The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster (our review)

We discovered this one about a year ago when we were looking for more books by author/illustrator Chris Raschka, who did such a fabulous job with Charlie Parker Plays Bee Bop. Even better, we found this great pairing between Raschka and Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth. Instant winner. It is a story told by little girl about the time she spends with her grandparents. It is touching and warm, with great details to catch the child's heart and imagination and just enough witty humor and  to make it enjoyable for the parent who will have to read and reread it again and again (Tyrannosaurus Rex? He's extinct, so he doesn't come around very often). The illustrations are also warm and have a messy and colorful quality that suggest a child's artwork.

Book review, 10/23/09: The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster

Cortney: what's your favorite part in the book?

Calvin: the pizza delivery guy!

Cortney: oh yes, I like the Queen of England, too.

Calvin: yeah. And O Susannah. And there's a tiger in the garden, but really... it isn't.

(we won't always have video to go with these, but since we had this clip we took along with Mrs. O'Leary last week, I thought we'd use it.)


Confidence, comfort, and communication

"What about socialization?"

If you are a homeschooler you are familiar with this question. It's the first doubtful question I get whenever I mention to anyone that we are homeschooling.

"Aren't you worried that he won't learn how to interact with other kids?" they all ask.


That, of course, is the short answer to the question, and usually it's a lot easier to just leave it at that, but the thing is, socialization, the way most people mean it, is one of the things we are trying to avoid by not getting our child a conventional schoolroom education. There are many, many aspects to the "socialization debate" and by no means do I want to tackle all of them in a single blog post (or maybe even at all), but the issue is worth addressing. For one, we do not wish for our son to learn that "socialization" occurs only with others of his same age, and only under the careful policing of a teacher figure. This is an artificial reality, one that fosters an intrinsic mistrust of those outside a child's own age range, especially adults. The real world will not find our children working only with others their age, even in adulthood, and it will require that they be confident and comfortable in communicating with others, regardless of their particular cohort. A homeschooling environment will allow us to focus on teaching Calvin the things we value about socialization, and socializing, especially about respecting himself and others, including the older age range, from whom he can learn so much.

A crew has been working on our neighborhood streets for some time now, trucks coming and going and a myriad of strange construction equipment doing strange construction equipment things. Today we found them right outside our front door. The beautiful weather had drawn us outside and deposited us on the front porch, journals in hand, to talk about the strange construction things happening at such a delightful proximity, when Calvin requested a conference with the men who were working.

"Can we go ask them if they are going to use that roller" he asks, pointing to the rather intimidating, if small, steam roller parked right in front of our home.

"I think so," I answer, and add "and you should think of some other questions you want to ask them as well."

This ease with which he jumped at the opportunity to interact with another person and turn it into a learning situation is something that we've been working toward for some time now. I think the actualization of that goal snuck up on me over time, another ounce of comfort added with each successful connection made, to where we've reached the point when he is not only willing to make, but likely to suggest this contact. Late this summer our big victory was his willingness to ask the questions, but I was still coaching him in forming them. Today he needed no help, no prodding—he came up with three questions of his own, and we walked over to someone who appeared to be a foreman and, after saying "excuse me, do you have a minute?" asked him 1) "why are you fixing only parts of the under-street?", 2) "what is the black stuff they are putting in the holes", and 3) "are you going to use that big roller?" with no sign of discomfort or shyness, but with a marked amount of that toddler-studdering that suggests a mind working faster than the mouth can keep up. In our quest to reach this point we have approached many a worker on a break from a variety of jobs, and I have yet to meet one who has not shown at least some joy at being asked about their work. Most of them, in fact, show a large amount of delight at being noticed, and seem to revel in sharing their thoughts with my well-spoken little man.

This is the socialization that we want our son to learn, through experience.


Cooking together

I think cooking together is going to be my favorite homeschooling activity. It is an incredibly rich learning experience! On Mondays we sit together and plan our recipes for the week based on what ingredients we will have available, and what suits our fancy while meeting our nutritional needs, then we make a shopping list and go to the store, where we compare prices, read labels on packaging, and seek out the ripest, prettiest foods. On the nights that we cook (as opposed to making use of leftovers) we read the recipe, collect our ingredients, count and measure everything we need, and time the cooking. During the summer months an additional component, of course, is growing the food right in our own garden—nurturing it from a seedling or young plant, caring for it as it grows, then harvesting the fruits of our labor. So far our garden education as been pretty limited to our own back yard, but if we join a CSA next year we will be able to expand our horizons immeasurably when we go to pick up our food, and possibly help with the growing of it.

Last week, as we watched and felt the growing exuberance of fall on those chilly fall evenings and mornings, we decided that the plethora of green tomatoes as yet ornamenting our backyard garden were not going to have a chance to redden. It seemed sad at first—we can only eat just so many fried green tomatoes, after all—so Calvin and I did an internet search for ideas on using the leftovers. Canning green tomato salsa! We chose a recipe, listed the ingredients we needed from the store—just bottled lemon juice (to assure a certain level of acidity) and jalapenos, and the rest of the foods (tomatoes, green peppers, and onions) came from our own garden. Since we ran out of time to actually cook and can earlier in the day, it became a whole family activity when we tackled the job after dinner. Calvin washed while Jon and I chopped, and chopped, and made faces out of the food, and chopped. When Calvin ran out of things to wash he scooped our choppings into a glass 2-cup measure, then counted the cups adding up as he poured them into our pot (honestly I don't remember how many cups we had, but it was a lot). He helped measure and count lemon juice, too, and then watched as it simmered for thirty minutes, got scooped into sterilize cans, then boiled in a water bath canner (read: stock pot) for another thirty. There was just a little bit left after all the cans were full, so we tried our work, of course. Disappointingly, we were not particularly pleased with the recipe that we chose—too much lemon juice—but the experience was fun, and even if it's not chip dipping salsa, I'm sure we can find a way to use it while we're cooking this winter!


Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, by MaryAnne Hoberman (our review)

We read this book for the first time after we checked it out from the Ypsi Township library, which means it was about two years ago. It was an instant hit. Calvin still asks to check this book out from the library every chance he gets. We could break down and buy it for him, but it's been such a great lesson in library etiquette ("we must return it so that other kids can enjoy it, and if it is still here in two weeks, we can check it out again") that we are reluctant to do so. He'll probably get it for Christmas.

Since it's clearly his favorite, I thought this was a great place to start with the book reviews.

Book Review, 10/6: Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, by MaryAnne Hoberman

Cortney: So, what do you like about this book?

Calvin: I love the pretty pages

Cortney: And what's your favorite part?

Calvin: The smoke happening, when the smoke comes out, and it's a song. Can we read it again?

Cortney: But that would be the tenth time this morning! (okay, I wouldn't really say that, but I might suggest something a llittle more inspiring, like maybe some Robert Frost...or if he's really after a book about cows, how about some Thomas Hardy?).
There's really nothing remarkable about this book, but at least it's a song, so reading it over and over again isn't as bad as some others. That being said, every time I read it I feel sorry for the O'Learys, who must have had a rough time of it after a newspaper reporter, eager for readers, blamed the great fire of 1871 on their poor old cow and didn't retract that statement or admit to the slander until over twenty years later. It is a fun song, though.


Welcome to Live and Learn

Learning, like the beating of our hearts, continues throughout the whole of our lives, often going largely unnoticed. In our house, we have started to take a real interest in noticing the learning process. After Calvin was born we found ourselves, time and again, asking questions about learning and development. The answers to those questions have led us to embark on a new journey of learning and growing—the journey of homeschooling—and this part of the blog will be a place for us to talk about that journey and other things development or learning related. From time to time we'll talk about our choice and our reasons for making it. We'll mostly talk about activities we do, books we read, places we visit, and sometimes products we use. You'll be seeing some of Calvin's work, as well, starting with his own book reviews every week or so. We have no idea where this journey is going to take us, but we're excited to discover what lays ahead and are eager to share it with our family and friends. We hope you will join us for the trip.

Page 1 ... 51 52 53 54 55