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I’ve been trying to find ways to get my kids to write.

I remember as an elementary-aged girl, I would write and write and write.  In second grade I got to write my first book report, in which I mostly rewrote the whole book.  I remember this clearly.  The book was, “A Pony for the Winter,” and my teacher had to take a moment to explain to me that I needed to work a little more on summarizing. When I was in sixth grade I would take my weekly vocabulary list and instead of writing one sentence with each vocabulary word, I would write entire stories that used all the vocabulary words.

McKinley and Renee are not that thrilled about writing.  I tried a few tricks and then just told them they needed to write a certain number of sentences per day.  Getting them to do this was difficult. And really, anything that’s difficult or stressful shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which is exactly the part of the brain we really want to nurture and enliven.  So today I tried something new.  I remembered this morning on my walk what my sister (who is an awesome teacher) told me some time ago about writing: sit down and write with the kids.

Our project this week was for them to pick their native bird  and write a story about that bird, writing a little bit each day.  Today is Wednesday, and things weren’t looking so good.  Renee had been writing these ridiculously short and simple sentences, and McKinley’s story revolved around a bird-hunting incident that incorporated a lot of onomatopoeiae (I had to poke around a bit to get the plural of onomatopoeia).

But today!  Oh, today!  We sat down and I decided I would write a story about my native bird, which was the white-breasted nuthatch (since McKinley picked my real favorite–the pileated woodpecker–before I got a chance).  I decided I would write three sentences each for  Monday, Tuesday, and today.  By the time I had finished writing, I had found a flock of white-breasted nuthatches (which, as far as I know, doesn’t really happen) all under a crowned nuthatch perched in the crown of an oak.  This definitely got their attention!  And I kept it by having them tell me their story.  I would write it down, and then they could copy it.  (They really didn’t like the copying idea, but I explained to them that doing things with our hands builds neural connections, and so they at least understood why they had to copy what I had written down).

Renee went next, gradually weaving together a story about a chipping sparrow, and by the time she had written three sentences for each day, she didn’t want to stop!   Then it was McKinley’s turn, and he, too, didn’t want to stop!  And of course, their sentences were elegantly structured, not simple sentences or attempts at making “BOOM!” a sentence.  Because we all know how to speak, and if we can just get our voice down on the paper, we are on our way into the world of writing.

At the end of it, McKinley said, “That was fun, Mom!  Let’s do it again tomorrow!”

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Kitchen chores have long been a source of bickering in our home.

Last week my friend Nicole began a series of cooking classes for a gang of homeschoolers at my house.  At the end of the class, after we had all eaten a delicious bowl of handmade pasta and sauce, it was time for clean-up.  On thin slips of paper she wrote out the assorted chores:  washing dishes, washing pots, drying and putting away, sweeping, wiping down the table and counters.  Then each kid drew a slip of paper.  There was no bickering, and the kitchen was clean in a swirl of towels and eleven to seven-year-olds.

“This is marvelous,” I thought,  “because no one can get angry about the chore they drew.  It’s a matter of chance, and all the chores are pretty evenly divided!”  I resolved to try it after dinner.

Well, that was nearly a week ago, but I finally got those slips of paper stashed in a hand-crafter McWhirter goblet, which I then placed in the center of the table.  Tonight after dinner everyone except the cook (me) drew a chore.  All the older kids (the workhorses) were delighted to have one simple chore to do, and the littles were eager to do their part.  Renee’s chore for tonight was  “Clean the Bathroom You Use,”  and up the stairs she trotted to my bathroom, proceeding to put it in fine form.

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And to top off the day of advancements is one that seems ridiculous!  I love my goats, but I hate to trim their hooves.   It is such a pain, and their hooves grow really fast.  But I noticed when the snow on the ground got rather gravelly, it also perfectly wore down their hooves.

So I have decided to start taking my goats on my walks.  One goat a day, in rotation.  Today was my first trial of my theory that walking on the road would wear down their hooves, and I was pleased to see that my theory was correct.  Now I just have to figure out the right amount of walks to trim foot growth.

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We’ve had three or four really deliciously warm days in a row.  Most of the snow is melted, and lots of rain has fallen, so the ground is really wet.  In the morning and in the afternoon a skim of fog rests just above the ground.  It is enchantingly beautiful.

Silly me, I had a camera on me and I didn’t even take a picture of it!


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