We are currently working on Ancient India in our one kid schoolhouse. This is one of the most interesting units we’ve done so far. And today is Diwali! The Festival of Lights. We will be making lanterns, of course.

My daughter’s main lesson book contains, thus far, pages on Manu and the Fish, the castes of India and some information on various gods. We are looking at the aum symbol in Hindi script and she uses it in her border decoration. We are reading the Mahabharata–a children’s version, not the real thing and we will read some of the Baghavad Gita.

We are in love with the connections we are finding to our daily lives–both of us are level 1 Reiki practitioners, we love yoga–and the colors and photographs and illustrations from this culture are all so rich and beautiful that we spend too much time gawking at them.

We have the rest of this week and one more to move through Ancient India and I think we will be sad to leave this rich culture behind.

Categories: 5th grade, festivals | Leave a comment


My daughter helped to butcher and put away the meat from 4 deer. Rock on, girl child, rock on.

Categories: 5th grade, extracurricular | Leave a comment

In Lieu of Something Thought Provoking

…a photo of the kid with Christmas tree ornaments on her ears.

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Our daughter goes to bed around 8:30 and sleeps until she wakes up. Generally this occurs about twelve hours later.

I feel like  I should be blowing reveille and yanking her toes, rather that allowing her to lay abed until 8:30 or 9:00 am. There’s this little voice though that’s telling me that she needs to sleep if she’s sleeping.

Is it bad to allow this child to sleep so long? Am I training her poorly? Will she suffer through life being unable to wake up when it’s time to go to work or classes in college? Will she be a lazy ass? 

How important is making a child wake up early and do something? Will she be smarter, stronger, healthier, more resilient if I start shaking her at 7am?

What do you do at home?

Categories: 5th grade | Leave a comment

Today I Asked Her if She is Happy

And she said, “Yes. Are you happy?”

My response was to tell her that I didn’t want to talk about myself, but about her. Does she feel safe? Does she enjoy the things she is doing in life–ballet; riding; piano; our homeschool co-op.

She said, “Yes. I’m very happy. I get to do almost everything I want to do.”

Which, in my ears, made it sound like she understands that wanting things is part of being happy. That a life without the tension of desire might be a little flat and boring. This is not a spiritual life question but one sent to a young girl who is in 5th grade, a year of changing and growing up and finding that she is a separate entity in this world.

What does happy mean for you or your kids?

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Voting Over Mom’s Shoulder

We did it. I took the 11 year old girl to the booth with me. She watched me fill in boxes with dark ink. She kind of stared at what the guy next to us was doing until I told her to stop and moved her closer to me. She met a bunch of the neighbors while waiting in line. We have history in this neighborhood, ya’ll, generations of it. Grandma was working the polls, taking names and kicking ass so far as I could tell. The girl child has gone with me to vote at every Presidential election since she was born. I’m torn about whether I think my measly little vote matters, well, no I’m sure it doesn’t, but I like for her to see the process anyway. Nothing takes the dread and fear away from doing something, like having seen it done before.

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Cold Comfort

The kid went camping with her Girl Scout troop over the weekend. It was cold, in the 30’s overnight, but she says she was warm and snuggly. The 2 Kelty, 20+ sleeping bag burrito she climbed into each night probably helped.

We have struggled with the decision for her to be a GS for a couple of years now. I had bad experiences when my older daughter did GS and have struggled to shed them, in spite of the truth that our current leaders are wonderful, strong, amazing role models. In the end, the leader’s acceptance of our desire to be a part but just an honestly small part, of the troop pushed us over the edge.

Now my little girl is a Junior and gets to spend some focused, fun time with some other wonderful girls from our homeschooling community. It’s a journey that isn’t in the GS manuals, but one we are happy to be on just the same.

Categories: 5th grade, ObX | Leave a comment

A Letter From Hogwarts (11th birthday, Harry Potter style)

My daughter had her 11th birthday at the end of August. She spent months agonizing over the potential arrival of a letter from Hogwarts, which, if you’re not in the know, arrives on a child’s 11th birthday. By owl.

I figured that this was the perfect opportunity for a Big Birthday Party, not something we do annually but more like twice in a lifetime for our kids. One of the motivating factors for me, the mama, was that this birthday was destined to be magical. My quest then was to figure out how I could add to the magic and not detract from it. Another thing, we are not wealthy. This is not some big-budget, Real Housewives of Coastal Virginia, multi-thousand dollar party.
So here are some of the things we did, on our budget, to make this party rock:

I rented costumes and ordered cheap accoutrement from Amazon. Snape? That’s just how he looks, plus some hair gel. Bellatrix? A $30 wig from our local costume shop and a homemade dress. Check out you tube for videos on how to do her makeup. The Bowtruckle! Isn’t she adorable? Brown clothing and a crown of silk leaves from our autumn decor stash. Dumbledore was, as usual, the most expensive. A rented robe, and cheapo hat and beard/hair from Amazon. Me/Prof McGonigle–honestly, I planned on this looking much better but was strapped for time and didn’t manifest what I had hoped for. Thinner being one of those things. 😉 The birthday girl wore a rented, very nice, Griffindor robe but you can find them on Meijer’s website. So, there we were all looking a little weird but excited because we love playing dress up.

The first order of business is this: the party was a surprise. I managed to make it thus while spending 100% of my time with the birthday girl. This included a trip to our local costume shop where I RENTED COSTUMES FOR THE PARTY with this kid in tow. The secret slipped slightly, but she was still not sure what was going on. She was very good about not peeking in the bags.

Amazon was another life saver. Party favors; costume extras; gifts! All came in brown boxes to our front porch.

Party favors? Yes. Generally, I think gift bags are crap. The birthday kid is supposed to receive gifts, not the guests. In fact, this just seems like one more way to be more of a consumer and we are under a lot of pressure to spend, spend, spend not only on the birthday child but all of the guests as well. When do kids learn to give without expectation? But I digress, I bought party favors and we made a bunch of them. My son, aka Professor Snape, made 20 wands. Plain wood with the bark left on the handles. I bought inexpensive owls and other animals for the menagerie, and this was, by far, my largest purchase. I also bought cool candy for the candy shop. Yes, yes, we had Diagon Alley right here in our living room! My husband even dressed up like a goblin and handed out the gold to the kids who had keys to their vaults…(I put a blue bow on a skeleton key and we placed it right beside the counter where they had to withdraw funds for their shopping spree. The taller children had a hard time finding the key. The little people got it more quickly, it being closer to their line(s) of vision. There was a small bag of gold coins for each guest and they had to buy a wand, a pet or owl and a broom if they wanted to play quidditch before they were allowed in the candy shop. All of the stores were staffed by family and friends.

This picture does not do it justice. My son’s girlfriend spent the afternoon painting signs for Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Magical Menagerie, and the other shops. My husband made brooms for quidditch and an ENTIRE QUIDDITCH FIELD. I just sat and pointed. Hah. Or you know, I suggested pine branches would make great brooms and planned the whole thing, orchestrated, ordered and cleaned and set up with a TON of help from my beautiful elves, one of whom was Bellatrix LeStrange. You see, Bellatrix came and kidnapped the birthday girl early to take her on a birthday date. There was a little bobble when Bellatrix and Lucius came to the door because the outfit was so convincing on Martina’s blonde, older sister that she ran away into my bedroom and locked the door. She actually thought Bellatrix was coming after her. I think the singing of, “I killed Sirius Black. I killed Sirius Black,” made it extra convincing.

Bellatrix talking the birthday girl down.

Eventually the kid came out of the room, put on her robes and left with the bad guys.

Then we got to work making the front room and kitchen into the Leaky Cauldron, the living room into Diagon Alley and our downstairs into the dining hall at Hogwarts. Oh, and Mark made the riding arena into a Quidditch field. Obviously the brooms didn’t fly but that darned Snitch sure did. It was awesome.

My husband rigged fishing line and a fishing pole to the snitch so that he could run up and down the field with it and raise it up and down. Only a couple of the kids noticed how it was working. This was one of the most totally amazing things that happened that day.
Once the kids were properly worn completely out, we dragged them inside and away from the West Nile carrying mosquitoes for cake and magic.

My friend, Shelley, made this amazing cake. She also did cupcakes which you can see in the slideshow. This was her family’s gift to Martina. There’s not enough money in the world to buy a gift like this! We have a lot of friends with food allergies and she made certain that there were cupcakes for everyone to eat. I made Butterbeer using cream soda and imitation butter flavoring. Healthy? No. It’s Butterbeer, it’s not supposed to be healthy. I also ordered mason jar mugs from Amazon and printed Butterbeer labels from Avery’s label maker site for the mugs. They were cute.

Shelley’s son, Caleb performed magic tricks for the kids and parents. He was very good, well-practiced and adorable. He even dressed up as a Weasley! I think I was too exhausted by this point to take photos of Caleb or George or Fred or whoever he was, while he was performing. Take my word for it, he was great. (Note, added later: There *is* a pic of Caleb in the slideshow.)
And then we ate and I didn’t make enough food. But we ate and the guests left and we all collapsed and felt really good about it, especially our 11 year old witch. She loved her party. Magical? Indeed.

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Please enjoy the long, long slideshow!

Categories: family fun, festivals, homeschool | 2 Comments

5th Grade Ramblings

Soon enough we will begin 5th grade. This year I jumped in and ordered the Christopherous 5th grade package–the very first time I have used a complete curriculum for any of our kids. I am excited! It has arrived, in a box much smaller than one might expect for a full school year of information. There was a lot in that little box, though, and I’m digging through it, planning, reading, getting more and more excited about the things we will be doing.

What sort of things? Geometry, botany, Gilgamesh, Ancient civilizations including China, Egypt and Greece, decimals, fractions.

For the past couple of years I’ve been struggling mightily with organization and lesson planning, with pulling off the lessons each day because my planning approach hasn’t been as thorough as it might have been. Martina has managed to do just fine and made a typically excellent showing on her required, standardized test, so I’m not deeply worried but…I could do better. This year I will, thanks to Donna Simmons who has done much of my planning and putting together of texts for me.

Now is the time to fill in the tiny details, lay things out on a calendar in a format that I can understand and schedule in a way that will work for us. This year we will forego morning extracurriculars and only do our livestock care and school work. Afternoons can house music, dance, riding lessons, etc. This is the mantra for the year: Mornings are sacred.

As we get deeper and deeper into the grades, it is clear that we must have sacred school time. Time set aside specifically for learning. This doesn’t mean forced learning, just that we have a window that is always open at a set time for main lessons, a time that is sacred space for things to do with learning. This is what works for us.

What are your plans for this school year? How many children do you teach at home?

Categories: 5th grade, homeschool, Waldorf | 2 Comments

Preaching an Apologia, “Oh, I don’t homeschool because…”

It’s kind of surprising how many people do this thing, this, “Homeschooling won’t work for my family because…” fill in the blank. They do this as soon as they find out that we do homeschool. Why? Why does this happen? Why do people automatically feel defensive about their schooling choices when they find out ours? This is one of the things peripheral to homeschooling which drives me nuts.

No one ever got defensive about my kids going to public school. No really got defensive when they went to private school, though there were some raised eyebrows at the lack of wisdom of paying actual money for a pre-university education. So why do folks feel it necessary to excuse themselves for not homeschooling their children? More importantly, why do they think I want to listen to it?

Here’s a tip: I have it on good authority from tens of fellow homeschoolers that NONE of us care how you choose to school your children. Rest assured that we have strong opinions about what to do with ours and may have similarly strong opinions about the state of schooling in our country as a whole but we also understand that you work all day or have seven children or just don’t WANT to homeschool. It’s fine. What’s not fine? The Apologia. For real.

Recently and the most stunning apologia I’ve heard to date was a woman who patiently explained to me how her son was too smart to be adequately homeschooled. Okay, fine and dandy, but do you really need to expound on this to me and my ten year old child who isn’t too smart to be homeschooled? While the parking meter is expiring and the meter maid is penning me a $15 parking ticket?

School your kids however you see fit. It’s fine. They are your children after all and no, I’m not judging you a poor parent or AT ALL for sending them off with lunch money and a pat on the rear end each morning from early autumn  until late spring. More power to you. Now, can you please stop talking at me and let me get on with my day?

Categories: homeschool | 1 Comment

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