I remember when I was in third grade. Somehow, I had convinced my mother – who then had to convince my penny-pinching Irish father – that I wanted needed the complete collection of Little House on the Prairie Books. I grew up in Wisconsin. Every day, after school, I ran home from the bus stop to watch Little House on the Prairie from 4pm – 5pm on channel 9. Ten miles from my home, we had our own little pioneer village. I was at one with Half Pint. My mother purchased the books for me, and boy, was I proud of them! SO proud, in fact, that the very next day I took them to school for show and tell. Unfortunately, on my way to show and on my way to tell, I fell down in a snow bank and the paperback copies of the books were destroyed. I was heartbroken, ashamed, and afraid to tell my mother. I told her, she assured me it was ok, but I didn’t ask for anymore books after that, afraid the same thing would happen again.
Now that my daughter is eight, I am forcing introducing her to Half Pint, Mary, and Baby Carrie. Reading the Little House series is apart of the curriculum that I have created for her. I think it teaches her a lot of important things, as well as teaching her about the area that her Mama comes from. This has an added appeal to her, as I she received the first season of the television show on DVD as a Christmas gift and we do have a lot of fun snuggling up with one another in my room and watching it while my husband productively spends his time playing Resident Evil or some other zombie killing game in the living room.
Our vocabulary for the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, is as follows:
We use this words as our spelling words and as practice in using reference books.
We have been making our bread from scratch, so she gets a bit of an idea of what goes into that. We also made two batches of Apple Cinn. jelly. Next week we are making cheese!
Easy White Cheese
Great for breading and frying, stir-frying with vegetables, or by itself, this mild cheese will keep refrigerated for one week.
1 gallon milk
2 T. lemon juice
3 T. white vinegar
Pour milk into a large enamel pot. Slowly bring the temperature up to 180F. This may take an hour. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, and hold the temperature at 180F for four minutes. Combine vinegar and lemon juice and add to the milk, stirring gently, until the curds separate form the whey. Line a colander with cheesecloth, and pour the contents of the pot. Tie the corners of the cheescloth together to form a bag and let it hang to drain for three hours. The cheese will be solid when its ready. Wrap and refrigerate. Yield: one pound. Variation: Herbed Easy White Cheese — Add 1� teaspoon dried chives and � teaspoon dillweed to the curds before hanging.
And we are making maps of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Of course a Little House in the Big Woods unit would not be complete without making a handkerchief doll.
And our poem for memorization is :
By Judie Fordham
Judie Fordham, “Pioneer Dolls,” Friend, July 1992, 27
When pioneer children were crossing the plains,
They didn’t have cars, airplanes, or trains.
They walked beside wagons loaded clear to the top
With food, bedding, and seeds for the next season’s crop.
There just wasn’t room for a toy or a doll—
The wagons were filled with all they could haul.
So Papa’s handkerchief became a new toy,
A cherished soft doll that brought lots of joy.
This cute little doll loves to play or just sleep.
She’ll brush away tears if ever you weep.
So keep her close by—she’s easy to hold—
And pretend you’re a pioneer child of old.
Our big project, though, is to make a log cabin and all of the furnishings inside. The Dollar Tree has craft sticks for $1.00 and although it is a long way from actual logs, that is going to be the walls to our cabin. We are going to gather small rocks and clay for the fireplace.
We had a pretty earth-shattering experience in our household since the last time I posted.
No one died. (Knock on wood)
We fought minor Post-Mardi Gras Krud without any trips to the doctor. (Thank God!)
I didn’t get asked to sing for The Runaways reunion tour (though I totally would, if anyone out there is listening, and maybe y’all should reunite – at least for one show since I was too young to ever see you live)
Cleo got her library card.
Oh, I know, it’s just a library card, but not in this house and not to Cleo. No, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, I’m-the-luckiest-girl-in-the-world, I-need-you-to-buy-me-a-wallet-now moments.
We dressed and got ready to go to the Latter Library sale as we do most Saturdays. I had been doing some research on books I wanted Cleo to read along with her homeschool curriculum. We are tackling the Little House on the Prairie series as apart of school, and I wanted her to see some authentic Pioneer Days stuff and get some pioneer-ish recipes for us to make so she can appreciate how hard those that came way before us had to work and could see exactly how far we have come (whether good or bad I leave that for you to ponder) and I thought it would be a good time to go into the library. I have not seen Cleo light up like this since she caught her shoe at the Muses parade during Mardi Gras. And then when she got Tumbles the dog at Christmas. For Cleo, this was a serious deal.
“Um, excuse me, Ma’am,” Cleo said in her little voice – the one she uses when she is trying to be super polite, but talking to a stranger who has something she wants. I think she was afraid that they would turn her down if she used her big voice.
“Yes, baby, what can I do for you?” the boisterous librarian said behind her librarian desk.
“I would like a library card, please! How many of my coins do you need?”
“I don’t need any of your monies, baby, all you need to do is apply for one.”
“Like you apply for a job?” Cleo asked.
So, Papa Bear took care of applying for Cleo’s library card and I took care of making sure Papa Bear had all of Cleo’s information right, not trusting him to because he is, after all, a boy and boys aren’t always that great when it comes to important things like birthdates. (I assure you there is no bitterness or glares in that statement)
And off we went. We went to the children’s section and by the time we and worked our way down the first row, Cleo had nearly fourteen books that “looked interesting” or “could probably teach her a thing or two.” I sat her down and explained that we didn’t have to get all of them at one time, that we could find the ones we need and return them to the library near our home, but that simply wouldn’t do. The library by our home didn’t use to be a mansion and she HAS to go to the Latter Library because it WAS a mansion. More important, though, is it has a carriage house and she just KNOWS that the horses that used to live there had to be incredible horses so we need to there to HONOR the horses majesty. Yes, she said the word majesty and the emphasis was hers.
Needless to say, after she had the library card in her hand, she was happy.
“Mom, we can go to the library every week BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
“Mom, we should go shopping. I need a wallet BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
“Mom, I don’t need you to teach me anymore. I can teach myself BECAUSE I HAVE MY OWN LIBRARY CARD!”
Somewhere, we lose that as adults – the need for only the simple things and the simple things meaning the most. It is like a sweater that we outgrow and we throw away. In thinking about it, it made me a bit sad, the fact that at one time I used to appreciate every single little thing so much and now, well, I’ve been having a case of the grumpies lately – a combination of a lot of things- and have felt so…unhappy.
I decided to try to see the world through the eyes of Cleo, a tough cookie who has been through her own hard times that some cannot even imagine, and try to see how much power is there in the little things. I’m trying…. I’m trying….
You know what I think is fantastic? I think that it is fantastic that for social studies this week, we can do a week worth of lessons on Mardi Gras. I think it is even more fantastic that going to parades tonight, MY FIRST EVER, serves as a field trip for Social Studies. We have learned the history of Mardi Gras so far this week, along with traditions, symbols, and vocabulary. We will be making King Cakes and shoe box floats. And yesterday we went and got our costumes for Mardi Gras Day! Well, Cleo and I did. My husband couldn’t find a masculine plain white mask. He won’t tell me whether he is going as Jason or Mike Myers (am not a horror girl so I have no clue who anyone is except Freddy Kruger), a mime, or some guy wearing a white mask 🙂
It is amazing to me the difference that I am seeing in my daughter. She is now sleeping through the night. She is smiling and laughing more. It is like all of her worries have been lifted off of her and she is a different person. Now, I realize I should have known this was going to happen as she did say going to that school was like being a paper back and having all of the air smashed out of it, but I didn’t realize, really, how deeply this was affecting her. I am really happy for her.
One of the things that I find absolutely interesting, however, is to see that she was getting A’s in math, but she is not at a third grade math level. What I find even more interesting, however is that some of the concepts that she should have learned last year in 2nd grade, where she also earned As, are concepts that she struggles with to fully understand. I find this really disheartening. Really, really disheartening.
So, back to basics we go, because I want her to understand these concepts so she can understand OTHER concepts. It’s important, even when she rolls her eyes at me and asks why in the world she has to review the stuff she already knows.
We went as far back as to telling time. She likes to do the digital thing, and now I know why, because she never fully grasped the telling of time. The concepts get jumbled in her head. I can appreciate this, I am 32 and cannot tell my left hand from my right. It’s the little quirks that make us, right? BUT, telling time is definitely essential because not everywhere she goes will there be a digital clock. Everywhere I go, however, I can lift my hand and find which side makes the L 🙂
Here are two poems that I had Cleo write down:
The Clock Poem
I’m in the clock crew and I’m okay!
I tick all night and I tick all day.
I’ve got two hands, I’m having a ball,
Because I’ve got no arms at all!
My big hand can move sixty minutes in one hour,
I’m the one with the strength and power.
My small hand isn’t quite as fast.
If they were in a race, it would come last!
It takes so long just to get around (12 hours you know),
It’s careful, small, and slow.
Now meet my friends that help me tick-tock,
Half past, quarter past, quarter to and o’clock.
(to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”)
The hands on the clock go round and round,
Round and round, round and round.
The hands on the clock go round and round.
To tell us the time.
The short hand on the clock
Goes from number to number,
Number to number, number to number.
The short hand on the clock
Goes from number to number.
To tell us the time.
The long hand on the clock
Goes around by fives,
Around by fives, around by fives.
The long hand on the clock
Goes around by fives.
To tell us the minutes.
Writing these down seemed to do the trick for her!
I am sending off my application for a homeschooling group in the area. They do a lot of wonderful things and really provide an outstanding social environment for the children. Cleo is an old woman in a child’s body. She has been through a lot of rough stuff. I want her to have kids to just be kids with, no matter the age. She needs to learn to like to get dirty and play in the mud and have fun! So that is the next challenge I am tackling.
All in all, though, the decision to homeschool has been a good one. We are all much more relaxed – Cleo not suffering from being the odd white girl out and some of the harassment that goes with that, me not worrying about Cleo all of the time.
I’m Catholic, not quite non-practicing, not quite practicing. I have issues with some of the doctrine of the Catholic church and it has been quite some time since I have attended mass, though I have sought counsel with a priest when I was facing one of my more difficult times in life. My daughter has religious education free of dogma and I don’t believe that I NEED to gather with a bunch of people of my same faith in order to have a relationship with God.
Another thing that I’m not is an uber-conservative. I am pretty liberal, actually, empathetic perhaps. I don’t really subscribe to one political ideology and have voted both conservative and liberal, but I have no real ties within the religious right that guide me in my decision making process. I don’t agree with the two party system, nor do I agree with bailing out for the sake of bailing out, or voting based on what the church tells you to. That’s just me. Life isn’t black and white, and I tend to live in the gray.
After much thought, I have decided that I am going to homeschool my daughter. There, I said it out loud to someone other than my friends, so now it is real. Why did I bring up my religious and political beliefs? Because I didn’t want the basis of my decision to be lost on the stereotype that tends to follow homeschooled parents around: ultra-conservative and very religious. My decision is based upon the fact that: 1. New Orleans public school system is a disaster 2. More specifically, the Recovery School District is a disaster 3. With the exception of a handful of schools, the schools are a disaster 4. I value my daughter’s education.
Somewhere between the pro and the anti propaganda lies the truth about homeschooling. I’m a middle ground kind of girl – see religious and political beliefs – so I choose to take that as I go into this venture. It isn’t something I went into lightly. I did my research. I compared teaching models and curriculum. I spoke with people who had both positive and negative experiences homeschooling. And I weighed the pros and cons of keeping her in the particular school she was attending while in the Recovery School District, and the pros of homeschooling her far outweighed the pros of not.
There are some things that I am still researching and a few people I plan on contacting about their experiences and recommendations, but to homeschool is the final decision made at the end of the day. I do wonder, though, how many have chosen this option (if it is even an option with the fact that so many families need two incomes to survive) because the schools lack a lot of things down here, the good ones are impossible to get into and waiting lisst extend out what seems endlessly, and private school simply is not an option for them?
Another point of interest, at least to me, is that back in the small area in Wisconsin I spent most of my life, many people I went to school with have opted to homeschool their children and the education system doesn’t face nearly as many challenges as ours in New Orleans. Are more people simply deciding to take control of their children’s education?
I have decided to create another blog, though, to chronicle my adventures in homeschooling. Mostly as a reference clearinghouse for myself, but to share my struggle with the decision and the steps I have taken. I’m not only a list maker, but I’m a chronicler too. 🙂