The sunny corners

festive and unexpected November

The last time I wrote you, I was worrying over how our school year would go. Now, at the beginning of November, it feels like cause for celebrating how it is moving forward.

Daylight Savings has lapsed and I’m thinking seriously about keeping our wake-time and bedtime at this new hour earlier (during daylight savings I woke the girls at 9am, and we had nightlights-out at 11pm). We need those sunshine hours!

And at dinner, now in the dark, I am enjoying candles—they cast the unexpected things I may have tossed into the kids’ pasta into softer focus.

In the evenings by the fire we’ve been reading American stories: Little Britches, Toliver’s Secret, Birchbark House, and Indian Captive (the nearly five-year-old’s favorite is Toliver’s Secret.).

We finished several schoolbooks that were begun in the previous school year: handwriting books, and an All About Reading Level One. As we finished them, I wished I had written down the date when we began them. Sure, maybe it took longer than I’d first projected to finish—longer than an official school year anyway—but there was pride of work well done. And oh, how far the work has come.

photo from September: this year’s curriculum, gift-wrapped.

As we began the new books, we noted the date in the front, imagining for a moment the satisfaction we’d feel with this work finished—knowledge gained!—whenever that day might come.

Looking back at my newsletter from one year ago…That year, I leaned really fully into let-them-choose-the-pace-and-path. This year, we didn’t do that. We committed to more work overall, and I’ve been consistent in my insistence that the work happens in the window allowed for it for that day. If we have two hours to get our work done before lunch because the rest of the day is full, that’s when we do it.

I don’t think one of these approaches is better than the other. I think you can see, if you watch your child, which approach they are ready and eager for, as their best selves.

Latin Online

This year we signed up the nine-year-old for her first online class. It meets three times a week, for an hour each time. There is homework, quizzes, and tests. I often have to ask Siri to set an alarm so I remember to pause our meandering afternoon and set up the laptop on the corner of the couch with textbook, pencil and clipboard within easy reach.

I’m glad we waited until she turned nine! It can feel like a lot to keep up with, but at the same time, I can see she is really enjoying the rigor of the class. I’ve noticed it is often the first thing she states about her school year, this year, when sharing with friends and family, “I’m learning Latin.”

The class is hosted through the Schole Academy. I’ve been very impressed by it. The teacher is incredibly engaged online with the children, the children are inquisitive and cheerful, and any questions or concerns that I have are rapidly answered via email.

It cost $600 for the year, which seemed like an enormous amount at the time of signup. But now we are eight weeks into it, and there has not been one week off so far! This adds up to feeling like a lot of hours of availability on the teacher’s part. And for the student, three hours in class, plus around three hours of homework each week, means an astounding amount of time spent with a new language.

Book Ideas, on Instagram

This is an excellent Instagram account that briefly reviews illustrated books. I have followed the writer Younga Park for sometime and admire her taste and design sensibility. I am happy to have this peek inside her family book bag and a quick reference guide when I’m requesting specific books.

“Occasionally you come across a children’s book so perfect—and your reader is also exactly the right age to comprehend it—that there’s a magical moment of symbiosis…”

photo @kidsbookrecs on Instagram.

Librarians Choose

A library near us has begun a program offering to put together selections of books for the children, based on age and keyword requests. After trying the program a few times, filling out my form online and typing in words like “history, princess, witches, Native Americans, Thanksgiving,” I am completely enamored with it.

The truth is, I was never able to properly gather a good batch of picture books for us when visiting libraries in person. The shelves bulged with options yet I often plucked easy options propped on the top of the shelves, and grabbed old favorites from authors I recognized. Not to mention the tiresome cartoon “easy readers” that kids piled in (I am so suspicious of them because they are never phonetically easy readers).

In the selections made by librarians I’ve received illustrated books that are actually funny, fascinating nonfiction, and intriguing storylines.

The experience of visiting the library in person—selecting books for yourself, exploring shelves, and finding new reads—is irreplaceable, but I hope this is one of those options that continues on after library operations return to “normal.”

Update on Our Homeschool Co-op

Our homeschool Co-op that weekly introduces the “new grammar” facts from Classical Conversations has now managed to meet for eight weeks without incidence of sickness. Even—thanks to all the hand washing precautions!—cases of the flu and common colds seem to be rarer than ever. At first the addition of masks, hand washing, distancing, and other protocols seemed to be too much. But now we’ve adjusted to it and I think we are operating all the better because of it.

That day, Wednesday, is a very full one for all of us. The 20-month-old goes into childcare—which she doesn’t like and she cries when I leave her there—and I tutor/lead the youngest class, a rambunctious mix of 4,5, and 6-year-olds. My older two girls each go into their own class with their own parent-volunteer tutor. After 2.5 hours of class, we gather back together for lunch and a 30 minute recess. I then put the youngest down for a nap in one of the rooms, two of the girls go into the afternoon childcare, and the oldest and I go into Essentials—the English grammar, math, and writing class that is offered for ages nine-and-up. I was intimidated by Essentials when I first heard about it, but we’ve really enjoyed it this year. It’s certainly difficult, and full of dense grammar knowledge that feels overwhelming, but there is a sense of swimming in a river and just grabbing a few things along the way.

So the day is full and the entire proposal of the Co-op felt like a wish upon a star in COVID times. But I am glad we were able to do it and have celebrated each healthy and successfully completed week so far.

By the way, in most parts of the country Classical Conversation communities (which are individually run by director-parent-volunteers) have waitlists to join. That is not the case in the Northeast. Most communities in New England have availability and are eager for new participants.

from my blog: The National Park Pass and Travel Guides at Home

national parks scratch-off map, on etsy

I’ve been checking travel guides out of the library. I love the thorough, encyclopedic nature of them. I love the way you can flip around, end up in a new Arizona city, and read it about for a paragraph. I love the way I can read a concise page when I catch a few moments on the couch by myself.

Read more on Erstwhile dear…

and a blessing for you

It’s the middle of the night.

I’m just a little loose on beer, and blues,

and battered air, and all the ways this nowhere looks like home:

Lord, most of what I love

mistakes itself for nothing.

-excerpt, Molly McCully Brown, featured on Poetry Unbound