Plans for May

May starts tomorrow, and the fields are lush, green and full of wildflowers.

Here is what we’re up to this month:

Circle Time:

Our circle time hit a wall last month, and after trying to hold it together by myself for a couple of weeks, I am trying something different. I’ve doubled our walk and halved our circle. After walking about a mile, we come in and sing “This Pretty Planet“, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful”. Short and sweet seems to be working nicely at the moment.

Poetic Memorization/Recitation:

Inspired by our US Geography block, we have been listening to a variety of patriotic songs, marches and folksongs. The boys sing them throughout the day, and this is taking the place of our more formal poetic memorization and recitation.

Main Lesson Block for 4th Grade:

In addition to revamping circle time, I have also revised our main lesson and reading time. (We were in a funk for a while, and desperate times call for desperate measures.) During main lesson we have been listening to a lot of music and focusing on handwork, which for my 4th grader is embroidering a fabric map of the United States. (Picture the two of us hunched over our embroidery hoops singing “On Top of Old Smoky” or humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.) My kindergartner loves to march around and sing along to all the songs as well. This is not how we usually structure our main lesson time, but it has put the spark back into our days. Our reading time has been devoted to regional novels, tall tales and stories. Once a week we write a summary on the area of the country we studied the previous week. Last month, we studied the area of the United States east of the Mississippi, and now we are moving westward. Some resources I plan to use this month include Stories from Where We Live : The Great North American Prairie edited by Sara St. Antoine, Stories from Where We Live : The California Coast edited by Sara St. Antoine and American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne. I plan to do a recap of the entire block when we finish and list all our projects and resources. This will be our last full month of school (!) for 4th grade and kindergarten, and I am looking ahead to 5th and 1st grade. Expect some planning posts soon.

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Click to see what we did for US Geography.

 

Habit: Reflective Friday

I am having issues with uploading a photo to WordPress, but I wanted to leave something to reflect on in this space today. I think this quotation by Mark Nepo complements all the talk about rhythm this week. Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

“When we have the courage to relax into the wholeness that is us, the pace at which the mind thinks slows to the pace at which our heart feels, and together they unfold the rhythm with which our eyes can see the miracle waiting in all that is ordinary.”

Priorities

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard

When I wrote this post about rhythm and this post about my day, I saw how rhythm – and more importantly the sense of purpose derived from having a rhythm – influences how I spend my day. I know that a rhythm and a schedule are two different things, and that in certain Waldorf circles even the word “schedule” is verboten. But the fact of the matter is, time is spent doing things during the day, and for the sake of simplicity, I am going to call the actual time spent during my day, my “schedule”. I think rhythm is bigger and broader and that without rhythm, your schedule (again, how you spend the waking hours of your day) can be lost in the rush.

 Carrie over at the Parenting Passageway asks this question in her current series of posts about rhythm: “What is most important to me?  Does the use of my days and time currently reflect this?” I think this is a great question to start thinking about rhythm in larger terms. I think it begins to lead you down the path of how your ideals can be translated into reality. At this point in my life, I know I want my time to be intentional. I want what I care about most to be what gets the lion’s share of my time. For me, that would be 3 things: food, books and quiet.

Three meals and several snacks are made and eaten at our house everyday – this takes a lot of time. As I have said before in this space, I love to cook. So do my boys. They think nothing of making soup and bread from scratch for lunch. This task, however, can take up a large part of our morning, pushing our main lesson closer to noon than I would like it to be. I try to let this be okay in my mind, and remember that making the soup and the bread is a bigger lesson than any I have slated for our formal schooling time. I want my boys to know that food doesn’t just instantly happen, that it doesn’t just appear on the table. And I want them to know this on an intimate and experiential level: meaning, I want them to do it themselves. Not just see me do it or just be semi-aware of something happening in the kitchen several times a day.

Books are right up there next to food on my priority list. Both my boys and I are avid readers and spend a good portion of the day reading. I think it is important for them to see me reading for pleasure, as well as all the reading that comprises planning and homeschooling! I also read aloud to my boys everyday. Solitary reading is different than listening to a story together. Both are valuable, and we make time for each every day. Again, this takes time, and not something that I want to happen in a rushed manner. I allow about 90 minutes of our afternoon for story time – this is more than we typically spend on main lesson. However, there is a reason for this. My 4th grader needs stories. Lots and lots of stories to balance his voracious appetite for facts and non-fiction. Time is built into my day to allow for this.

Finally, I also make time for periods of quiet during the day. In the beginning, this was the hardest for me to cultivate, but has been well worth the effort. In the midst of the doing and the busyness of our day, I try to make sure there is no unnecessary background noise. So that when those serendipitous moments of each of us settled to a task happens, the house is silent. This has caused me to give up my once sacrosanct radio in the kitchen. I am not a tv watcher, but the radio used to be my constant companion. Kim John Payne, in his book Simplicity Parenting, talks about filtering out the adult world and the need children have for silence and convinced me to give up this habit. Tangential to this quest for quiet would be time alone for me. I make time to take a walk by myself every day. I usually get 30 minutes, but it can sometimes be a whole golden hour. During this time, I listen to a podcast, make a phone call or just do nothing except get my heart rate up. This time alone translates into the patience I need to finish the day. There are, of course, those days when I could walk to China and still not find all the patience I need, but having this pocket of time helps tremendously.

These are the priorities that govern my day. They may not be yours. However, I think that if you are struggling with rhythm – like we all do at times – or are just starting to establish a rhythm to your day, begin by asking yourself Carrie’s questions: “What is most important to me?  Does the use of my days and time currently reflect this?” You may be surprised by the answers, and I urge you to listen to them. You may be telling yourself something.

Wanna Trade?

The sun is shining and the chickens are laying. At least that’s what I’ve been told. We don’t have chickens, but we do have a great egg trade. I bake 2 loaves of bread, my husband brings them to town and returns with 2 dozen eggs. It’s almost like a magic trick. What’s funny is, I don’t even know our “egg lady”. Never laid eyes on her. I know her name, that she is expecting a baby soon, and that she has a tattoo of a chicken on her wrist. Oh, and that her eggs are so yummy – the deepest orange yolks ever.

We found our egg trade through the neighbor we get our milk from. That is usually how things happen around here. My father-in-law calls it our local face-to-facebook. If you want to know something, you need to ask someone. And you can’t just call on the phone – email, texting and twitter are out of the question. You need to talk in person. After a little chit chat where you inquire about their truck, their tractor, their dog, and any farm animals they might have, the subject of the weather needs to be discussed, as everything centers around rain – too much or too little. You might get a little personal after the weather and ask about their health, their wife. Then and only then do you ask your question.

When I finally did get around to asking my neighbor if he knew anyone who had eggs, he said he did and that they were the prettiest eggs he had ever seen – high praise from a farmer in his 70s. They are pretty and I could have one for breakfast every day. We got an extra dozen in our trade this week, so we had eggs for dinner one night too. Pasta alla Carbonara is a great way to use up half a dozen eggs at a clip – especially if the sun is shining and the chickens are laying where you are. It is great for those nights when you haven’t planned anything for dinner or when the kids just want pasta, but you think they need a little protein too. Add a salad and some bread and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Pasta alla Carbonara

For one pound of pasta you will need:

6 eggs

1/2 cup grated cheese

salt

pepper

fresh parsley

crumbled bacon, diced pancetta or minced country ham

Cook pasta. Scramble eggs, cheese, a little salt and a little pepper in a bowl. Drain the pasta. Add the egg mixture to the hot pot and top with hot pasta. Combine, cover pot and let sit for about 5 minutes. Eggs will not be cooked through*, and should be silky smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley and bits of your preferred salty meat product. Yum!

*Use your own judgement here. I am not squeamish about eating undercooked eggs, as I trust the eggs I am using.