October 21, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Growing up, I didn't like school much. Which is too bad, I suppose, since I was so good at it. The academic part, I mean. (When I received a "B" in college, I believe the general response was, "Thank the Lord! She's human!") It was dull and slow most of the time; I read novels during spelling tests, I invented extra layers to projects to make them interesting and challenging, I demanded extreme levels of perfection of myself (a habit that's not serving me so well in the rest of life). I spent a lot of time hanging around my teachers. At home, I complained about the general immaturity of my peers. Fart jokes? In fifth grade? When will these people grow up?

Sending Caitlyn off to school was almost an exercise of faith. It's been 30 years; maybe we've updated how public schools teach children. She's her own person; maybe her experience will be different. But I had to trust that she and I would recognize when traditional schooling wasn't working and that we'd be able to act on that information when it arrived.

I suppose I needn't have worried. I think it was mid-March, at dinner, when Caitlyn announced that she'd like to homeschool. I'm paraphrasing her list of reasons here, but she had come up with more or less my old complaints:
  1. She didn't like the schedule, being constantly yanked off a project because the clock said it was time for something else. Nothing was ever finished the way she wanted it finished.
  2. Similarly, the proscribed order of topics meant that she wasn't free to explore something as deeply as she wanted or chase down an connection to an new topic.
  3. Everything moved so slowly. Material had to be explained and reexplained and then explained some more to be sure that every one of her 23 classmates understood it. This applied to everything, from facts and concepts to instructions.
  4. At least some of those classmates seemed to have a hard time respecting the school environment, preferring to disrupt the learning time of others out of their own boredom or immaturity.

We told her that she'd need to finish second grade, and finish like she cared about it, before she could "level up" to homeschooling for third grade.

Homeschooling has been part of our family culture from the beginning. Ian was a homeschooler. For years, we'd talked casually about homeschooling in the future, usually in context of middle school and the ridiculously early start times expected of eleven and twelve year olds. Time to walk the talk.

Fortunately, it isn't nearly the extreme fringe thing homeschooling used to be. Caitlyn already knew kids her age who were homeschooling. The school district has a resource department for homeschoolers. There are several part time programs around Seattle for "full time learners". There's a statewide advocacy organization, with a trade show. There are lots of resources online (the internet changes everything, again). Most days, I'm only mildly panicked about this project we've started.

The goal is to be sure that Caitlyn knows how to learn what she wants to learn. That's the critical skill. If you know how to learn, then you can pick up whatever you need to know when you need to know it. I'm insisting on building a strong foundation, which means Reading, Writing, Arithmetic. Everything else can come as interest and circumstance require. That's how it works IRL, anyway. I can't think of any time in my adult life, professional or otherwise, when I've needed to know the exact dates for William Wordsworth or Grover Cleveland.

So these days, it's all cats and dragons. Caitlyn's reading (and re-reading!) novels and, while the official biology may be somewhat off (eg, feral cats don't make clans), she's getting a nice dose of Narrative Structure and Story Arc, Drama, Politics, Sociology, Ecology, and Leadership.

Not bad for third grade.

October 15, 2013

Harvest Time: Onions

How long do red onions keep? I suppose I could have left them in the drawer in the fridge to find out, but then I wouldn't have this:
onion marmalade
Red Onion Marmalade! Actually, there's only a very tiny amount of citrus in this at all, so I'm not sure it's really a marmalade. But that's what the recipe called it, so there you have it. It's amazing with creamy, spreadable cheeses, layered on bread. I think we almost ate a whole jar in just one of our last farmers' market picnics. Slightly tangy, slightly oniony, definitely sweet. Even the kids ate it.
pickled onions

The adults made the picnic marmalade sharper by layering on a scoop of quick pickled onions. These are also tasty in sandwiches (ooh... hummus and pickled red onions on fresh pitas...) but you should eat the sandwich soon. Don't pack it - the whole thing gets uncomfortably soggy.

October 08, 2013

Harvest Time: Apples, part 2

The second picking from our apple tree did indeed fill the box again. As predicted, the apples were a bit bigger the second time, too.
What to do with them all? I mean, I've already done apple preserves and there's still plenty of applesauce in the pantry. I've already baked more apple things beyond what we can eat, although I suppose a couple more batches of apple muffins tossed in the freezer would have been ok.
apple juice
I borrowed a juicer (thanks, Erin!) and we drank lots of homegrown apple juice. While tasty, I don't think I'm going to pursue this option beyond the occasional season of desperation. I felt there was a lot of wasted fruit in making the juice (I think a traditional press would have less waste, but I'm not sure of that), and I think that would have bothered me if I wasn't just trying to Deal With Apples.
apple pie filling
My favorite solution: prepping for pie. I now have about three apple pies worth of fruit in my freezer. This may be more apple pie than we can eat, although I'm sure Caitlyn is more than willing to give it a try. Fie on Nutrition! Let's just all eat pie!

October 03, 2013

Dinnertime Inventions

Tonight at dinner, Caitlyn announced that's she half dragon. "And 1/4 and 3/4 cat."

After some back and forth ("You don't understand what I'm saying!" "That's right, maybe you could say it differently?"), she finally got a sticky note and drew a pie chart. We talked it through and when we were done, she said, "I'm one-half dragon, seven-sixteenth cats, and one-sixteenth human. Because otherwise, how would I be talking and eating with you?"

Of course.

She then decided that such a being was properly called a "drat." This felt weird to me - although I opted not to explain why - and I countered with "feligon". (Now that I think about it, I probably should have suggested "felico" to stay somewhat consistent with my vague ideas about Latin. Felis + Draco = Felico or Dralis?

Caitlyn drew a picture of a feligon, which apparently has two forms (half cat, half dragon AND a shapeshifter?). Both were winged quadrupeds, one with extra pointy teeth, one with jewels on the wings. I suppose if you're a winged quadruped, everything else is just gravy.

October 01, 2013

A Great Big Red Block

SQG Block for Sept.
This block is 21 inches square. That's big!

For Sew.Quilt.Give. last month, we were asked to make one block following these instructions from Dining Room Empire. If I ever do something like this block again, I'll do the math ahead of time and make a 4-patch out of it. Twenty-one inches is almost bigger than my cutting mat - this block may not be properly squared up as a result.

Everyone was supposed to make their block one color, out of lots of scraps. We'll see if my red selections turn out to be more saturated than everyone elses. If not, this quilt should be lots of fun when it's all together.

While I'm thinking of SQG quilts, I'll just say that I'm working on assembling the quilt top for my month (March ::hanging head::). Next time it's my turn, I'll need to sketch out my ideas on paper or pick a block that plays well with itself. I didn't mean this quilt to become such A Thing!