Friday, January 30, 2004

Snow and worms

Snow and worms don't go together very well most of the time, but when the worms are cozy inside and the snow is outside, the two can touch our lives at the same time.

It has snowed a ton here in the past week. We've probably had almost three feet of snow. Fluffy deep white pristine stuff. The kids have been outside at all hours playing in it. They create pictures against the windows with packed snow. They dig into treewells to find secret forts. They pretend to be Atlas, carrying giant snowballs on their shoulders. They throw snowballs at each other and at snow-laden trees. They dig tunnels and caves. They build totem poles and snowmen. They sculpt their own lands, shovel and pile, explore and create. They just love the freeform creative control they have over their environment when it's made of snow. Sometimes they'll only come in to eat or sleep.

Today it rained, though, so the snow is compacted a bit and very heavy. The beautiful pillows on the trees are gone and there's lots of tree-crud on the surface of the snow. Today was an indoor day. It's snowing again now, but not quite cold enough for it to accumulate. Hopefully overnight we'll get a layer of fluffy stuff again.

On Monday we made a detour on our way to piano and bought some red wigglers from a lady who vermicomposts. We have had a problem with bears in our outdoor compost bin for years, and I decided it made sense to try composting food scraps indoors rather than outside. We found plans for a layered bin system on the internet and had fun constructing a home for our worms. The kids got to use the power drill, always a hit. We don't have very many worms yet but are hoping they'll reproduce well and by summer we'll be able to dump all our compostable food waste in our bins in the basement.

Erin and Sophie have been keeping very late hours, and this is starting to interfere with family things, so we've discussed shifting things back a little. They're making an effort. It's been hard to do our bedtime readalouds when Noah needs to hit the sack hours before the girls are ready to stop doing whatever they're involved in. And it's been a challenge getting Erin up in time to go places. So she's asked me to awaken her an hour earlier each morning over the next while, and she's going to try to go to bed a bit earlier.

Piano went very well this week. Erin is gobbling up challenging new Sonatina movements in a week or two all of a sudden. They're well-learned and pretty fluid, though not musically completely polished, in very short order. I think this must be due in part at least to the hours she's been spending lately just sitting at the piano playing through hours of easy pieces just for her own entertainment and relaxation. Both her sight-reading and her new-repertoire-learning have really jumped a few notches in the past month or two. Noah had a pretty good lesson too. He's handling the Grade 1 repertoire capably, which is a big jump in difficulty level since this fall. Violin isn't as much at the forefront lately. The balance shifts back and forth... I don't worry.

We've been playing Carcassonne, an interesting strategy game from Germany that I just picked up. It's medieval- and map-oriented and very flexible for imaginative play too. Using the proper rules and scorekeeping, it's a complex game for ages 10+. Without scorekeeping, or with various home-made co-operative rules, it's fun for younger kids. Sophie likes it. Fiona wants to eat the followers and chew on the map tiles, so that's a bit of an issue.

The watercolour paints are out this afternoon. Noah has done a painting of Poseidon. Erin is making a carefully-planned painting of an Egyptian city. Sophie did something bright and mostly non-representational. It's been a quiet day.

The rest of the week has included a visit from a "traveling mascot" from a friend of ours (we are journaling his stay with us and will pass him on to someone else), a swim at the hotsprings pool north of us, dentists' visits for the kids (no cavities, and always a fun experience for them... we have a great dentist), a special lunch out at the local café, some creative cooking, and the usual music, math and reading aloud. I'm trying to get some sewing done but Fiona is not co-operating. Life goes on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Potluck dinners and finding the middle ground

I had to work this morning and Chuck had an all-day meeting, so my mom stayed with the kids for the first time in months. Fiona was quite okay with her which was a pleasant surprise. When I got home I helped the kids get some lunch. Erin and Noah did violin and piano practising respectively and then it was time for them to head out to art class. Erin balked at first. She pulled out the familiar whine: "But I didn't get to do anything today." Meaning, all she'd done was play since she'd got up at the crack of 10 or whatever.

In the past I reacted to the "get to" part of that statement defensively, perceiving an accusation. I assumed she meant "I wasn't allowed to" or "you didn't provide me with the time or opportunity to." Erin has a dreadful tendency affix blame onto others for anything in her life that doesn't make her happy, so she probably did actually mean to imply that it was my fault, that I somehow prohibited her from doing anything worthwhile or memorable. But that's not actually what she says, and reframing this complaint, if not to her, at least in my own mind, has been helpful.

She, and the others too, often don't "get around to" doing the things they wish they would. They have a tendency to get locked into one particular activity and resist the transition to anything else. It can be K'nex, snowman-building, imaginative Playmobil play, quest games on the computer, acrobatics in the living room, a bath, you name it. Worthwhile stuff, to be sure. But they stay at it so long that they really do regret not fitting other stuff in their day. They get mad at themselves for not "remembering" to make cookies, which is what they call it if I ask them if they'd like to make cookies three times and they say "not now, later."

The ability to enjoyably pursue any activity for as long as it holds the kids' interest is really what drew me to unschooling in the first place. But, especially with Erin, probably because she's the oldest and the most ambitious at this point, I'm noticing that the tunnel vision she gets while engaged in an activity is a problem for her. I wonder whether she needs someone to help her disengage from time to time and maybe structure her life with a bit more formality. And so I wander back into the middle ground between top-down schooling and child-structured unschooling and take a look around for something that makes sense right now.

Someone on an e-mail list I'm on put forth the metaphor of the potluck dinner. "I'm not fond of potlucks. My kids never eat anything at a potluck, being far too busy doing other things. Once the potluck is over, they'll chime "What's for supper? I'm starved!" " This is my kids too, and I think the metaphor explains where I'm at right now with unschooling.

Sometimes simply "strewing their path" creates an immense, chaotic potluck dinner situation. There are so many possibilities and so much freedom that they don't eat and later wish they had. That's what today was for Erin.

I've got picky eaters for kids. What works best for family peace and balanced nutrition is to put a small selection of healthy food choices on the table at mealtime and let the kids load their own plates. Maybe I should be doing a little more of this when it comes to education with the kids, especially Erin. I don't mean sitting her down at the table and saying "okay, time for school; want to do math or grammar or spelling or handwriting?" I mean asking her if she'd like some help setting up some goals or guidelines for herself, some help structuring her days and sticking to the structure.

Today Fiona turned 1. She's got what we think is a hip inflammation. After learning to walk around Christmas she was walking everywhere, but then suddenly stopped 5 days ago. She wouldn't bear weight on her left leg and it was mighty sore if manipulated. We Xrayed her and the films looked fine (needed to rule out an occult fracture and developmental dysplasia of the hip), so we're assuming she'll be back on her feet in another few days. She's not in any pain when crawling or sitting, so we're happy to just watch for now. I still worry a bit; she's getting lots of hugs. She loves us to sing "Happy Birthday" to her, which we've been willing to do about 20 times already because she's doing the ASL sign for "more".

Tonight we'll help her open some simple gifts, eat some fruitcake, finish the practising, and hopefully have a relaxing pre-bedtime family time for a change. Noah's been asking for "happy time in front of the fire together before bed" but his physical energy level (and Erin's too) has been getting in the way. I'm tired and wanting to get to bed before they're ready to settle down, so I nag them into pyjamas and announce I'm too tired for anything other than a short story. Since I'm up at 7 and a couple of times through the night with Fiona, I need to head to bed before they do. We'll try again tonight.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


More brushes with the age- and ability-leveled world. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting stranger, more radical, less mainstream, while the rest of the world is busy becoming increasingly conformist. Some of the kids' unschooled friends, who seemed incredibly sheltered and naive two or three years ago are now jubilantly bouncing into tween-dom, complete with a burgeoning awareness of achievement milestones like grade levels and popular culture.

Tonight my kids have a friend staying overnight. She spent a lot of time explaining how great her competitive gymnastics program is. When Noah said "maybe when the weather is better we could do gymnastics outside together like we did last summer." And the friend replied (I kid you not, this is a direct quote) "Hmmm, well.... I'd be open to that I guess. I wonder how I could coach you on grass. Well, I guess I could try." Honestly! Eight months ago she and Noah and Erin were in the same program and all doing very well and loving practising handstands on the lawn together.

The questions of so many of the kids' friends have to do with sizing up other kids' rank in the pecking order:

What piece are you working on in piano? I'm going to be starting Grade 2 piano soon, my teacher says so. Do you know how to multiply yet? I know all my timestables. How long are the books you can read? I read one that was 200 pages. Yeah, well, but mine had really small words. And an advanced vocabulary. So who is your best friend? And your second best? Hmmm... she's my fourth-best. My second-best is so-and-so.

I guess I'm just surprised that this comparative orientation is so obvious even in the kids who always seemed so out-of-the-mainstream to me. We meet it at art class, at music recitals, at orchestra, on playdates.

Fortunately it just seems to roll off my kids' backs. I ask them about it later, and they don't even remember the comments or think them no big deal. So I guess it's my hangup.

We got our water back about five days ago. Hurrah! Life is back on an even keel.

We had a successful piano recital today. Erin and Noah played both violin and piano. Erin's violin piece got a special "whoop!" from the audience. Noah did a quite amazing thing and spoke aloud to announce his violin piece when his teacher forgot to do so. Clear, confident voice. He forgot to mention the composer, but this was a spur-of-the-moment thing, so I was really impressed anyway.

Noah and Sam connected again. They'd met at the Christmas piano party. Sam is a more recent piano beginner than Noah, having started this September (Noah last February) but they seem like two peas in a pod... both are very talented and serious pianists, verbally precocious, 7 years old and budding composers. And boys! Someday they'll be great duet partners, I'll bet. Apparently there's a boys' piano event coming up. Sam may or may not be there... his family will be trekking through Central America for three months this spring.

Tonight the kids listened to about two hours of East Indian folktales on audiotape. Erin did some math (multiplying decimals). Sophie blew me away with her math, spontaneously sitting down with her Miquon Orange book and working through one of the "putting it all together" pages without batting an eye. I thought she was still needing help verbalizing math problems to make sense of them, but she was managing 13+2-4 and (3x2)+(2x3) and 11x0 and 15-2 and (3x5)-5 with no help at all. And enjoying the challenge!

Noah declined to do any math today. He has been adding double-digit numbers in his head for a long time, and has reached the point in Singapore where the regrouping algorithms are taught. He's balking a little. He doesn't like the "cookbookish" approach. What he does with 78+17 is to add 8+17 and get 25 and then add that to 70. This bit about disciplining yourself to start with the ones and regroup anything over 9 into the tens column bothers him for some reason. He understands it but it seems like a "long boring" way to do the problems. He resists memorizing an algorithm with the same energy that Erin leaps to do so. Anyway, yesterday I finally showed him how learning the algorithm in its simple form (double-digit addition) would allow him to use it for complex problems that wouldn't be suitable for mental math. I showed him a four four-digit numbers in a stack and showed him how the algorithm let me find their sum. He liked that. Suddenly the algorithm seemed useful and he leapt right into problems of that level of difficulty. This kid definitely needs to see the big picture first, before dealing with the little details.

We started making our worm bin. This entailed measuring and drawing dots on the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin and then using the power drill to make about 200 1/4" holes in the bottom. The kids had fun with the power drill. One bin almost got done before Fiona started crying. This will be a stacked three-bin system for vermicomposting in the basement.

At bedtime I read a chapter from a pretty good, pretty funny book about composers, "Why Beethoven Threw the Stew..." We read that because we didn't want to subject the sleepover friend to chapters from the three novels we're in the midst of. This week's novels are "Inkheart" by Cornelia Funke, "The Monsters of Morley Manor" by Bruce Coville and "The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare. I'm totally enthralled by the first and last of these. We'd never read anything by Speare before, but "Sign of the Beaver" and "the Witch of Blackbird Pond" have jumped right to the top of my wishlist. (Of course my wish list is relatively uninfluential, as the kids choose the readalouds. But I can influence subtly!)

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Contagious Music Woes

We're still without a permanent water supply, though we did manage to pipe a couple of hundred gallons into our resevoir today. My mom (who is having a renovation done this week while she's away) has her water main back on again, so even if she doesn't have a toilet or shower for us to use, we can do laundry there. So things are looking up a bit.

We've discovered a simple pleasure: doing dishes after supper while Chuck reads aloud. My kids seem never to tire of water play, and washing dishes seems to count as a form of water play. Normally the dishes mostly go through the dishwasher, and Chuck or I wash a couple of the big pots. But this week we're conserving water. So in the afternoon I melt a couple of gallons of water from snow. After supper Sophie, Noah and Erin share the washing, drying and putting away, I carry Fiona and putter around cleaning and tidying tables and counters, and Chuck reads aloud to us from the new Cornelia Funke novel. We are all just loving this ritual.

Today the kids spent the bulk of their day with K'nex. About three hours in the morning and two or three in the afternoon. Lots of building, and then lots of imaginative play combining K'nex constructions with Playmobil characters. It went on forever. About half of what they make is from schematic instructions and about half is creative. Sophie does more free-form stuff than the older two, probably because the more complex schematics are still beyond her a bit. We have a motor kit and a solar kit, and combined it's a lot of K'nex. We've had most of it for 2 or 3 years and it's never been this popular. In the past one or two kids would play with it for an hour or two a few days in a row and then it would get ignored for a couple of months or more. But lately the stuff is very hot around here.

I've started making smoothies for lunch as often as I can. Before Christmas I bought an ancient VitaMix off eBay and gradually I've been getting more and more radical with what I put in the smoothies I serve to the kids. From frozen banana, milk and chocolate instant pudding mix, we're now doing a tutti-fruiti thing with rhubarb, berries, apples and some citrus fruits and today I sneaked a carrot and a beet in and no one complained. Erin's a very picky eater, so this is terrific. I managed to pull the kids away from the K'nex briefly with smoothie and cheese.

I spent some time at my mom's doing laundry. Chuck and I did some water-line work. I took down the Christmas tree finally. The kids watched two episodes of David Attenborough's "The Life of Mammals": "Chiselers" and "Meat-eaters".

Music was terrible today, which is one of the reasons I chose to write a blog entry. You get the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

Noah happily settled down to do some piano just before supper. After supper he went to finish it and had two major meltdowns over new pieces. He's at the same stage on the piano where Erin was afflicted by the same thing. The complexity of new pieces is increasing a lot, and he doesn't seem to access or trust his fairly decent note-reading skills in this context ... he just shuts down and gets upset. I need to be a little more pro-active at "chunking down" his new pieces so that he doesn't tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed. He's quite good at chunking down on his own when he's polishing up a previously-learned piece, so I think it'll come but he needs help now. But once he's melted down he really resists any of this sort of direction. Anyway, I helped him settle down and make some decent progress through his new pieces. But his fuse was already short, and when he went off to do violin, he didn't want any input from me, even though we'd both agreed his new piece needed a look-see from me badly. The best we could agree on was for me to watch and listen but not comment, reserving my suggestions and corrections for the start of tomorrow's practising. Okay. I listened, made note, and kept my mouth shut. He wasn't very happy, but when I left after hearing his new piece he decided to keep practising and did, it seems, some good work.

But this stuff is contagious. Erin started at piano and had a huge meltdown over her scales. She'd been asked to review all 12 melodic minor scales this week and to practice them upside down (which is really quite different for both the ear and the hands) and once she got into the first one with non-standard fingering she had a little trouble and as she repeated it, it got worse and worse as her frustration escalated and I could see the black train rolling into the station. She wouldn't let me leave, wanted my help, but covered her ears or said "you're rude!" every time I said anything. I suggested she just skip today's practising but she wouldn't agree. So I sat there, and she sneered at me and said "well, HELP okay?" and started pounding on the piano, two low notes together, about 100 pounds per minute. I sat there for a couple of minutes and then left for a time out for me. She carried on pounding the piano like a machine, the same two notes at 100/minute for almost 20 minutes, until her boredom outweighed her anger and then wandered off for her own time-out and eventually emerged chipper. Whew.... intense kid!

In the meantime I went off to remind Sophie to practice and that we were going to work together on some things. She said she didn't want to practice (first time she's ever said that!) and that I could give her violin away because she didn't want to play it any more (ditto). I told her it would be sad if she quit because she's put lots of work in and is playing very well, and that if she changed her mind she could let me know. In a few minutes she came out crying and said she'd changed her mind and wanted to start violin again tomorrow. I said that was fine and that if she felt like doing some playing on her own today that would be fine too. She did... she went off and played for quite a while in her bedroom.

Erin got out a piano practising board-game that she hadn't used in ages and spontaneously sat down at the piano and did all her practising except the scales. Then she went and did her violin without any reminders. Go figure.

So in the end everyone did all their practising. I can't believe it. Sort of reminds me of alcoholics going into recovery after "hitting bottom," LOL! I really expected all three kids to leave at least some of their practising today. What a nutty day.

Fiona will be a year old in a couple of weeks but has I think officially entered toddlerdom already. She's now walking most of the time and crawling only occasionally. It's been a change just in the past couple of days. Noah is about to lose his two front teeth. Erin turned 10 this week. Milestones, milestones.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Water troubles

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. First to January 3rd. Things were going well yesterday morning. We had plans for crafts and expeditions and social events. We wanted to meet my mom to go XC skiing. We got up, dressed, fed, bundled up, and set off. When we go to the trailhead near the lake it was way too windy. Windchill factor pushed the temperature way below the minus 13 Celsius we were dressed for. Noah had his hood, but had forgotten his hat. We drove home, got his hat, and set off for a different trail. By the time we got everyone out (the van hadn't really warmed up) Sophie was too cold from all the sitting around. She wanted to go home. I knew she just needed to get moving to warm up, but it wasn't to be. We went to my mom's place for hot chocolate.

Then we went home and had lunch. The kids did some imaginative play in the loft. Erin started work on yet another notebook of names and characters and an imaginary language. Noah and I tidied a bit. The kids did lots of playdough play. Then we started a major tidying/cleaning because we'd invited a friend of the kids' for a sleepover the next night. We phoned and made the driving/visiting arrangements for today.

For the previous couple of days we'd been flooding our ice rink. Our downstream neighbours had been having water supply problems, so we'd despaired of being able to flood the rink this winter. Then we were told they'd got a secondary line functioning and weren't relying on our overflow for their homes, so we started flooding. After 2 days (very slow flooding because we don't have much water inflow into our reservoir this winter) we were about halfway there. But then Ken from down the road dropped by yesterday afternoon and said their secondary line had quit functioning. So I shut off the tap and brought the hose in. Chuck checked our water inflow after supper ... very slow but still coming. I washed some diapers. Erin worked on planning our as-yet-imaginary future European vacation using atlas and some travel books.

Noah and Sophie did some math and practiced. Erin started her piano practising. We had supper. Erin finished her piano, did her violin and some math. We lost power and internet for a while. It came back on. We did the bedtime reading. We talked about doing some marbling on paper today.

This morning Noah got up early with me. He did piano practising and math and helped me do a bit of tidying. We used coins for place-value work with regrouping and he really enjoyed this, as he's recently become a fan of money. Fiona awoke. I did a bit of work on Erin's birthday gift (a custom-printed hand-bound journal with lock). She woke up so I tucked that away. Then the sleepover friend phoned to say she was feeling sick and they had no water, so they needed to stay home. Then Chuck phoned to say he'd checked our water on the way to work and it had stopped and our reservoir was only 2/3 full thanks to the load of diapers.


So today has been entirely focused on figuring out how to deal with the water situation. We need to bypass 350 feet of frozen pipe. Chuck is on call so it's hard for him to find the time and even if he finds it he can be called away at any moment. We have signs on the toilet and the faucets ("Think Water!", "Don't Flush!"). We talked about why spaghetti is wasteful of water but soup is not. Called the friend who runs the hardware store and put our name on a 300-foot coil of 1 1/4" PVC which we might be able to put in tomorrow. We talked about what mess-free, water-free crafts we could do.

It's really cold here today. About 0 Fahrenheit (minus 17 C). For us that's really cold and it's led to lots of physics-related conversation. I've lived colder places but our house and water supply are not really built for this temperature. We have large frost-cicles growing on the hinges of our front door. So we talked about the water-carrying capacity of air at different temperatures. We talked about the new low-e double-glazed windows we put in and how well they're working... our kitchen/dining area is actually habitable right now if you don't get too close to the front door. We talked about the drying and warping of the door that's causing the air leaks. We talked about possible ways to solve this problem. Settled on shoving towels all around the jamb for now. We worked out how many gallons of snow we'd have to melt to do a load of laundry (just hypothetically!). We discussed rate of flow vs. surface area considerations in choosing a diameter for a bypass water line that hopefully won't freeze (it'll all be above ground).

At least we can bathe at my mom's. At least I have half a pack of disposable diapers on hand. Small mercies worth being grateful for.

Sophie drew a neat picture this morning using the math set (protractor, compass, etc.). The kids have been cutting official-looking graphics out of discarded medical magazines and gluing them onto cardstock to make "credit cards" and "club cards" for their wallets. Erin is really into the idea of a European vacation and the possibility of actually seeing Venice and Rome and London.

I wish to announce a New Year's resolution. I've never made one before. I'm going to try to do 20 minutes of housekeeping every morning before going on the internet.

Yeah, it's not much, but this won't be easy for me. I am not by nature a productive morning person. I love sitting down at the computer with my coffee for a relaxing me-centred time but I don't like getting busy during my magical hour before the kids are up. But if I'm going to get a handle on the housework enough to keep me happy I need to change something, and I think I have to sacrifice some of that time. If I'm consistent, it will be over 2 extra hours of week devoted to tidying and laundry. It should make a difference.

Friday, January 02, 2004

The New Year begins

I got up abut the time Chuck went to work. Usually Erin hears Fiona wake up from her bedroom and brings her out to me. So this morning when I heard Fiona babble from the living room I assumed she and Erin were there. When Erin didn't respond, I went out. There was Fiona, alone. She'd woken up in "our" bed, crawled down to the end of the bedrail, slipped out, headed out of the room and down the hall, come down a flight of stairs, navigated another hallway, and come into the living room before announcing herself. Wow! Half and hour later after Erin and Sophie got up, she climbed the ladder to the top bunk. She's 11 months, just starting to walk. We have to start being a bit more vigilant about closing doors and keeping an eye on her.

I got a call from a friend saying that the kids' cross-country program ("Jackrabbits") was starting in an informal way, and that we should be at the golf course at 11 if we wanted to be involved. By this time it was 10, so we made porridge, got everyone dressed and equipment into the van and headed out. Sophie had a meltdown. I blew it because we were late and I got really angry. Turned out she had to pee and was feeling guilty that she hadn't peed when I'd encouraged everyone to do so before we left home. Erin and Noah joined the ski group. Sophie and Fiona and I stayed in the parking lot until it was empty and then did a long involved pee-thing, getting her naked in the snow, then dressed again... longjohns, sweats, snowpants, jacket, mitts, boots, the whole deal off and then on again.

I put Fiona in the backpack and Sophie and I skied off to find the group. They were having a ball, but Sophie didn't feel up to joining in, so she and I just skied around a little together for a while. I introduced her to a new friend, mom to a new local unschooling family of four kids, 2-11. In a village of 600, it's amazing to find another family like this. Sophie, Donna and I hung out and watched the rest of the kids. Noah loved downhilling and trying jumps like Nicholas, the 13yo coach and competitive racer. Erin had a blast skiing the flats as fast as she could with Annie, yet another local homeschooler who is just 7 but a phenomenal nordic racer (little sister to Nicholas).

After about 2 hours of skiing, Erin and Noah headed off to Annie & Nicholas' place for the afternoon. Sophie, Fiona and I went home. Fiona was exhausted and fell asleep on my shoulder, so I did some website work. Then Sophie and I got out some Sculpey clay and made some stuff.

We made hot chocolate and then drove out to pick up E & N. Also picked up Bob, one of the new unschooling kids in town, who is 11. Nice kid. Drove him home, necessitating a 20 minute detour. Noah told jokes for a while. Then we listened to some of "Mozart's Magical Voyage" or whatever it's called: the "Classical Kids" music&audio CD about Mozart. Then we were home.

At home I got supper ready. Erin, Noah and Sophie made some more Sculpey things. We discovered the kids had won their first eBay auction, for a CD-ROM they'd owned before, scratched and missed having. I beamed a Paypal payment and they coughed up $8.60 from their piggy bank. We ate supper.

Noah and Sophie played Age of Mythology on the computer. Fiona practiced walking. Noah and Sophie watched a bit of a show about free-diving. The kids ran around playing some silly hide-and-seek-rescue game. Erin and Noah looked through some Usborne "Great Search" books.

Nobody wanted to do their violin practising, but Erin had promised to do her violin every day until her birthday, so we did that together. Noah did a pretty good piano practising on his own. Erin just did some sight-reading, playing through selections from a book of "Best of Bach".

Everyone did some math. Noah did a Singapore exercise on double-digit subtraction, Erin one on rates (multiplication and division word problems), and Sophie a Miquon page combining addition and multiplication. She noticed that multiplication gives a larger answer than addition except when one of the numbers is 1 or 0.

Erin got out a book the medical clinic was given by a forestry firm about "Our Working Forests" and showed incredibly good critical thinking and skepticism. She kept saying sarcastically "They say that because a forest fire killed a lot of trees it's okay to kill more from logging. Like, a forest fire killed ten million trees, so hey, let's kill five million more!" She picked holes in a ton of the PR smear.

The kids helped Fiona practice walking. They're so excited, and sit around in different corners of the living room delightedly summoning her from one of them to the other. She loves it.

Pre-bedtime readalouds right now are:

"The Monsters of Morley Manor" by Bruce Coville (Sophie's pick)

"The Assasins of Rome" by Caroline Lawrence

"The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Funke

Generally we read two chapters of the first, one of the second and three or more of the last.