I don’t have time to write, which is exactly why I’m writing. I don’t want to let too much time pass with silence in this space. I’ve realized one of the reasons I lean on Instagram is because I can do it in bed—last thing at night, or early in the morning, lying there cozy under my quilt, playing with photos. It’s relaxing. But the WordPress phone app works just as well as Instagram. I don’t know why it never occurs to me to blog from there. I guess because I think of blogging as long-form, even though that’s totally ahistorical.
Anyway, here I am. I’m working really, really long days, these days. Have to make up for time missed during my illness. Thank goodness for our high-tide mornings. Homeschooling is the fun part of my day. We’re reading Comet in Moominland (still! begun in San Diego!), taking loooong nature walks (oh these trees!), and reading Lewis & Clark, Paddle-to-the-Sea, and a lot of poetry. Beanie and I are supposed to be starting a big Shakespeare project this week, but I’m behind on the reading. 😉
A fun thing: I held my first live monthly Q&A session this afternoon for my Patreon subscribers! We talked about what tidal homeschooling looks like with teens, books about the craft of writing, and I answered a question about Martha and Charlotte books. I also shared a stack of picture books we’ll be reading tomorrow for Halloween, and I finished up with a piece of advice about encouraging creativity. If you are interested in tuning into these monthly chats (either live or in replay), they’re available to all subscribers to my Patreon at the $3/month-or-more level.
A few weeks ago the kids and I discovered a new-to-us resource for our German studies. The Goethe Institute has a set of comprehensive and quite entertaining lessons for children—fun, thorough, and (amazingly) free.
The elementary-aged program is called German With Felix and Franzi, a cartoon frog and duck who move from Berlin to London. Each lesson begins with a short animated video. Supplementary materials include a Powerpoint with vocabulary-practice activities (we download them, move the words and pictures around as directed, and then close without saving changes), as well as music and lyrics for a couple of songs. The site is loaded with additional resources, and I’ve only just begun to mine the possibilities.
While the animation tends toward the preschool end of the spectrum, the lesson content is just right for my two beginners, ages 8 and 11. We work through several lessons a week, beginning each day’s session with a re-watch of earlier videos in the series, with the speed bumped up to 1.5 to help with comprehension. (Since conversational speakers usually talk a lot faster than the characters in educational videos.)
A real plus: the already rich lesson content is further enhanced by corresponding Memrise lessons for vocabulary review! (I’ve raved about Memrise before…)
So our lessons look something like:
—watch one or two of the videos whose content they’ve already learned;
—watch the next new lesson in the series;
—sing a few of the songs;
—(maybe) play with the Powerpoint activities;
—(maybe) watch a few other German children’s song videos on Youtube—not part of Felix & Franzi, just things we find in search;
—(later in the day) Rilla does a Memrise lesson. (Huck’s not a fan.)
It’s a good format for us and I’m pleased with their progress.
Beanie, with several years of German under her belt already, has been investigating the Goethe Institut resources for more advanced students. She especially enjoys the music playlists.
This was an accidental find last month, right when I needed a nudge, and so far the program gets high marks from me. Which is saying something, because I do believe I’ve tried just about every foreign language program on the homeschooling market, at some point or other!
…on my Instagram: I’ve been sharing glimpses of our daily homeschooling adventures on the feed and in my IG Stories. Been playing a bit with Live Stories, too. Need to decide if I’m going to archive/upload them somewhere, since they disappear after 24 hours.
…on my Patreon: in this week’s subscriber-only post, I shared the most important piece of advice I give my writing students.
…in my backyard: the hydrangeas are stunning, and the hedge is beginning to turn red. Summer, meet fall.
…on our speakers: The Girl Who Drank the Moon audiobook.
…in my inbox: Naomi Bulger’s “The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written e-course, which starts today. I’m pretty excited. Naomi’s work is lovely and her gentle, thoughtful approach resonates with me. I think you can still join the class, if you’re interested. (Affiliate link.)
…in my sketchbook: mostly rough pencil sketches of flowers, lately. Not as much of anything as I would like. I’m a bit buried under work, now that my radiation vacation is over. (Hahaha I slay myself. It was the exact opposite of a vacation. It was…not my favorite experience ever.)
(That reminds me: I shared these photos on IG but not here. If anything deserves to make the permanent archive, it’s this moment that Scott captured on the day of my final treatment. When you walk out of the radiation room for the last time, the staff is waiting with confetti, cheers, and a ‘diploma.’ I had no idea this was coming, so the celebration caught me by surprise.)
The next couple of weeks were pretty rough (side effects lag behind treatment, so my burn didn’t get ugly until a few days after I was finished), but hitting this milestone wonderful. And now, three weeks later, I’m feeling pretty good. Not quite my old self? But getting there.
I’m starting to feel better, for real. For the first time in weeks, I felt up to a nature walk with Huck and Rilla. Sure, we only went around the block, but after weeks of radiation fatigue, that felt like a really big deal. We wanted to see if the giant conifers at the end of our block are Douglas firs. They aren’t! But we found one in a neighbor’s yard one block over. And then another, and another. The cones are quite distinctive, with little upward-pointing bracts between the scales. Our pinecone collection is growing. Big excitement for my SoCal chaparral kids.
In one of the firs, we spotted a Northern flicker directly overhead. We watched him until our necks ached, then hurried home because Rilla needed to paint him before she burst. We know flickers pretty well through my parents, who have a nesting box with webcam in their backyard. Wee ugly baby birds every spring—very cool. So it was extra exciting to encounter one in our new neighborhood.
These days I find I dread opening tabs in the morning. The news has been unremittingly awful for so long. I’ve fallen quiet on most of the platforms I used to be chatty on. Facebook and Twitter have become outlets for activism (which annoys some friends, but I can’t help it; I can’t not try). Only on Instagram do I shut all of that out. I worry, sometimes, about sharing happy and peaceful photos over there, or here, when there are so many horrors unfolding everywhere. But I need it, I need that space for celebrating the good. And since Instagram is a stream platform where the feed, hosted and controlled by another entity, scrolls away and could disappear altogether some day, as platforms do, I’m compelled to bring those memories over here too, where I can keep them safe. Thus the repost of the thoughts above, which I shared on IG yesterday.
I find I’m using IG Stories more often, too, to show quick glimpses of our day-in-progress. I got a sweet note from a reader yesterday who mentioned that she appreciated the window into our homeschooling days. I know how she feels; I love those peeks into other households. IG Stories disappear after 24 hours, and although my online urge is always toward preservation and archiving, I like the transitory nature of those photo and video snippets. It feels like sharing just enough, not too much.
I started this post this morning, and now it’s dinnertime and I’ve forgotten where I was going with it. Ah, well. Back to the salt mines. (Rilla got curious about that phrase yesterday and we spent twenty minutes watching videos about actual salt mines. Because of course we did!)
I first encountered Naomi Bulger’s mail art via her enchanting Instagram account. She has sent hundreds and hundreds of gorgeously illustrated letters around the world, and her delightful “Naomi Loves” newsletter often includes free downloadable templates for dressing up your own snail mail. Like this:
This month Naomi is launching an online snail mail e-course called “The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written.” It will focus on both the ins and outs of letter-writing—how (and why) to slow down and make time for snail mail correspondence, and how to dress up your letters so beautifully that just the sight of them will bring a smile to the recipient. The course includes writing prompts, tips for compelling writing, mail art tutorials and templates, and membership in a private mail-art pen-pal club. Lots more information here.
(Contains affiliate links.)
The hardest part of writing the Brave Writer Arrow for Kelly Barnhill’s gorgeous novel The Girl Who Drank the Moon was narrowing it down to just four quotes. What a rich and wonderful book. (It was this year’s Newbery Medal winner!) I’m so enjoying writing the Arrow guides. It’s a pleasure to choose passages from someone else’s work and dive deep into the writing, exploring language and craft. This week I’ll be working on the November issue, Johnny Tremain.
Other Arrow issues I have written:
Today begins the two-week public nominations period for the 2017 Cybils Awards. Please visit the Cybils blog to find out how to submit your favorite children’s and YA books of the past year for consideration!
Now that I have finished radiation treatments and am slowly beginning to feel a bit more like my old self (for chunks of the day, at least), I’m looking forward to sharing regular weekly posts and monthly live chats with my Patreon subscribers. I began the Patreon to help pay medical bills and to support this dear old blog. If you’re interested in subscribing for $1 or more per month, click here. (And thanks!)