community · crafty · Darn Tootin' · Fibro Flares · gardening · Homeschool

Day 396: Worth it.

Today was one of those full days that ends with a feeling of great satisfaction. Unfortunately, the fullness of the day has also left me with a feeling of significant pain; still, I feel like I made the right choices.

I can barely believe how much E has been practicing her flute. Anytime nobody else is in the library (which is also our music room,) she’s in there with her music on the stand and her flute at her lips. Her work really shows: she’s sounding better and better every day. Now I just have to teach her about eighth notes.

When I finally got my hands on the three older kids—which is getting to be later and later each day as Mr. December gets carried away with whatever he’s teaching them—I sat them down and assigned them some substantial writing, which they immediately started brainstorming for. Later we had art class, where we once again tried to make pottery in the style of Ancient Greece.

Last week I taught the kids the coil method for making a pot. This week I took a slab-building approach, using balloons as our moulds. It wasn’t particularly successful, and only N’s pot was still standing by the end of the hour. Mine looked beautiful, but I tried to smooth “just one more lump” and… POP. With the balloon gone, my whole pot collapsed in on itself.

Around 5:00 we all went to the park. I was there on a mission: the apricot trees in the community orchard are already in bloom, but tonight’s snow and freezing temperatures threatened to kill all the blossoms and any fruit they might bear this summer. An email went out this morning asking for volunteers to bring tarps, plastic bags, and tie-downs and help cover the trees. That’s why we found ourselves in the park, tying multiple tarps together and then raising them over the trees—like a giant chuppah—before tying them down. The best part was that, once again, my kids were doing useful work to benefit the community they live in. There’s no substitute for that experience.

After dinner we started watching Animal Farm (the 1954 animated film, not the 1999 live-action one.) The kids were riveted. Our next step will be a read-aloud of the book, as part of our literature studies.

And then it was bedtime. I could hardly believe that it was 8:30 already. Where did the day go? Oh, yeah… we did stuff today. Lots and lots of stuff.

I definitely overdid it today. And yet I did it knowingly; sometimes I need to feel normal and functional (especially if I’m not) more than I need to be pain-free. Besides, these past six (or seven?) weeks have taught me that resting won’t guarantee me a pain-free day anyhow, so I might as well do at least some of the things I enjoy.

Now… if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my bed with a heating pad and my banana popsicles for the next day or two.

Image description: three tarps are spread out on the ground, tied together with twist ties and zip ties. A child is squatting near the far corner of the tarp, tying it to a pole. Grass in background.
community · education · Jewy goodness · Kids · parenting

Day 266: Voting Time

I used to proudly proclaim that “My house is not a democracy! It’s a benevolent dictatorship!”

I’m not sure exactly how and when that changed, but these days we do involve the children in more decision-making than a dictator would. I think decision-making and consensus-building are skills that can be taught, like everything else, so we’re trying to teach them through experience.

Last week was our annual Tzedaka vote. I couldn’t resist throwing a little learning into the mix by explaining to the kids that the root of Tzedaka is Tzedek, or justice (sometimes also translated as righteousness.) We give Tzedaka not because we’re generous and charitable, but because it is just and right to share some of what we’ve been given.

Mr. December gave each child ten poker chips. I had prepared cards with the logos of our usual charities (and a couple of causes that were new this year) and I spread them out on the table. We explained briefly what each charity was about and why we originally decided to support them. And then… voting time.

It’s always interesting to watch the kids allocate their chips to different organizations. Some years I wonder what they’re thinking; this year Mr. December asked.

“I’m donating to Sick Kids because they have really good stuff that helps kids not be scared, like that special stand that holds the iPad so you can play while the doctors are working on you.”

“I like our old school and I want to see it continue, so I put my chips in for that.”

“I think we should support the community orchard because it’s cool to have in our neighbourhood.”

“We use Wikipedia a lot and it’s great that it doesn’t have ads.”

Do you see what I see? For the most part, the kids voted to support organizations that they had personal experience with. Or, as Mr. December cynically pointed out, “There’s a significant element of self-interest at play here.”

One of the new items on our table was really a borderline decision: allocating funds towards supporting local businesses. In other words, we’re setting aside a certain amount of money to make purchases at our local shops (many of which are on the expensive side) instead of at cheaper chains or big-box stores. Is that charity? Nope. But is it Tzedaka? I’m not sure—we are choosing to spend extra money in a way that supports our community, so… kind of?

If you think that the kids didn’t put the majority of their chips on “buy local”, then you’re probably not aware that our neighbourhood boasts a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlour, the kids’ favourite laffa restaurant, and an authentic French bakery that makes delectable baguettes and croissants. And those are just three of the many businesses whose products the kids like to eat. They definitely voted with their stomachs this time.

community · education · Jewy goodness · Kids · The COVID files

Day 222: I was wrong.

Remember back when our synagogue announced that they were starting in-person services with strict COVID protocols, and I said that I couldn’t see the point of attending if there was no singing, no socializing, and no snacks? I can now confidently report that I’ve been there for a Shabbat service, and I was wrong. Mostly.

We’re getting close to K’s Bat Mitzvah, and one of the requirements is that she attend a certain number of services this year. We were given the option of in-person services on Saturday morning, or Zoom services on Friday evening and Sunday mornings. You wouldn’t be wrong to ask why, in the midst of a surge in COVID cases, I would choose to go to services in person. I was wondering that myself. Then we went on Saturday morning, and I remembered very well.

It’s simple: if we attend services in person, K will try harder to control her complaints. She also can’t just get up and walk out. I feel like if we attended through Zoom, she would be complaining constantly. So we went in person.

We walked the four blocks to our shul’s temporary home (they’re renovating) and checked in at the door (you have to reserve a spot since seats are so limited, and so they know who was there in case someone later tests positive for COVID.) I won’t lie, the service was different. Also a bit surreal, because of the plexiglas panels that surrounded each table or lectern at the front; the single chairs that were placed ten (or more) feet apart (there were some groups of two or three chairs that said, “reserved for members of the same bubble”); and the fact that everyone was wearing masks. To me, the most bizarre change was that nobody but the leader was allowed to sing. Whenever a prayer involved responses from the congregation, they were spoken instead of sung. We had been informed that if we wished to sing, we could hum softly—so the majority of folks in the room were humming, sometimes in harmony. It was different, but still beautiful.

Even with the masks, I could identify everyone in the room instantly. Either their hair, their tallit, their kippah, or their general demeanor gave them away; I knew them and they all knew me. I felt that sense of belonging that I always seem to forget about until I actually step into our shul.

K was still restless. She must have asked me five or six times when the service would end. My answer was usually “soon,” but I was sorely tempted to say, “If you’d paid attention in Hebrew school and if you would pick up a siddur (prayer book), you’d be able to answer that question yourself!” It was a very short service by traditional Jewish standards: a three-and-a-half hour service had been condensed into ninety minutes. It was refreshingly short and snappy. I’d love to get back to singing out loud, parading around the room with the Torah, and having a kiddush lunch with everyone afterwards; but the shorter service is a COVID-related change that I wouldn’t mind keeping.

Was it worth going? Yes, I think so. Even without the singing. As for socializing and snacks, I did chat with a few friends outside (from a distance), and they handed out pre-wrapped snacks to everyone on our way out of the building. It wasn’t the usual experience, but it still felt good to be there.

bikes planes and automobiles · community · Homeschool · waxing philosophical

Day 202: The Local Life

I’ve long complained that school was the primary reason I was stuck driving a lot. Our kids never went to the neighbourhood public school, so every morning I had the dubious pleasure of sitting in traffic for half an hour after making the 8:30 a.m. drop-off. Then two of my kids went to a public school that, while not our local school, was nearby, and I had the pleasure of sometimes walking home from dropping them off.

Now that we’re homeschooling, I can finally realize my dream of giving up daily driving. I’ll have no commute, which comes with its own problems: if there’s nowhere to go, will we have days when we never leave the house at all? That can’t be healthy—surely it’s a good idea to go outside and look at the sky every so often—but I can see it happening. There must be some sweet spot between too much commute and too little.

On the upside, we’ve begun to patronize more local businesses. I’m still getting used to paying more for the same things (economy of scale is a real advantage for major retailers), but I do like the experience of having a small radius of travel, not to mention the pleasure of getting to know the people in my neigbourhood (apparently my goal is to live on Sesame Street.) On a single one-kilometre stretch of main road near our house we have our family dentist, an optical store (where we bought K’s glasses), a bagel shop (several, actually, but I have my favourite), a health food store, my chiropractor and massage therapist, and the paint store I always use. Oh, and there’s the health-conscious-and-also-kosher café, the laffa restaurant, and the ice-cream parlour.

(We used to walk to the pharmacy, too, but ironically at the same time as I was trying to do more locally, their service really deteriorated and I switched to an online pharmacy. I regret nothing.)

What am I missing, exactly? In my perfect world all our parents would live nearby, so that we really wouldn’t have to drive unless we desperately wanted to… but given how much we love my parents’ home with its ravine setting, that’s unlikely to happen. It’s probably too much to ask, anyway. We have neighbourhood friends, parks, shops, and (some) health care; I’m basically living my dream of a walkable lifestyle. Now it only remains to be seen whether I actually enjoy the lifestyle I’ve craved for so many years.

community · DIY · el cheapo · family fun · Kids

Day 176: Putting the Crowd into Crowdsourcing

It’s been hard for K, being at the cottage. As much as she loves going off to her “secret” perch between the woods and the rocky shore, she hasn’t had any swings or her trampoline; and I think we all know that no swings and no trampoline make K go crazy.

We had resolved not to venture into the world outside the cottage until after the long weekend (who needs the crowds?) so today was the earliest we were willing to go out and find some swings for K. Last night saw me googling “playgrounds near me,” which led me to discover something really cool. In a handful of words: there’s an app for that.

The app is called “Playground Buddy,” and it’s free. When I opened it up it immediately found my location on a map, and then up popped the little green symbols — each one indicating a separate playground. As it turned out, there is a playground only six minutes’ drive from our cottage, and it was that one where K spent almost an hour swinging, the usual blissful expression on her face.

Playground Buddy - Helping Families Find Playgrounds

While the kids played I explored the app a bit more. It relies on crowdsourcing to fill in the details of each playground, so I took a bit of time to add a couple of photos and to check off the appropriate amenities for the park where we were. I did a little more scrolling around the map and found that most of the playgrounds lack even basic information, such as their names. Maybe the app is very new, or maybe most of its users are in a completely different part of the world. Either way, I felt good about my little contribution to the effort; so I looked for other playgrounds that I knew well enough to describe (actually, it asks for very little. Any detail you can add is great.)

Later on, I introduced the kids to the concept of crowdsourcing. “It’s really neat,” I said, “by sending in their own observations, people can create a treasure trove of helpful information for others.” I don’t think they needed the explanation as enticement — my phone is enticement enough — but my kids passed the phone around between them, trying to find parks they knew. R filled in details of the park near her former school, N updated the playground stats for the playground at the local public school, and E clicked “yes” or “no” for each amenity at our neighbourhood park as I read them aloud. All in all, we updated the information on seven playgrounds.

I wouldn’t have thought of updating this kind of app as “community service,” but maybe it is, in a way. We take a few minutes out of our day to share information with anyone who wants it. If I tried to list the number of things I learned about for free, on the internet, from material that was posted by ordinary people who just wanted to inform or share, I’d be here all night. Anytime I stop to think about it, I’m blown away by the generosity of spirit I’ve found on the internet; the many tutorials, patterns, instructions, and ideas that people share freely, even when there’s no compensation for their efforts.

Will the Playground Buddy app catch on? I don’t know — I have zero connection to it except as a user — but I hope so. It’s a great resource for tourists with kids and families that have just relocated. And if it really takes off, I may never have to google “playgrounds near me” again.

community · family fun · Fibro Flares · gardening

Day 160: Beachy Keen

I used to say the only thing that would get me out of bed at 6 in the morning was a flight to Barbados. Now I’ll have to add that the prospect of kayaking and swimming at the beach is a pretty compelling incentive too. This morning we were up at 6:00, out at 6:30, and at the beach at 7:00. By the time the rest of the city started showing up, around 9:45, we were headed home.

E tried solo kayaking for the first time this morning. She did pretty well considering that she’s a 5-year-old paddling a boat made for adults, with an oar that is longer than she is tall. She was very proud of her new achievement, announcing to everyone she passed that “This is my first time paddling my own kayak!”

In the meantime, I got to head out by myself for 25 minutes while Mr. December played in the water and on the sand with the girls. Wait, did I say he played? Nope. He took a nap on the sand and the girls buried him in it. I’m not complaining, by the way — in my opinion, anytime you can rest while your kids think you’re actually playing their game, that’s a parenting win.

I didn’t check email until we got home from the beach, when I discovered an e-mail reminder that we’re supposed to be providing baked goods for the Homeless Outreach Van tomorrow. I had forgotten and for some reason it wasn’t in my Google Calendar. I checked the recipes, made a list, and then biked to the store with E on the tandem trailer behind me.

Incidentally, that tandem trailer is a fabulous invention. It’s great on hills — all I have to do is say, “E, I need you!” and she responds by pedalling and yelling, “E POWER!!!” (Does that make it an E-bike?)

R and N are coming home today after being with my in-laws all week. I’m starting to feel like they barely live here anymore, and that’s not a good feeling. I can’t wait to hug them. Mr. December went to pick them up and I busied myself with some manual labour: I cut down an entire patch of hydrangeas (I’ve cut them down before and they keep coming back) and then moved the wood pile that was behind them in order to clear a space for this year’s sukkah. I’m always looking to improve it, and so this year we’re building the sukkah using the wall of our house and the fence. I’m hoping this keeps the whole thing from falling over as it has in the past.

Now that I think about it, today involved a lot of exercise. Kayaking, biking to the store, and transferring an entire wood pile… pretty much my entire day has involved physical exertion. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much?

(I’m taking bets: will I have a fibro flare as a result of my early morning and all the exertion? It’s anybody’s guess — come back tomorrow to find out!)

community · education · Jewy goodness · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 144: What’s the Point (of going to shul)?

We are not frequent shul-goers. I wish we were a family that went to synagogue semi-regularly, but wishing something doesn’t make it so, and I guess I haven’t wanted it badly enough to make it happen. Still, in the “before times” I enjoyed services for the singing, the feeling of community, and to some extent, the children’s programming. And I won’t lie, I spent a lot of time in the social hall talking to people I like but don’t see outside of shul.

All that has changed now. Our shul hasn’t had in-person services since early March, but according to the weekly email newsletter they’re starting up again at the end of August. Naturally, there are some strict guidelines in place in the interest of public health. In summary: you have to sign up in advance, stay in your seat 6 feet away from everyone else, bring your own siddur (prayer book), and don’t touch anything. Children’s programs and kiddush luncheon have been axed for now. Oh, and no congregational singing — the leader can sing or chant as required, but the rest of us will have to hum if we want to participate vocally.

My first thought upon reading that email was, What’s the point? Everything I love about shul has been stripped away; what’s left is a bare-bones service that my kids wouldn’t sit still for. And they do have to sit still, because otherwise they might get too close to someone not in our family.

Of course everyone attending the service will be wearing a mask. To be clear, I think this is a good thing. I’m a proponent of masks; In 2003 I was a music therapist in a nursing home during the SARS epidemic. I wore a mask for four hours straight while I sang all the hits of the 1920’s and 30’s. No harm came to me. I’ve been assuming that mask-wearing would be fine for me in 2020 as well — until I went to Lowe’s last week with K. After wearing the mask for forty minutes, my chest was hurting from the effort it took to breathe. The upside was that obviously my mask has a decent seal and is keeping stuff out. The downside? Some of the stuff the mask is keeping out is air that I need to breathe, and my lungs can’t work that hard for that long. I think curbside pickup is going to be my strategy for a long, long time.

Back to the synagogue thing. On one hand, going might be nice — I’d get to see friends at a distance and hear the familiar melodies again. On the other hand, breathing might be a problem for me. On the other other hand, it’s only 90 minutes long, as they’ve cut away all of the preliminary songs, six-sevenths of the Torah reading, and the superfluous-seeming repetition of the silent amidah (for all of my non-Jewish readers, our Saturday morning services usually run at least three hours.) And on the other, other, other hand, it will not be the shul experience I enjoy nor the one I want my children to know and love. If I take them and it’s just depressing and boring, will they go with me again? Or will COVID precautions ruin shul for them forever?

It sounds an awful lot like the debate around returning to school in September. For the record, one of Mr. December’s major reasons for not sending the kids back to school is that he thinks it’s going to be a sucky experience all around. I’m feeling that way about shul right now. I know that some people go specifically to pray and to hear the Torah, and others are in mourning and need a minyan so they can recite the mourners’ kaddish. It’s kind of true that my presence there will help to ensure that there is actually a minyan for the mourners, but realistically it’s not likely to be a problem. So I ask myself, why go to shul? What’s the point?

community · Independence · Kids · parenting

Day 141: Who are the People in your Neighbourhood?

A few days ago Social Dendrite left a comment, asking:

How do you meet the local neighborhood friends? I’d really like this for our kids (now 7 and almost 5) but have had a hard time finding anyone. The few families I do know […] never seemed to be around. But I’ve seen loads of similarly aged kids around during the pandemic […] Did you approach the families, or did your kids make the connection somehow themselves? I remember when we moved house when I was about 7 or 8, my parents sent me and my older sister round by ourselves to knock on the door of a neighbor’s house that they knew had kids, to introduce ourselves. But that seems somehow weird in this day and age. Or is it? PS I’m an introvert so find this sort of thing difficult!

Well, I’m glad you asked. We don’t go to the neighbourhood public school, so we had to find friends in other ways. Here’s how it worked for us:

With K’s friend (also named K) I had met her mum when the girls were just babies. It’s easy to strike up a conversation if someone’s got a baby or a pet, so we walked together and chatted. Then she went back to work and we didn’t see each other much. The girls met a few years later at a neighbourhood day camp and became fast friends. We invited the little girl over for a play date in our backyard. The girls bonded instantly. As soon as they were old enough, we allowed them to go freely between the two houses (it was a 100-metre walk in a straight line) and the friendship was out of my hands. It’s been wonderful.

N met his neighbourhood friend through school. It’s not the local public school, but it’s relatively nearby and this boy was in the same specialized program as N — he just happened to live four blocks from us. Thankfully his parents (one of whom we had coincidentally met while waiting for our meeting with the school placement committee) also believe in free-range children, and soon he was ringing on our doorbell in the afternoons to play with N.

R met her neighbourhood bestie on the bus to day camp. I met this girl’s mom while waiting for the bus and we hit it off. The girls liked each other, we live just down the street from them, and that was really all it took for the girls to want to play together.

The story of E’s new friend is probably the one Social Dendrite really wants to hear. We didn’t meet her at camp or at school. I actually had met her mom ten years ago when she moved in. A few weeks back Mr. December and I were out for a walk and I saw her unloading her car. We walked up and I said, “I remember meeting you a long time ago and I just wanted to say hi. I’m Sara, by the way.” From there I asked about her children’s ages, and when she mentioned a five-year-old girl I said, “My youngest daughter is five. She’d love to have a friend on the street. We should introduce them.”

This neighbour responded enthusiastically and was soon telling me that since they don’t go to the neighbourhood school either, her kids don’t know anyone on the street. I promised to come by with E and introduce her later in the week, which we did. I exchanged phone numbers with the mom and texted her the next weekend with an invitation to come play in our backyard. As it turns out, we got along well and she’s easy to talk to. We share the same attitudes about being connected with our neighbours. The girls had a lot of fun and didn’t want to part. It was a promising beginning.

To read these stories you might think it all happened pretty easily. For the record, I’ve approached many of our neighbours over the years with disappointing results. There was the mom whose daughter was the same age as K but far more mature, and when we had playdates K was rather aggressive; I shied away from that friendship after a while. There was the family on the next block with a few boys, one around N’s age. After a couple of backyard visits it became apparent that the boys just weren’t really interested. Then there was the new family to whom we introduced ourselves while delivering a Purim basket. The mom opened the door just a crack and seemed hesitant to take the basket or to converse much. I assumed she was just not a neighbourly sort of person, and I respected that. We later met her very congenial husband and their son, who is just a bit younger than E, but the lack of warmth meant that we didn’t really pursue it.

And finally, there was Molly (not her real name.) I had introduced myself to Molly’s parents when they moved in about seven years ago. When I saw them out in the front yard last year, I re-introduced myself and asked the little girl how old she was.

“Four,” she replied.

“You know what? My daughter E is four, too. She’d love to play sometime if you’re around. Is that okay?” Molly and her mom agreed that it would be fine.

At every opportunity E begged me to go knock on Molly’s door and invite her to play. And we did — quite a few times. Somehow it was never a good time. Molly was too tired from school, she was napping, she was out with her dad — all very valid and real reasons why she couldn’t play. But after the fourth or fifth such encounter, I started to feel awkward. It was always us reaching out, never them. I was starting to wonder if maybe they were just not that into us. So after a while we stopped knocking. If they’re interested, well, they know where we live.

I guess the best advice I can offer is that you have to be unafraid of rejection. Or, if you are, and you live with your co-parent, get them to do it instead (that’s what I did.) And just in case you need them, here are some of my favourite opening lines:

“Hi, I don’t know you yet. I’m Sara.” The “yet” implies that getting acquainted is inevitable. No time like the present!

“Are you our new neighbours? I’m Sara. Ours is the big blue house.” It’s always a good idea to know who lives where, right?

“Your front garden is beautiful — my kids admire it every time we pass!” People love a compliment. Also, I’ve just signalled that I have kids. That’s usually enough for the other person to ask about my kids and tell me about theirs.

So there you have it — my guide to meeting the neighbourhood children. If you’re an introvert, find out what day camp the neighbours’ kids go to and sign yours up for the same one. If you’re okay introducing yourself, go do that. And don’t take rejection personally. Get out there, be friendly, and meet people. Your life will be richer for it, whether or not you find your child’s new best friend.

community · gardening

Day 130: Socks are Contagious

Remember how my chairs are wearing socks? The sock-wearing still hasn’t spread to my children, but it looks like the plum tree got jealous. Folks, may I present to you… Plums in Socks (but no fox.)

I got the idea from our day at the orchard, where they put stockingettes on the fruit to protect them from insects and animals. I really should have done it a month ago but, as they say, the second best time is now. The plums are almost ripe and I’d hate to lose them — it’s a very small crop that’s made it this far.

I’m not sure exactly what happened to our plums. One year we had such a bumper crop that we took baskets of plums around to our neighbours and used leftover plums to make plum brandy; the next year there were no plums whatsoever. Actually, there were, but they disappeared overnight — literally. This was before we had a security camera, so I don’t know whether animals descended on our tree or if some person came along and picked the tree clean. All I know is that we were eagerly anticipating another bountiful harvest, and then we woke up to an empty tree. It was sad.

At the orchard we simply tied the stockingettes onto the fruit. Here at home I’ve tied them around the branch as well. I’m hoping that even if a plum gets knocked off its stem by an animal, it will stay attached to the tree and the animal will give up. Hey, a girl can hope, can’t she?

community · education · family fun · gardening · Kids · waxing philosophical

Day 127: Orchard Schooling

It began with a Facebook post: “Does anybody have any leftover white latex paint?”

I did, of course. When we were building the house we tried what seemed like hundreds of different whites before settling on Chantilly Lace. For the last two years their sample-sized pots have been lined up like soldiers awaiting deployment. I couldn’t throw them out — surely they’d come in handy one day, I thought.

“One day” was today.

The Facebook post was from the woman who runs the stewardship group at our local community orchard. Throughout the year a group of volunteers takes care of the fruit trees — feeding, mulching, watering, and doing anything else they can to ensure a successful harvest. The white paint would be diluted and painted onto the trees’ trunks to protect them from insects, animals, and the sun. I immediately offered them my paint and then volunteered my children (and myself) to do the painting.

K has had a lot of difficult, unproductive days in the last week. It’s not that she’s unmotivated; on the contrary, the fact that she can’t get herself to sit down and do her work is very upsetting to her. I’m not sure what’s wrong or how to fix it in the short term. In the long term, I think some executive function coaching might be in order.

This morning, though, K was at her best. She mowed the lawn before breakfast. When we arrived at the orchard she sprang into action, first mixing the paint with water, then moving from one fruit tree to the next to coat their trunks with white paint. She worked without a break for an hour and a half. In that time I heard no complaints or yelling. She asked questions about what we were doing and why, and really listened to the answers. In short, she was a model volunteer.

R and E painted a tree each, and then a pet tortoise arrived at the park with its owner (a friend of the stewardship coordinator) in tow. I didn’t get much more work out of them after that, but they spent an hour learning about tortoises.

Our time in the orchard reinforced so many of my beliefs about homeschooling. The biggest one is that school focuses on such a narrow band of disciplines and skills that K doesn’t get to exercise her strengths very often. This morning she had to observe the trees closely (to see if there was any seeping sap or other indicators of disease); communicate problems and questions; listen attentively; and do a thorough job of the task she was assigned. Moreover, the work she was doing had a clear purpose and utility, and it was appreciated by other people.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Purposeful, real work with others in the community can turn a frustrated, sometimes combative kid into a cooperative and industrious one. School doesn’t allow enough time for that sort of thing (heck, they don’t even trust the kids to retrieve their own coats.) Homeschooling, on the other hand, is chock full of opportunities for children to discover their strengths and use them to become valued members of the community.