Friday, May 1, 2015

What we've been up to around here...

Homeschooling most definitely has its ups and downs, but we've found our groove, and I'm pleased to say, unlike every other year, we will be doing the exact same thing next year!

Everyone will be homeschooled.

The other day, in fact, a friend and neighbor called me up and asked if I would be sending anyone to school next year in the hopes that we could carpool. I was momentarily stunned. Of course I wouldn't be sending anyone to school next year! Why would she even assume that?

Probably because I've had different kids in and out of school ever since she's known me.

I'll have to document very soon, for myself at least, how things are going and what we are doing, but suffice it to say, things are going well, and we are all very happy (the kids have the choice to go back to school, and, right now, none of them want to).

We are still not eating processed foods, and it is one of the best decisions we've ever made. EVERYONE feels better, even if not everyone loves all of their vegetables...

We are winding up most of our musical activities for the year, and we are going to do much less next year. Really, really, really.

Our garden is looking fabulous! We have twelve raised beds in the backyard filled with lettuces, cabbage, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, peas, beans, etc... We are happy right now, but I do recognize that this is short-lived. It will soon be hot, and it will soon rain less, and I will have to water and I will not like that. Not one bit. But right now, it is a beautiful thing. We had our first salads this week with our homegrown lettuce, and they were delicious. All the kids were excited about it, including Flannery (my vegetable despiser), even though the greens were much stronger in flavor (more bitter, but somehow tastier) than Costco lettuce. We've been spreading  twenty-four cubic yards of dirt over our garden in the front as well, and the kids have really been troopers, getting out there, getting dirty, building compost sculptures... spending all day long with shovels and buckets and their imaginations.

And we are reading. The older girls and I are in love with Miss Buncle:

Mary and Lucy read this and really found it interesting. Mary despises technology more than ever...

Mary is in love with this book:

Lucy loved this book:

Calvin loved this book:

Shaemus LOVES this series:

Flannery and Shaemus have been loving this book (you really should check this out!):

And we've been listening to these books on tape (almost to the point where I am going to go crazy...)

I've been doing school visits like crazy and LOVING it. Meeting kids who are excited about reading and writing (or who want to be encouraged and excited about reading and writing) is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done!

I guess this is a post full of love, it's been such a beautiful spring! 

I hope May is full of lots of reading for all of you!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Best Friend Battle is Out!

Hello Neglected Blog!

It's been a momentous few months. Breaking my ankle was supposed to help me get a lot of writing done since I couldn't move anyway, especially on the blog, but I got less writing done than ever. When little people know exactly where you are (the couch), they suddenly have a lot of questions for you. Like every five minutes, someone has a question, very important of course, about something.

Then I broke my arm (we need to move to a one level house). The arm brake wasn't nearly as bad as the broken ankle, but still, there's been some recuperation needed. For health reasons, our family has gotten rid of all processed foods, which has quadrupled my time in the kitchen and necessitated the twelve garden boxes my husband built in the garden a few weeks ago. We are probably going to get chickens... We are insane.

But we have been reading as always, and we are going to hop to it and get back in gear and keep posting our loves. (MS. BUNCLE'S BOOK, for example! I loved it!!! And the DRAGON WINGS series! So many good books!!!)

But I need to post that my book is officially out!

It is more fun than I imagined to have your book actually come out! I'm going to be visiting schools in NC and Utah very soon, and I can't wait to talk with kids.

My next book, THE MEAN GIRL MELTDOWN (Sylvie's second adventure) will be released on August 25th.

If you're interested in having an author's visit at your child's school, follow this link on my website to contact me:

Happy reading everyone!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Black Cauldron

Do you remember those books—one of the earliest fantasy series for kids?

Written by Lloyd Alexander, they are excellent. So, so, so good. Shames just devoured all series. The High King was his favorite, followed by the Black Cauldron. We're going to feed them to Shaemus next. They're so well written, I wouldn't object to the girls reading them for school either.

Do your kids love Harry Potter? Read the Book of Three aloud to them so they're hooked (or get the audio version—it's very good), then hand them the Black Cauldron, and you've got a new series to hook them on! There's even a Black Cauldron movie as a reward (though it's pretty terrible!!!)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How Lucy is homeschooled

Lucy is one of those kids who loves school. Loves it. Not the social part of school, mind you. She eats lunch alone, makes few friends, and could care less that this is the case. She loves the academic part of school. Loves, loves, loves it. (Though it also gives her stomach aches and completely stresses her out.)

Just yesterday she told me the thing she misses most about being in regular school, besides getting grades, is preparing presentations (not giving them, preparing them). Who actually likes preparing presentations?

My daughter.

So homeschooling her is pretty easy. She does what I ask her to do with gusto, secretly worried if she does not do it with gusto, she will grow stupid.

This could be the end of the story.

But it's not.

I'm struggling with Lucy because I want her to break free of the idea of grades being the best thing about school. I want her learning to be the best thing about school. I want her CREATING to be the best thing about school.

Every day the four youngest kids have an hour of tinkering time, where they are supposed to try new things, new skills, or make new inventions. It is literally about tinkering. Shaemus and Calvin LOVE this time. It's their favorite.

Lucy, not so much. She just asked me the other day if she could do extra writing and extra Spanish during tinkering time. Not really thinking about it, I said sure.

But I've been thinking about it. I think Lucy needs tinkering time.

I think Lucy needs tinkering so she can learn how to fail.

I'm going to do some experiments with this. We've created such a right/wrong world (there is one correct answer and you'll find it in the back of the book!) in the public schools and in our society. Lucy is perfectly happy to exist in that world as long as she is on the "right" side of the fence. Being on the "wrong" side sends her into panic. (I'm not talking about morals, by the way.)

I need to create a world for Lucy where there are few right answers and few wrong answers—there is just effort and thought and inspiration and perseverance. I need to create a world for her where there is no "growing stupid."

Otherwise, when she grows up, she will be afraid of doing anything that might cross that stupid line, and her life will be very small indeed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blue Mountain

Give this to your animal lover or your adventure lover or your nature lover. Calvin thought it was terrific. He's now writing a book about chimpanzees... Ages 10 and up.

(This is written by Martine Leavitt who also wrote Keturah and Lord Death, one of my top ten favorite books of all time.)

Tuk the bighorn sheep is told he will be the one to save his herd, but he is young and would rather play with his bandmates than figure out why the herd needs saving. As humans encroach further and further into their territory, there is less room for the sheep to wander, food becomes scarce, and the herd's very survival is in danger. Tuk and his friends set out to find Blue Mountain, a place that Tuk sometimes sees far in the distance and thinks might be a better home. The journey is treacherous, filled with threatening pumas and bears and dangerous lands, leading Tuk down a path that goes against every one of his instincts. Still, Tuk perseveres, reaching Blue Mountain and leading his herd into a new, safe place.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wednesday Wars

Lucy devoured this in a day. Gary Schmidt is brilliant. For kids 10 and up. It's hard to imagine someone not loving this book.

Here's a synopsis of the book:

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Name is Asher Lev

This is probably my favorite book. Mary just read it and absolutely loved it as well.

If you haven't read this book, read it. Give it to your twelve year old or older (maybe 14 or 16 would be better). It will change the way you think about people and talents and love.

It is a book that will change you.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (I also love the sequel, the Gift of Asher Lev)