Category Archives: Goals

Aside
(The title of this post is “Summer Through Kids’ Eyes, and What We’re Doing for School this Year” – I don’t know why it is not at the top, in big, bold type like the titles usually are, but it does show up at the bottom of the post.  Weird!)
A couple of weeks ago, I asked the Kids for their impressions of Summer 2016.  Though it wasn’t an assignment (Why would a homeschooling teacher-mom ask for a “What I During Summer Vacation” essay?  Except for one week when they were at Bingle Camp, I was with them 24/7.  Well, maybe 18-22/7.), the Girl wrote the following short essay:
This summer we went to the lake two times, went swimming at our grandparents’ hotel pool twice, learned how to swim, still didn’t get our tree fort, but I did get a door.  We went to Denali Park for three days with our Youth Group, which was pretty fun, except it rained for two out of three days.  We also went on a really long hike in Gulkana, and volunteered at our local Stone Soup Café [an organization providing meals to those in need].  I auditioned for the Fairbanks Youth Concert Orchestra last week, and I got in!
-The End- 
The Boy said that, though he could remember everything, due to the fact that he has an excellent and deep memory, he has trouble accessing the memories on demand. 🙂  We’ll see what he comes up with in a few days.
***
This year I am trying a more structured approach to school.  I’ve tried being structured before, but always in the back of my head was the idea that I should be letting them choose what they want to study, and that I should trust that they will learn what they need to learn in their own time.  Well, I’ve tried that approach, too. (Probably not as well as I could have.)  The thing is, I have not really committed to Unschooling / Project Based Homeschooling,  or a more formal approach.  Inconsistency is worse than choosing a “wrong” approach, I think.  So, this year, since the Girl (7th Grade! When did that happen?) has repeatedly asked for tests and quizzes in the past, and since the Boy (5th Grade! What??) seriously needs help learning to focus on tasks that are not of his choosing,  we are going formal.  Here’s the rundown:
Language Arts:
Daily Grammar Practice, Levels 5 and 7 (Both)
Cursive Practice with Pictures (G)
 -Cursive Practice with Jokes and Riddles (B) (An example: Why did the teacher go to the beach?  She wanted to test the water.)
The Writer’s Jungle/Bravewriter (Both)
-Reading and writing across the curriculum (Both)
Foreign Language:
Rosetta Stone German (G)
How to Train Your Dragon Dragonese (B) 😉
Science:
Real Science Odyssey: Biology Level II (G)
Sassafras Science Adventures, Vol. 1: Zoology (B)
-Dover Human Anatomy Coloring Book (Both)
-Selected Topics in Marine Biology, as requested (G)
Social Studies/History:
Layers of Learning, Year 2:  The Middle Ages (Both)
-Many, many historical fiction books, and readings from several history texts (Both)
Crash Course History videos (on youtube) (Both)
PBS Learning Media
Social Studies/Geography:
-Layers of Learning, Year 2, focusing on Europe for the first semester
-Mapping The World By Heart – This textbook is one we will use over several years, and by the end, they might actually be able to draw a map of the world by heart…but even if they can’t, they will certainly have a better idea of where things are than they do now!
Math:
 –JUMP Math 7.1 and 7.2 (G)
JUMP Math 5.1 and 5.2 (B)
-Supplementing as needed with Khan Academy
Physical Education and Health:
-Swimming at Fairbanks’s Mary Siah Recreation Center (Both)
-English Country Dancing (think Jane Austen) (G)
Janice Van Cleve’s Nutrition for Every Kid
Home Economics:
-Sewing lessons with Mom (Both) (Girl wants to learn to make her own clothes; Boy wants to make his stuffed toy designs real.)
-Cooking – Raddish monthly cooking kit subscription, the cookbook produced by our PAC (Parent Advisory Committee – Kind of a PTA/Booster organization for homeschool) (G, though B might participate sometimes), and Janice Van Cleve’s Nutrition for Every Kid
Art and Music:
Atelier video-based art program (Both)
Beethoven Who? CD-based music appreciation course (Both)
Layers of Learning Year 2 arts topics as appropriate (Both)
-Harp lessons, concert orchestra practice and performances (G)
Whew.  I think that’s everything.  Looks enough, doesn’t it?  It might actually be too much – we’re almost through September and still haven’t had any formal art lessons (though both kids produce plenty of artwork, daily.  Boy has piles of drawings all over the house.  The piles themselves are becoming art installations.  Sigh.) I’ll give details and examples of coursework for each class over the next few weeks.

 

Summer Through Kids’ Eyes, and What We’re Doing for School this Year

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The Home Project, part 2

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Nothing much has happened indoors since part 1, thanks to June being the month to get the Farmlet tilled, raked and planted.  We have also been working on enlarging the cleared area and planting a new raspberry patch.  I’ve been madly picking rose petals (for wild rose petal jelly – yum!), too, but now things are settling down and I can get back to the mess at hand.

Today, I took advantage of the Kids’ absence (yea for summer camp!) to start “cleaning” their rooms.  Now, before anybody objects to the idea of throwing out kids’ stuff while they are away and unaware, that’s not what I’m doing.  I told them both I would be sorting the stuff in their rooms and throwing away only the obvious trash.  The Boy grunted his assent while making Lego Harry Potter and friends play Lego Quidditch.  The Girl wanted a definition of “obvious trash.”  She was wise to ask, since I was assuming water-damaged papers and old princess stickers were clearly rubbish.  She disagreed, so those items are safe.  Sigh.

My plan is to separate the considerable amount of clutter in to piles – flotsam in one corner, jetsam in another, chaff over by the bed, etc.  Bits of tissue, old band-aids, broken bits of old toys, partial pencil erasers, dried-out markers – TRASH.  Usable but possibly outgrown toys, clothing, books, etc., in their own piles for inspection (and, with luck, removal).  Current toys, clothing books – in piles near where they belong – I am helping them clean, by doing some preliminaries for them, not doing the whole job for them.  Also, they will only be gone for 4 days.  That may not be enough time to excavate all the way to the floor in both rooms.

They, like me, have a ridiculously difficult time sorting stuff.  Each object they touch must have the memories associated with it aired before it can be dealt with; this often means an object that seems unimportant – even to the Kid who owns it – will become indispensable once they pick it up.  I am hoping that having the categories ready for them to go through (with my help, and not all at once) will make it easier to see what’s important enough to keep, and what they are ready to let go.  We shall see.  If it works, I might have them go through my space and categorize my junk.  I’ll have to be careful to define “obvious trash” really clearly, though. 🙂

The Home Project

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Organization has always been a huge challenge for me.  When I lived at home, my mom was great at helping me maintain relative tidiness.  When my room threatened to tend a little too much toward chaos, she’d nag – uh, I mean urge – me to straighten up.  Sometimes she’d urge me to do so repeatedly, over a very long time, but eventually I’d do it.

Then I went to college and grad school.  My poor roommates.  I’ve probably mentioned this in the blog before, but I always had the idea that when I settled down in a permanent home (as opposed to a dorm room or apartment), I’d be better at remembering those lessons Mom taught me.  Hmm.

It seems that 1. combining the household stuff of two mid-30s bibliophiles; 2. having kids; and 3. homeschooling does not automatically improve the organizational abilities of the chronically scattered.

My children are either genetically predisposed to messiness, or they are just following my poor example. (Nature versus nurture?)  This is not to say that my darling husband is a paragon of orderliness, but he is probably closer to that end of the organizational spectrum than anyone else in our household.

With that as background, and many previous failures as examples of what NOT to do, I am undertaking a mission to discard as much unnecessary stuff as possible and organize the rest, so that “a place for everything and everything in its place” no longer translates to “everything where it lands” and our disaster area can be referred to as a “home.”  I could go around and ask myself, for each item, “Is it necessary? Is it beautiful? Do I love it?” but I’m thinking of making the first pass through the house with a different question in my mind:  Is it crap?

There are no pictures in this post because “before” pics are too damning.  I’ll post some “in-between” pics as I go along, and when I have some decent “after” shots to show, maybe I’ll be able to share the “befores,” as well.

Wish me luck, and check back monthly for progress reports!

What’s your worst organizational challenge?

Not procrastination, I swear!

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Mid-February probably seems like an odd time to make a post about goals for the year.  Maybe you think I should put “stop procrastinating” on my Not-Quite-New Year’s resolution list.  Well, I’m not going to do that.  Here’s why: no list of resolutions!  Yea!

I have many, many notebooks (journals, sketchbooks, diaries, scraps of paper, napkins from restaurants, etc.) from over many, many years, that I can’t throw away, somehow.  Every couple of years, I come across a list, dated “Sept ‘97” or something, on which I’ve detailed my goals for the next year (or five years, or life, or no time-frame at all).  They always mention losing weight, getting organized and writing more.  It has become obvious to me that I’ve been doing this wrong, since it seems I go backwards on all of these things every time I write them down.

This year, I’ve decided to set three smallish goals for myself per month.  In January, I chose: 1. to spend 30 minutes a day, three days per week, getting rid of clutter; 2. to make sure we had “project time” three times per week (more on that later); and 3. to finish three of the numerous art/craft projects I’ve started over the last year.

Goal 3 went swimmingly.  I finished a crocheted sun hat for the Girl, a knitted fox hat for the Boy, and put the finishing touches on a knitted stegosaurus I started last summer.  Boy was so happy to see that his stego had eyes, he brought me three more knitted dinos to have their eyes added. (Photos to come)

Goal 2 worked fairly well, but I discovered that protecting the time for project-based learning is not as important as I thought.  There are two reasons for this:  it’s hard to find a time when Boy is not directing his own learning, and the length is not as vital as the kids knowing that this time is for them to do what they want – I will be there to attend to and document their activities and help them, if they need help.  I will keep track of questions and plans they have, and materials they need, but I WILL NOT TAKE OVER.

Goal 1?  Well . . . slow progress is better than none.

So, now it’s time for February’s goals:

  1. Continue making progress decluttering by going through one box or pile, or clearing one surface, at least 3 times per week.
  2. Finish 3 more projects.
  3. Write at least 2 blog posts. (One down!)

How are you improving/enjoying life?

Making a Better World: Shortening the Food Chain, Part 1

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We Alaskans like to believe in the image Outsiders have of us as self-reliant hunters and gathers, living off the frozen fat of our outdoor icebox.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many Alaskans who live a subsistence lifestyle, and even more who depend on hunting, fishing and berrying for a part of their yearly food supply.  Plenty of us, though, do most of our hunting in the aisles of the local Safeway or Fred Meyer store, where “local” usually means from Washington state or Oregon.
Both Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver (deep bow to the high priest and priestess of locavoria!) cite the statistic that most food products eaten in the US have traveled an average of 1500 miles from place of origin to place of consumption.  I wonder if that average includes (and is therefore skewed by) the many, many miles almost everything in our grocery stores has come.  It is nearly 2000 miles just from Seattle to Fairbanks – and if it’s Iowa corn or California strawberries, it’s coming a whole lot farther than that.
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan describes the tortuously complicated length of the industrial food chain, and how and why shortening that chain is in our best interests, as individuals and as a society.  Though The Omnivore’s Dilemma traces the chains leading to four specific meals, there are two general types of food chains:  1. food going from point A to point B;  2. food A being processed into food products B, C, D, etc.  Shortening the first type means:  less fuel spent in transportation and refrigeration; more biological diversity, since varieties don’t need to be selected for ease of shipment; better taste and nutrition – foods are picked when ripe, not ripened chemically or on the road (Kingsolver calls shipped produce “vagabonds who wasted their youth in a boxcar”); and more peace of mind, since any disruptions in the food distribution system become less problematic when you can walk between points A and B.  Shortening the second type means, again:  less fuel for transportation, refrigeration and processing; more biological diversity (because processed foods contain so much corn and soy, US farms are producing more and more of these two crops and less and less of everything else); better nutrition, because eating whole foods equals consuming all the nutrients those foods contain, not just those that Science has identified as important or beneficial this month; and more peace of mind.  If you are eating un- or minimally processed foods, you know what you’re eating. (For the most part, anyway.  Did you know that the wax that makes apples and cucumbers shiny is a corn product?)
So, how do we, as non-subsistence-living Alaskans, shorten those food chains?  There are certain things we are stuck with (or stuck without, I guess), for instance staples like wheat flour, COFFEE, sugar, COFFEE, tea, COFFEE and CHOCOLATE.  Those things just aren’t produced here. (I guess, wheat flour and tea could be dropped from our shopping list.) Much as I’d love to follow Kingsolver’s example of consuming only locally produced food (with a few exceptions – each member of her family got one special food during their year of locavory), I don’t think that’s realistic for Fairbanks. I don’t think it is, but I don’t know for certain, so this year, I’m investigating local food sources. Next year, maybe, will be our as-complete-as-possible Animal, Vegetable, Miracle year.  So far I’ve found:

There are also options like buying a whole hog or cow from a 4-H member, a barley flour processor in the Delta area, and friends who hunt or fish :). And of course, there’s the “grow your own” option – which has its own challenges in the Land of the Midnight Sun (aka the Land of the Extremely Short Growing Season).

That’s actually a longer list than I’d expected (Yea!) and this post is getting long, too, so I’ll finish next week.

What do you get locally? If you’re in Alaska – what’s your favorite local food source?

Why?

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Why are we making a farmlet (really big garden, or really tiny farm) in suburban Fairbanks, Alaska? It would be much easier and possibly cheaper (in the short run) to continue as we have been, buying food from the supermarket, with the occasional purchase at the farmer’s market, and raising a small, usually less-than-spectacular garden. The property we’ll be farming is probably the last acre of undeveloped land in our neighborhood. That certainly doesn’t mean it is untouched. The previous owners stored a junk car collection among the birches, spruces and cottonwoods. Judging by the bits and pieces of rusted cans, empty bottles and campfire remains, the property has hosted humans at least a few times over the years. We have also recovered quite a bit of random junk: electrical wire, fencing material (sadly deteriorated beyond use), even a piece of railroad. Not a railroad tie, mind you. An 8’ length of track, bent into a curve no engine could navigate.
Preventing this piece of land from falling into the hands of our local junk-yard owner was our impetus for buying it in the first place. Making it productive enough to help us pay for it was our next goal. But as we’ve worked on it, and done a bit of research into what our climate can support, it has become, for me, a chance to make the world better, in several teeny, tiny ways.
1. Prevent another suburban junkyard/eyesore.
2. Rehabilitate the hidden junkyard we bought.
3. Reduce our reliance on shipped food (which has traveled even farther to us than the national average of 1500 miles.)
4. Provide another local food option to our neighbors.
5. Produce food which we know to be organic and genetically unmodified.
6. Provide a pesticide-free area for local honey bees to do their thing.
7. Help our children understand, in a very hands-on way, where food truly comes from, and help them develop a respect for (if not love of) the hard work involved in feeding people.

Next Post: Making this piece of world better. The Nature of a Garden

To Do Lists

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Ok, I should just never make promises to do anything weekly.  Maybe if my to do list looked like one I found recently in my 7-year old daughter’s notebook, I’d be better at getting everything done.  Here is her list:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Eat breakfast.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Play with dolls.
  5. Go to bed.
I think she’s got a really good sense of what is important in life. 🙂
I will try to post more often, but only after I play with my dolls.