crafty · DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us

Day 259: Always with the Dreidels

If I asked my non-Jewish friends to name one Chanukah song, they’d probably start singing “I have a little dreidel,” which makes me crazy because there are many beautiful Chanukah songs—and the dreidel song is NOT one of them. Alas, the dreidel song remains popular.

If you google Chanukah decorations, you’ll get a few menorahs and a whole lotta dreidels.

Given my knowledge and appreciation of the holiday, I would’ve predicted that my homemade Chanukah decorations would feature some lesser-used Chanukah motifs, like oil jugs or doughnuts, and yet dreidels are my go-to. I wasn’t even paying attention to it until I sat up here at my desk and noticed the view of my new garland:

Sigh. All dreidels. At least I didn’t restrict myself to blues and silvers. Today I made the mistake of telling Mr. December that I had a few small Chanukah surprises for the kids, including Jelly Belly jellybeans in Chanukah colours. He jumped on that one right away.

“Chanukah colours? Did I miss some rabbinic declaration? Or is that laid out in the Torah somewhere?”

I mean, of course it’s not in the Torah. Chanukah itself isn’t in the Torah. But somewhere along the line, blue and silver became the unofficial colours of Chanukah as surely as Christmas is all about the red, green, and gold.

This could turn into a much longer post in which I agonize over the same old “December Dilemma”: where is the line between Chanukah decorations that are festive and appropriate, and those that are just aping Christmas (which is kind of ironic when you’re talking about a holiday that celebrates us resisting assimilation?) But there’s nothing new about this discussion, even as it rages over my own dinner table.

You see, I couldn’t resist the idea of things that are pretty and shiny, so now I have one hundred silver and metallic blue dreidels to use. I also happen to have a jar of craft jewels in shades of blue and turquoise. The result of a little crafting in the basement was a bejeweled (be-dreideled?) placard on which I plan to write Happy Chanukah or maybe חג שמח. Mr. December took one look at it and declared it too “non-Jewish” looking (fine, he used the G word, which is considered offensive these days.) Of course he followed that with, “It’s very pretty. You did a great job. It’s just kind of Christmassy.”

But back to the dreidels. Why are they so popular as decorations? I’m not an authority of any kind, but from my perspective it’s this simple: they’re easy to make. All straight lines, a combination of a simple square, an equilateral triangle, and a tiny rectangle. When you need to churn out decorations in a jiffy, the dreidel is as easy—and as lazy—as it gets.

So I pushed myself to get un-lazy. I found a few different shapes I liked, traced them, and turned the page into a jpeg to post here. Think of it as my Chanukah gift to you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with 91 dreidels and a glue gun.

family fun · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · love and marriage

Day 246: Team

“Do you have a curved one-zero-zero-zero?” Mr. December asks.

“What?” I furrow my brow in confusion.

“A one-zero-zero-zero.” He explains, then holds up a puzzle piece that looks like this:

“Oh!” I exclaim. “You mean an Inukshuk-looking dude with spade-shaped feet!”

And that, my friends, is the difference between an engineer and an artist. Mr. December is sorting the puzzle pieces by encoding their ins and outs in binary. I, on the other hand, have sorted them into the following categories:

Clockwise from top: Cartoon mouth, Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet, Stingray, Four-way arrow.

  • Inukshuk dude with spade-shaped feet
  • Inukshuk dude with flat feet
  • Four-way arrow
  • Comic-book burst
  • Stingray
  • Cartoon mouth

Not that it makes a difference to our ability to do the puzzle, I just find the whole thing rather amusing.


Way back in March, Mr. December decided we should stock up on non-perishables “just in case.” He went to No Frills and came back with rice, canned beans, dried beans, rolled oats, and two bars of dark chocolate.

“What is this?” I asked as I unpacked.

“Emergency provisions,” he said.

“Honey, we’re not preparing for a zombie apocalypse where the kids will just be thankful they have something to eat. We’re preparing for a possible quarantine, where everything’s fine, everyone’s bored, and the kids are still picky.”

The next day I went out and bought dried fruits, shelf-stable milk, nuts, chocolate chips, canned fruit, vegetable broth in a box, and canned corn. You know, the stuff that makes staples like oatmeal and rice taste good.

We’re good that way, Mr. December and I. There’s very little overlap in our skill sets, which means we function better together than apart; and because we’re aware that our skills differ, we can avoid the whole “Whose job is this?” question and just stick to our respective strengths. He figures out how many cans of beans we need and emphasizes the need for a FIFO system, and then I go and build it. He makes sure things are efficient and scalable; I make the actual things that enable us to be efficient and scalable, and I add some beauty, because that’s important too.

We’re lucky to have each other. Even when Especially when he talks in binary and I speak in images.

DIY · hackin' it · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us

Day 234: Take Stuff Apart

I put up a lamp over R’s desk today. The cord was way too long, and rather than just tying it with a cable tie and forgetting about it, I figured out how to shorten it.

The lamp is one of these:

So I looked at the hole where the cord comes out and thought, Maybe I can just stuff the cord in there. I tried, but I could only get a few centimetres in.

So I opened the back of the metal part that attaches to the wall and had a look. Inside there was a white plastic box that was screwed shut.

If it can be screwed shut, then it can be unscrewed and opened, I reasoned. So I opened up the inside of the lamp. Inside I found more cords and what I assume is some sort of LED-friendly transformer. I also found a bunch of empty space. So I filled it:

Then I mounted the lamp on the wall beside R’s desk and patted myself on the back for a job well done.


I took apart our sukkah frame today. The walls actually came down (and got washed, folded, and neatly stowed in a plastic box) the day after Sukkot ended, but the frame has been up this whole time.

I couldn’t find the ladder I had used to put the frame up. A normal person might have gone looking for the ladder; I am not a normal person. I thought about it for a minute and then figured out how to take down the sukkah without needing a ladder at all. And if I can take it down without a ladder, doesn’t it follow that I could put it up without a ladder next year?

Bear with me for a moment while I write a note to myself:

Dear Me,
Next year when you take out the sukkah frame, assemble it as follows:
1. Assemble the north wall (two posts and top beam) and attach the first ⅔ of each north-south ceiling beam as well.
2. Use the partial ceiling beams to push the north wall frame upright. Secure posts by screwing them into the fence.
3. Assemble the south wall (two posts, top and bottom beams) and lay it out on the ground, with the bottoms near the base of the north wall.
4. Attach the last ⅓ of each ceiling beam to the other ⅔. Then attach the free end to the south wall assembly (which is still lying on the ground.)
5. Before you raise the south wall into place, attach the bird netting to the ceiling.
6. Attach the 2×3 to the wall of the house with the blue concrete screws. The anchors are already in the brick.
7. NOW raise the south wall into place. Attach the south-west post to the 2×3 with pipe clamps and screws.
8. Anchor the south-east post with a concrete deck block.
9. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’re awesome.
Love,
Me.


One more thing got taken apart today, but it won’t ever be reassembled. Our fancy corkscrew died. The arm wasn’t moving like it was supposed to, so Mr. December started to fiddle with it.

“Do you have a hammer?” he asked. “I think if I just tap on this part I can get these cogs to line up again.”

We went down to the makery. Several taps of the hammer later, it wasn’t looking good for our corkscrew.

“Uh, sweetheart?” I offered, “Maybe this metal piece with the snapped-off edge has something to do with the malfunction…”

“It’s dead, Jim.”

I was right. Of course I was—putting stuff together is my area of expertise. So is online shopping, which comes in handy for replacing things that get broken, if a replacement is needed. Most of the time, though, I can fix things—or even improve them—by taking them apart.

education · Homeschool · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Kids · whine and cheese

Day 226: Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

By 11:30 this morning it was starting to look like today might be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. The kids had just come out of two hours of math, except for R who set a speed record today for giving up on a word problem. Even after we told her it was okay (and maybe necessary) to struggle with the material a bit, she chose to throw herself around and moan a lot.

Eventually I had them all gathered around my desk for the start of our Geography lesson. I began by showing them this list of unusual maps, with the intention of discussing the myriad ways and reasons we use maps, other than navigation. That discussion didn’t really materialize because K began yelling about how someone must have farted and now it was too smelly for her to stick around. Completely irritated, I bellowed, “Either stay and participate, or leave NOW!!!”

Then I stared at her pointedly and quietly said, “I’m waiting…” until she actually left the room.

Phew. Back to geography…oh, wait. Now R was starting to whine about how she had so much math to do and how it was really hard, and could she just skip geography today? Um, no.

I moved us to the table and started helping R and N draw their own map of our neighbourhood; meanwhile, K was who-knows-where doing who-knows-what. I can guarantee she was not working on anything.

At lunch I was still feeling punchy. I dragged Mr. December outside and vented to him for a while about K and R’s behaviour this morning. He talked me down off the ledge and reminded me that this is only the third week of “serious” homeschooling. He then pointed out that I had handled the situation in the most school-like way possible, which is to say that I was completely autocratic and punitive. Ouch.

I eventually caught up with K and we had a good talk about geography and what she would like to be doing. “The stuff you’re doing with us would be interesting if I didn’t already know it,” she opined. “And I know the map of the world and where countries are and what they’re called. And I don’t need one of those books that’s all like, ‘This is how people here live, this is what language they speak, but we’re really all the same!'”

I reflected on this and then invited her to look at a geography curriculum that incorporates social issues, physical geography, and science. I think she was hooked when, flipping idly through the workbook, I stopped and said, “Here, look. An article about the health effects of cannibalism.”

“Gimme that!” She devoured the article. “Okay,” she said when she was done, “I’ll do this stuff. This is great.” Then she sat down at the table with the books and started to work.

Well, that was one problem resolved. And then K turned around and defused another problem by offering to help R with her math work. She even made helpful notes in the margin so Mr. December and I would know what help had already been offered.

Now our school day is over; K invited her bestie over to jump on our trampoline, and R and E are snuggling together under a blanket in the treehouse. N is sitting in a hammock reading, as usual. And the day has ended with all of us in a reasonably good mood, all work completed, and everyone still talking to each other. So what if I was walking around at noon muttering, “A jury of my peers would never convict me”?

education · Homeschool · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Montessori

Day 220: Oh, come on!

That’s E’s favourite phrase when things don’t go her way. I’m pretty sure she got it from me.

E is doing online learning with her Montessori school. As part of the online program, I have a short meeting with the teachers once a week. The only problem is: I’ve never attended. Not once. I keep forgetting because the meeting time is in the afternoon, by which point I’m usually eyeballs-deep in something with the kids. It’s been hard to remember.

Last time I missed the meeting I wrote a profuse apology to the teachers and assured them I’d be setting a reminder on my phone so that I wouldn’t stand them up again. They thanked me, then asked if we could switch this week’s meeting to Friday. Sure, I said, and diligently set an alarm on my phone.

Today is Friday (for the next two hours, anyway.) Mr. December and I covered a lot of ground during our P.D. day today. We made some decisions about summer camp, Hallowe’en, and screen time limits; we worked independently on school assignments for the next two weeks; I rejigged some of the magnetic schedule boards; and we made a list of all the things that need to be done around the house.

I’m sure that when normal people make that kind of list, they sit on the couch or at a table and think of things, then write them down. Not Mr. December. We did a walk-through of the whole house, bottom to top, checking each room to see what might need to be done. It was a bit anxiety-provoking for me—five pages of “to-do”s, most of them in my wheelhouse. And somehow the list never gets shorter. Maybe the items get smaller (fix N’s curtain instead of window coverings for all bedrooms) but the list always seems the same length, if not longer. As E would say, “Oh, come on!”

It was sunny and unseasonably warm today, so we decided to take a walk to clear our heads. Wanting to be fully present with Mr. December, I opted to leave my phone at home. We wouldn’t be gone that long, and I’m just not important enough that I have to be reachable at all times. So when my phone chimed to remind me of today’s 4:05 meeting with E’s teachers, I was a kilometre away from it. I didn’t check it immediately on returning home, either, so it wasn’t until 4:35 that I logged into my computer and noticed the meeting on my calendar. I had stood E’s teachers up. Again.

I can’t just apologize profusely and reassure them that I’ll really be there next week, can I? That was fine the first three times, but at this point I’m not sure why they’d believe me. I don’t even know if I believe me. I mean, sure, the intention is there, but even with a reminder on my phone I managed to miss the meeting. It’s like the universe is conspiring against me. Should I give up and just communicate with them by email?

Of course not. I’ll set up three alarms next time so that I’m reminded every hour for three hours leading up to the meeting. I’ll send the teachers a confirmation email that morning. I’ll write a reminder on a post-it and stick it to my monitor. I’ll tell Mr. December and the kids about it so that they can remind me too. And if, by some perverse chance, I manage to miss another meeting, then I’ll be justified in throwing my hands up in the air and yelling, “Oh, come on!” …and probably a few choice words after that.

Let’s just hope that E doesn’t adopt any of those phrases. That could be… awkward.

blogging · crafty · education · family fun · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · Kids · Uncategorized

Day 214: Is there any problem bribery can’t solve?

Did you know that good intentions do not work like caffeine?

It’s true! I was full of good intentions yesterday, but that didn’t keep me alert and awake long enough to carry them out. In other words, I fell asleep last night right after dinner and completely missed posting day 213. I regret nothing except not writing my post earlier in the day.

We’ve now wrapped up our first week of homeschool. It’s always hard to measure learning—I can tell you what I presented to the kids, but can’t say for sure that they learned it—so I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you what didn’t happen this week:

  • We didn’t start each morning raising our voices to get the kids out the door, racing the clock, or cursing the traffic.
  • I didn’t spend twenty minutes sitting on the Allen Expressway on the way home from dropping the kids off at school. In fact, I didn’t spend an entire hour of each day sitting in traffic.
  • Nobody had to clean out stinky lunch containers that had sat all week in somebody’s backpack.
  • I didn’t spend my evening fighting with the kids about homework.
  • I didn’t feel like all the time I spent with my kids was stressful or rushed.

For the sake of balance, here’s what did happen this week:

  • Some people woke up early. Some people slept in.
  • Mr. December and I made time to do a bit of stretching and go for a short walk every morning before homeschool started.
  • The kids took breaks when they needed to, usually outside, and worked until they were done.
  • All the assigned work got done.
  • K spent hours developing a new-to-her technique for jewellery making.
  • We had poetry night and movie night; it was no problem when they ran later than bedtime, because we don’t have to get up super-early anymore.
  • I spent yesterday afternoon in the park with R, drinking Starbucks drinks and talking about the weekly Torah portion (more on that in a minute.)
  • I connected with each child over their school work this week and used our relationship to help them get into subjects they otherwise disliked.

All in all, it was a very good week.


I was unsure of how I wanted to approach Torah study in our homeschool, but I knew that I would… somehow. As of last week I had decided to do a class on the weekly parsha, but then I had a better idea: every week, one child would learn the parsha with me and then tell everyone else about it over Shabbat dinner.

When I first announced it, this idea went over like a lead balloon.

I wasn’t willing to change the plan because of the kids’ objections—just think of the precedent it would set—but I’m not opposed to tweaking my ideas. I’m also not opposed to bribery, which I decided to apply in large amounts. I announced it on Thursday night at the dinner table:

“So here’s how parsha is going to work. One lucky kid is going to go somewhere with me for hot chocolate or some other special drink, and then we’ll sit down with our drinks and a treat and learn the parsha together. Then at Shabbat dinner, that kid will teach everyone else a bit of what we learned.”

The response was instant and overwhelming:

“I call being first!” “No, I call being first!” “Can I please be next?”

I had already assigned parsha to R for this week, so yesterday we walked to Starbucks, picked up our pre-ordered drinks (I do like that option,) and sat down in the park to discuss Torah.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a Torah scholar, but I did learn a lot of it in school, and I can read and understand Hebrew fluently. So R and I worked our way through creation, the Garden of Eden, and Cain and Abel. We touched on ideas of whether the stories in the Torah are true; where the text might be hinting at multiple gods; why God created plants and animals “of all kinds” but only a single human; and other ways the Cain and Abel narrative could have gone. She was excited to realize that she knew several verses by heart already, since we sing them every week as part of kiddush (the Shabbat blessing over the wine.) Far from the painful slog I had feared it would be, our discussion was animated and dominated by R’s questions and observations.

R didn’t display the same enthusiasm when it came to sharing her learning at the Shabbat table. I had to prompt her with questions and got relatively short answers in response. But her impression of doing parsha with me is a positive one. In the end, a love of engaging with our sacred texts is a goal that will lead the children to the more specific goals of knowing what the Torah says and what it means for us.

Next week it will be E’s turn to learn with me and present the parsha (which covers Noah and the flood and the tower of Babel) at dinner. I’m envisioning a demonstration with stuffed animals, but she might still surprise me. I’m just happy that she’s already excited about it.

Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Just the two of us

Day 208: Way Too Late

Ten hours.

That’s how much sleep I need each night to be at my best. I know some people who do very well on six hours; that’s the kind of sleep schedule that would have me fibro-flaring in under a week. Mr. December laughs that he doesn’t know how I can possibly sleep so much, and he and the kids have nicknamed me “The Sleep-apillar.” I don’t mind the teasing—I often sleep right through it—because they’re right: I sleep a lot when I have the chance.

One of the wonderful things about being at the cottage was the hours we kept. With no internet surfing (we could have, but agreed not to) and lighting so dim that we couldn’t really do much after dark anyhow, we went to bed between nine and nine-thirty almost every night. I woke up almost every day having had a solid ten hours of sleep. It was amazing.

Evenings are completely different now that we’re back at home. Our house is very well lit—Mr. December made sure of it—and most of the LED bulbs are what they call “daylight”, with a colour temperature of 5000K. It may be night, but with all the lights on in here my brain won’t believe it. We both have blue light filters and nighttime settings on our computers (which have helped us to feel tired at eleven instead of one) but the major problem is the sheer number of distractions available to us on the internet.

Whatever the reason, for the last week we’ve been going to bed way too late: around eleven or even midnight each night. And even though I’m definitely getting eight hours of sleep most nights, it’s not enough. I feel tired only because we’re too undisciplined to turn off the light and go to sleep earlier. I’m starting to feel the way I did before COVID turned our world upside down, and I promised myself I’d work hard not to feel that way again.

Once we start homeschooling, two days from today, I’ll have to wake up earlier than I have been. I’ll also have to be “on” more than I’m accustomed to. The only way this is going to work for me is if I get into the habit of going to sleep by 9:30; anything later is just too late. Maybe I should get the kids to tuck me in before they go to bed, or ask Mr. December to please get off his computer earlier and drag me upstairs. What definitely won’t work is just saying that I’m going to bed early from now on. Like the commercial says: if I could have done it alone, I would have done it already.

crafty · DIY · education · Homeschool · Just the two of us · whine and cheese

Day 208: Too Much Information?

Something’s wrong with this, but I can’t figure it out.

The magnetic notice boards I ordered from IKEA arrived today. We’d just finished going over the schedule and deciding how much time we needed every week for each subject, and I went downstairs to finish printing, laminating, and cutting the magnets.

I had the magnets all printed, laminated, cut, and ready to go; so when the magnetic notice boards I ordered from IKEA finally arrived this morning, I was eager to try them out. I used ⅛” wide masking tape to create the grid and filled in the times and days. Then Mr. December and I went to town with the magnets, slapping them down and rearranging them until we were satisfied with the result.

But the next time I looked at it, it suddenly seemed overwhelming and confusing to me. I’m not sure why. Is there just too much information in one place? Is it just that the asymmetry of the board is visually uncomfortable? Are the grid lines too thin, or too close together? I was suddenly a lot less sure of this system.

“Maybe this kind of board should just be for our own reference, and the kids should have a board that just shows the current day’s work?” I suggested to Mr. December. “If it’s overwhelming for me, how would it be for R — she’s only nine!”

I already knew what he would say, and he didn’t disappoint: “It’s already made. Let’s try it for a week or two and see how it goes.”

Here’s where my perfectionism and my “go big or go home” mentality work against me. I want to start the school year off with everything we need, including materials and supplies that look beautiful and are ready to use. From that perspective, I don’t really want to use a test version. I want to have something solid.

(If only the local school board had taken that approach to e-learning. I hear it was a total mess. If only there was some way to test an online platform before going live… and to test each student’s connection before the first class… if only they’d had, like, a whole summer to work on the launch of e-learning. Oh, well. I’m sure they did their best. Right?)

I’m too tired to figure this out tonight. Mr. December and I spent most of the day working out our plan. All we did was talk for six hours, but it was exhausting. I have way more empathy now for people who have to sit through endless meetings. I think I’ll go to bed soon, then wake up in the morning and attack it with fresh eyes. Either that or I could distract myself with a craft: I obviously need my magazine files to be covered in pretty fabric before school starts, right?

DIY · education · goodbye clutter! · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Kids · love and marriage

Day 207: It’s so quiet in here!

My parents and my in-laws joined us for Shabbat dinner in the sukkah tonight. A good time was had by all (BY ALL!), and then I pulled an Oprah.

“Thanks so much for coming. Tonight I’m sending you home with a special loot bag… everyone gets a kid! YOU get a kid! And YOU get a kid! And YOU get a kid!”

Yes, I farmed my kids out to their grandparents tonight. Mr. December and I are alone in the house, just the two of us.

“You two behave yourselves while you’re alone together in this house!” My mom joked as she buckled E into dad’s car.

“I’ll try,” I shot back jovially, “but I’m not sure I can resist a man who’s up to his ears in math curriculum.”

This is adulthood, isn’t it? There’s nobody here but me and my husband, and we’ve got big plans for the weekend, all of which involve homeschool planning. There’s a notable absence of romance in our itinerary. We’re going to be getting stuff done this weekend—and we’re happy about that. Welcome to middle age. Population: me and my Mr.

Speaking of getting things done, today I snatched my week from the jaws of procrastination. I made challah, printed and cut all the magnets for the kids’ schedule boards, ordered groceries online (they were delivered two hours later), and organized my command centre shelf that’s been a dumping ground for a long time now. Mr. December mentioned a few times this week that the mess was annoying and he couldn’t find anything.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “whose command centre is it?”

“Everyone’s.” He seemed sure of his answer, but I set him straight.

Anyhow, I’m wishing I had taken a “before” picture, but I didn’t even think of blogging about it until much later. The “after” is pretty cool, though. Check it out:

This is a fabulous example of why I don’t throw out leftovers from my projects. The pegboard is made up of two offcuts from when I organized my sewing space; it just so happened that they fit this cabinet perfectly. The various cups, hooks, and rods were leftovers and rejects from my pantry, but I never bothered returning them to IKEA. It’s so nice to be able to decide spontaneously to organize a space right now, and just go downstairs to get everything I need.

All in all, the project took an hour and a half, which included carefully going through all of the kids’ weekly charts for the last six months before unceremoniously dumping them in the recycling (who am I kidding? I’m never going to read those.) I found five pairs of scissors (big apologies to my kids, whom I accused of taking all the scissors and losing them), three calculators, and four boxes of staples in the clutter. I felt so productive.

I still haven’t called the window company about replacing the broken attic window, though. I guess I can’t do that until Tuesday (Monday is a holiday here, for those of you outside of Canada). In the meantime, I’m going to turn the lights down low, pour some Bailey’s into my vanilla tea, sit down next to Mr. December… and start working out our plans for the next three weeks.

education · Homeschool · Independence · Just the two of us · Kids · Montessori

Day 205: It’s Complicated.

I had figured it out. “It”, in this case, means our homeschool schedule. I had finally arranged all of the subjects so that they were appropriately distributed and the schedule worked for all of us, Mr. December included. I heaved a big sigh of relief and went to tell Mr. December the good news.

“This is great!” He said. “I think we should give each kid a system like this with cards so they can choose their own schedule for the independent work.”

“Good idea,” I said, picturing a magnetic to-do list for each child, where they could move their tasks around to suit their own work preferences.

But he wasn’t done: “Actually, we should make the cards different sizes for different lengths of work periods, so math might be an hour but read-aloud might only be 30 minutes. And we’ll probably need icons on each card to show if it’s independent, adult-dependent, or a family activity. Oh, and maybe a different design for things like dentist appointments, that the kids can’t move around on the schedule. You know the cards and the board need to be scaled the same so that it makes sense visually, you know, so three hours look longer than one hour…”

He might have continued past that, but my internal dialogue had ramped up by then. All I wanted to do was give them a different way to organize a to-do list of their schoolwork! Not teach them all the complexities of maintaining a calendar for six people!

Oh, wait. I actually said that quiet part out loud. Oops.

What Mr. December is describing seems to be just a few items short of a schedule you might see in a large corporation, where people need to book conference rooms and have to see what everyone else on the team is doing. Such a schedule is, I hear, indispensable in a corporate setting, but I fear that it’s a bit much for a humble homeschool. At what point do all the different icons, words, colour codes, and shapes become confusing visual clutter?

Visual clutter is a concept that’s been with me since K started Montessori at age 3. The classroom was neat, organized, relaxed, and serene—partly because of the natural colour palette, but mostly because there was plenty of empty wall space. In contrast, when I went into a public school with N (we volunteered for Roots of Empathy), the walls were littered with posters about spelling rules, motivational sayings with inspiring pictures, behaviour charts, and math facts–each more colourful and eye-catching than the last. Apparently there just wasn’t enough space on the walls, as clotheslines with posters criss-crossed the classroom ceiling. It felt like an assault on my eyes.

Ever since then, I’ve tried to keep our home visually uncluttered. Homeschool has changed that to a degree, because the fact is that some things need to be posted where everyone can see them. Still, I believe that there’s such a thing as too much information on a single poster or chart, and I fear that adding all of Mr. December’s suggested information will make these charts so cluttered as to negate their original purpose. Does everything really have to be so complicated?