Adventure at the Museum of Fine Arts

Adventure at the Museum of Fine Arts

Photo Aug 30, 10 37 02 AM
Looking at a digital sign outside one of the museum cafes. The sign was some contemporary art piece that Sophie wanted me to read to her. I love the expressions on all the kids’ faces, captivated by the moving lights.

On Thursday Mom and I took the kids to Boston for a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. I wanted to catch a Renoir exhibit before it ended next week. I knew that both Bella and Sophie would enjoy the experience and recognize the three Renoir pieces as well as several of the other Impressionists. Then, I figured we’d wander a bit and let them get a taste of what the museum had to offer. I went ahead and bought a membership so we can come back again and again to experience the Egyptian and Greek and Roman art as we get to them in our history studies and because I want all of the children to get used to going to museums and looking at art without needing to feel rushed or like we have to try to see everything in one trip.

Photo Aug 30, 10 52 29 AM
Dancing with Renoir.

The MFA brought in two canvases from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris to show Renoir’s three large dancing paintings together. I wish we could have lingered longer but we moved through this gallery and really the whole museum at a pace that was comfortable to Ben. Still, pretty awesome to see these pieces together.

Photo Aug 30, 10 51 46 AM

Ben kept tangling himself up in my skirt. Ugh. Why must he do that. He raced through this gallery excitedly pointing at each painting. Then when we moved on to the next gallery he just crumpled. “I want to go back to where there’s sun!” he complained. Overwhelmed already, I had to pick him up as he sobbed loudly. I carried him through a couple of rooms and then when he’d stopped crying I put him into the stroller. After that he was fine for the rest of our visit. He whined and complained a bit but no more loud scenes.In general he was a great trooper who patiently tolerated many, many galleries of pictures, most of which he was completely indifferent to though every once in a while something did catch his fancy. Still, I think in the future he will come to be as great a museum lover as his sisters. Had I been able to give him 100% of my attention and really guide his experience, I don’t think he’d even have whined so much; but I was also guiding Bella and Sophie and trying to navigate our path through the museum.

Photo Aug 30, 10 54 17 AM
Water Lilies!

We have a very cute book, Linnea in Monet’s Garden, about a little girl who goes to Paris in search of Monet’s water lilies. Bella and Sophie love it. Tonight after having seen some Monet’s paintings in person, Ben requested it as his bedtime story. See, I think it is already beginning to sink in a little bit.

Photo Aug 30, 11 27 34 AM
Taking a little rest. The girls are looking at some of the photos I just snapped on the iPhone. How can art compete with photos of themselves with the art?

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Notice Anthony chewing on the stroller strap.

Anthony was an awesome trooper too. he sat calmly in the stroller for a long time. We got to the museum at about 10 and left around 2 with a break for lunch between 12 and 12:30. He got rather boisterous at lunch and his shriek earned us a few glances from other patrons in the cafeteria, but in the galleries he was so very well behaved with the only exception I can recall being the time when he began kicking Ben in the back at which point we swapped Anthony to the front of the stroller and Ben to the back seat, satisfying both boys. Toward the end he got a bit cranky and he was almost asleep in the stroller as we walked back to the car. He might be into everything at home; but he is surprisingly tranquil when we are out and about.

Bella, rapt

Bella loved every minute of it, though her little legs did get very tired by the end. She was so excited to see the Impressionist paintings, she loved the religious art and proved herself quite adept at identifying the subjects of various pieces. She was so thrilled when we found a canvas by her beloved Mary Cassat. Oh how her eyes glowed. (And why didn’t I snap a photo at that point? Oh yeah, I was too busy drinking in her joy.) She was quite surprised to see furniture and table ware being treated as works of art: “I didn’t know they had things like that at the museum!”

Dante and Beatrice. Someday she’ll know who they are.

The girls taking a rest.

Sophie was delighted with a painting that had paintings in it.

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This tree made of green glass icicles reached almost to the ceiling. Poor tired Bella on a bench in the background. Her legs were giving up.

Ben on the move. He doesn’t want to stand still so I can take his picture.

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We pause to get our bearings. The exit has to be around here somewhere.

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This St Michael by George Hawley Hallowell was one of Ben’s favorite pieces. I’d love to find a print of it for him.

Isabella with Isabella with a Pot of Basil

We were all charmed by this 2012 painting, Warren Prosperi’s Museum Epiphany III, a painting set in the gallery that it hangs in. Bella was especially delighted: “I didn’t know there were new pictures in the museum!”

I tried to snap a picture of the girls in about the same location as the little girl in the painting. Then I showed it to them on the phone to see how the perspectives lined up.

We might have lingered a bit too long; I have a hard time pulling myself away from museums. So much to see. But we got out before anyone was having a meltdown and everyone reported having a good day. One sour note: I gave in to temptation and had a Coke at the cafeteria at lunch time. Then paid for it with a toddler who was up between about 12:30 and 3 am. Too much caffeine even for a child who only nurses once a day. Dom looked at all our pictures and heard our stories and was sad he couldn’t come with us. Bella will never have a first trip to the museum again. Well, I was sad too that I couldn’t go with him to the CNMC. This is our life, never quite enough time to do everything we want.

Still, I’ve decided that things are never going to get less complicated. I was a bit nervous about taking four small children to the museum; but when Lucia arrives in late December or early January things are just going to get more crazy. And after that, who knows. I’m going to embrace this crazy, complicated life with little people and stop waiting for a better time to do things. Once I decided that I wasn’t afraid of taking them all to the museum, I realized it was actually pretty easy to manage. I think I’d prefer to go with another adult; but I think even with Lucia perhaps we can manage a day at the museum. They have really nice nursing rooms with rocking chairs and little chairs for the kids to sit on and a changing table. Maybe this spring I’ll find that I’m even brave enough to take five little kids to the museum.

A final shot of Bella as we stride toward the exit. A day well spent indeed.


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  • Most homeschoolers don’t send their kids to school partly because they don’t believe the “one size fits all” method of education. But that also applies to home education. My oldest (maybe it’s an oldest thing) hated any kind of narration, written or oral. He knew what he wanted to say but his brain often times worked faster than his mouth could talk or his hand could write and he ended up frustrated and angry.

    Also, he was the first to have a bag of sliced cheese dubbed “crabby cheese” in his honor. When he was growing, he would get so hungry so fast that he didn’t recognize it as hunger and he would get even more irritable and crabby than normal. I would point to the fridge and say, “Go get some crabby cheese.” It made all the difference in the world!

    Hang in there. Learning what your children need to learn best and learning how they learn best is what homeschooling is all about and you are well on your way!

  • Rose loathed, abhorred, despised oral narration from day one. To this day the notion makes her recoil—the idea of being put on the spot, performing on demand. When she was six and seven, I tried a number of strategies to coax or encourage her to ease into it, but it quickly became clear that this was Not Her Cuppa. Jane and Beanie, in contrast, *lived* to narrate. (Beanie still does. Jane, too, where the latest episode of Sherlock is concerned.)

    Rilla is more like Rose in temperament, in most ways—with the chief difference that Rilla loves being in the spotlight as much as Rose hates it. I think that’s why she took to narration so readily (and mind, it’s only been a day, and she was not in A Mood—and among my children, young Rilla’s Moods are famous). I anticipate grumpy days where she’ll clam up. I actually wanted to write more about this in that post, but Rose reads the blog and I wouldn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. wink

    The contrast between learning styles and tastes from Jane to Rose was quite stark and I definitely had a lot of idea-adjusting to do. I remember when I tried to teach Rose to read—she was totally ready, beginning to pick out sight words here and there, and puzzling over sounds. I pulled out the trusty Bob books that had worked so well with Jane. Rose immediately shut down. She wanted no part of reading ‘lessons’—nothing that suggested pressure or expectation, even though I honestly thought I was applying no pressure at all, approaching it lightheartedly and not in a lesson-y fashion. I backed off—dropped it completely. Nothing happened for six months, and then she suddenly started reading. That has been her pattern pretty consistently. Any inkling of pressure, whether external from me, or internal from her own sense of embarrassment over stumbling, makes her shrink right into her shell like a hermit crab. What works with her is strewing and freedom and conversation (spontaneous, over dishes or in the car). Whereas Beanie blooms like a flower in any kind of formal lesson situation: she is delighted to have my focused attention that way. What *she* struggles with is concentration while working alone.

    What I anticipate with Rilla is some capriciousness of mood. I ended that post with “some days, it will” because I know quite well that no matter how much she enjoyed narration on this one day, another day will come when she’ll be almost offended by the notion. wink I think her tides change more rapidly than some of my other girls. And of course my boys are completely different kettles of fish. Wonderboy is a unique situation. And I have no idea what things will be like with Huck. smile He’s such a different little animal.

    All this is to say: YES, much trial and error indeed! They’re all so different—even from year to year. Imagine my shock last year when Rose announced she would much rather listen to me explain something new in math than watch the Math-U-See DVD. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t care about math at all?

    This comment has been way too long already, but one last thought—I was telling Scott yesterday that in looking through the books I used with all three older girls at age six, there were many I simply can’t imagine using with Rilla right now—the history books, mainly, and things like Paddle-to-the-Sea. She’s as bright as her sisters were, but she’s got a much shorter attention span/tolerance level for long-form prose. She frequently rejects my read-aloud suggestions (stories the others loved at this age, like Milly-Molly-Mandy or Pooh) in favor of picture books. I’m going to try Child’s History of the World to see how it goes over, but I’m braced for rejection. smile My point being that even a fourth time around (in this CMish high-tide process; Wonderboy’s path has been different and none of this would be appropriate for his needs), I’m still going to be feeling my way, perhaps not blindly, but as clumsily as ever. smile

  • Oh, Lissa, not nearly “way too long”! I could talk about this kind of stuff till long after the cows come home. And I’ve got to say your homeschooling nuts and bolts posts were what originally kept me coming back to The Bonny Glen long before I fell in love with your bonny clan.

    I guess I’m wondering if I’m starting to see whether Bella is Rose-ish in terms of pressure and being put on the spot. My inkling is that perhaps she is. But I think it’s going to take a lot of trial and error to find our comfort level. Perhaps I’ll come to decide that spontaneous conversation and narrations to Daddy when he comes home will be enough for her. But I’m pig-headed enough to try to hammer forward with a more strict CM approach until I am sure that it’s not working. Because it is possible she may come to like more “lesson-y” things after all once she gets used to the idea and it’s no longer something new. I definitely see that shrinking sort of thing from her own sense of failure when she stumbles. But eventually if I back off she will usually persist and triumph. We shall see…

    And this process of observing and making predictions and then seeing what happens is really fascinating to me. I love hearing about the different styles of all your girls because I think the comparison does help me to see what Bella is and isn’t so far: Oh yes, she does this sort of thing but not that.

    She definitely has the most amazing attention span. She sat through whole chapters of Pooh when she was barely two and I suspect if I had the time and patience she’d probably listen to me read an entire novel at one go. Instead, I read six chapters from six different books one after another. And I almost always tire or get interrupted before she is ready to run away to play. But she can be fickle and not want to read a book for weeks and then come back to it as if it had been only days since the last time we read from it. Her memory, as I said, is amazing. So perhaps immediate narration isn’t something she really needs. Or perhaps what she really needs is to have time to process a book before she’s ready to spit it back out.

    Anyway, thank you so much for indulging me in a little educational chat. I do look forward to more glimpses of Rilla’s world.

  • We have this struggle too!  My son is a perfectionist and clams up and cries about narration, especially around his hero (Daddy).  He just panics and doesn’t know how to organize his thoughts. Last year, I resorted to taking him off by himself and asking very specific leading questions.  He is far better this year – still anxious but better.
    And I cried myself on our first day for several years, feeling the weight of their entire education on my shoulders. 
    I know it will look brighter for you soon, Melanie!

  • I always hated being put on the spot too. (Still hate it.) My mother tells a story of picking me up from kindergarten one day (this was during the brief period of public schooling) and the teacher said, “Megan reads SO well!” and my mother responded with something to the effect of, “She can read?”

    I am apparently unusual in that I went straight to reading silently (when I was 4 or 5 years old). I have honestly never, to this day, learned to read aloud well. I can do it, but I dislike it heartily. (And apparently I’m hopeless at poetry. Yes, college professor from two years ago, I do remember your scolding of my toneless delivery.)

    It strikes me, though, that Bella might just be a bit overwhelmed by the fact of the first day of school, rather than by any particular aspect of it. I know that even as an adult I can get so keyed up about new experiences that I’ll burst into tears even when I’m not sad.

    Anyway, good for you for trying to figure out what Bella needs.

  • Teaching children to read sounds daunting because it is, in fact, daunting.

    Not only does it often require loads of time and patience (unless a child is lucky enough to pick it up quickly and seemingly from the ether—I have one like that) but, as my mother used to say, “everybody and their brother” thinks they know the One Best Way to teach children to read, and it is tedious to sort through all the conflicting opinions.  Research is similarly murky, but it is out there. 

    My approach was to listen carefully to a good friend who threw herself into a massive project of researching techniques and designing her own reading program, and then to steal all her best ideas.  Worked like a charm.  smile No, actually each of the three children I have taught to read did it quite differently, although I used the same materials each time, I didn’t use them in the same ways.

    If you are looking for a low-stress way to start, I like sandpaper letters.  I made my own set with textured paper glued onto cards, not so much to save money as because I wanted to have sandpaper digraphs too (I have a ‘sh’ card and an ‘ou’ card, etc.).

  • My third-hand read of Bella is that she’s rather a perfectionist, and easily frustrated when her efforts don’t match her vision.  Is the iPad at home during the day?  The Montessori LetterSound app has a nice virtual sandbox for finger writing, and maybe she would find mastering the shapes of letters easier if she wasn’t also working on holding a writing utensil.
    …Alternatively, you could just use fingerpaints for this.

    I’ve been reading a lot about different schooling methods lately, because David is four now and we’ll have make some decisions soon about how to educate him.  What I find interesting is that all these different educational methods (unschooling, Charlotte Mason, classical) seem to vary in their appropriateness based on developmental level, and personality to a lesser extent.  David responds very well to unschooling and conversational methods right now, but not well at all to anything resembling a lesson.  Yet by the same age, myself and both my siblings had learned to read.  But I’ve tried David on both Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (which my dad used on us) and the BOB books, and while he is clearly capable of doing the lessons, he just gets stubborn and shuts down.  He was just like this for walking.  He was just like this for potty training.  He was just like this for swimming.  He goes from absolute refusal to enthusiastic competence so fast it makes my head swim.  I am learning (the hard way, for I am every bit as stubborn) not to push him, and just try him out on the idea at regular long-ish intervals.  But this tendency of his is one of the chief reasons I’m considering homeschool for him, if we can swing it financially (which is iffy).

    …I absolutely need to check out your blog, Lissa.

  • Probably the one commonality my three shared was the need for clear expectations and routine. Meaning: they needed, each in turn, to have a clear understanding of what was expected from them; and they needed to be able to completely rely on me keeping to whatever routine it was we had. But aside from that, between personality and learning styles, heh, they are all very different. I don’t think I ever did have one reliable ‘method’ in terms of teaching them …

    I do really enjoy all of these homeschooling posts (there’s been a lovely recent spate of them).

    In terms of learning to read .., each of my three definitely, in their own way, were—how do I put it?—more emotionally and intellectually settled learners, once that milestone was achieved. But the ages at which reading (by which I mean, the child could pick up a chapter book and settle in with ease) was acquired varied wildly: seven, eleven, eight. And for each of them, when it clicked, it *clicked*, in a day, as if a light was switched on.

    The teariness is very normal; you’ll settle, the both of you, into a workable routine.

  • Thanks, Jennifer. We took today off and just did math because I couldn’t figure out how to swing anything more and get to the grocery store. And then after shopping I was too tired to do anything but put Anthony to bed, read a book to a fussy Ben,and then take a nap myself. I’m trying really hard not to let the weight of the whole education thing get me down. I think pregnancy helps because at some point I just get too tired to care.

    Sojourner, But I deliberately put off the history chapter and narration so it wasn’t on the “first day”. (Also because the first day Ben and Anthony took inconvenient naps and so were awake during the time I’d have been reading to her. I knew there was no way it would work with those two distracting her.) However, I do think new experience was probably a part of it.

    Bearing, If you knew how much time I’ve spent dithering about sandpaper letters. I keep looking at various sets online and debating whether they are worth the expense. As much as I admire the DIY thing, I just can’t see my way to taking on what feels like an overwhelming project. For me juggling four kids aged 6, 4, 3, and 18 months precludes so many things I’d love to do right now but just can’t see my way to committing to.

    Geek Lady, no the iPad goes to work with Dom. and even if it were here, it is a highly contested toy. You should see the epic battles with four kids all trying to play a game or watch a video! Even if we had two of them, I think mine would probably stay on the shelf most of the time. My general rule of no screen time for the kids is as much about my personal distaste at refereeing battles over it and having to set limits on it as any concern over whether screen time is good for them.

    And yes, you need to check out Lissa’s blog. It’s one of my all-time favorite spots in blogdom.

    Ellie, you have hit on my two greatest weaknesses: presenting clear, unchanging expectations and establishing a routine. I am much, much better at both than I was six years ago when Bella was born; but it is still a hard-fought daily battle with my own lack of discipline and my own difficulty in communicating these nebulous impressions that float around in my head and which I think everyone else should just KNOW. If a routine is imposed on me from without, I can stick it fairly well; but if I know that the routine is self-imposed and no one is holding me accountable, then it falls apart way too fast. And for some reason the kids needing a routine does not trigger that feeling of being held accountable like having a boss does.

    I’ve learned to be pretty good about a daily nap time; mainly because I hate losing sleep even more than I hate putting kids down for daily naps. But even that is usually a pretty big window. Anthony goes down for a nap sometime between 11 and 2. Not at all tightly scheduled.

    The kids and I usually get lunch because I suddenly realize we’re all cranky and yelling at each other and Oh maybe I should feed them and myself so we can be nice!

    I wish I were one of those people who are just naturally good at routines; but I’m also learning to stop beating myself up over it so much.

    Charlotte, I think there is definitely a bit of brain going faster than her mouth with Bella. She tends to talk so quickly and to edit herself as she goes instead of thinking out what she’s going to say in advance. When she’s narrating one of her make-believe games, she’ll start a sentence five or six times, before she hits on the phrasing that works. I love it when she revises a characters name as she’s introducing them. It sounds something along the lines of: “There was a girl and her name was Emmalisa…Emily… Emma… Emmaline… Rose” She verbalizes the whole process of shuffling through names and picking the one that just sounds right. It’s fascinating.

    Sophie is the one who gets the “crabby cheese” around here. Though her favorite pick me ups tend to be hummus and pita or a yogurt cup or bread and butter. It was such a relief when I caught on to the connection between her outrageous mood swings and hunger. And then when I taught her to begin to identify that feeling and to be able to tell me that her belly isn’t full. (I lift up her shirt and give her belly a deep, growly voice: “Feed me, Sophie!”)  You are right it makes all the difference in the world. With Bella I have more of a checklist. It could be hunger, tiredness, a need to use the potty, a need to run around outside to spend some of her nervous energy. Whether she’s diagnosable or not I really don’t care; but she has many of the typical ADHD traits, including that NEED to be in motion. Yet another reason I think she’s better of schooling at home is that she doesn’t have to be in her seat for so many hours a day.

  • I just read my comment again and it didn’t make very much sense even to me, though I think I did have a point in there somewhere. Note to self: Just because you’re a morning person doesn’t mean you should comment on blogs at 7 a.m. while getting your husband out the door.

    So maybe just pretend that I said something relevant and helpful.

  • Yes, I’ve learned to loath screen time for David, although I don’t have the not enough screens issue.  The Montessori apps are all good, but maybe fingerpaints for writing would be a good substitute.

    Now you have me looking at sandpaper letters!  Argh!  I’m torn between wanting to make my own and these lovely sets on Etsy:

  • Sojourner,

    I thought your comment was quite relevant and helpful. And fascinating about the not reading aloud part.

    Oh and about being put on the spot. Evidently I came home from the first grade in tears because when the teacher called me up to the front of the class to evaluate my reading proficiency she asked: “Will you read this?” instead of “Can you read this?” I said no, because I didn’t want to read in front of everyone or didn’t want to read to her or whatever my reason was. And then I was in despair when I was put in a group with kids who couldn’t read. Oh the agony! (This after my parents had to intervene in kindergarten because the teacher there wasn’t letting those of us who could already read going into kindergarten read because it might upset the kids who hadn’t learned yet.) So yeah, I evidently hated being put on the spot too.

  • Dear Melanie, this that you wrote “my two greatest weaknesses: presenting clear, unchanging expectations and establishing a routine. I am much, much better at both than I was six years ago when Bella was born; but it is still a hard-fought daily battle with my own lack of discipline and my own difficulty in communicating these nebulous impressions that float around in my head and which I think everyone else should just KNOW”  … Is something I can empathize with, very strongly! Oh my. That was a steep learning curve for me too. Look at it this way: six years from now? You are going to be that much better at it. You are! Just think, the kids will be between the ages of 5 and 12? That right there will automatically help: as they mature, and as you grow in your role of homeschooling mother, routines and undertanding of expectations and so on will fall in to place. What I’ve learned is that it really is true: it all begins with Mama (or whoever the at-home/primary parent is/are) … Mama’s mood, intentions, cheerful goodwill etc carry a huge amount of weight when it comes to homeschooling. We have to put on our own oxygen mask first, you know? That really is true. For myself, the discipline that comes from my faith has been formost in disciplinging myself, if you follow me. Following the teachings of Jesus have helped me become a better mother, a more mature woman, a better homeschooling parent. I hoestly don’t know where I’d be without my faith—and the way in which it undergirds my family’s life.

    Anyway, I really think you’re doing great Melanie. I love how you write about your family.

  • Geek Lady, I’ll have to try the finger paints.  Though I’m dubious about whether that technique will work for Bella. She loves painting but she gets so distracted by painting the stories in her head. She’s not very good at following directions and I’m not sure she’ll be able to focus on painting letters. But it’s worth a shot.

    Those are the sets I’ve been looking at on Etsy. And some others on eBay too. Still dithering.

  • Good. smile I still need to remember to proofread a little more thoroughly.

    For some reason, I LOVED “showing off” up through about the first half of first grade. I didn’t think of it as showing off; I basically had no awareness the other children existed (outside of recess) and was intensely focused on doing everything the teacher said perfectly. Then somehow or other I acquired the awareness that I was weird/special/different because of my desire and ability to perform so well in school and got self-conscious. It’s hard to trace the exact thought process because I only remember bits and pieces from that far back. I definitely started scaling back my efforts in second and third grade, though.

    When I was homeschooled (4th-12th) I slowly gained back most of my ability to not be intellectually “lazy”, because I had to set the bar for myself rather than having the class set the bar for me. And because nobody was terribly impressed by my genius—well, maybe my parents were, but they had learned to hide it at that point. (And then I reverted to laziness in college except for the two or three professors who really won my loyalty…I gave them 100%; the other teachers got about 70%, whatever was the bare minimum to get an A.)

    But that’s my backstory; I doubt Bella has all the same challenges and personality quirks I do. So I will proofread this and then go pack my husband’s lunch like I should be doing…

    P.S. Apparently in first grade we were not “allowed” to read chapter books. I don’t remember this, but my mother recalls having the hardest time finding me picture books to bring to class for reading. (She compromised on those super-short chapter books like the “Arthur” series.) In second grade I was reading The Black Stallion and stuff like that.

  • I should also clarify that sheer boredom, as well as shyness, contributed to my lack of desire to show off in class. By the end of second grade my attitude was definitely, “I’m not here to LEARN, I’m just doing my time until I can go home and read.”

    And now I’m feeling self-conscious about showing off my intellect, so I’m really going to go.

  • In a fit of improving fervor, I found little 2×3 inch wooden tiles with rounded corners, so I there are only 24, but surely by the time we work around to q, Michaels will have more.  Then I couldn’t find the red or blue sandpaper to cut the letters from.  Now I’m recalling that I have some red and blue spray enamels, so I could just paint the boards and use regular sandpaper.
    …I wonder if I could spray enamel the sand paper letters themselves.  Which would look better, bright blue and red boards with light tan sandpaper or red and blue paper on the natural wood?
    This calls for experimentation.

  • Don’t.  If these turn out, I’ll make you a set and mail ‘em.

    My house is like craft central.  We never throw away anything that could be useful, Mike builds model planes, I do start all sorts of projects I never finish.  Right now I have going half the tail of a knitted cheer weasel, a moss stitch dishcloth on the needles and one that just needs the ends woven in and trimmed, four old Starbucks frappicino bottles with the lids spray enameled white and awaiting their final decoration of stenciled oranges (juice bottles), and a reusable Krogers bag that fell apart and I’m planning on using as a pattern for some sturdier duck canvas shopping bags.  And the sandpaper letters.

    This is because I’m I insane.  Remember that!

  • Ellie, Thank you so much for your so-encouraging words. Yes, generally I try to adjust for relative ages when chatting about schooling and families. As another dear friend also reminded me today, we are still in that season when the balance is tipped toward the toddlers and preschoolers. I do know—or at least fervently hope—that what seems like such an uphill battle will eventually get easier and that balance will shift so that even if we do have more toddlers and babies, there will be more older kids to help out.

  • Geek Lady, Ooooh I’m starting to get craft envy. I don’t have time for crafts, I don’t have time for crafts, I don’t have time for crafts.

    I haven’t even unpacked my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Mass Kit that my parents were so generous as to buy for us back in May. If I can’t do little things like that and organizing my school and art supply shelves, I have no business even thinking of making my own Montessori supplies. Oh dear, I may very well be making a plunge on Etsy very soon.

  • Melanie, hang in there.  Remember that there is no absolute need for Bella to learn anything – even to read – this year.  Much more important to get comfortable with yourselves as having an educational process in the home.  Even a relaxed educational process with minimal pressure.

    Funny what you said about the iPad.  My approach would be to say something like “Only Bella can use this, and ONLY for school, and when you’re ready for school, then you can use it, too.  For now, you can watch Bella.”  Of course, this assumes that Bella doesn’t mind doing thing with siblings crowded around.  My oldest LOVED that sort of being singled out, and it made up for many ways in which I couldn’t pay as much individual attention to her. 

    When I started homeschooling, the only thing I was totally hung up about was math, and looking back, that was unnecessary, too.  But it did provide a lot of structure to feel that we had to do math completely every day.  And eventually we learned how to manage all the subjects I wanted to cover. 

    But if I could go back, I would be much more relaxed about “covering” everything – no matter what I read, I felt pressured to prove that I was as good at school as a school.  I would do more reading aloud, and more projects, and more field trips.  I would still use the books I got from Sonlight for science, and do the wonderful hands-on experiments – but I’d do the questions orally or just skip them.  Even Sonlight says that it’s gradual repetition or an interest in a topic that will keep it in their heads.

    And your Bella already has a good memory, so she’s three steps ahead of the game.

    You’ll be fine.  She’ll learn to read when she’s good and ready.  She’ll want to because she loves stories.  And then she’ll be launched – nothing else will matter as much.

  • Geek Lady, That sounds awesome. I used to save far too many things for crafting. Well, I still do. Though now it’s mostly bins of paper. I can’t bring myself to throw away paper the kids have used if it could possibly be repurposed into some other craft. I’ve been known to yell at them for getting out new pieces of construction paper to snip up when they could use ones that have already been cut up (just in one corner) or painted on, etc. Sadly, the girls don’t yet share my enthusiasm. And I never seem to find the time to sit down and craft with them. It’s too tempting when they are busily engaged to go get something else done like vacuuming or dishes or laundry, or a snatch of reading time.

    I suppose the upside is that Bella’s creativity is pretty unfettered. She doesn’t feel a need to imitate what I’m doing and I don’t feel a need to instruct her, so she’s always discovering new things on her own.

  • scotch meg, I think if I dig deep under my anxieties and need to compare myself with others, my root goal really is to establish a process and a routine—or maybe I should say rhythm. I’m still really struggling to see how homeschooling is going to fit into our days. Even the minimal homeschooling that first grade requires. It’s going to take some stretching and growing. In some ways I think it is not at all dissimilar to adding another child to the family dynamic. And I think perhaps some of my anxiety is just that with homeschooling and the coming advent of baby Lucia, I feel like I’m sort of adding two “new kids” to the family. I want to get some good habits in place now so that I have something to fall back and schooling doesn’t just fall to the wayside on when Lucia throws us all back to that primal chaos that is life with a newborn. 

    I think I especially would love it if Bella were to get to the point where she feels established enough in schooling routines so that I don’t need to ride herd on her just to get a math lesson and a handwriting lesson accomplished in a day but that instead she’s prompting me. That may be too high an order; but we’ll see.

    I’m sort of frustrated right now because before I got pregnant we were in a really good rhythm with read alouds happening every afternoon while the boys were napping. Bella was very generous in offering to give them up when I was too exhausted and queasy to do them but now I’ finding that having lost the habit it is so very, very hard to get it back.

    So yeah, I do hope reading happens this year; but I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t because I do see that as being more dependent on her internal brain wiring than on anything I do—except for the need to set the stage and give her the tools to make that jump when she’s ready for it. I think for me this is as much about my ongoing inner struggle for self-discipline as anything else.

    For me the iPad is still a piece of technology that I haven’t embraced. I know the day will come when Dom will want to upgrade and I’ll inherit his and then it will become something not so foreign. Right now, though the iPad isIt’s an equal-opportunity game system as far as they are concerned that they use either with Daddy or with my mom when she’s visiting. I have nothing to do with it really except as an outside facilitator suggesting some gentle time limits to the techie geeks who might not be as in tune with the need to help the kids transition at the end of game time. I think there are some Montessori type games going on sometimes; but I really don’t know much about what they are playing. Just occasional glimpses over people’s shoulders.

    Although I do love the idea of it being a “just for school” tool, because it has been firmly established as a fun thing to do, I don’t think resetting the ground rules will work. Ben, especially, is just too attached to it. For him it’s a treat we use to help him through some tough transitions. Sadly, I think those horses have already left the barn and it’s too late to think about installing locks.

    What you say about math makes a lot of sense to me. I think math is a good hook to help establish that sense of routine I feel we need. Like you say, I have to have something that we do every day and it does make sense to make that something be math.

    You remind me that I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about our science curriculum. It was such a find and I absolutely want to rave about how much I—well, Bella and I both—adore it. That might be the next installment in what seems to be our ongoing homeschooling saga. Since right now that seems to be the season this blog is in.

    One last thought. It has occurred to me from time to time that perhaps Bella’s “delayed” reading is really a blessing. Once she is “launched” as you say, I think she’s going to be spending great portions of her days with her nose stuck in a book. She won’t have such a need for our read alouds, which she refers to as her “special mommy time” Perhaps both of us have realized this, at least unconsciously, and thus have a reason to cling to her illiteracy at least for now. How tempting will it be for me to delegate reading aloud to her once she has mastered that skill. I wouldn’t mean to do it all the time; but as I’ve seen already it’s too easy for me to let other busyness get in the way of that necessary time. Maybe we really do need an extended period f her being dependent on me for her story fix.

    Anyway, it was lovely to see you yesterday—was it really only yesterday? It already feels an age ago! Perhaps one day we’ll meet face to face with plenty of time to have a long conversation in person. In the meantime, I do love your comments here on the blog.

  • The sandpaper letters turned out great!  I’d like to see how they hold up without using a sealing spray, but Iotherwise I’ll make you a set as soon as I can get my hands on more of the boards.  I bought Michaels out Friday and they still didn’t have enough to do the entire alphabet.  We’re short q, x, and vowel y.

  • Oh don’t thank me until I’ve finished them.  I’m the Queen of Unfinished Projects… and the first alphabet is still technically unfinished, much less the second.  But here’s a picture:

    David is fairly interested in these, he watercolored and played with his toy kitchen so he could watch while I was cutting and gluing, and I have high hopes they will combine enough tactile with the letter sights and sounds to keep him happy.  Thank you for introducing me to the concept – I’d never heard of these before.

  • I’m sorry I’m so late to this post. I’ve gotten behind on my blog reading again.

    I just wanted to say that I sympathize. I struggle to find balance with Cecilia as well. She is definitely a girl who needs structure, needs rules, needs regularity but she also needs room to breathe and freedom and it isn’t always easy to keep things balanced, especially with 3 other little ones and being pregnant to add to daily life. Sometimes she is completely into what we are learning. Today she absolutely loved reading Jumanji and then looking at the pictures for lightness and darkness and how they made images look 3D or created depth and yet other times she tells me how boring school.

    In fairness though, Cecilia seems to be going through some sort of phase where she will overreact very easily and progress from being perfectly fine to melting down. She has a very strong will, which I want to be careful not to break, but which I wish would, so to speak, bend in the right direction. But I don’t know how much of the recent difficulty is this phase vs. something actually not being right.

    Like you, and probably every good parent, I worry I’m doing something wrong… missing something… failing in some way. Unfortunately tears happen here too, sometimes because she gets upset that she has done something wrong, sometimes for no reason I know. Of course I don’t know Bella, but I know Cecilia and she can start crying over her own frustration of not doing something exactly the way she wants it done. I think she has a streak of the perfectionist in her and she, understandably, doesn’t really like doing things she isn’t good at. She needs more chastisement and more encouragement than any of my other girls and it can make for some difficult days.

    Hang in there. Sorry I’m not more helpful.