Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ferret Heart Productions released the bloopers for Retribution. The out takes are 3 times longer than the trailer and they are fun. But more importantly to me, they show how seriously the kids took this project, and how hard they worked at it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yeah so, this guy got his drivers license today. I'm wavering between totally thrilled happy excitement for him. And shock. I mean, lookit'em. This little fella is DRIVING.
 More than that, he is graduating. We're not even bothering to keep the book list this year. After his Critical Thinking class, which starts next week, he'll be done. Next fall he'll start with college classes. And that, as they say, is that. 
Except for, you know, HOW WEIRD IT ALL IS. I mean, lookit'em!
Just a little guy, so yesterday. I love you, kid. I'm proud of you. You've done growed up.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I was moving the big mama dairy cows out of the barn and into the lane so we could cultivate the barn when I heard my name called, "Katherine." I replied, "yes." And this was repeated three times with increasing urgency so that I started running. As I rounded the corner of the pole barn I dropped my goad stick. Back tracking later I guessed that was the moment I saw the situation. Allison was sitting in a feed trough in a paddock of heifers. And the trough, oddly, seemed to be full of heifer. Which is wrong. My mind couldn't totally compute the situation as I was climbing through the fence toward them. As I arrived Allison said, "Grab her tail, we've got to get her up, one, two three!" I got under her rump and pushed and Allison was up top doing whatever she did and out popped a whole heifer in the proper configuration of hooves down on the ground, head up in the air, and nothing laying in the trough.

It was all said and done in the space of minutes and after the farm settled back to the quiet predictable routine of every morning. Little heifers can die like that, trapped so they bloat and can't breathe. Probably, a bigger one knocked her over.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


A bunch of homeschooling kids got together and made a movie trailer for fun. There is no movie, just the trailer. Those in the know will recognize H. R did all the makeup. Everyone did a great job!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Value of Writing About the Mundane They don't mention blogging but I've felt the value through all these years. The value of the mundane goes up a lot when it encompasses children's lives.

I made beef stew and ginger bread for dinner tonight. Someday I'll write a comparison of gingerbread recipes from the old Joy of Cooking and from the new Joy of Cooking. I'm enjoying old style recipes these days. Above Prune Cake from my Grandmother Julia's kitchen. I've modified it; I cut the sugar by 1/3 and substitute butter for oil. Rather than icing, I glaze the cake with her rum cake glaze: 1/2 cup sugar, one stick butter, 1 cup of rum. Boil and pour warm over hot cake. Zack Zimet asked if he could take a slice home from our Christmas party. As he cut about a third of the cake onto a paper plate he said, "this is so good and unlike anything I've ever eaten before." Which was high praise because he's a great cook and his brother is a famous chef. It pleased me bunches because this cake from this book is hugely sentimental. I feel the same about my gingerbread which is by way of Scott B and happy olden days in the shack, before the Joy of Cooking rewrote itself. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I really need a nap but its too late in the afternoon for napping. I'll be in bed and asleep by 8 so I can be up for work tomorrow. I led heifers to a new paddock today, chasing one down through serious thick mud. And I cleaned two pig whey-troughs which is heavy work at the beginning.  So I'm worn out. Add all this warm super yummy light? Plus a hot shower and I'm already in my pjs. Yeah, its hard to keep my head upright. One kid is folding laundry while the other is making dinner. (If this doesn't convince you of the glory that is homeschool, I don't know what possibly could.)
 With nothing here needing my attention, I drifted out to the goat barn. We cleaned the barn down to the dirt floors last weekend. All the hay is stacked and orderly. The girl's hooves have been trimmed. Their kelp and mineral feeders are topped off---they are hitting them hard.  The feed bin is stocked. Their bed is fluffed. Water tank is clean. The gates are all swinging free and unhindered. The locks all click. The collars, leads, tools, extra buckets, and milking stanchion all set right in neat rows. Its a wonder, I tell you.

Is there a more restful place to sit in the afternoon light with the gentle pecking and sweet soft calls of chickens at my feet? Their feathers sift luminously against one another with unexpected depth and subtlety of color. Their fleshy floppy combs are mysterious, for what purpose, I wonder? Their attitude is all business, but gently so.

The goats are getting broad in the beam. This might mean they are actually pregnant. Or, it might mean they are eating a lot of hay to keep warm. Or both. I hope both because I gave our buck away last week. Better to be done with the buck if babies are on the way and he had awful feet. A wonderful temperament with awful feet. I'm curious to see what he had to give us. I will look a serious fool if we don't, at the very least, have pregnant goats. They should be due in mid March. These ladies are looking wonderful: relaxed, silky, with thick soft shiny fur and clear kind eyes. I love to hear them chew. They like to crunch the kelp. They lap minerals out of my hand with soft kisses. Everything in the goat barn is peace these days. A visit is almost as restful as a nap.

Its 67 degrees out this sunny January day. We've thrown open the house. It won't last, but its lovely.
 Animals, lazy. Teenagers, busy. (For the moment.)
The kids are taking a course in critical thinking this semester. I look forward to this class, which I arranged for them, more than any other they've taken. I see bias and false or specious claims to science used to bad end on a daily basis. 

It is wonderful to have the opinions of professionals. It is always helpful and wise to choose references and sources from well reasoned and respectable institutions. Science should be and often is a helpful tool for analyzing our world and parsing the truth from our own biases and beliefs.

However, in my own short time on earth I've been around to see several massive shifts in scientific thinking. Since the 1960s science has told us with strong conviction:

Cigarettes are healthy, even for treating asthma.
Cigarettes are unhealthy, especially for asthma.
Hydrogenated fat is healthier for human consumption than saturated fat.
Hydrogenated fat is unhealthy for human consumption.
Saturated fat causes heart disease.
Saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
Birth is safest in a hospital setting.
Birth is demonstrably safer with far fewer interventions than happen in hospitals.
Canned formula is equal to and often superior to human breast milk for babies.
Human breast milk is superior for human babies.

There are many many other scientific reversals we could point to. And there are intriguing emerging shifts, such as:

Fresh cow milk is dangerous for human consumption.
Fresh cow milk is associated with statistically significant reduction in allergies, asthma, and a 30% reduction in viruses and bacterial infections when fed to human babies.

See where I'm going with this? Science, at its best and purest, is a careful system for asking questions, testing answers, and using those answers to ask more questions. By definition, science does not PROVE anything. Science suggests, offers data, illuminates information. Or, at least, it should.

Science is not holy and scientific thought is subject to bias, mistake, and frank corruption. We've seen this time and again, across history and culture. Please consider: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science" History, observation, common sense, and good old intuition are all valid, valuable, and necessary components of healthy discernment in the quest for truth, reality, and good decision making when it comes to the care of humans, animals, and our planet.

We are all diminished when we rely too completely on the authority of science, without healthy skepticism and the consideration of history as well as our own observation and common sense.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This morning I heard an interview excerpt on the BBC from the early 1960s in which Agatha Christie was explaining how she learned to write: "I had absolutely no education at all up until about age 16. I was left to my own imagination and, bored most of the time, sat around inventing stories for myself." She was unschooled.

Many schooling mothers have noticed that pushing language arts on young children, even teaching them to read before age 10 or 11, may be intellectually limiting--stultifying is the word, I think.

There is absolutely no credible science to backup elementary pedagogy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pursue your interests, be true to yourself, have an open and curious attitude. It all counts. Academics are starting to figure out what intelligence looks like. It looks like self schooled kids, rather than a list of ranks and grades on a paper.

In A Class By Themselves

"That's a tiny subgroup, just 0.2 percent of the applicant pool. So why is the University interested? Admission officers sum it up in two words: intellectual vitality.

It's hard to define, but they swear they know it when they see it. It's the spark, the passion, that sets the truly exceptional student--the one driven to pursue independent research and explore difficult concepts from a very early age--apart from your typical bright kid. Stanford wants students who have it.

Looking very closely at homeschoolers is one way to get more of those special minds, the admission office has discovered. As Reider explains it: "Homeschooled students may have a potential advantage over others in this, since they have consciously chosen and pursued an independent course of study."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This is what the house looks like when I leave for work in the morning. Maybe we'll just leave it up? I don't want to take any of it down. Its so cheerful. I love leaving quietly in the dark as my people all sleep cozy in their beds. The cold hasn't been so bad for me at work this year. I must be in better shape? Because I'm wearing fewer clothes and staying much warmer. Good gloves are the ticket. It was down to seven degrees last week and we quit early in that kind of cold, but I wasn't hurting.

Friday, January 9, 2015

See these two house plants? They don't register on my list of things to do. I expend no perceivable concern or planning on these plants. They aren't a burden or trouble. I never feel their needs infringing on my own. I like them. They make oxygen. I'm told they help clean the air, somehow. They sure do grow well. The aloe has legendary healing qualities and the other is a patchouli plant. Yes, like the perfume. And its leaves smell just like that. I always thought patchouli was a mix of herbs. So that's kind of cool. But otherwise, these plants don't often hit my radar.

When I was in my early 20s I couldn't keep a plant alive. I tried. I felt some vague pressure from the universe to have a plant. But they always died and not before managing to feel burdensome. I'm pretty sure I can remember actually resenting their neediness. Stupid plants needing five tenths of a minute of watering time once a week!

But most of my friends were the same way. And, looking back, it makes me wonder. I mean, how selfish and unreliable can an average person be? Very selfish and unreliable, apparently. I think keeping a plant alive for a year might be a good requirement for graduation from high school. At least kids would be exposed to responsibility for something tangibly alive and real.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This one always makes me think of Lara. I'm sorry to say, the world is probably a safer place without her. But that doesn't stop the loss from hurting. Her life stands as a cautionary testimony to existence without gratitude. Things could have been different. But they weren't. Love mattered anyway. RIP

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life

This is a worthy read. Here are the fundamental principles underlying most liberal homeschools. The article is writing from an Ivy League point of view, but the truth of the system is consistent from the top down. I could quote the whole thing. Just go read the article.

"...the take home message is that everyone has to liberate themselves from this system. Education should be an act of liberation. We need to make a better system but ultimately everybody has to claim their freedom for themselves."
Over the holidays I advised a friend that keeping a blog could help reduce the frustration with how shitty and out of control everything feels sometimes when parenting little kids. A blog offers a way to see the good things more clearly, as you look back. And has three mandatory qualities for parents looking for a creative outlet. Its infinitely flexible, silent, and free.

Over the holidays an older friend advised me that its good to catalog and review happy places. I think these messages are nearly the same message.

Over the holidays my daughter and I identified Target as one of our happy places.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I don't understand why there isn't more discussion about this song. I can't hear Under Pressure without momentarily reliving the AIDS era, without tears biting my eyes (to borrow my daughter's phrase.) Although it was released a couple of years before Freddie Mercury publicly admitted being gay or having AIDS, I think it was very much the last public plea in rock music, for all eternity, from an enormously powerful and gifted artist. What was he trying to tell us, asking us to consider, begging us to change? The song builds to a crescendo with Mercury singing these lyrics:

Why can't we give love that one more chance?
Why can't we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give lov

Freddie Mercury's voice fades out, forever, simultaneously pleading and commanding: Give Love.
Then Freddie is gone. I believe the production was intentional. Its very difficult to remember now, in the age where the right to marry is a political discussion, just how covert and controversial homosexuality still was in the late 80s. Bowie steps in to answer:

'Cause love's such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure