windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (treehugging graeme)

While a peer with his birthdate won't be eligible to enter public Kindergarten until Fall of 2013, Graeme wanted to go to school so badly we began his formal homeschooling last month. We are making a concerted effort to document the everyday work we do together and I thought it would be fun to share some snapshots of that here!

Graeme is being taught five general subjects, areas of focus for me to make sure he's getting a thorough education. They are: Reading and Writing, Math and Measures, Science and Nature, Arts and Activities, and Compassion and the Craft. Compassion and the Craft probably sounds like every pagan-fearing parent's worst nightmare--but it is mostly about ethics, values, compassion, good citizenship, and being mindful in the world.

This month, in addition to the work we did each day at home, Graeme also participated in some outside events. He's enrolled in a preschool skills class at Gymboree for two hours a week where he gets to glue googly eyes onto things and jump around a play gym in his socked feet. He took a course at the local nature preserve, "Little Pioneers", where they tromped around in the woods for two hours a week and learned about the lifeways, conservation, and habitat of some area wildlife like skunks, turtles, opossums, snakes, ants, and frogs. He also just finished up the course year in Preballet I (a 45 minute class each week) with his spring dance recital. As always, we met up with our homeschooling group for some social and learning time, too.

For the past month, we've been working on an animal unit. My main objective, from an animal perspective, was to teach him the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates (or reinforce the notion as we'd taught it last year) and to teach him the general characteristics of the five (main) categories of vertebrates: amphibian, bird, fish, mammal, and reptile. We read books about animals and did all sorts of assorted animal worksheets. Not everything was about animals--but I tried to tie the concept in to animals for fun. We learned about map-reading with animals, the concept of graphs (how many pets does Joe have? how many pets does Sally have?), even the majority of our addition and subtraction worksheets had some contrived animal hook. The idea of the focused unit, at this age, is really just to keep me entertained. :)

We have had a wonderful time with it, though. Over the month, Graeme fulfilled the requirements to have our yard certified as a National Wildlife Foundation "Backyard Habitat" and got the certificate in his name to proudly prove it. We've added strategic brush piles, feeders, and now our new bird bath to increase the value of our suburban plot to local wildlife. We've seeded a big bed in the back yard with a colorful mix of bird and butterfly-attractive wildflowers. He fashioned a 'butterfly bar' to feed fruit-loving butterflies, hornets, and other animals and then made the food to stock it. Graeme's learned a bit about animal tracking (black bear, raccoon, opossum, skunk, turkey, gray wolf, great blue heron, and whitetailed deer tracks, specifically). We've had animal art projects and he's watched some videos about animals from the arctic to the orient.

On a more general front, Graeme's been working on his handwriting, his spelling, and his abilities in single-digit addition and subtraction the most. Any chance I had to convince him to write more--I did. :) This usually took the shape of crossword puzzles, secret codes, competitive write-the-word-I-say spelling bees, and greeting cards and notes to each other.


Graeme's handmade metamorphosis poster--I helped him cut out some of the items since his scissor skills aren't great, but he drew and designed everything.

More images of his work under the cut... )

I've also made it a point to record the books that we're reading together every day. (Though who knows how many books Graeme is reading during his hours on the library floor with his feet up on the big comfy chair!) (I'm being massively unfair (and lazy) by only noting the authors, not the illustrators.) Some of our favorites this month have been:

Earth Mother (Ellen Jackson)
Earth Mother and Her Children (Sibylle von Olfers)
Elephant Prince: Story of Ganesh (Amy Noveski)
Forest Child (Marni McGee)
The Mother's Day Mice (Eve Bunting)
Our Family Tree (Lisa Westberg Peters)
Rabbit's Song (S.J. Tucker and Trudy Herring)
Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson)
Something from Nothing (Phoebe Gilman)
Strega Nona Meets Her Match (Tomie dePaola)
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (William Steig)
Too Many Fairies (Margaret Read MacDonald)
The Trouble with Dragons (Debi Gliori)
Ugly Vegetables (Grace Lin)
When the Earth Wakes (Ani Rucki)
Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)

As of yesterday, we've moved on to a Money unit. I anticipate a lemonade stand in Graeme's future! :)

Graeme, reading over my shoulder, says: "In my future? Me, a lemonade stand?"

Guess the cat's out of the bag on that one, huh? :D
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (tvd:  I'll save you)
I have gotten some good recommendations from reading [ profile] wanderlustlover's media consumed posts over the years. I thought I'd start something similar to open conversations about some of the things I am discovering. :)

Robin Hood (BBC) 3.3, 3.4
This is my first time watching Robin Hood. I blazed through the first two seasons rather quickly during nursing and naptime sessions but have slowed down quite a bit with season three.

The Vampire Diaries 3.14, 3.15
Halfway through the third season and I'm still quite content with the show, the writing, the characters, and the pace. I appreciate the nods to the fans, like in the most recent episode when someone pointed out how 'annoying' it is that everyone always trips over themselves to save Elena--often with tragic consequences to everyone else. In the original trilogy, Elena was this golden child, up on a pedestal, and you had to wonder as a reader if she deserved that kind of treatment. In the show, too, you wonder how much any one girl could possibly be worth.

Persuasion (1995)
This is an old favorite of mine. The steadfast and reliable heroes always get me--so Captain Wentworth is a go-to for when I'm feeling low.

From Prada to Nada (2011)
I would have never watched this based on the title alone, but then I read that it was a somewhat faithful modern adaptation of Sense & Sensibility. It was absolutely endearing. The Marianne character was a bit snobbier than I like to imagine, but the whole thing overall was a big, cheerful, comfortingly Austen tale.

Granddad's Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood
This illustrated children's book is wonderful. I discovered it by happy accident browsing in the clearance section of Half Price Books the other day when I was waiting for the books I'd brought in for sale to be evaluated. A boy's grandfather explains how everything on or part of the earth prays. Rivers pray, sparrows pray, people pray.

Each living thing gives
its life to the beauty of
all life, and that gift is
its prayer

I cried in the bookstore reading it and hope to find a copy at the library sometime soon to read it to Graeme. It isn't pagan, per se, but it does acknowledge the divine nature of all creation and animates the inanimate and allows the boy to find his grandfather (and peace) in the world's song after his death.

The Lion and the Mouse by Bernadette Watts
Such a fantastic take on Aesop's fable. The little mouse, because of love and confidence and hard work, saves the lion from a trap. As an environmental tale, it is an inspiring way of telling Graeme that he shouldn't believe people who tell him he is too little to make a difference. Indeed, of all the animals in the jungle, only the mouse was able to save the lion--though all tried.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Magical Child Books just released the cover art for Smoky & the Feast of Mabon. The book, written by web serial phenom Catherynne M. Valente and illustrated by Magical Child Books' powerhouse, W. Lyon Martin, is set to be released on August 21st. Rumor has it that those who preorder direct from the publisher ($16.95) may receive their copy earlier than that. Either way, plenty of time for Mabon celebrations.


Emoticons cannot express my excitement for this book's upcoming 'birthday'. Magical Child, I love you guys!
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)
Great news!

The Last Wild Witch a children's picture book written by Starhawk, has been released and is available for purchase. (You can buy it direct from the publisher here.) Here's what I heard about it:

The Last Wild Witch: An Eco-Fable for Kids and Other Free Spirits is a fantastically presented, earth-based eco-fable for children ages 4 -9 and interested adults. The wonderful text is presented as a delightful children's story in which children are the saviors of something wonderful and wild, the last wild witch in the forest, who stirs her magic brew in her cauldron and practices her songs and plays her drum. The secret seems to be that everyone needs a little bit of "wildness" inside them to be complete and happy. So in the end, things "were not so perfect in the no-longer perfect town. But they were better!" "The Last Wild Witch" is a wonderful way to teach tolerance, respect for nature, and valuing differences. The incredible surrealistic colored paintings are the ideal palate to complement this imaginative teaching tale.

:D :D :D

And that's not all the good news for pagan parents!

Magical Child Books, publishers of picture books for pagan children, just announced their next publication slated to come out in 2010:

Smoky and the Feast of Mabon written by Catherynne M. Valente.

This will be Magical Child's fifth book. The other four are:

An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child written and illustrated by W. Lyon Martin
-a fully-illustrated year in the life of one pagan girl as she experiences the sabbats and explains what it means to be a Wiccan.

Aidan's First Full Moon Circle written and illustrated by W. Lyon Martin
-the story of Aidan, a young boy from a solitary family, as he joins the larger spiritual community for his first full moon celebration.

Watchers written and illustrated by W. Lyon Martin
-a suspenseful bedtime story with a sweet ending

Rabbit's Song written by S.J. Tucker and Trudy Herring, illustrated by W. Lyon Martin.
-a trickster animal tale


This booklove news has made my day. The world needs (desperately!) well-written pagan children's books.

What are your favorite pagan (or unintentionally pagan) children's books?

For Mabon, I love Jake Swamp's Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message because it reads as a prayerful recitation of all the things in nature and spirit to be thankful for each day and it is gloriously illustrated by Erwin Printup, Jr.
windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (G&I)
Sunday afternoon, we had our September SpiralScouts meeting at North Park Village Nature Center. It was a small gathering, four children under five years old, but we had such a wonderful, sweet time. Our theme for the month was Autumn Blessings, acknowledging the passing of Mabon and introducing the idea of falling leaves as bright and beautiful symbols of blessings in our lives.

We started with a game of The Spider. The children (and us parents) thundered back and forth over the grass with shrieks and giggles as one after another got caught and became part of the hand-clasped web. Once everyone had been caught, the web linked together quite naturally into our opening circle where we discussed the five elements and how they are expressed in SpiralScout activities and badge work before I broke out into a rousing rendition of Air I Am. :D

Our main activity for the day was to make gratitude mobiles. To start, each child was encouraged to think of four or five things/people/experiences/whatever that they were grateful for. Really good things. With a boatload of stencils, they cut shapes to represent each of these blessings out of cardstock. Some freehanded their designs, so by the end each of us had a small pile of colorful, inventive paper shapes--keys and hearts and leaves and stars and dogs and cats and birds and fish. On the back of each shape, they wrote what the blessing was they were grateful for. It was heartwarming to hear some of the responses from such young children. Graeme and the other two year old present were grateful for things like fish and squares and whatever adorable words they came up with first. The older girls mentioned loved ones beyond the veil, a pet cat, shoes.

We tucked these blessing cards away and hiked through the autumn woodlands, gaping at the fearless deer that crossed our path and talking about the changes we could see in the fall landscape. We arrived at a very popular fallen tree in the center of the Preserve just in time for snacks--gorgeous organic pears and apples, little boxes of raisins and crackers. The children clambered over the fallen tree with their snacks and we read them a story, a translated Iroqouis thanks-giving prayer, Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp. The light was slanting in golden cascades through the canopy overhead, the breeze was light and refreshing, the children were happy--it was magic.

Thank you, all the animals in the world,
for keeping our precious forests clean.
All the trees in the world, we are thankful for
the shade and warmth you give us.
Thank you, all the birds in the world, for singing
your beautiful songs for all to enjoy.
We give you thanks, twinkling stars,
for making the night sky so beautiful
and for sprinkling morning dew drops
on the plants.
And most of all, thank you, Great Spirit, for giving us all these wonderful gifts, so we will be happy and healthy every day and every night.

We packed up and the children skipped and ran back to our picnic table for the rest of the crafting. Here, we took found sticks and tree branches, punched holes in our blessing cards, and strung them along the branches with yarn and embroidery thread and little brass bells until they blew in in the breeze as blessing mobiles. The wind hopelessly tangled mine and Daniel's and it was both pleasantly sunny and cool and the children peeled off to play with each other at the end of our meeting.

It was wonderful.

Some photos here... )

Next month, we're going to teach the kids how to use compasses and to read (very simple) maps with an outdoor treasure hunt!


windinthemaples: A lane of red maple trees in riotous fall color. (Default)

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