Three Girl Pile-Up

…adventures of our homeschooling family

Month: May, 2009

From farm to table

As a homeschooling mom, I think it’s inevitable that I spend a certain amount of time wondering what my kids do and don’t know, what they are and aren’t learning.  One thing that I’m sure about though–my kids understand that food comes from farms and is produced by the people who work there.

We took a trip last week to visit the farm where we get our milk and eggs.  I don’t have as many wonderful pictures as I would like, we had a great time hanging out with friends and meeting the animals.  The kids got to climb into pens with the animals and help collect eggs.

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I have to admit, it was especially fun to meet the actual cows that provide the milk and cream that we use every week.

And if one farm visit wasn’t enough, we stopped at a biodynamic fruit farm on the way home to pick strawberries.  I keep thinking I’d love some pictures of the kids stuffing themselves with berries, but I’ve usually got my hands full of berries and buckets.

So we got home with milk and cream and cheese and butter and strawberries.  What else could we do but make strawberry shortcake?

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Wow, that picture looks good.  I can almost smell it, I swear!  Good thing we’re going berry picking again this week–I think there’s more strawberry shortcake in our future.  Hopefully our very near future.

Thunder Cake

Anna is in one of those phases where she wants to read the same books over and over again.  A current favorite is Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.  In this story, a girl makes a “thunder cake” with her grandmother as a storm is approaching.  At the back of the book is a recipe, which Anna has been eyeing with great interest.

Today, the weather and our schedule cooperated to create a thunder cake opportunity.  There was mixing and bowl licking and rain-watching and frosting spreading.

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We also had a surprise visit from the notorious “Chocolate Lips” (her name for herself):

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In the book, Grandma tops the cake with strawberries, but the girls were inspired to use the honeysuckle they found newly blooming in the backyard.

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Looking at these pictures, you might get the impression that we had a dreamy homeschooling afternoon, filled with literature-linked scratch baking and foraging in the yard.  And in some ways it was all of those things, ending in a messy chocolately dessert for dinner.  But it was also an extremely challenging afternoon, filled with a fragile and melting-down 4 year-old, an impatient older sister, a tired mama, and more than our share of hollering.  Of course, those aren’t the moments that make me pull out the camera.

I’m realizing that one thing about homeschooling is that when we are cranky and tired and just having a tough time with one another, we have to figure out how to get back on track.  When we have six or eight or ten hours stretching out ahead of us, we can’t just retreat to our own corners or grit our teeth until we go our separate ways.  It sometimes seems impossibly hard, but I’m discovering that we can find our way–take a breath, go outside, find a little space, snuggle up close, run around, make a joke, or do whatever it takes to push the reset button and feel those easy connections again.

I don’t think there’s a standardized test to measure that.

This is what a nursing toddler looks like

This is for It’s All About the Hat’s “This is what a nursing toddler looks like” blog carnival.

All of these pictures were taken by the wonderful artist Judith Kuegler Webster.  Check out her website and buy some of her art!

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I actually pulled these pictures together for another purpose, so the youngest child in any of them is about two.  Well, Anna was one in the tandem nursing pic, but Maggie obviously is about over two.

There are a million things I could say about nursing past infancy, but the biggest thing is that for me it has been such an integral part of my mothering that I can’t imagine having done it any other way.  I’m so thankful for the supportive community that has made it easy to follow my children’s lead on this path of the heart.  I look at these pictures and see so much love and joy, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

As a bonus, I’ll attach a flyer that can be shared with physicians or others who want some DATA on nursing older babies and children.  It details the research related to “extended” nursing, and is obsessively referenced.

Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy: Information for Clinicians

Enjoy, and feel free to copy and share as you like.  Please just leave it intact, with the references in place.

How I learned to love kale

I admit it–I am not a lover of greens.  Collard, mustard, even swiss chard hold no appeal for me.  I have always liked spinach, but to me that is an entirely different animal taste-wise.  Kale used to fall in that same category, until my friend Eleanor served me kale braised with raisins, which evolved into the following family favorite. (My theory is that if raisins are good, dried cherries will always be better.)

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Braised Kale with Cherries and Pecans

  • A big bunch of kale (more than you think, it shrinks a lot)
  • Several cloves chopped garlic
  • olive oil and/or butter
  • A handful of dried cherries
  • A handful of chopped, toasted pecans (or Nourishing Tradition’s crispy pecans)
  • Best quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(Yes, olive oil is in this recipe twice.  I use basic extra-virgin olive oil for the cooking, and then dress at the end with an extra-tasty fancy olive oil.)

Remove the thick ribs from the kale, and rinse in a colander.  Saute the garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes, and then add the kale.  Saute for another minute or so, then add a little more water to the pan (it should sizzle up, creating some steam.  Sprinkle with the cherries and cover; cook on low until the greens are as tender as you like.  To serve, sprinkle with the pecans and dress with a dash of the vinegar and oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Who knew something so nutritious (not to mention easy to grow) could be so tasty?

The Homeschool Science Fair

Today was the much-anticipated Homeschool Science Fair.  In fact, it’s been anticipated since well over a year ago, when we discovered we would be out of town for the 2008 fair.

I admit, I was ambivalent.  After all, wasn’t this the kind of thing that we avoided by not doing school?  Wasn’t it likely to feel a lot like homework?  And wasn’t a lot of the making-it-happen going to fall on me?

So, no big surprise, I dropped the ball.  I didn’t sign up in time, and then there weren’t enough spots.  Then a spot became available, but I didn’t send in the form.  What a shock when last week I got a call from the organizer confirming our participation!  I took a deep breath, talked it over with Maggie, and forged ahead.  Maggie was determined to get a project ready in time, so I felt like it was important to honor this.

At first, Maggie suggested an elaborate (if somewhat vague) project involving paint and wood and soaking and drying.  We talked it over, and I asked her what she would think about doing a project on building strong and stable structures–since, in fact, this has been what she has spent many hours working on over the past few weeks.  Everything from cuisinaire rods to pipe cleaners to popsicle sticks have been used in her creations.  She thought about it, and agreed that this was a good plan.

Well, guess what?  It was easy, and it was fun.  Maggie had a great time working on the project, and so did I.  We read in our favorite building book about triangles and space frames and Alexander Graham Bell (did you know that he built a kite big enough to fly a person?), and she dictated summaries of the information to me as I typed.  We looked at fonts and Maggie picked her favorite. We printed pictures off the internet and cut and pasted and glued.  We organized her building projects and added a few more; she explained her thoughts and conclusions and I wrote them down.

And finally, the day arrived.

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It was great fun seeing all the different projects that the kids had put together.  Part of what’s so wonderful about an event like this is that because it’s voluntary, the kids only participate if they’re really interested in what they’re doing.

Of course, for Maggie, I think the best part was hanging out with friends and talking about their projects together.

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Not to mention the really cool chemistry demonstrations.  And the door prize she won. And the good snacks.  And the time to play afterwards with friends and then with Mom–all to herself.

She’s already planning next year’s project.

Dinner from the garden

This was the week that I didn’t (somewhat guiltily) buy any salad greens in the grocery store–we have enough that I can go pick them from the garden.

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The lettuce is an oak leaf in two colors, and it’s really thriving.  I’m realizing that while I like baby salad greens, what I really like is baby lettuce.  I’m not so much a fan of frisee and raddichio and all that.  I do love arugula, but even that I prefer in small doses.  You also might notice a few radishes in amongst the greens; that’s a vegetable I would never buy.  But in this early part of the spring even I can’t resist eating a few radishes sliced on my salad, since they are so beautifully abundant in the garden.

As the garden is coming to life, Steve and I have made a pact to try and get something from the garden into dinner every night.  All those salad greens make it easy; we also have some over-wintered kale that continues to produce (talk about the vegetable that keeps on giving!).  But it’s the tender little new leaves that really call.

To go with the above salad, I combined the old with the new…dried tomatoes from last summer and fresh spinach from the garden, along with some Elodie Farms goat feta and some pizza sauce from the freezer…all to make yet another pizza, a staple around here.

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I haven’t yet managed to make my own mozzarella, but I finally have the supplies on hand.  I just have to figure out how to fit it in between all the gardening!