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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

Snow Day!

snow day

We finally got our first snow here, and boy, did we get snow!  More than we’re used to at one time in this area.  So when even all the regional courthouses shut down, we decided it was time for Little School to have snow day, too.  (I know, you’re wondering how I’m keeping from working myself into a lather about getting off schedule… Well, haha, I am not!  But I’ll worry about it later.)  Snow days are for Fun.

It’s brutally cold out there today, so honestly we took the snow day yesterday, when it was a balmy 20 degrees.  As we played in the white stuff, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could hate something so beautiful.  Even though I’m stuck on the farm until it starts to melt off, since my beautiful husband drives the four-wheel-drive to work, there is plenty to appreciate about being forced to stay home.  The days seem to last longer when you’re not worrying about where you have to go next.  And it means more hours with the Littles.  To, you know, build a snow fort just inside the woods where we’re protected from our imaginary enemies.  This snow is very light and powdery, not good for snowmen or snowballs, and we had to really pile it up to make our fort walls instead of packing it like we normally would.  But we got it a couple of feet tall–enough to be able to tell what it was.  We decided we’d wait till week’s end to finish it–when the snow has had a chance to maybe melt a little and re-freeze so it’ll pack better.

How to Make Ice Cream From Snow - Sherri Osborn

We made snow ice cream, because who doesn’t love That?  If you’ve never made it, Family Crafts has a great recipe here.  It’s super simple, and a great treat for littles with cabin fever.  It’s been hard today, looking out the window at all that fun and knowing that the negative wind chill is going to keep us inside.

We filled the bird feeders again yesterday, and the birds seem pretty grateful.snow birds  We can’t help watching them; even though the Great Backyard Bird Count is over, we remain completely fascinated by their antics.  Plus, the Littles have a bet about what new birds may show up since food is seriously scarce right now.  Yesterday, we saw a pileated woodpecker hanging around, but he’s not been back yet today.  So far we’ve seen titmice (is that the plural?), dark-eyed juncos (we call them snow birds because they’re only here in winter), and cardinals, but the snow birds are winning–I think that’s all there are in the picture.

We followed bunny tracks through our persimmon grove and down the main path through the woods.  It was hard work slogging through all that snow, but the Littles’ laughter and excitement, and the sun glinting off the snow, made it worth it.

Besides, taking a snow day is sacred.  Even if you can’t get snowed out of homeschool, it is so dazzlingly fun to have an unexpected day off that it lifts everyone’s spirits.  And even when it’s only 20 degrees, sunshine is the best cure for everything.  So we went back to school this morning refreshed and ready to learn.  So yeah, I’m grateful for snow.  For now.

Love wins,

KT

For the Birds

Tomorrow begins the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society. The way it works is you follow the link to the GBBC’s website and register as a participant with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Then you simply put out a feeder and watch it for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count.  This year the count takes place February 13-16.  Count the birds that come to your feeder and submit your results on the website.  The full instructions and lots of other info, like a link to an online bird guide, are on their site.  There’s even a photo contest if you’d like to participate!

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an ideal time to begin a spring nature study after a long winter of (perhaps) dreading going outdoors in the cold to observe nature.  What better way to kick off this year’s nature study than helping to track the number of avian friends we have in our world and where they are?  It’s a good opportunity to discuss bird migration and moving populations.  It teaches not only about bird behaviors and habits, but about our responsibility to the environment and ways we can help.

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

If you don’t have a backyard birdfeeder already, making one is easy.  There are several suggestions for kid-friendly birdfeeders at Apartment Therapy, including milk carton feeders, craft stick feeders, and even toilet paper roll feeders.  Happy Hooligans has even more options, including a soda bottle feeder, pine cone feeder, and orange rind and bagel feeders.  My favorite on both sites is the teacup feeders and I will be adding those to my flower garden as soon as I can get to Goodwill or Antique Alley and pick up some interesting teacups and saucers!

Making their own feeders is a great way to add crafting to such a fun study.

We have so many bird guides around the house-national, regional, state, etc.- and during warm weather we are always watching our feeders for new species.  But I have to admit, we kind of fall off in winter.  We keep seed in the feeders, but looking outside on a really frigid day sometimes feels as cold as Being outside.  The GBBC gives us a reason to overcome our hesitation and we enjoy it every year.  But guide books aren’t the only books about birds.  If you want to add a bit of literature to this fabulous study, check your local library for books like The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet–a wonderful way to introduce Mr. Audubon and his love of nature, especially birds.  For the very young, Birds by Kevin Henkes is a great introduction to the variety of birds.  For older kids, Hoot by Carl Hiaasen is not only a great book about owls, but about the impact young people can have on their environment if they are brave and strong-willed.

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides so many opportunities for learning.  Join me and the Littles in this very important study and have tons of fun while you’re at it.

Love wins,

KT

A Fun Read

I have mentioned often our experience with reading Oliver Twist this year. We finished it several weeks ago, and it was an adventure in reading for all of us. Because of the level of difficulty for my Littles (they are, after all, 9 and 12, and Dickens’ language is not that of Rick Riordan. lol), I scheduled a much simpler book to follow it. I say simple because it’s an easy read for their ages, but the layers of Rabbit Hill were complex enough for a variety of lessons.

Robert Lawson wrote this Newberry Award-winning gem in 1944, just after World War II.  It could be considered a precursor to Watership Down by Richard Adams-a rich political novel told from the personification of rabbits.  Rabbit Hill has its own style of politics.  It gave us a view of what it is to live in a place torn apart by war, when food is scarce and everything needs rebuilt, but Lawson tells it from the point of view of Little Georgie the rabbit and a cast of other animals who are looking forward to New Folks (humans) moving into the house on the hill.  It provided an opportunity to discuss WWII a bit, though we aren’t studying that war till next year.  It also gave us ample opportunity to discuss the aftermath of war, the scarcity of food and comforts and the fear that things will never get better.  The book also touches on accepting differences.  We discussed prejudice and how very different our colorful country was in the not-so-distant past.  But my favorite part was the discussion sparked by how the people treat the nature around them.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/Epping_Forest_Centenary_Walk_2_-_Sept_2008.jpg?resize=409%2C296

Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we forget that we (even city folk) have a deep connection with the natural world.  We get so busy shutting it out we forget that it is an important part of who we are as a species.  Rabbit Hill is one of those books that will remind your children to be kind to animals, to live in harmony with their natural surroundings, and to be careful of the footprint they leave in the world.  It’s an important lesson that cannot be taught enough.

Rabbit Hill would be fun to incorporate into a nature study.  In fact, the study guide I made up involved a lot of nature study activities.  The Littles enjoyed it immensely, and it was a nice break for their brains after Dickens.

What about you?  Do you have any favorite books that teach your children about our responsibility to the environment?  If so, please share them.  I am Always looking for someting new to read.

What to Do When

I wish I had better advice for this topic.

It’s one thing when people pay a homeschooler those back-handed compliments.

“Oh, you must have your hands full.”  Accompanied by a sickly-sweet smile.

“I could never do that.”  Followed by, “I would kill my kids.”

“I wish I had time to homeschool my kids.”  Oblivious to the financial and social sacrifices we make in order to have the time.

But there’s something even worse, even more insidious.  See, I ran into an acquaintance the other day who is a professional and a mom.  During the ‘catching up’ phase of the conversation she asked what I’m doing now.  I told her I’m homeschooling my kids and her smile literally froze on her face (it’s cold outside, after all).  She hurriedly changed the topic back to herself: her busy days, her troublesome clients, how she can never quite find the time to blah blah blah.  Laughing with her, I concurred.  YOU know, fellow homeschool parent, just how busy I am.  Because you’re that busy.   Because even though we don’t get paid for this job, we are at work 24/7.  Our clients are just as demanding and we rarely get to leave them (not that we want to).  When we finally go to bed, exhausted, we are thinking of all the things we didn’t quite find the time to do, and all the things we have to do tomorrow.  We are Busy.

But this woman blew me off.  A chuckle.  A toss of the head.  “Well,” she said in a supremely condescending tone, “I mean, I’m Really busy.  I barely have time to look at my kids, let alone teach them anything.”

Lady, that’s your problem.

Is it guilt or jealousy that makes professional women automatically assume that a homemaker or homeschooler doesn’t have  a real life with real tasks to do and real rewards and real schedules?  Is it a true dislike of their homes and families that makes them cringe at the idea?  Is it meanness?

I just don’t know.  I try to put myself in other people’s shoes before I react to them; I really do.  But after that conversation I prompted several more with other people and I noticed it every time–that refusal to believe I could really be Busy, that my life isn’t a bowl of cherries and donuts because I don’t have a paying job.  I must just sit around all day watching (cringe) soap operas and eating bon-bons, the Peg Bundy of the 2010s.  I’m not busy.  I don’t even work.

So the worst back-handed compliment I’ve ever gotten is, “It must be so nice not to have to work every day.”

Are you kidding?  It must be nice to get to leave your job behind and have entire weekends where you don’t have to do it.   To take vacations that don’t incorporate major learning experiences into them.  To get breaks.

That’s what I want to say.  But I wouldn’t even mean it.  Because I’ve had jobs.  I had a career.  And the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done is teach my kids.

Just, if you run into me on the street, please don’t belittle me.  Please don’t act like I’m not busy just because no one sees fit to pay me for what I do.  Please don’t assume I’m Peg Bundy.  I don’t even have time to watch her reruns on TV, let alone BE her.

I left that woman on the street with a polite (perhaps frozen?) smile without even bothering to contradict her.  Sometimes it’s just not worth it.  I probably won’t see her again for another 5 years.  Maybe I should have spoken up.  Asked her to spend her next vacation at my house and see just how busy I am.  Said something scathing about her lack of interaction with her precious littles.  But as I walked away from her, I smiled.  Because, busy as I am, I’m happy.  Her?  Not so much.

My only advice in the face of such ignorance is to keep that smile plastered on.  Remember why you do this and how most days are blissful no matter how busy.  Remember that your littles know they are what matters to you most.  And remember… She really is busy.  Her life is just as harried as yours.  You be the compassionate one.  Because it has to start somewhere, and it may as well start with us.

Has this ever happened to you?  If so, how did you handle it?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.