Somewhere, in the middle of February usually, I get discouraged with homeschooling. I want to stay in bed. I don’t want to send my kids to school, necessarily, but it would be nice to return to Christmas routines without the holiday part, when we had no schedule but played games and read a lot of books. Intellectually, I acknowledge that my funk is easily due to the weather, but each spring the first days of sunshine and daffodils surprise me.
After a picnic lunch today at a nearby park, G came home and instead of finishing up the last of his school work, decided to tack on an extra activity with some birding and journaling in our backyard…on top of our grill. It’s not the location I personally would have chosen, but he certainly looks comfortable, doesn’t he?
I think we will make it to the end of the school year.
During our “together time” today we read this poem. After running around under bright blue sky, over squishy grass and with the birds all around us, it seemed like a great choice. We read it together from the computer screen so we could all see the poem as well as hear it. A and S were amazed more by the (lack of) structure to the poem, and the “created” vocabulary. Why am I surprised that A instantly made a connection to Pan or fauns?
I have always loved it -and e.e. cummings- for the imagery. Happy Spring.
Easter didn’t come with chocolates, jelly beans or an egg hunt for our family. There was not ham or roast lamb for a big Sunday feast. As much as I love family traditions, I just haven’t prioritized the organization it takes to pull it off for holidays and special events. Without extended family nearby, and now that my first two boys are getting older, it just seems less of a priority. Sometimes I allow it to make me feel a little frustrated, a little sad.
Yet, when I reflect on our Easter weekend, I honestly don’t know how I could be disappointed. The Midwest has been enjoying the first true signs of spring. Trees are budding, I have seen daffodils, and the robins are plentiful . The weather is mild, and for the most part, a light cardigan or long-sleeved t-shirt is all you need during the warmth of the day.
My family has been out enjoying the graciousness of warmer weather for the last several days. I can tell, because there are flakes of dried mud in my entry way where my boys have tromped in and out multiple times throughout the day. The bicycles, scooters and skateboards are all askew in the garage from their constant use (and apparently we need to work on training them to return to their proper place). Although G opted for riding his scooter over an egg hunt, it has all been good, solid family time.
Easter Sunday church services provided us with a reminder of the unbelievable nature of what we profess. A man 2,000 years ago rose from a tightly sealed tomb, and we meet every week in his name. We were encouraged to live boldly, bravely and pray for those in imminent physical danger. My family was confronted with the miracle of resurrection, as well as the challenge of living out our faith even in the most potentially heinous of times. A serious message for an eleven and (almost) thirteen-year-old. I am thankful we were present.
As always, we read the Bible together as a family. I am determined to find a way to practice this more regularly and meaningfully for my boys. A gentle retelling of Christ’s death and a joyful narration of his resurrection helped us celebrate the weekend. There is something special about Easter, but I am grateful that every Sunday we have the opportunity to celebrate the fact that He still lives.
As I look back on our “uncelebrated” Easter, I smile. No, I hardly missed the jelly beans. I hope I am correct in saying that my guys didn’t miss them either. Spring, family time, encouragement in our church, and Bible reading. It was all more than enough.
Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco tells the story of an elderly woman, a babushka, who spends her winter painstakingly painting Easter eggs to display at the Easter festival in Moscow. After rescuing a goose whom she names Rechenka, all her fragile eggs are shattered when the goose haphazardly flies about the little house. Babushka continues to care for her adopted pet unaware of the surprise which awaits her the following morning.
Patricia Polacco is one of my favorites for her knack at revealing stories of family, kindness and tradition. Her illustrations beautifully coordinate both ink sketches and ornately painted cultural and familial patterns.
This is a rich and gorgeous story of kindness, love and searching for the daily wonder in our lives. Babuskha does this so fluidly and naturally. Children also seem to do this intuitively, don’t they? Here are a few helpful hints for making the most out of this delightful Easter and springtime read.
TALK ABOUT THE ANIMALS – caribou/calves; goose, geese, gosling
TALK ABOUT NEW WORDS (vocabulary)
beamed – smiled warmly
processions – long lines or groups of people like in a parade
quivered – trembled or shook like from cold, fear or excitement
miracle – something extraordinary; brought about by God
TALK ABOUT RUSSIAN CULTURE
St. Basil’s cathedral – the main cathedral in Moscow on Red Square, characterized by the “onion” domes.
Pysanky – an ornate and artistic style of decorating Easter eggs in the Ukraine and Russia using hot wax and a stylus.
Icons, triptych – Byzantine religious works of art representing biblical figures, characterized by large eyes, long, slender noses and small mouths. Triptychs are icons presented in a series of three panels.
TALK ABOUT RUSSIAN WORDS
Da – Yes Nyet – No Dacha- a small house in the countryside babushka- grandmother
kulich – a sweet bread pashka – a cheese spread with raisins Moskva– Moscow
Color your own Easter eggs, of course!
Fly around the house or yard, or even the park honking like a goose.
Read the story 20 times together and cuddle up with your favorite family quilt!
Of all the picture books I have read with my guys over the years, An Egg is Quiet is quite possibly the most engaging to me as an adult. It is a beautiful work in nature studies. Written with a palpable sense of awe over the natural world, the illustrations are breathtaking, rivaling any naturalist’s notebooks. Birds, fish, amphibians, crustaceans and insects are represented within the colorful pages. First we meet them as eggs.
Later, we learn how colorful, clever and giving these eggs really are. Nature is created so intricately, which leads us to the conclusion that nothing is insignificant. Through three-year-old G’s eyes, it is all beautiful and funny and wonderful.
Finally, we are able to meet the active, noisy by-products of these quiet eggs. The colors are striking, and there are never-ending possibilities of games G and I can play directly from the pages: Name the creature- birds, fish, or insects, sight words, I spy, animal habitats, shapes, colors and textures.
Today, however, we take our inspiration from the page below.
With that short description, our activity with the book is obvious – we are making our own hummingbird’s nest. I stared at the illustration, knowing a hummingbird typically uses cotton fluff or spider webs, and shredded wheat with melted marshmallows instantly came to mind.
Here’s a rough approximation of our recipe. (I am not good at measuring while cooking. I tend simply to eye-ball it.)
EDIBLE BIRD’S “NEST” (makes about 3-4 tiny “nests”)
1 C shredded wheat, coarsely crushed
2-2 1/2 C marshmallows
2 T butter
Melt the last two ingredients on medium-low heat until sticky.
Remove from heat and stir in shredded wheat. Let sit for a moment before forming into “nests.” We found that if we spray our hands lightly with cooking spray, the mixture was much easier to manipulate, and didn’t simply stick to our fingers.
Definitely do not forget to add your jelly beans for the tiny eggs.
And maybe a bird.
You may wish to click here to watch a stunning video of a mother hummingbird slowly building her nest. You will be mesmerized.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each.
-Henry David Thoreau
If I may take this quote horribly from its context, I enjoy its apparent sound, severed though it may be from its original body. Our family lives in a part of the world which truly experiences the variety of seasons. While we struggle at this time of year not to complain and bemoan being shut up indoors, or shoveling the driveway yet again, I am inspired by God’s creativity and regularity in fulfilling his promises of creation.
The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
We may be covered in snow and ice, yet the daffodil and crocus are indeed slowly rousing themselves from an exceedingly long winter’s slumber. They may not be visible here in the Midwest, yet we have the promise of their existence. Their return is imminent. By faith and hope I look forward to a dot of yellow appearing in between the browns and greys. Even now I smile as I notice the buds swelling, coloring the trees out front. Sandhill cranes have been spotted. The robins have returned, not in full numbers, but occasionally they sing their sweet songs in the mornings.
G has been wanting to step outside a bit more. I ache for the day – may it be soon- when we can walk through the wooded trails, seeking out newly migrated birds, shoots and buds about the trees. The boys are ready to mount their bicycles and taste a bit of pre-teen freedom.
While we praise the Creator for all his handiwork, we are particularly mindful at this time of changing seasons, transformative times. Good and Holy One, may you renew my heart as the rest of the world awakens from its dormant, frozen state.
And so, here are a few preschool books on the wonders of the changing seasons which G and I would like to share with you. All four of these gems are beautiful in their brevity, as well as inviting illustrations. There is so much to draw readers in on each page that G and I can write our own stories through our discussion of the pictures.
First Comes Spring by Anne Rockwell moves the reader through each season with Bear Child. The same neighborhood scene is displayed for each season and the same question is posed, “What is everyone doing?” G loves to name everyone’s activities. “They are jumping in puddles/camping/ picking pumpkins/sledding.”
Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller is a gorgeous book with a nostalgic feel. The illustrations have an endearing 1940s flavor, although the book was originally printed in the Netherlands in the mid 1990s. The text is simple, focusing on the cyclical nature of seasons. G and I drew circles in the air to show how spring always comes back around. The children’s expressions as they laugh, play and learn make you want to join right in.
City Dog, Country Frog is a story told by Mo Willems and with watercolor illustrations by Jon J. Muth. These are among two of my favorites creating children’s books today, but usually with very different styles. Here we have a sweet story of friendship wrapped in the context of the changing seasons. There is a bit of a surprise ending that could help initiate some gentle discussions with your preschooler.
Finally, Carry Me! by Rosemary Wells is a lovely, shimmery bedtime read. Written in sections, the author encourages parents to carry, talk and sing to their children throughout the seasons of the year. This book has quite organically become part of our family vocabulary. Once I wrap G up in his towel after bath time, he invariably asks, “Carry me.” As we dance down the hall to his bedroom we sing together, “Carry me over the river. Carry me under the sea. Twirl me away in the evening air. Fall asleep with me in your chair.” Sweet memories regardless of the season.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air…..
Spring, we eagerly await your return. We already love your every leaf. May we be compared to a
“tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:3