Thursday, September 25, 2008


Got you thinking?!? Well, I mean nuts that grow on trees. We have been collecting a lot of nuts from the forest floor and pavement on our hikes in the woods and neighborhood walks.
We have been identifying the trees they come from, playing with them and reconstructing some out of last years discarded husks and dried out nuts. We often see teeth marks from squirrels and chipmunks. So far we have collected mostly beech nuts, hickory nuts ( a couple of different species, but I don't know them apart yet) and black walnuts.
I got Jove his own tree field guide and we have been using it to identify stuff all over the place. He is also picking those little red sticky fruits off all of the Yew bushes in the neighborhood. I remember doing the same thing myself as a kid.

I am learning a lot and finding myself staying up late reading about nuts. I even stumbled across an Appalachian cooking website that described how to cook with Hickory "milk." Well... for now we are just collecting them.

But, I did come across this quote that I really have to share. Enjoy!

“Every majestic oak tree was once a nut who stood his ground.”

Monday, September 15, 2008


After months of anticipation, we finally have beans coming out of Jove's Garden. They are an heirloom variety called Good Mother Stallard that we ordered from the Seed Savers Exchange ($2.50 for 50 seeds). They are beautiful and I let you all know how they taste.

Jove got to decide what we would plant in his garden and since he is a little picky about what he eats we ended up with mostly carrots (AKA the only veggie Jove eats everyday), beans and basil, to make pesto. We also had some cilantro early on and some other "experiments" like garbanzos and some snap peas that were soon to be completely shaded out by what Jove calls the beanstalk after the starring plant in the Jack and the Beanstalk story.

Now the seed package said the plants would have a pole habit, meaning they would grow as a climbing vine. I assumed this meant the plant would get maybe 6-7 feet tall, but oh no. We used some leftover 10 ft PVC pipes to support it and the stem was still looking to climb higher. Jove told me today we should save some of the seeds to plant next year and I asked him what we are going to use to hold up the vines. I think I may have to splurge on some real bean poles and I have decided to try to make a bean tunnel that Jove can hang out in.

Jove is beside himself with excitement about his beans and wanted to count them today. We counted 52 this morning and we have since picked and shelled at least 5 times that many. The beans fit neatly on the grid of Jove's hundred number chart and we did some counting by fives and tens. At the end of it all, Jove says to me, "I think we are doing math." Yep, we are, the bean counters. Where did the expression "bean counters" come from anyway?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

playing and learning

Grandma and Grandpa

"Eye goggles"

A Volcano (pre-eruption) inspired by the
previous weeks lesson on volcanoes

We have been having a lot of fun and learning a lot in the past couple of weeks. We have been able to continue to enjoy the summer weather and the backyard, even the pool. My parents came for a visit (on their way to France... ahem.) and after a day of waiting out tropical storm Hanna, we spent a day at Wave Hill, a beautiful public garden here in the Bronx with spectacular views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades.

Two days this week we hosted our homeschooling friends: for a lesson on the senses of sight and smell and for a Charlotte's Web party to celebrate the completion of our first chapter book. All of the kids really get along well and I am surprised by how much information they are absorbing from their experiences.

So far when I plan a lesson it ends up including some explaining, a book or two, maybe a song, an activity or exploration (i.e. science lab for pre-K -grade 2) and some sort of craft. I am into it, both the planning and being a part of the learning experience. Having other moms involved means that there is more than one explanation floating around the room, extra hands and eyes to corral the kids and the ability to expand the ideas back to the home of the child.

All of the kids had read Charlotte's Web and they were able to talk about the characters and remember in what part of the book things happened. It was a party, so, of course we had a cake. All of this fun and the planning for it kind of tired me out and I am so glad that next week the planning rests on a friend's shoulders. Yay for shared responsibilities!

But, I must say that the best part of learning with other families really has little to do with the lessons. The influence of kids teaching kids, having regular playmates and the sharing of ideas amongst people of all ages are the real benefits of getting together. Jove all of sudden is very interested in math because his friend knows a lot about numbers and he is also improving the writing of his name because he sees the other children do it so well.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I have been thinking so much about homeschooling both in practical and philosophical terms that I started to keep a journal to keep my thoughts straight and to chronicle our journey. A lot of what I write would probably bore most people that aren't directly involved. But, there are a few things that have been important realizations for me that I want to share.

I would have never made the choice to homeschool Jove or realized the scope of the homeschooling movement if it weren't for a friend of mine who is a homeschooler of her three kids. I consider her a mentor and an inspiration. She encouraged me by assuring me, providing me with materials and guiding me towards the larger homeschooling community. I have realized that many of the major shifts in my life have happened because of a person that I met or a situation presenting itself at the right moment, serendipitous encounters.

I have now met many homeschooling families and it seems like the reasons for doing it are incredibly varied: some people do it because they want their kids to be free of the pressures and negative socialization that can happen in schools, some want their kids to grow up spending a lot of time with their siblings and parents, some want more free schedules to pursue passions in non-traditional areas, some have kids who exceptionally bright or with exceptional needs that are not well serviced in schools, some have only access to inferior public schools and some have had horrible experiences in schools. I am sure there are many more reasons and that the community here is not necessarily representative of the homeschooling community nationally.

Here are the reasons we are homeschooling this year (Jove is only 4, but here almost everyone sends their kids to a pre-K program and many go full-time):

1) I want for Jove to spend as much time as possible with our family and friends.
2) I feel like I can be at least as effective as a pre-K program in teaching the basics and we can do it at our own pace.
3) I want his learning and social experiences to be positive and for him to learn about what he is interested in.
4) I want him to have plenty of time to play and have free, unstructured time in his days.
5) It is almost free (except for a few supplies) and I don't have to drive him.
6) He has expressed that he doesn't want to go to school right now that he prefers to be at home.

I am really excited about what we are doing and we already have started our little co-op with two other families. Jove will also take one class each week. We have signed up for a parent/child ceramics class at a local art center and in the winter I plan to sign him up for a gym/sports class. We also do outings to attractions or meet-up with friends at least a couple of times a week.

Just in case anyone was wondering, I think that there are a lot of great schools and teachers and I will be sending Jove to Kindergarten next year and I hope that he has a good experience. I find that I have both positive and negative thoughts about the idea of doing long-term homeschooling for our family. More on that later...