Today Ryan brought me a piece of lined paper, with the words “I LOVE YOU” printed halfway down the page.

“Oh, thank you!” I said, taking it. Nathan, who’d come with his brother, began pointing out how small and neat the words were, which was true; though both of them have learned to write letters, their writing tends to be large and uneven, often wavering between capital and small letters and meandering across the page. This time the words were neatly between the lines. Pleased just as much by Nathan’s obvious praise as by Ryan’s note, I said, “Ryan, how did you learn to write like this?”

“You taught me,” he said.

“I taught you?” My every attempt to assist with their letter formation has been at best ignored, at worst loudly rejected. Searching for a delicate way to point this out, I settled on, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, because I’ve seen you writing, and I thought ‘I can do that’,” said Ryan.

And that, I think, is our homeschooling in a nutshell.



We spent the last weekend up in Seattle, being hosted by my wonderful brother and sister-in-law — wonderfully generous people who don’t bat an eye at their house being overrun by small children.

All of us appreciate different things about hanging out at Bob and Amy’s house. I revel in the luxury of someone else preparing dinner; the boys immerse themselves in the toys in the play room; but for Mica, the trip really took off when she saw the dog through their window, and she was all about the animals from then on.


There were two pets she interacted with: a nice big lab named Henry and a very active cat named Hobbes. Henry was stolid and patient, putting up with her exploration of his ears without protest. When she sat on his back and said “Horse!” he simply put his head back on his paws and endured. In fact we think he developed a fondness for Mica by the end of the trip, mostly because Mica discovered the joy and delight of feeding him.

Once she’d grasped this notion it was in fact very hard to feed her. Because Henry will eat anything — cherries, cereal, yogurt, fried rice, blueberries — and the pleasure of watching him munch up a tidbit was apparently so engrossing that Mica considered that the highest and best use of her food. Sometimes I had to put Henry outside just so Mica would eat. I felt sorry for him — after all, it wasn’t his fault — but it wouldn’t have worked as well to put the baby outside, so he got the short end of that stick.


Her other favorite part of the trip was Hobbes. In fact, by the end of our stay she’d learned his name, and said it more clearly than she says any of ours (coincidence, I’m sure). “Hobbes!” she’d say, when I came downstairs with her, and promptly wriggle down to go check out his ears.

Now, Hobbes was remarkably patient with her — not as patient as Henry, but then he’s a cat. I was astonished at how much he put up with. But Mica, even after repeated exposure to them, consistently failed to respond to Hobbes’ warning signs when he’d finally had enough. Flattened ears, hissing, even a mock-attack elicited nothing from her but laughter. (“Look, the cat’s interacting with me!” was how Dave and I interpreted this.) We told her that in Hobbes’ language those signs meant “all done” and “go away,” phrases that I know she knows. It didn’t matter. Hobbes ended up biting or clawing her four times during the visit, and frankly I can’t really fault him.

Each time it happened, Mica would wail terribly. “Bite?” she’d say, pointing at her arm, as though in disbelief that one of her favorite animals — with such awesome, twitchy ears! — could do such a thing. Then within half an hour she’d be back at him.

This is not to say that the humans in the house were unimportant to Mica. She spent a fruitful session looking at Bananagram tiles with her uncle Bob, for example, and I think it stuck — yesterday she correctly identified P, S and R for me. And she thought her aunt Amy’s garden was pretty awesome, especially the strawberry patch and the apple trees. But let’s be honest, here — she didn’t learn any of their names.

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Just A Picture


(picture by Nathan)


Once I starting tie-dying onesies (wow, was it only two years ago?) there was no stopping. There’s something about those little baby shirts and tie-dye that get me every time. Although I haven’t posted pictures every time, the truth is that my go-to solution for Mica outgrowing her current clothing set is to pick up a pack of onesies and see what colors I have left in my tie-dye box.

This time around, for the first time, I did it while Mica was awake. I’m not even sure why; I didn’t plan it exactly. She was busy playing, and I suppose the process has become so routine to me that I didn’t even think about it. But naturally she saw that I was doing something messy with bottles and wanted in. And once I stripped off her clothes, I had no problem with that.


This is why she now, at the tender age of 21 months, has her very first self-decorated shirt. Okay, Dave and I helped a little — but honestly, not very much. Squirting colors onto a shirt seemed to be right up her alley.


Adventures In Homeschooling: Chemistry

On Monday Dave, not feeling well, decided to stay home. I took advantage of the situation to run a pesky errand — one of those that ought to be done during the week, but would be so much easier without children along.

I walked back into the house to find Dave standing beside the kitchen sink, with a strangely dark puddle hissing and steaming on the floor beside him.

“Do we have any more baking soda?” he asked by way of greeting.

“Uh… I don’t know,” I said, cleverly.

“Could you check? Also you might open some windows. I’m going to take a shower.” He was already stripping off his shirt as he spoke.

“There’s molten aluminum on the floor!” Nathan told me excitedly.

“No, it isn’t molten,” said Dave as he disappeared around the corner.

By now anyone with chemistry experience will have grasped the gist of what happened, so after discovering that we had no more baking soda in the house, I grabbed the baby and made a quick run to the store. Small box for the baking cupboard, big box for the chemical cupboard. (“For a Fresher, Cleaner Home” the box assured me.)


Once I got back and the acid had been neutralized, we had plenty of time to discuss the details while we worked on cleanup.

It seemed that Dave had gotten out the hydrochloric acid (yes, ours is the sort of household that just keeps that around) for a little cleanup job, and had decided to give the boys a chemistry demonstration. Aluminum and hydrochloric acid will react and give off hydrogen gas; done correctly, in a bottle, one can capture the gas in a balloon. This not only is a cool demonstration of a chemical reaction between solid and liquid producing a gas, but you end up with a balloon filled with a highly flammable gas that you can then explode. Win-win!

The trouble, Dave explained as we wiped baking soda and aluminum off the floor, was that he hadn’t spent enough time on preparation. After all, it isn’t as though he hasn’t done this sort of thing before — but he wasn’t careful with the amounts, and added way too much, so that neither component was limiting. He also hadn’t made sure to have the baking soda at hand. And worst of all, when he realized how quickly the reaction was going and the plastic bottle was heating up, he went to remove the balloon, but in doing so tilted the bottle. Hot liquid ran into the balloon, which subsequently exploded. It was only a minute later that I walked in.

Dave got a couple of very minor burns, probably from hot flakes of aluminum landing on his hands. The baby was well away of course, and the boys (Dave informed me) exhibited really excellent self-preservation skills and scattered as soon as they realized something was not right.

And I would just like to sum up by pointing out that we live in a really cool house. And also that we should always keep large amounts of baking soda on hand.

The Garden


I love spring in the garden. I love seedlings and sweet peas, bees busy at the marionberries, strawberry blossoms and that first flush of roses. The kids and I ate a few overwintered snap peas the other day — our first harvest of the year. I’ve just seeded cucumbers and pumpkins, and it’s time for the corn to go in.

So much possibility, so little time…