Thursday, May 14, 2015

a day in which I was an awesome snuggle monkey

Some days we struggle. We have mis-starts, sibling squabbles, disagreements and plans that go awry, but yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday had flow and momentum. Yesterday was full and sparkly, without being overwhelming. Days like that are worth celebrating, even in their ordinariness. Aaaah, yes.

We met another homeschool family at the library (a couple of towns over) for knitting group in the morning from 10 til noon. The older kids and adults crafted and chatted, the middle-ish ages played with Legos quietly in the back of the library, and the young'uns participated in storytime/crafts/played at the park outside. We stopped at another library on the way home to pick up holds and check out more books.

We heated up soup for a quick lunch at home and then headed back out to drop off Camille at the public school for band. After band, Camille walked over to (yet another) library for book club. They also made plans for a creative writing group to meet occasionally throughout the summer. While Camille was busy, Sylvia, Ayla, and I treated ourselves to root beer floats and fried cheese curds (so Wisconsin-y!).
snacking atop a train

 Then, we stopped at a stream just out of town where Sylvia and Ayla like to go "clamming" (playing in the mud and looking for shells).

 We spent some quiet, respectful moments at a Native American mound site.

After picking up Camille and eating a quick dinner at home with Papa, we headed to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for a community education program on bats. The free program included snacks and wine, socializing, an in-depth presentation on bats in Wisconsin, and an up-close encounter with a big brown bat (local to Wisconsin) and two straw-colored fruit bats (indigenous to Africa). As we were leaving the nature reserve at dusk, we saw a bat flying overhead.

After a twelve-hour day of engagement and activity, we were ready to wind down shortly after getting home. As Ayla snuggled with me in bed, she said sleepily, "The reason I chose you to 'born' me is because you are the best snuggler of all the snuggle monkeys." I just giggled and thanked her for choosing me, but she was already asleep.

Camille came in moments later to see if she could snuggle with me, too, and I quietly told her what Ayla had said. After we giggled together for a bit, I jokingly asked Camille why she chose me to 'born' her. She said, without a pause, "because you're awesome. I think everybody would want you to born them if they could."

That is the last thing that I expected my moody, oldest daughter to say. I didn't actually expect a response at all, but this was the melt-my-heart icing on top of our perfect cake of a day. This is what I want to remember when I am doubting myself and my parenting and my entire role in this confusing world. We all have tough moments and disappointments and reasons to wonder if we are doing the right thing, but some days at least, I am an awesome snuggle monkey, and that is enough.


I don't usually address the socialization question because it seems so obvious to me, but there are many people out there who ask it. You know. What about socialization when it comes to homeschoolers? How will they learn to get by in the real world?

They probably are imagining children being set down at the kitchen table with busywork and no outside contact beyond their patient mother as teacher. Clearly, that's not how our lives look, nor is it true of any of the other homeschoolers that we know. Even the families who take more of a school-at-home approach than an unschooling approach still get their kids out in the community on field trips or park-days or homeschool co-op activities, where they interact with kids and adults of all different ages. In addition, they often participate in sports, music classes, church or other community gatherings, and volunteer work. We live in the real world.

Which begs the question, what's so great about school socialization anyway? People sometimes have genuine concerns that without school children will not learn the social skills that they need. My children have learned how to wait in line, not interrupt a group (usually), cooperate with and listen to people of all ages, and at times, work out disagreements and disputes. These are not just school skills, they are life skills. There are a myriad of ways to learn them, and hardly any way to completely avoid addressing them.

With that in mind, here is my usual collection of photos and snippets from the last couple of weeks...

  last day of Sunday school for the season
I can't say that I'm someone who naturally seeks God inside the walls of a church, but a couple of years ago my oldest daughter expressed the desire to do so. We found a little historical country church with a woman pastor, a message of love and acceptance, and a kind community of folks taking actions towards social justice issues.
And the kids got to play ghost in the graveyard in an actual graveyard. We used to play that in my neighborhood when I was a kid.

Our girl scout troop spent an afternoon choosing and planting flowers (and a few veggies and herbs).

  And then worked together to clean up a local park, removing garbage and fallen sticks and branches.

 We visited a friend's little goats, watched them nurse from their mama, and got to snuggle them.

Inspired by the show, Good Eats, Camille made a breakfast of gluten-free raspberry pancakes with fresh whipped cream, honey-poached apples and a honey yogurt sauce. Sylvia listened to audio books and browsed the book, Fairy Houses -- Everywhere!.

Ayla and her good friend had a fairy princess dress-up 'selfie' session.

I've been continuing to work on my braided rag rug (from thrifted sheets) that Camille and I learned how to make at our local library. Even unfinished, it just begged to be played on.

 We recently bought an (on sale) 15 foot trampoline, perfect for bouncing and snuggling on!

 When Camille's friend slept over, they made Sylvia and Ayla flower crowns, which prompted some exuberant fairy dancing.

a favorite duck can enliven a sleepover morning

And of course, the trampoline is even more fun with friends over.

painting together during a sleepover, taking a break from their older sisters

Everything from playing Minecraft on the tablet to picnicking in the yard can be enjoyed alone or with friends.

Camille's band concert, with her on alto sax

Plus, there's still plenty of time for solitary, creative pursuits.

Some days and weeks are more social than others (and the younger kids are generally more agreeable with Mama wielding a camera near them and their friends), but even with our somewhat-introverted, unschooling, country-livin' family, our socialization is pleasantly varied and our biggest challenge can sometimes be finding enough downtime in our days to savor the quiet moments.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

just because (part I)

This post is just because it's our life, and it's beautiful, and it's messy, and it's good, and sometimes it's hard, and it's spring in Wisconsin...and I definitely take too many pictures. Oh, and Ayla turned five somewhere in there. They're growing up.
because our yard birds are laying plentifully

because Ayla fearlessly feeds the hens, ducks, and geese

because Sylvia drew an illustration from the Goblet of Fire

because she hoops

because the geese aren't sure what to think of the youngest ducklings

because the ducklings especially love Camille

because Sylvia made lunch and did a better job than I usually do

because they love to climb

because these braided sheets will eventually become a large rug

because our homeschool group hosts a fun folk dance/potluck

because it's getting bigger

because the Hello Kitty Lego set was her favorite birthday present

because Sylvia has mastered 500 piece puzzles

because, well, it's darn cute

 because she wanted a store boughten cake this year

 because Ayla had a birthday sleepover with facepaints...
 and a water fight...
 and homemade flubber...

 and more water fights

just because, sisters 
(and 'cause Camille is selective about the camera being aimed in her direction these days)

 because Ayla wanted to meet friends at Wizard Quest for her birthday celebration

 because it's an animatronic dragon

 because new masks are such fun

 because they were solemnly receiving their quest

because the magic of the quest caused all photos to be blurry

To be continued...because my posts can get quite lengthy....