13 May 2009

Another rambling update

Now, where were we?
Cat and bird; photo by Trudi Smith
Ahh, yes. Rumours around the office about unpaid time off on the horizon turned out to be true. Yesterday was my first day of furlough, and I will have one extra day off per week until just after mid-summer. Word is, as well, that unless some miracle appears, there will have to be another round of layoffs as well.

My first furloughed day went pretty well. Rod and Mark went out and got the materials to make an extended garden table for my potted garden, and the materials to put in a very large rabbit proof garden.

While they were gone, Jack and I hiked the mile over to the farm market to pick up some more seeds (and, of course, some grapes!).

The live plants we had gotten over the last several weeks were started in vermiculite and they looked pretty unhappy, so we sat in chairs around the driveway while Jack and I made our plant food supplement and re potted the live plants in larger pots with some real soil, while Rod leant moral support. That's 12 cabbages, four corn, four acorn squash, and four cauliflower all looking much more enthusiastic.

After work, I plan to start the seed we can start in pots. Of course, we also have potatoes, beets, turnips, and a handful of other root crops that Rod has recommended against trying to transplant. He says that root plants are best not moved, so we'll put them directly in the ground and hope for a late autumn this year. ;) Next task is to figure out how to grow peas, beans, squash. and tomatoes in the relatively small patch we're fencing. They sprawl, and while the plot looks immense now, I have a hunch that it's going to be cramped come September. Up seems like a good plan...but the times we've tried to train vines up before, they've managed to pull the support right over. Back to that drawing board.

Jack is still in his own room, and has been making relatively few visits to our bed, so I think that six is the 'magic time'. I have started moving the "prince bed" (the old crib mattress) further into the bedroom, and hope to get him into the big boy bed at some point. Of course, until he's more used to sleeping on a small bed, closer to the floor is probably good. I still find him on the floor several feet from his bed in the morning as often as not.

I had high hopes for working with Jack on homeschooling yesterday -- and we did, in some sense. Our walk to the farm market was fun, and full of botany, zoology, and physics observations. He was just not interested in settling down with the books though, until after supper when I was whipped and ready for bed. But then again, he wanted to explore everything except hat we are scheduled to cover.

One problem seems to be is that Jack is convinced he "isn't learning anything from the books". That struck me as mighty odd until Rod and I started talking about it. Jack's best friend, Connor, is unschooled. He is also a child who is focused completely on facts and has no use at all for stories (to his mother's dismay). Connor is also an extremely verbal child who has narrated instinctively as long as we've known him. (Since he was three, at least.) Connor is a very confident fellow and he's nearly a year older than Jack, so we suspect that Jack is comparing himself to Connor and coming up short in his own eyes. Jack loves stories, and he learns a lot from them. He isn't a "narrator" in the sense that Connor is. Jack shares lots of facts with us and uses plenty of new information is his imaginative play, but he can't open his mouth and disgorge everything he knows on a subject.

We think that perhaps working with Jack on narration will help his sense of "knowing". At least one of my Charlotte Mason books lists six as the age at which one starts teaching narration, but regardless of the recommended age, it seems like it would be a skill Jack would find useful. It's not something that I ever learned to do, though, so I think we'll have to work on it as a family. I'll check with Rod and see if he was taught to narrate and if not, then perhaps we can all learn together. Perhaps starting very small and taking turns as we read together until Jack has the idea.

Of course, I have also suggested that perhaps we could go back over his books and he could dictate to me what he thinks it's important to remember from them, so that he has a lapbook about what he has learned. Rod thought it was a great idea, but Jack is less impressed.

My first instinct is to be frustrated with my opinionated son...but of course, he came by that trait honestly. And over time, we have managed to solve these challenges together pretty quickly and easily once they've been identified. It'll be interesting to see how this works. One thing I know, though. You can't force knowledge into an unwilling mind. If we don't find ways that work for all of us, we might as well sit Jack in a classroom to daydream as keep him home.

OK, off I go. If I don't hit the shower, I'll be late for work again. Thanks for your patience is checking back when I've been so bad about making time to blog lately. (And still no photos!)


  1. I just want to make it very clear that Jack's decision to compare himself to his peers, and judge himself accordingly is causing him some self esteem issues - first reading of the post as written might suggest we think Connor is a problem, and this is clearly not the case, Connor is a great kid and we love to have him around.

  2. I started narration with my son from a young age, although I didn't know it was called that. Simple things, like having him tell me about his day, describe the place we went to, etc, were how we started. It doesn't have that 'schooly' feel to it; it's more like conversation.

    Good luck! Keep us posted on how it goes. :)

  3. I was hoping to go that way with Jack -- but he's going to need some coaching, Michelle. When I ask him a question about his day or a topic he's interested in, he freezes up and says he doesn't know. Like me, I think he will have to have words to describe the process before he can figure out how to narrate. (His chatter tends to be in disparate snippets, too.)

  4. You might want to think about boxing in a portion of your garden and anchoring your trellis to that. I use a 4'x8' box of 2x10 lumber, and pounded in really long metal fence stakes along one edge, then anchored rabbit fencing to that for my trellis (such fun standing on a ladder whaling away with a sledge hammer *eek*). Then I used one of the fence stakes diagonally across the back to stabilize the whole thing. My tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas were over four feet tall, lol, and stuck out both sides, but they didn't suck up precious real estate. We still had room for lots of carrots, lettuces, spinach, sunflowers, etc. plus our corner guardians (giant marigolds). We had no rabbit visitors, I don't know if it was the boiled linseed oil on the wood, or the marigolds...

  5. When my kids get stuck doing narrations I find it really helps to ask them questions that are pertinent to them and will still get some information out of them. My son's favorites are: What three things did you find most interesting about what you read? Tell me about three things that you didn't know or understand before you read this? How did this story relate to... (some story previously read or fact previously known). I find that some kids need plenty of prompts but not the rote memory type questions found in books like Story of the World. More general, yet egocentric lol, questions seem to do the trick most of the time. Perhaps that will help? It's always hard the first time we see our kids' self-esteem suffer because they have begun comparing themselves to the outside world but it is all part of growing up. Best wishes with getting him excited about learning again. :)


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