fresh mountain air

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Ps. Wren is wearing a sweater knit and gifted to me by Natural Earth Farm.  They make beautiful things and she has similar baby sweaters in her shop right now for such an affordable price, if you’re interested!  She gifted me some of her hand cream too and it is the nicest I have maybe ever used.  Also, wren’s hat was gifted to me by Ruby.  Knitters are such generous folk. 🙂

 

making progress

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.

our first week

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So many firsts this week I hardly know where to begin.  Even though our homeschool co-op began a couple of weeks ago, we had our official first week of school this week and it went surprisingly better than I had thought it would.  I spent a lot of time this summer dreading, moaning, and complaining to my husband about school starting up and all the new things I would be juggling this year versus last year, all my fears and worries and things I wasn’t sure how to approach.

The reality is that it is always better to just get going and work out the kinks as they come.  I always feel a big sense of relief once we just get started.  I’ve made some changes in my expectations and my managing of household duties that I think will really help our school year.  For instance, instead of trying to quickly get school done in the mornings so we have time before lunch to run to the store, library or park, I’m devoting all of our mornings to being home until lunch time.  If we finish earlier, great, but at least I need to remove that pressure from all of us.  Errands will have to be run in the afternoons after the little one’s naps (which is not my preference), and some errands just devoted to weekends or evenings.  Already I can tell that one little shift has made a big difference in my stress level with school–we have all morning to be home and to work.

This year, I feel like I jumped from homeschooling one child to homeschooling three.  Since Noah is now busy for a bit in the mornings with school, Philippa also wants to have “work” to do until her brother/compatriot is free to play.  (I’m a big fan of letting children be children for as long as possible and not beginning any formal educating until 5 or 6 at minimum, but this little precocious 3 year old just won’t be left out.)  I also know that if we don’t get started right away and I don’t capture their attention early in the day, they lose focus and motivation pretty quickly.  It just so happens that this week Wren has been unusually fussy and skipping naps like crazy, and I realized she was cutting her first two teeth.  Of course that would need to happen this week!  So on top of trying to figure out how to jump between two kids asking questions and Phoebe’s adjusting to not having mom’s full and undivided attention, a 3 year old who wants to be in on the game, there’s been a lot of time shushing a hysterical overtired baby.  However, with all that said, it really went pretty well.  I feel more calm and relaxed, I have a better understanding of how to approach teaching phoebe (with some insights that we received from the state-required testing she did over the summer), and I’m learning that we have more space and time to experiment, stretch, and savor than I think we do.  It’s funny, teaching kindergarten to another child, chanting the “five vowels” poem with another little one and remembering how far we’ve come, Phoebe and I, since then.  So I’m telling myself to slow down, to enjoy these precious days because they will never come again.

The work, the planning, the weight of knowing their education is on my shoulders–it is the part of homeschooling that I like the least, but in reality, I so treasure and love this work.  I can’t believe we get to do this, and I’m so thankful.  So very thankful.  We may barely be able to pay the bills, but it is worth it to have this time with them during these fleeting years.  And God is faithful!  He always provides.

We are continuing to make some changes to our little school room, some improvements.  I am working to keep us more settled in that room as we work versus spreading out all over the house (as we used to last year).  It is helping as well!  Brandon has been building me a nice big chalkboard because I simply can’t do without it any more, as well as a “floating” sort of desk for Phoebe.  I’ll share some photos of them once we’re done.  Weekends are everything–so much that has to be packed into those two precious days!  Slowly we are getting little house projects done.

In other news, Wren has moved into her big-girl crib in Noah’s room and also started her first solids this week.  She isn’t terribly productive or interested in eating yet, but she is curious and feels very grown up to be eating like the big kids do.  She is really changing and growing so quickly and I did cry a little when I saw those two bottom teeth poking through her little gums.  I remember how it felt like it took FOREVER for Phoebe to turn six months old, eat solids, begin teething.  I couldn’t wait for her to move onto the next thing!  Now, I just want to slow it all down.  It seriously feels like we just brought Wren home from the hospital and already she is beginning the first real stages of growing up and growing independent.  Of course, it’s all good but you parents know what I mean–these are bittersweet changes.

Crunchy leaves are beginning to accumulate in our yard bringing the earliest feeling of fall, even though September in our neck of the woods can be quite humid and sweltering so I keep telling myself the worst of summer’s heat isn’t behind us yet.  Those fall winds are almost here and then with all the busy activities of October (my favorite month!) and the birthdays and holidays of November/December, it will be New Year before we know it.

wild blueberries

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Come August, the blueberries ripen up in the cool mountain air. I had planned to officially begin our school year this week, but decided instead to get a few more things ready before jumping in.  It would be better for me to begin peacefully rather than frenetically, although there’s a measure of feeling unprepared that will likely always accompany homeschooling (for me at least).  Instead of beginning our usual school day, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the berries are abundant this time of year.  I still called it our first day of school, and it was a happy way to begin for us all, though Noah keeps asking to begin the work of letters and numbers.

Of course, as we got going it began to drizzle and the parkway was foggy most of the drive but everyone wanted to keep going so we did.  (I had planned to bring my regular camera along but because of the rain I just used my phone, so pardon the different quality of photo.)  Wren doesn’t sleep well if we aren’t home, rarely sleeping in the car and too curious about what is going on around her if we are out and about.  She was up way past her usual morning nap time and was very fussy when we began hiking and picking.  She also doesn’t love the ergo, but we carried on.  Finally, she fell asleep in the ergo and I was able to get a little more picking accomplished.  The kids did a good job picking but of course they didn’t gather very much, phoebe spilling most of her basket of berries after stumbling at some point.  Still we came home with about a half gallon and I would love to go back just with Brandon and pick as much as we can to freeze for the winter.  There isn’t a better spot to get organic, wild fresh blueberries and best of all, they are free!  It just requires time and work. 🙂

While we all kept our eyes and ears open for bears which definitely frequent that area, we only saw a brown snake which was sizable but didn’t look venomous.  I’m guessing it was some sort of water moccasin but we steered clear of it just the same.  It was a great teaching opportunity with the kids, though.

The children requested blueberry pancakes the next morning, and we read Blueberries for Sal, one of my favorite books from childhood.  The rest of the berries I’ve tucked into the freezer for a crisp or muffins, or to have over homemade ice cream.  Phoebe kept exclaiming how she felt like Laura Ingalls, and I felt a bit like Sal’s mother trying to preserve a bit of summer’s glory for cold winter days sure to come soon.

yarn along

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Still knitting on wren’s like sleeves top here and there between working on my campside shawl and a test knit hat for noah.  I’ve been having some pain in my wrist and elbow, so I’ve slowed a bit to rest and not overdo it.

Picked up a few books from the library, Homeschooling with the Brain in Mind and Play the Forest School Way.  You can tell what I have on my mind!  Play the Forest School Way is one I wanted to look through before I buy it and I do like what it offers.

Joining with Nicole for this week’s Crafting On.
Affiliate links included.

home and away

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“The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, ‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.’

‘That is because you have no brains,’ answered the girl.  ‘No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful.  There is no place like home.'”

-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In a recent blog post I shared all about planting our garden, only to discover on this past Saturday morning that the bulk of what we had planted had been eaten by a family of groundhogs.  Our entire day Saturday was spent rectifying the situation, digging a 1 ft deep trench around the garden and putting up fencing.  It was an all-day slog, half of it done in pouring rain and in between nursing and napping babies and feeding children.  It was a ton of hard work and come Sunday, I just wanted to get out of the house.  It can be a point of tension for Brandon and I sometimes on the weekends–he, working outside of the home and eager to be home and rest and work on projects here.  I, working inside the home all week, eager to get out on the weekends and be refreshed elsewhere.  On Sunday he agreed to drive up to a favorite spot of mine on the parkway for a hike and picnic.  No sooner had we hiked to the top of the ridge and he took a few photos for me of my finished Timber cardigan, when the skies opened up and began pouring on us again.  We got back to the car muddy and soaked (again) and ended up eating our picnic in the car at a pretty overlook.  It was fun and refreshing.  But still, when it was all said and done everyone was eager to go home and get cleaned up.

It’s funny how our ordinary days can feel so gray and blah sometimes and we are eager for more beautiful country, but in the end there really is no place like home.  In the end most of our lives are lived in the ordinary moments, and it’s these I’m convinced we’ll look back on with the most fondness.  All the glory we didn’t realize was such until later. I think that’s why I teared up when I read that quote from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz while reading to the children.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t doing enough, sometimes I feel like I’m not giving them enough, like I’m not enough.  Like these days are too gray and dreary for them compared to all the fancy and exciting things other families are able to do for their children.  I’m hoping that this proves true–that there’s no place like our home for them, our simple ordinary growing-up-together years.

We are wrapping up our final official day of school TODAY (!!!) and with tomorrow’s fresh new month begins our “summer break.”  Now, of course, I don’t plan to quit all things educational, but our schooling will look less like ploughing through the necessities and more like soaking in our curiosities.  I hope to do lots of reading on a blanket in the yard, lots of adventures and hikes and exploring.  Learning along the way, delving deep into whatever strikes our fancy.  Making time for crafts and fun, garden discoveries and kitchen experiments, field trips and camping.  Sadly, these are the things we have so little time for during ordinary school days.  I read a comment by a fellow homeschooling mom recently who said they don’t take breaks for summer because schooling is their way of life and they don’t feel the need to take a break from it.  I’m trying not to feel “less than” upon reading that.  The reality is, the last couple of months have been quite a challenge with Phoebe and getting our work done and she and I both need a break.  I don’t think a break or a shift into more passive learning is a bad thing or gives schooling a negative connotation.  The reality is, learning is hard work sometimes, and taking a break can be refreshing.  Just like escaping to the mountains for a rainy hike makes coming home all the sweeter.  I so want to recapture for her (and I!) the joy of learning and discovery and remind her that learning is a part of every facet of daily life.  But at 7 years old, I don’t feel the need to constantly call everything we do “school.”  I believe that giving the children a wealth and breadth of experience and information will enrich their minds and souls.  I still think they need long stretches of play, free time, time to explore, imagine, and discover on their own.  What better time than summer for such things?  So yes, we will keep practicing flashcards and we’ll keep reading books together, but mostly we are hoping for some fun and some adventures.

yarn along

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My husband and I were away this past weekend on a small trip to a cabin nearby to celebrate our anniversary (I hope to share more about it in a post later this week).  I took along a few projects, but worked only on my timber cardigan.  Sadly, I really didn’t knit as much as I planned to, with a baby in arms often and just spending time talking with Brandon and resting, too.  I did basically knit one sleeve of the cardigan and hope to finish the second one up this week maybe.  Then it’s just knitting the pockets and it’s done!  I know its nearly summer and we have already had a good bit of hot, humid days.  We often go up on the blue ridge parkway in the warmer months for hikes and picnics and usually its a lot chillier up there, so I plan to wear it as soon as I need a warm layer!  It fits a little snug considering I began it before I was pregnant and so it will fit better after I get back to my normal size, but it still fits.  I put my arm in the finished sleeve last night and it’s the first time I’ve been wrapped up in Brooklyn Tweed yarn.  I’m sold for life.  It is so incredibly cozy.  How can it be so rustic and so comfortable at the same time?  I love it.

I’ve been reading Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie (affiliate link) and enjoying it so far.  Her writing style is engaging, and after hitting some real walls with Phoebe in school this year I feel like I need some helps and was drawn to this book being its about a mother and daughter relationship.  Being that God has seen fit to entrust me with three girls, I find I’m drawn often to things about the mother/daughter relationship, really hoping to do this well and feeling often like I’m not.  Goodness, parenting is hard.  Homeschooling is hard!  Thank goodness for knitting and the bright spot it is–a productive distraction.  Here’s a better picture of the cardigan so far.

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Linking up with Nicole of Frontier Dreams.