious food a our friends' house (I'm told there was also a football game on the television, but I didn't attend). So yesterday morning I wasn't ready for the hens to enthusiastically up and about before 7:00. In late May, on the cusp of summer, having them wake me up isn't so big a deal... but in February I'd rather not have to think about them that much.

Of course, I can't complain too much: ten of seven is not really anything like ten of five, and I should probably just be rejoicing that I can even think about sleeping in til seven on a Monday morning. Yes, the life of a home education consultant is a good one. And the hens have been laying all winter long, so I suppose they're entitled to some attention of a morning.


the boys on the snowy ice exploring an island

wide open spaces

Life changes from time to time. Like when Lijah was born, and all of a sudden our house—and, to be honest, our life generally—was a disastrous mess. Now we have three pretty big kids, and they can play by themselves more then any before... but they also need intellectual and physical stimulation over more extended periods. There's no more naps, needless to say.

At the same time, our parenting schedule is changing too. Leah has shifted to working full-time, and beginning this week I've reduced my hours working at the church. We hope that will give the kids more consistency in their schedule, and let us parents spend more time doing what feels more productive to each of us. With four weekdays home with the boys, I'm looking forward to getting into a little more of a rhythm. One thing I've noticed already is that, when I'm home more, I'm readier to plan fun outings. Our version of fun, anyway: so far this week we've gone hiking in a dog park near Costco and visited the library in Lexington.

Does more time at home mean more writing time for me? So far, not at all. But I have high hopes for the coming months!


moments from the week

the boys in front of Lexington's Old Bellfry

tourists in Lexington

Moments from the past week.

the boys watching football with friends

sports fans

Havana and the boys trying to light a fire

wet weather for fires

Lijah on a hike

becoming a confident winter hiker

Zion biting into a sandwich picnicking in a field

a cold sandwich

Lijah playing big legos with Liam

lego buddies


Pokemon school

Harvey's work these days is focused intensely on Pokemon cards (mine too, to be honest). Mostly the game, but also a little bit of the collection aspect. Since we do school at home, what we do at home is all we do at school; when people ask what our curriculum is looking like I have to tell them it's pretty much all Pokemon. Sometimes there's followup questions about just how we're integrating in into the curriculum—or even integrating the curriculum into our Pokemon play. If we wanted there are definitely options in that direction, including some pretty good ones. But the more active educational interventions, either content- or skills-based, don't really align with how I'm feeling about learning these days.

Content-wise, people question how much time and effort kids put into learning about things like Pokemon cards. I've felt the same way in the past, at least about myself: why is my head filled up with useless information about makes and models of cars—information I never even tried to learn!—rather than, say, plant identification?! I'd much rather be able to pick out an American Elm than a Suburu Baja. I imagine that's the kind of thinking that led to the creation of The Phylo(mon) Project, a crowdsourced trading card game that aims to build on enthusiasm for TCGs to help kids learn real-world facts about things like ecosystems and women in science. Which is totally cool! I just wonder about two things: how necessary is that knowledge, and how fun is the game?

Because you have to imagine that at least some of the fun of Pokemon is intrinsic—it can't all be fad or peer pressure. Most likely the reason why kids are into it is because they like it, and it's fun to be able to master something you like. So if, as an adult, I was to try and trade on that to trick kids into doing Pokemon-themed spelling worksheets, wouldn't I just be telling the boys that their interests don't matter, and that I'm the one who needs to direct them towards the real work?

To be honest, playing Pokemon builds skills without any intervention from instructors required. On the simplest level, it requires reading (to understand attacks and abilities) and math (to calculate damage). And then to get good at both playing and deck-building takes some good brain work in systematic planning, probabilities, and psychology. The specifics of those skills might not be particularly transferable—and the content area learning certainly is not—but I don't think that matters. Developing elasticity of mind and practicing learning are totally valuable on their own; any person who knows how to learn will in time be able to pick up any knowledge, or even skills, required of them.

That said, the teacher part of me is glad to see Harvey's enthusiasm around making a Pokemon Trainer's Notebook (making from card stock, sheets of paper, and embroidery floss) and then starting to write down deck lists and other notes. Especially when he told me he'd have to work to make his handwriting smaller to fit everything in. That's about as schooly as we're going to get around here these days, and that seems fine.


moments from the week

Zion and Harvey looking at the Concord River

pointing out the tree where they played in the low-water summer

Moments from the past week.

Havana and Kamilah on the roof of the playhouse, Harvey leaning out the window

incomplete playhouse = climbing structure

Zion standing on slushy ice

Zion walking on water

Zion swinging on the monkey bars

the playground is open for business

Harvey writing in his notebook homework at the playspace

Pokemon homework


we're learning to cooperate

In an effort to find other homeschoolers interested for Harvey to play Pokemon with I joined a couple local homeschool mailing lists. No Pokemon players, but one of the first emails on the list after I joined was an invitation to take part in a co-op for the spring. It's a big departure for us—we're not really good joiners. Mostly, when I have an idea for something I try to organize it myself. But that takes a lot of work, and I'm not actually very good at it. So cooperating might be a good move.

Of course, I do have some trepidation. The Handbook has lots of text about what you must do as part of the group: attend the weekly gathering, plan events to invite other people to, communicate over the official channels... "Must do" isn't really my thing. But then, I want to do most of those things. The whole point of this exercise is to involve other people in our learning. So I reassure myself that all those requirements are just to keep the flaky homeschool types from ruining things for everyone else.

So then, having signed up, I want the thing to go well! And the way to make that happen is to have enough awesome people participating. The organizers have sent out a couple emails encouraging us to advertise on our social media feeds, but since that's not really a thing for me—though it was once—and, even more, since none of my facebook friends are homeschooling within the catchment area of the group. But! There is a small chance—infinitesimally small, but we have to try—that someone I don't know, who is a homeschooler in Bedford or surrounding towns and who found this blog due to it's awesome Bedford, Massachusetts homeschooling content, might be reading and might be interested in joining the Assabet River Coop for Spring 2018. So:

Join our family this spring for our latest homeschool adventure in the AHEM Coop! Details here: http://www.ahem.info/Events.html

I get ten dollars off the (already low low) price if you mention my name when you sign up, but that's not even what's motivating me. I just figure that anyone who has read enough words of mine to reach this point in the page has to be a pretty cool person, and I'd love to cooperate with you!

The co-op starts up the second half of March. I'll let you know how it goes!


the livin is easy

the boys in summer clothes playing on the street

easy riders

Just like last year, February vacation week has seen a bizarre warm spell. Tuesday it was mild and springlike in the afternoon, and yesterday, all day, it was downright summery. While it's always strange when the climate behaves oddly, we couldn't help but enjoy the sudden break from winter. It's so lovely to have outside be as easy and accessible as inside! The kids spent hours running and playing, and we even had a picnic dinner, with steak and hot dogs cooked over the fire.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect, and two small imperfections marred our complete enjoyment of the warmth. For one thing, the mud is crazy. I had to put a plank out to cover the swampy patch outside our side door—I was worried some of the smaller kids would sink entirely! I'm also concerned about grass ever growing again on our lawn; with the mud it wasn't quite ready for the level of use we wanted to put it to. And then there's the injuries. Half an hour after remarking how easy it is to go play outside in the warm, Harvey came in noting how easy it also is to get hurt! All the boys except Lijah got are pretty marked up around the legs.. things hurt more when you're wearing shorts! There are also bugs.

But never mind! Far from taking away from the joy of warm spring weather, those things are all part of the experience and we were happy to dive into them. And now, since it's still February, we're happy to enjoy the snowfall forecast for this afternoon.

barefoot lijah watching the fire

a nice end to a summer day in February


moments from the week

Harvey up almost to the top of his boots in a puddle

lots of water

Moments and images from the week.

a tall cap of snow on a porch post

tall snow

Zion and Lijah cuddled up on the couch

slow Sunday morning

shirtless Harvey and Zion selling rocks at the side of the street

rocks for sale

the boys in pjs playing with blocks

I was a few seconds too late to capture the ramp

eating lunch outside on the back porch

just about warm enough for lunch outside


free wood

a woodpile of logs

that's going to be a lot of fires

I don't like spending money, so there are lots of times when, instead of buying something, I wait to get it for free. That is not efficient. But sometimes it works out well, which is very gratifying. Our fires have been fueled by the logs we picked up out of the woods last fall, and there's still some of those left. But firewood is something that's nice to stock up on, so when our neighbor across the street had a tree taken down and sawed up, I took notice... especially as the logs continued to sit on the curb for a week. So I asked, and I got em! True, when dropping one of the heaviest ones into the wheelbarrow popped the tire the free aspect was minimized slightly... but I suppose I can always wait for a free tire!

Then last week a friend called to tell me he was helping someone clean out their garage, and would I like any free lumber. I would! I dashed over to find a pile that included six sheets of plywood—four of them half-inch smooth-finished panels that go for about $50 each. Then there was a bunch of miscellaneous pieces that I took away to make up for getting the plywood. But even that has already come in handy! I find myself using the scraps of molding to prettify the playhouse—I'd never pay for it, but when it's free I'm glad to have it!

molding in the playhouse


This delightful accumulation is happening at the same time as our other neighbors are doing construction on their kitchen. There's a big dumpster out front, and I've watching it filled with pieces of beautiful old wood ripped out of the old space. The container is big and deep, so while I did manage to grab one irresistible beam, most of it will be lost to the landfill. So sad. Oh well, at least I've got my woodpile.


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