homeschool

Every American boy needs a shed

When I first heard the John Williamson song, The Shed, I thought it an odd subject for a folk song. After all, when he sings “Every Australian boy needs a shed…” I couldn’t help but think about a woodshed and we all know what happens when you take a boy out to the woodshed. And it’s not a subject for folk songs.  But it isn’t at all what the song is about. It’s about needing a place to get away, be yourself and pursue your own projects even if the roof leaks and the whole thing sways on windy days.

A joint to learn to read an’ write, to work on his bike at night
To grow up as he likes, to grow anything under lights
A place to keep his tools, nuts and bolts and drills
To hang a hide, to hide the dry or hang to pay the bills

I think it is why children are drawn to building forts and clubhouses and tree houses. For as much as they like being underfoot, they also have a need to carve out their own space. Their own private space. It may be in the attic, under a stairwell or even under a blanket thrown over some chairs, but it is a place to get out from under the immediate influence of parents and be themselves.

My children have been busy claiming a closed off section of the hen house, a small room with the door boarded shut and a loft area that can only be accessed through a small window. The younger ones require a boost up and help down from the older ones and there is something so very touching watching the four of them work together to slip through. I don’t really know what goes on in there aside from a bit of hammering and occasional requests for scrap lumber, but it is their small space and they seem to get along much better when they escape there.

The next project is to clear a space for them in the barn to keep all their treasures. Snail shells, antler sheds, mouse skulls…all those delightful things children come across and cannot bear to part with despite the limited room for such things in the house.

So yeah, every boy (and girl) does need a shed. Or at least a small space they can carve out as their own if only for a little while.

Come to think of it, I think mom does, too.

Where do your children escape to? And how actively do you encourage that time to themselves?

Free lesson download for Holy Week

Yeah, I know. I really should have put this up Friday because you really should have started this yesterday if you want to be on top of celebrating Holy Week according to, you know, the traditional week. Beginning Palm Sunday. Which I totally spaced until about ten last night and I wasn’t about to pull all my sleeping children out of bed just to keep on track.

After all, we have our own traditions to keep and one of the ones we keep best is “Oh yeah. Yesterday was a holiday.”

I hope you enjoy Walking With Jesus His Final Days. Feel free to share the study but please leave my links in tact. Should you be so kind as to share this link, please link to this entry rather than directly to the document.

Free unit for holy week

Anyway, we did this last year and the children really enjoyed using the toys to tell and retell the readings for each day. It is sort of like an Easter version of the Jesse Tree with objects to go along with each day’s reading, except instead of decorating a tree, we filled a container garden with toys that the children then got to play with all day.

And as for me and my house, well, it is Palm Sunday our time. Until lunch. Then I think I’ll let it be Monday and our little project will be on track until we skip a day again.

 

Incorporating homeschooling and family decisions

Sitting down to dinner, my daughter suddenly asks,

Did you know that the cotton patch goose was important to people during the Great Depression?

No, honey, I didn’t. Why is that?

Her eyes light up and, closing her eyes to remember her reading she ticks off their uses.

The backyard flock was an important source of eggs, meat and grease.  And it was called the cotton patch goose because it was used to weed cotton patches!

I am glad to see her enjoying her research project so much. She is even finally talking about adding to her website again because she has gotten excited about the project.

See, we want geese and she has been given the important task of determining which breed would be best for us. I gave her a list of questions to help guide her, focusing on heritage breeds, which has spawned many interesting conversations about our relationship to the food we eat.

She finds it somewhat disconcerting that chickens and turkeys have been so selectively bred that they can no longer survive outside their climate controlled sheds, couldn’t find food if they had to, and cannot reproduce without someone’s help. She looked at our chickens wandering the property, scratching back the dead grass from last year searching out sprouts and insects and thought that was just how chickens should be raised.

Returning to her research, she discovers the Sebastopol. Delighted with their long, curly feathers, she announces that she has found her favorite goose and is pretty sure she knows what we should get. I encourage her to finish, to examine all the breeds but otherwise bite my tongue.

Because you see, I’ve already done all this research. Not intentionally, really. Just that once we decided to get geese, I couldn’t help but read everything I came across about them. I fell in love with the Pilgrim goose after reading an article in Backyard Poultry, and everything I cam across after that just served to confirm this docile little creature as a perfect fit for our family and experience level.

This is where it gets difficult. At least for me. I already know what I want, but I’ve given Mouse the responsibility of researching the best breed because I want this to be educational. I didn’t want her to pull up a chair and have me show her why we were getting Pilgrim geese. I wanted her to come up with the characteristics we desired most, research breeds and come to a decision she would then defend with her presentation.

Was I really willing to let go of my preferences for the sake of my daughter’s education?

“Oh, mom,” she whines. “The Sebastopol needs to have water to swim in all the time.”

She thinks about our old bathtub and how we could fill it and clean it. But she seems to have some sense of how much work that would be, several times a day, in order to keep her favorite goose. Disappointed, she fills out her check list and moves to the next breed.

In the end, she does a pretty nice job on her presentation. She argues nicely for heritage breeds, though they are a bit more expensive. She notes that many of these breeds are considered endangered and that we can help make sure they survive as a breed by raising them and breeding them ourselves. And she compares the geese on the main traits she has decided suit us best: lack of aggression, ability to forage, ease of differentiating the sexes and quality of meat.

She decides on the Pilgrim goose.

And I’m happy. Not because of her choice in goose, but because she was able to come up with several criteria and judge the suitability of the different breeds for our family. There were several geese which would have worked well for us, but she was able to set aside her personal preference based on looks in favor of characteristics she had already determined were more important. That isn’t the easiest skill to teach, but she seems to have learned it well.

How do you incorporate your family decisions into homeschooling?

The great chicken experiment

I trudge out to the mailbox, slopping through mud in my husband’s snow boots thinking I really need to buy myself some shoes suited to our new life. Hunter greets the mailman’s jeep with barking and prancing, ready for the race to the treeline where he always stops, satisfied that he has yet again driven off the intruder.

A bill, a postcard, The Penny Press and. . .oh happy day. . .Orscheln’s flyer.  The local feed store has quickly become my favorite local hangout. I lament all the days wasted wandering WalMart during AWANAs when I could have just as easily visited the feed store across the street.  But that was then, before we had five acres, before we had chickens even.

Then, WalMart defined my world in a strange sense.  Today, Orscheln’s does. But as we research and plan and dream, I sense something else on the horizon. Something that doesn’t have a name, or a logo or a weekly flyer. But more on that later.

I toss the mail on the counter, reserving Orscheln’s flyer to look through over breakfast. I open it up and what should I see in bold green print but “Chicks Are Here!”

Up until this very minute, I had intended on getting our next batch of chickens from a hatchery.  Up until this very minute, I had been frustrated by the minimum orders required by hatcheries or the use of roosters as packing peanuts.  I didn’t need 25 birds, but it looked like ordering from a hatchery was going to provide me with 25 birds, whether I paid for them all or not.

At this very minute, I realize that the feed store really was a better option for us right now.

To no one in particular, I announce that I am going to be at the feed store at 8:45, fifteen minutes before they open.

Why, mommy?

It’s Chick Days.

My husband rolls his eyes. The children leap with excitement. They know what Chick Days are. That’s where they got the four hens we currently have. But we got those at the tail end of the yearly event and pretty much got what was left over. This year would be different. This year, we would get first choice because this year we would be sitting in the parking lot when the doors open.

Yeah, I’m a little weird like that.

Less than 24 hours later and ten minutes before Orscheln’s officially opens, Bear, Bug and I are heading back to the chicks, led by the sound of their peeping. They dart back and forth, trying to look at them all at once. I concentrate on one bin: Plymouth Rock, straight run.

This year, in addition to layers, we are adding on a rooster. A rooster to guard the flock. A rooster to strut about the property. A rooster to crow in the wee hours of the morning and remind us of just how beautiful each and every morning is. A rooster for fertile eggs.

So I ponder the Plymouth Rock, straight run bin.  Straight run means they’re unsexed.  In theory, half of them should be male. How many would I need to guarantee I got at least one rooster? What would I do with a second or even a third?

Someone arrives to help us and I ask somewhat stupidly,

Theoretically, half of these are males, right? So theoretically, if I get five, we should end up with two or three roosters?

He smiles, not sure how to answer the obvious. I smile back, understanding the dilemma I’ve put him in. “It’s ok,” I try to say with that smile. “I’m just thinking out loud.”

Happy with my statistics, I ask for five.

Bear begins to squeal as he recognizes the little Rhode Island Red pullets.

Diego! Diego! They’re just like Diego!

That was the breed he selected last year. He carries her around the property, showing her everything and teaching her to be an explorer like her namesake.

I ask for one of those.

Bear then moves to the Americaunas, fascinated by their many colors.

Are these leghorns? he asks.

No, they’re Americaunas.

Bear and Bug light up simultaneously.

Oh, canwecanwe?!  They lay blue and green eggs, mom! Canwecanwe?!

I ask for four of those.

I look at the Plymouth Rock pullets. Unsure why, I am suddenly drawn to these, a breed I’ve never paid any particular attention to, a breed that has never made it on either my “must check out” or “must avoid” list. A new thought is forming in my mind. I already have five.

I ask for two more.

I ask what is crossed to make a production red. The young man guesses Rhode Island Red and…and, well, something else. “Maybe leghorn?” he ventures. Still, my attention has fallen on them for more than a brief moment.

I ask for one.

Will that be everything?

No, not quite.

Not quite. The new idea, not yet fully formed, needs a point of comparison. Cornish crosses are the standard for meat birds. Ready for slaughter at just six weeks, they present minimal investment in time though they tend to camp out at the feeder, moving only for a drink. They grow so fast, their little legs are known to break under the rapidly increasing weight.

I ask for five.

And now for the comparison.

On their third day with us, you can see that the Cornish Cross  is starting to show just a little more size than the Plymouth Rock. It feels firmer and more meaty, as well. This is where I discover that our small scale is broken so I can’t do an official weight comparison, but we’ll remedy that over the weekend.

Stay tuned to watch these guys grow toward our dinner table, complete with recipes for how they are eventually served!  Also, if you are interested in raising your own chicks, stay tuned for some rare weekend posting as I discuss the why and how of beginning a small backyard flock.

Free Garden Unit Study Download

Today, I am offering all my readers a free e-book: Developing Christian Character Through Gardening.   Just click to open, and feel free to share the link to this free resource with your friends!  I only ask that you link to this entry rather than directly to the download so I can get “paid” through the small amount of traffic that might generate!  Thanks! And while you are planning your garden, consider learning a little about the honeybee with Share the Buzz: A free lesson guide about honeybees!

Developing Christian Character Through(1)-min

When Jesus taught, he often used object lessons drawn from the everyday experiences of His audience: drawing water from a well, making bread, a wedding celebration, the harvest, etc. These experiences were an integral part of the culture of Jesus’ day, giving His listeners practical examples of the spiritual principles He was teaching. Today, however, even such simple tasks as making bread or sowing seeds can be as foreign to children as the spiritual lessons they were intended to illustrate.

This unit focuses on how Christian character is developed through studying the parable of the sower. Children are given an opportunity to help plant a garden and tend it through the harvest, while the parent takes time to draw spiritual applications from the work being done, “here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10) Although the foundation of this lesson rests on the parable of the sower found in Mark chapter 4, take some time before each session in the garden to reflect on what you will be doing and an appropriate verse to guide your children toward a more spiritual discussion.

Let me know what you think, and enjoy gardening with your children!