Seven Quick Takes: Mostly Pictures

Seven Quick Takes: Mostly Pictures



I went to the bedroom to make a phone call and when I was done I sat there on the bed for a while. Soon Anthony came down the hall, crying pitifully. When he reached the door he was in the shadows and all I could see was that his face was covered in something dark. My heart leaped. Was it blood?

No it was Nutella. I’d been having a snack, spreading it on some of the kids’ leftover toast crusts. (What? You don’t eat leftover crusts with Nutella?) I know I closed the jar, so he must have figured out how to open it.

I suppose I was lucky that after eating a bunch he was so distressed over the mess on his hands that he came to find me. He could have just gone and wiped it on the couch. Or the walls. Or his bed.


Tonight as I was cooking dinner Sophie pointed out the gorgeous sunset. Upon seeing it, Bella ran for her sketchbook, “I’m going to save the sunset!” she called, “so I can show Daddy what it looked like when he gets home.”

Two views of sunset by Bella. You can tell she’s influenced by the Impressionists because according to Bella the one on the left with the red is how it first looked and the other with the pink is how it looked later.



I love that Ben’s bed is decorated with pictures that Bella has drawn for him. It is just about the sweetest thing ever.

Ben's bed with artwork by Bella.

She drew these on two different occasions when he was having a hard time but I had to do something else and couldn’t comfort or distract him. She stepped up and entertained him by drawing him pictures.

Target truck by Bella
Target Truck

"mac-n-cheese in a bowl with a spoon for eating it" by Bella
She had me write out the title for her on a separate piece of paper and then copied it all by herself: “Mac-n-cheese in a bowl with a spoon for eating it”

Train by Bella
Train” The back of this one has another train on it, but I didn’t get a picture of it.

Two pictures by Bella.
Two pictures of trucks and trains.


Sophie tells a story. With cameos by Anthony and Ben.


I think this was a house. Made of board books.

This is why my house is never clean. Who could bear to interrupt such a construction project?





The other night as I was sitting on the boy’s floor after helping them into their pajamas Ben settled down next to me and reached out to put his hand on my belly. He’s been doing that a lot lately. He gently pats it, rubs softly. Then he says he can feel Lucy kick where he rests his hand. She has been kicking, but on the other side of my belly.

He says after she comes out of my belly Lucy will kick him all the time. He says after she comes out she can sleep in his bed. He says after she comes out she can look at the books and she won’t rip them.

He wants to know if she’ll be destructive like Nini.


A pretend grocery store.

A pretend grocery store by Bella and Sophie.

The fruits and vegetables on the block counters are cut out of seed catalogs.

The kids make a grocery store.

Playing grocery shopping

More and more often the big three are playing together. It is so sweet when they do all get along.


For more quick takes visit Conversion Diary.


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  • Melanie, this is lovely! Ages 4-7 are such fun! So much blossoming at these ages; a greater awareness of, and interest in, the world; reading and writing and maths interest … Such fun grin

  • Thank you! This is so interesting. We’re in kindergarten level with our oldest (who’s four), and I’m trying to figure out how and when to introduce more structure, and be realistic about how much we can manage. Currently it’s very unschooly around here, but I can see a time when maybe all of us will be up to organized activities at the same time.

    You’re right- having lots of little ones makes any crafting hard. We can just about manage scissors and tape here, on a good day.

  • Kyra,
    We were very unschooly last year and only vaguely less this year. There was so much I forgot to include in this post. Maybe I should do a follow up. One of my main objectives to this year was to slowly introduce a basic structure that we can begin to build on. So right now on a typical day we do math and reading right after breakfast. That’s about fifteen minutes of math, tops, and the same for reading. Since I’m not a morning person at all, we usually sit down at the table for school work around 9 or 9:30. (I do try to do breakfast dishes, wash the table and sweep the dining room before we begin.) When we’re done with schoolish stuff then we run any errands that need to be done: Target, grocery store, library, etc. Or if there are no errands I do housecleaning or baking. Then we read any read alouds during Anthony’s afternoon nap. That’s when I’d do science and CGS if I did them. Bella might insist on one of her nonfiction library books at bedtime, but other than that that’s all the organized school we do. Like I said, the main idea is to have a little structure in the day. Something that is not too taxing for me or the kids. In a good week we have a school morning four days on a bad week maybe two or three days. We’ve been getting more consistent as the term progresses. I try to be very laid back about school stuff—often Bella and Sophie remind me rather than vice versa—and try not to beat myself up when stuff doesn’t fall into place. Bella is only six. That’s still very young for a lot of organized work. I want her to have time to play and have fun and explore on her own.

  • That’s so interesting. Around here (we’re in Toronto) children routinely start kindergarten between three and four, and most attend preschool from two till three. There’s a lot of belief in early academics (which as I do more and more reading about it I hate more and more) and there’s been social pressure to talk about what we’re doing that’s educational. There’s this intense fear that if you don’t start them reading by four you’ll have a dunce, doomed never to go to university.

    Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic, but not much.

    It interests me, this feeling that only professionals ought to rear children, and that we should turn them over as young as possible, so we parents don’t mess them up.

  • Kindergarten starts later but preschool is about the same and so is the pressure to make everything about earlier and earlier academic performance.

    Last year I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography. Her mother didn’t think children should be taught to read until after age 8; but Christie learned on her own. Her mother way outraged. And yet Christie, despite learning to read “late” by our standards became an amazingly successful writer.

    I think that reading readiness is just like crawling, walking, eating with a spoon, or talking. It’s a developmental milestone that some kids reach much earlier than the average and other kids reach much later than the average but that the age at which you hit it doesn’t at all predict how fast you will master the skill or whether you will master the skill well. Except that if you make a child feel ashamed for not being able to read before he is ready then it can negatively impact his ability to learn when he is developmentally ready because he will have developed an intense anxiety about the process. It is ridiculous to look at the early developers, the kids who can read at four, and to take them as the baseline or to make late bloomers try to master the skill before they are ready.

    I learned to read when I was four, well before kindergarten, and the common wisdom at that point lead my kindergarten teacher to make a rule that kids were not allowed to read in class because it might make the non-readers feel bad. So my parents had to intervene to get the school to create a separate class for those of us who could read. But Bella was not ready or interested until this year and I was quite prepared to find she wasn’t interested this year and to put it off till next. (Except for that nagging fear that I’m not doing enough if she isn’t at the same place as her peers.)

    I run into that attitude about professionals all the time—especially from teachers.

  • About science… like you, I’m all humanities, all the time.  But my husband is a scientist, so the pressure was high to find good science for the kids.  He doesn’t have time to do it with them (really he doesn’t), so it’s all on me. 

    Also like you, I worked better with some structure to guide me, especially in the first years when I had not too much confidence and lots of people looking over my shoulder.

    The point?  I highly, highly recommend Sonlight science, at least for grades K-5.  If I were you, I would get the K curriculum just to start, because the experiment days are so much fun.  Toss the question worksheets except on days when you can’t think what to ask about the reading.  Do it at your own pace.  The books are lovely and the experiments are great.  If you buy the kits (one for grade level consumables and one for many grades of non-consumables), you do not have to search for so much as a straight pin or paper clip.  (And, yeah, I have them around the house – but can’t find them when I need them.)

    Sonlight makes it easy to do science daily and fun enough that you don’t want to avoid it or skip it.  Otherwise I would have been inclined to let it slip, which would have been a shame.  I learned so much from doing this science with my kids!  Most of my kids are not going to be scientists, but they will always have a pretty good “gut” for things scientific, and they have all done well in (not from me) high school science so far.

    It is truly worthwhile investing in good science books and equipment, especially when you have (at least) five kids to educate. 

    I don’t mean to sound like an ad…

  • I chose comment preview before submit and what I was shown in response is very confusing-looking, so apologies if I am posting this twice in trying to get it to post at all.

    This year I “gave in” and sent my 4-year-old daughter to preschool two afternoons a week. It seemed evident she needed more “positive stimulation” than we could give her under the present circumstances. (I’m fighting the comparisons to you, here, Melanie, like “and she only has one younger sibling who’s over two! and I’m not even pregnant!”) It’s run by a former public school teacher in her home but it’s very play-and-arts oriented. My daughter is on the advanced side when it comes to “academic readiness” so I didn’t think it would be a problem in a setting this low-key. Still, it surprises me a bit to realize that this really is perceived as the beginning of an “academic career” for many children. I’m not regretting sending her, but I’m as committed as the uncertainties of life can allow me to be to homeschooling her for kindergarten and presumably at least a few years beyond, while I’m leaning toward starting (Catholic) school sooner rather than later for my 10-year-old (whom I think has been prepared in some of the ways I most hoped homeschooling would prepare him for beginning that new “outside” experience) and almost certainly for my high functioning autistic 8-year-old. But some people might think the fact that my 4-year-old daughter has more of a social nature and does need so much “stimulation” means she needs school from the beginning more than the boys do. I disagree, especially about the “socialization.” I want her to have family-based socialization and not get into the “peer orientation,” social hierarchy stuff before she’s even reached the age of reason. She might even be the type of kid who could be popular in school—gasp—how would I ever handle foreign territory like that?! smile

    I mostly stopped by, after recently seeing you in a couple of threads on a mutual friend’s FB page, for an update on your latest addition—43 days to go! What an Advent full of anticipation you’ll have!

  • Scotch Meg,

    I’ll keep it in mind. But with a month to go before new baby arrives, I’m loathe to purchase anything new or to take on any more school stuff. Especially when I’ve got stuff now that I can’t seem to find time for.

    ex-new yorker,

    I don’t know what’s up with the comment preview; but your comment looks fine.

    I know several people who are committed to homeschooling who also take advantages of preschool programs for the purpose of giving their kids some structured play time. In my experience homeschoolers tend to see such things as less academic and more social and often a way for mom to get some free time when she can focus on the other kids. I can rather see the allure of having someone watch Anthony and Ben to give me time to work with Bella and Sophie.

    I’m with you on wanting family-based socialization. Already Bella has a tendency of ditching Sophie an Ben when we go to the playground or meet other groups of kids. They are best friends at home; but if they were in different classrooms all day, I wonder what their relationship would be like.

    I haven’t even thought much about Advent. But I guess it will be interesting. I’ve been pregnant in Advent three times before; but never with a due date so close to Christmas. We’ve actually got the c-section scheduled. Looks like we’re going to be having a New Year’s Eve baby. Dec 31 at 10 am. Christmas is going to be odd with that looming over my head.

    Oh and it’s nice to make the connection between the FB you and the blog you. Thanks for stopping by.