Monday, May 29, 2006

cat pix

Here are some pix. My phone-hook-up is not cooperating well enough for more:
So, for starters we have the pix of "Mama Lumpy-Shiver," as she is now called, having her kittens with Mo and George in attendence. Mama was a stray kitten Mo and I brought home about a year ago who just loves Morgan to bits, despite Mo's attempts to love her to bits (ahem!). Anyway, Mama was just thrilled to have her humans on hand - even came running to check on Mo when she tripped on the way to the bathroom and cried a little. It was cute. The cat let Mo and George handle the babies as soon as they had dried off. Mo was thrilled. I think George was, too.

Ever since, Mo has been vigilant about making sure Mama Lumpy is spending plenty of "quality time" with her babies. She likes to hunt out the poor cat whenever she sneaks away to have a little down-time and plunk her right back in the cardboard box with the kittens. It was driving me nuts at first, but I have since seen George do the exact same thing, so I'm letting it go.

Thanks to all this feeding, the kittens are growing and George and I have been trading some rough humor about how big they need to be to feed to Killian (our charming corn snake) and whether it might not be the most cost-effective way to keep him fed. He's in his somewhat frantic spring mode, right at the moment, so I'm not sure he'll eat anything at all.
Naturally, Morgan has drawn endless pictures of cat with kittens ever since the big event. Somewhere I have one that says "one cat and four kittens makes five". Great. Now they are math-manipulatives. I hope this doesn't mean we need 100 of them! Counting to 100 is her latest passion - with occasional forays into the thousands just for fun, it seems.

new links

Lots of new posts this weekend!

I'm learning more about this blog-thingy every day, it seems. One thing I have just learned is that if I post something I've been working on as a draft for awhile it posts based on the date I started it - hasn't really been an issue, yet, but I'll have to keep an eye out for that in the future - I have a few things floating around as drafts right now. If something ends up posting "out of order" as it were, I'll try to let y'all know. I'm definately going to have to try it once a couple months go by and there are "archives" just to see how that works.Hmmmmm.

Anyway, I've also figured out how to add links. For starters I put up some basic homeschool stuff in case anyone is interested. I should probably put my website there, but it hasn't been updated in over a year, and I don't really know what to do about that. Hmmm. If y'all want me to link to any of y'all's personal blogs or websites, let me know.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

running in circles, as usual

Morgan's cat had kittens a week ago (sunday)! Four little cuties. I've been trying to get pix up all week to no avail. *&^%@! computers!
As soon as I get the darn things to load, I will tell more cute kid and kitten stories.

I've been running in circles all week, it seems. Nothing has gone 100% right unless it has been something completely spontaneous. All planned activities have gone awry. Just one of those weeks.

I'm starting to get ready to go up to WI with Mo next week, stopping to visit my dad on the way up. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm nervous, too. We didn't go anywhere last year so I feel like I'm out of practice travelling and visiting and all. I ordered a bunch of books for Mo for the trip - mazes and hidden pictures and several coloring books. I've been fantasizing about getting a portable DVD player, but I don't think the budget will support that even with my tax return. I still want to go out east later in the summer - probably the beginning of August. I've been trying to get my gf, Luann, to schedule her trip to Maine at the same time so I can ride with her and share the driving, but she's not sure she'll have the money to go anywhere - her house and camper got totally smashed by baseball-size hail a month ago and the insurance isn't wanting to pay as much as she would like. We'll see. Maybe I can find a nice Faerie with a driver's liscence who doesn't feel like hitchhiking.....

Okay, I'm rambling. Its past my bedtime.

Friday, May 26, 2006

five love langs links

Just for fun, I'm posting a link to a short test for these.
It doesn't give an overview of the languages, though.

This one gives a brief overview as pertains to children (same one I posted elsewhere):

Here's one pertaining to adult relationships/marriage:

Just thought I'd put it all in one place.----Meredith

montessori stuff: socialization w/o punishment

Dealing with Mo in social situations has really forced me to think about rewards and punishments from a different angle. Generally, when adults speak to Mo she looks away, hides her face and refuses to answer. The usual responses to this kind of behavior have always seemed very punitive to me - I was "the shy kid", and I definately felt punished, shamed, by the condescending "oh, she's just shy" comments. Even worse were the attempts to "draw me out" - those were like some kind of torture. On top of it all, the constant reinforcement of my in-ability prevented me from actually learning social skills. It was only living in community that I discovered that I was not "socially backward" and started to grow. So when Mo started showing signs of the same sorts of tendency, I struggled to find a different way of reacting.
The first time I read The Montessori Method I knew I had found what I was looking for. Scanning my marginal notes in chapter 5 I find a big YES! scrawled next to this passage:
The child, because of the peculiar characteristics of helplessness with which he is born, and because of his qualities as a social individual is circumscribed by bonds which limit his activity.
An educational method that shall have liberty as its basis must intervene to help the child to a conquest of these various obstacles. In other words, his training must be such as shall help him to diminish, in a rational manner, the social bonds which limit his activity.
Little by little, as the child grows in such an atmosphere, his spontaneous manifestations will become more clear, with the clearness of truth, revealing his nature. For all these reasons, the first form of educational intervention must tend to lead the child toward independence.
From: The Montessori Method (1912) by Maria Montessori, translated by Anne Everett George. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912. pp.95.
This describes so well my experience. With Mo I have been working to do as Dr Montessori suggests - to lead her toward independence, rather than demanding performance and shackling her with "social bonds". Below are a couple of anecdotes that I hope will demonstrate how this looks in real life.
The other day our new neighbor came by to introduce himself and while chatting he asked Morgan a question. I don't recall the precise question, only that it was atypically respectful for an adult speaking to a young child - for example, "how do you like living here?" as opposed to "how old are you?". Morgan looked away and didn't answer. Generally in this sort of situation I would wait a moment -long enough for her to answer if she chose, but not too long - and then return to the conversation or change the subject. No explanation to the other adult - because I remember what those explanations "felt like" hearing them as a child. What impressed me about this gentleman was his reaction: he imediately appologized to Mo in the most natural way possible, saying: "I didn't mean to put you on the spot there, you don't have to answer me." It was exactly the kind of thing one would say to another adult if one suddenly realized one had asked a rather inappropriate question. We (adults) returned to our conversation. Less than five minutes later Morgan had become a part of the conversation, too, in such a seamless and natural way that I can't even remember the details. She joined the conversation the way anyone would - a word here, a comment there, until we were all chatting away merrily. Given the liberty to behave normally, rather than being shamed for how "abnormal" her reaction was, she was able to express a "spontaneous manifestation" of the propper social forms.
A few days later an incident occured in the library that sharply contrasted, for me, the difference between the Montessori ideal and "traditional" education.
Morgan was sitting in the young-childrens' section of the library looking at books when another child approached. This girl was perhaps a year or two older, and clearly a school-child. What struck me most was her furtiveness. She practically snuck up to Mo, glanced at her out of the corner of her eyes but sat down within touching distance. Mo imediately looked up and said "Hi, my name is Morgan. Would you like to look at some books with me?" Picture-perfect friendly social behavior (and in the appropriate low tones for a library, this mom was very impressed!). The other girl responded tentatively and with a minute the two were chatting quietly about books and characters, reading passages to each other - you couldn't have imagined a better example of how we would all like children to behave with regard to reading.
Suddenly the girl's mother swooped down: "What are you doing here? These books are for babies! Stop talking and go pick out a book from the big-kid section!" The child slunk away, head down, her joy in the library diminished. It was shocking. I'm sure the other mom had the best intentions in the world, but she had not observed the girls' interaction and saw only misbehavior, which she corrected sharply.
It got me thinking about the word homeschoolers usually flinch at: socialization. The girl was being "socialized" by certain standards. She had been told to pick out a book, so spontaneous social activity was inadmissible. It didn't matter that she was socializing about literature - probably the other parent would not have believed such a thing possible. Children socialize about games and toys, not books and reading - they have to be "taught" to discuss literature, they certainly don't do it spontaneously (the common wisdom). Since Morgan is not being socialized in this manner she is Free to develop genuine relationships on a wide variety of topics. Because she was surrounded by books, it was natural for her to engage in a discussion of childrens' literature with another person. It would not have occurred to her to discuss her favorite toy in such an environment - to her it would have seemed inappropriate.
Morgan has the libery to behave spontaneously in social situations, and as Montessori describes above, I am slowly seeing her social behavior become "clear, with the clearness of truth." She is increasingly aware of social forms and conventions, as I hope these examples also show, but she is unhampered by restrictions or punishments. Its inspiring just watching her sometimes!
---Meredith (Morgan 4.5)

Monday, May 22, 2006


This past Sunday, Morgan's cat "Lumpy-Shiver" had four kittens. It was a day of high excitement for Mo, as you can imagine! The day began with the cat trailing around after Morgan, meowing for no apparent reason. She would let Mo pick her up and cuddle her for a minute, then want to get down and wander around the house for awhile, then she'd be back meowing... George and I finally decided she was in labor and he bustled around in proper daddy-fashion finding a cardboard box while Mo went and pillaged the rag collection for bedding. The cat got the idea immediately - apparently cats are genetically wired to have their babies in cardboard boxes, because she climbed right in and got down to business. Morgan and George spent the day with Lumpy, watching the kitties being born. They were both delighted.

Anyone need a cat?

Today (Monday) Morgan has been ever-so-solicitous of "Mamma Lumpy" and her babies, reading them stories, writing and singing little songs to them and scolding Lumpy whenever the babies cry and she doesn't immediately come running. This has all been going on in the "guest room" (actually, I think it would be better termed a "guest closet", but I don't want to scare y'all away). The weather has been icky (still), so I'm glad Mo has something to occupy her, but she has been getting a bit antsy. George had a few errands to run today and took her along, but I can tell she needs to do some running and climbing. Hopefully the rain will abate for a day or two and she can work off some energy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What that kid is up to

Here are some of Morgan's recent projects. This is "A happy mommy turtle full of eggs," according to Mo. She has been very interested in eggs and things that lay them. A couple weeks ago the creek was full of frogs, first singing (Loudly! spring is NOT quiet in the country, let me tell ya!) and then stacked one on top of the other -which makes them much easier for a curious little person to catch! So naturally we have been observing the frog life-cycle. Right now we have a fish-tank full of tadpoles that she checks several times a day to see if they have grown legs yet. Today our turtle (Rex, alive and well after three winters!) is swimming in their tank and we are wondering if he eats tadpoles. There are certainly plenty, if he does.

The map is another of Mo's creations - she periodically draws maps of things, usually when we are getting ready to go somewere. She drew a long map of "the way to the pet store" on a roll of clear contact paper - unfortunately she used a "dry erase" pen, and it.... well, erased when she rolled it up! But this map is in magic marker on a very large sheet of paper - its Pumpkin Hollow Road, of course! Mo and I are standing next to our house (I don't know where George was, that day). At one end of the road is the all-important Trampoline. Almost at the other end is something right in the middle of the road itself - that's a trailer that got stuck one day, blocking the entire road and part of the creek for hours. I guess it made an impression on her.

She's a big fan of goats in general and this story in particular and decided to write the title on her chalkboard. She's terribly self-motivated. I use a Montessori technique when she wants to know how to write a word - writing it out on a slip of paper for her. She's pretty "aware" of phonics - for a long time she loved to write "nonsense" words and ask us to pronounce them for her (still does, but now she corrects our pronounciation!), which I think was her private method for learning about letters and sounds. I haven't pushed it, don't ask her to "sound things out" or anything, although I will pronounce words very clearly when writing them for her and comment on irregularities. This week she started writing short phrases with a mix of words she asked me to write and words she remembered - oh! I finally get to be "Mom" if only on paper! "Meredith", I have been told, has too many letters. Fine by me. The dot-things in between the letters are deliberate - a pretty common technique some young kids use to indicate spaces. Mostly she seems to use them if the words are very close together.

I got this dress form when the fabric store I was working at closed (the Big cutting counter in the background, too) - its more for display than actual sewing, but it has a nice cloth cover that Mo likes to sew things onto. Another of my little Montessori-isms is to give her "real tools" - for sewing projects I let her use my scissors and real needles. She's very careful and serious when she sews - measuring things before cutting them and holding both the needle and scissors correctly. Occasionally we sew together on the machine, too, with her pushing the pedal and me doing the "feeding". She's good at anticipating when to slow down and stop, but doesn't feel up to handling the fabric as well as the pedal, yet. She has a hammer and saw, too, but also has George's tendency to just leave things wherever (I, of course, would never do such a thing!)*g*.

I've been studying a lot of Montessori theory, lately, some of which is pretty radical. I had assumed Monessori was just for pre-school, but it goes right on up through high-school. Not very many of those around - you're lucky to find an elemetary school. Its pretty impressive, all based around the idea of kids as autonomous learners, working in collaboration with others (kids and adults). Fun stuff. I'm taking a course on-line at the moment and have been amazed at how much of her research (from over 100 yrs ago!) into learning is being validated by modern brain research. Of course, unlike Piaget (don't get me started!) she had a decent sample space - hundreds of kids from a wide variety of backgrounds.

I've also been happy to discover that a lot of the "materials" associated with Montessori learning are designed to allow a classroom to mimic an enriched home environment - not a problem for me. The science stuff, especially, is something we do almost entirely hands-on - like our froggy friends, but also periodic "experiments". I found a site called "How to Teach Science" which has a lot of interesting ideas for implementing math and science learning into the early years. Mostly stuff I have been doing already, but I did put up a Periodic Table (next to our 100s chart) for reference. We've even used it a few times already.

We don't register for homeschool until next year, but I definately feel like we're "doing it" already. Mo's reading more and more on her own, writing, counting to 1000, basic operations (add, subtract, fractions) up to about 12, general science, practical life, grace and courtesy (more Montessori stuff). Homeschool group meets fridays at the park, play-date with her buddy Savannah (another hs'er, and one that's definately Morgan's speed) on saturdays, regular visits to the guys at Morningwood Farm, which wants her to design some letterhead for them.... we keep busy, that's for sure.

I know eveyone worries about the "socialization" thing, but I've been researching this subject for almost six years now, and even the NEA is starting to admit that homeschooled kids are Not behind socially and actually seem to have comparable to better self-esteem. Frankly, having met more hs'ers and watching the differences between hs and ps kids (that's homeschool and public school) I have been noticing that hs kids are more willing to accept new kids into a group and are also better at introducing themselves to new people, tend to be more polite, and seem better at sharing and group problem solving- skills I'm definately interested in promoting in Morgan. She's really very good with other kids - very socially ept, that is, and also with adults who treat her like a person. Adults who speak in that silly "poodle voice" or start off by demanding personal information (how old are you!) she doesn't speak to, and that's fine with me.

Woops, got off on a rant, there. With big age 5 coming up we're starting to get that question, and of course everyone has to say something about socialization until I just want to scream. If any of Y'all actually want to do some research of your own, fine by me. Here's a place to start:

Great big site with a zillion links and resources.

A note about "comments" before I go, since there has been some confusion (by me as well): to post a comment, click the word "comments" at the end of this post. I believe it is in green and has a number next to it. Apparently the "invitation" I sent out was to be able to post on the blog, so those of you who have figured that out will be deleted (well, really, all of you will be deleted, but only 2 of you are likely to notice anything). When you post a "comment" I get an email telling me what you said, and it gets recorded here on the blog. If you want to read others' comments, click that little green word. Tha's all fer now!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sneaking into the new millenium

I keep meaning to send mail, send pictures, send artwork, send cards - you wouldn't believe the number of cards Mo and I have bought, written in and never sent! Yikes. So I'm going to try this blog thing. Can't be too hard, right? We'll see.

Well, I see several problems, right away. Sigh. I'll get it right eventually.

I've set this up so all y'all can see what we're up to and chat about it without all the hassle of trying to figure out who's awake when and what phone to use, so please let me know (via comments) that you've stopped by. I'll get an email telling me someone commented. If this thing won't let you make a comment, let me know so I can add you to the list - I'm not interested in the free world commenting on my life, but supposedly I get to have some control over this, so only "invitees" get to make comments.

Looks like this is going to be a little rough at first, especially figuring out how to do the pix the way I want. Somehow I'm going to set this up so George can post, too - we'll see how that goes - you can see what he's been doing up at the top there (the middle pic). He's doing it right now, in fact: sawmilling. This pic is from the logyard where he buys logs and sometimes sets up and saws - its a sweet deal. He gets space to work without having to bring logs home - sometimes they even load them on the mill for him. He also gets free advertising of the very best kind around here - "hey, look, there's a guy with a sawmill!" And - "oh, yeah, I know a guy with a sawmill." Very good. He also added a "saw port" to one of our outbuildings so he can saw here (its not as loud as the table-saw, good for me), which has its up-side, too, although I had to put a fence around the garden to keep the lumber out.

Mo and I have been visiting the Pumpkin Hollow Community trampoline when the weather permits. I sit and knit or read - its been a great place to work on "assignments" for the online Montessori course I'm taking. I get on and jump for a little while, but I don't have the energy of a 4.5 year old, so I wear out pretty quickly! I was hoping to be able to scan some of her stories and artwork into the computer and upload them, but the computer and scanner aren't speaking at the moment, and I haven't figured that out, yet. Isn't technology wonderful? I just love the way it makes our lives easier! Another time, then.

Well, that's all for today. The rain has cleared up, the sun is out - time to get out of the darn house! I'm looking forward to hearing from all y'all!