Brain Under Construction


This is the packaging my 6 year old created for his dad’s father’s day gift. His dad is a particle physicist, so there’s intentionality in this list.

This is how my 6yo rolls. J thrives on new information. Tonight, I asked what he wanted to read for a bedtime story, and he chose an elementary math dictionary, the pages on functions and algebra. We’re not pushing this on him. We’re not hothousing him. I suggested Dr. Frumble’s Bedtime Stories, (aff. link) but he wanted to talk about algebra and to do 78*2*2 in his head.

This isn’t to brag. It’s just the reality of who he is. Like other kids who can ride a bike early, are totally coordinated, musically inclined, socially aware, or have other talents. Everyone has some area in which he or she shines. Some are more recognized and celebrated by society than others.

He started reading at 3, and would sit for hours, reading books and completing worksheets. But that’s time he didn’t spend running, jumping, and socializing with other kids. So we have to make that up now, as those parts of his brain “wake up”, so to speak. It means that we’re practicing some of the same social skills that we are with my 3 year olds, like not taking things without asking. But it’s not wrong. It’s an outgrowth of how his brain works.

He’s asynchronous. Different areas of his brain are developing at rates outside what is typically expected, and because some parts are getting more attention, others have been neglected and are waking up later.


That means that we can be discussing what kinds of metals are best for cars or staples, and the next I’m telling him not to lick his stuffed sheep. (true story)



We live in a state that has relatively strict homeschool reporting requirements, including a comprehensive year-long plan due in the summer before the upcoming school year, with plans and curriculum for each of the required subjects.

While I’m diligently completing this requirement to convince the district that we take home education for our six year old seriously (we do!), I also wanted to write out how we’ll actually spend our time.

We’re doing school backwards. You know those things that get left behind in order to cram in academics? That’s what we’re doing first.

Games. Lots of games. Time to practice winning and losing graciously, cooperative games to work on collaborative communication.  Logic, reasoning and word games. Math games, spatial exercises, strategy games, musical games. 

Socialization. Oh, the socialization. Family relationships, co-ops, old friends & new ones.  Younger and older siblings. Sports teammates, church friends, and neighbors. Random people at the store, library, and museum. Supported socialization in safe settings, play dates. 

Pleasure reading. Reading “just because”. Reading out loud. Shared reading. Re-reading. Easy books. Hard books. Silly books. Backs of cereal boxes. Reading without an agenda, comprehension quiz, or follow-up assignment.

Movement. Team sports. Walks in the woods. Chasing siblings through the backyard. Impromptu dance parties. Improvised obstacle courses. Beach days in September. Sledding outings in January. Shoveling dirt. Shoveling snow. Shoveling sand. Playground visits. Bike rides. Hiking trails. Trampoline parks. Swimming pools. 

Unabashed curiosity. Reading about whatever topic excites us, asking lots of questions. Museum visits and hands-on science experiments. Testing theories and observing the world around us. Watching bubbles caught by wind currents and racing sticks under the bridge. Turning over rocks (carefully, of course!), following rabbit trails, and catching snowflakes.

Those are our priorities, our primary curriculum. 

The other stuff? We’ll get to it too. If we can manage to squeeze it in! 

What about you? How do you balance what your children need with the formal homeschooling requirements where you live? Or if your kids go to school, what do you do with the”extra” time you have with them? 

The “EWWWWW” factor

Gypsy moths and I do not get along.

They don’t belong in North America. (true story) They’re gross. Hairy. And they eat the oak tree leaves. Last year, it was so bad that the deck was covered in feces that I had to sweep up on a daily basis, but we couldn’t eat or play outside because the @#$% would land in our hair, on our plates, etc. It was so loud that we could go outside and hear them chewing.

We sprayed (with a natural garlic spray). We taped the oaks with duct tape (they don’t like going across sticky surfaces) – (and this year we added Tanglefoot, (aff link) which works even better). We shop vac’ed the egg sacks from the moths. We trapped the male moths (aff link) females are too heavy to fly).

And this year they’re back. Not as bad, but they’re still back. We sprayed again. We taped the trees again. But they’re still everywhere. Not as bad, (and we’re winning – gradually), but still there.

Sooooo… how do I handle that with my kids? Who today wanted to go exploring and dig in the dirt? Despite my visceral reaction, today they found a slug, some pill bugs, a few ants, and then started catching small gypsy moth caterpillars on sticks (it’s not good to touch these caterpillars with your skin – can cause an allergic reaction).

Gypsy Moth Caterpillars

And as personally repulsed I am by these creatures (they look harmless here, but they grow to 2-3 inches long each, poop all over the place, and decimate our trees), they were allowed to giggle as they caught and then released these beasts.

I didn’t want my personal distaste to squelch in any way their joy of discovery. So gypsy moth caterpillars – sure!

We don’t encourage our kids to kill any animals. If bugs are inside, we try to catch and release or we adults take care of it. When outside, we encourage a “live and let live” philosophy, except for mosquitoes. We don’t actively smash or destroy living things in front of them. When they’re older, we’ll help them differentiate between helpful insects and pests, but we want to encourage a cruelty-free response to all living things until then.




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Coffee Filter Parachutes

I love finding simple, creative ways to explore with my kids. When I came across this idea for coffee filter parachutes, it fit the bill because

1) – we already had coffee filters and pipe cleaners (chenille stems)

2) – it required very little finesse or talent. Pinterest and I don’t get along very well. 

3) – the possibilities for exploration were endless

 We started out mostly following directions.

Then my kids became curious – they tried different combinations:

  • Beads weighting the stems in different locations
  • Holes in the filters in various locations
  • Centered and non-centered stems

After that, I stood on a chair, and we raced them, 2 at a time, predicting which would be fastest, slowest, & why, and then testing their hypotheses.

Today, we gathered up all our chutes and headed to the local playground. 

There we further tested our chutes with the added wind variable (plus the crumpled variable from being handled so much). It was a blast.

A couple things we learned: we had the little 4c basket shaped filters. This probably would have worked better with a larger size, and if you’re working with little kids especially, make sure the pipe cleaner ends get bent down so no one gets poked in all the excitement.

Happy parachuting!

What variations did your kids come up with? 


Last year, as I was bringing my kindergartner home for the summer, I knew that we would need some kind of guidance, at least for the first couple of weeks, to keep us from the “I’m bored!” “What can I do now” stage.

My then-five-year-old is a creative, out-of-the-box thinker. If you give him options A&B, he’ll choose C. If you offer A-E, he’ll choose F, or a combination of the above. Because of that, I was careful to create a more open-ended document that we could use together.

We didn’t end up actually filling anything out last summer. Instead, we used the categories as starting points of different ways to think of productively going about the day.Summer Plans 2016

If this is helpful for you, great!

Am also attaching as a .docx file (Summer Plans 2016), in case you’d like to take this and modify for your own use. Enjoy! And happy summer!

We Don’t Have to Fix It

A couple weeks ago, my son wrote a story. A whole story. On his own. Without being forced. I don’t know who was prouder – him or me. He was so excited and wanted to email it to his cousin so she could read it, and we agreed that he would dictate the first two pages to me, and he would type page 3. It was all going beautifully until he got tired and decided to shorten the last couple of sentences with abbreviations. 

I was naturally disappointed because I wanted him to show his best work to the world, but he was adamant that these abbreviations were adequate. At that point, I had a choice to make. I could either be okay with it or take over and redo it, but in taking over and overriding his creative process, I would be taking ownership away from him in the name of the final product. In this instance, it wasn’t worth it. I let it go.

My 3yo wanted to help me place biscuits on the tray. The rule was that they needed to have space to grow. Otherwise, the placement was purely aesthetic. I chose to let it go.

It’s time to get dressed to go somewhere, and one of my kiddos decides she wants to wear her shirt backwards. Does it really matter? Today, not so much. We let it go. 

I’m trying hard, when my kids take initiative and ownership of something, not to take it away from them in the name of what other people might think. There are plenty of times they do need to submit to our correction for legitimate reasons, so let’s try to otherwise give them space to explore. 

The Easiest Sprouts Ever (seriously)

My success in gardening and helping things grow has been marginal, at best. Which is pretty pathetic considering my grandparents were farmers and we always had a garden growing up. 

So imagine my excitement to find an easy, quick, mess-free, edible growing experiment that even my 3-year-olds could handle. So happy. 

You need 

  • A clear glass jar (I like to use a pint sized wide mouth mason jar)
  • Brown lentils (I use the cheap Goya ones from the grocery store)
  • Breathable glass covering (I use a metal rim and cheesecloth, but a rubber band and coffee filter would work too
  • 6 days

Here’s how you start. 

Day 1: Sort & rinse enough lentils to be about 10% of the container height, and then let them soak (immersed) in water overnight. (We find that filtered (chlorine free) water works best.)

When you wake up the next morning, drain the lentils (through the cheesecloth), and follow the steps for days 2-6.

Day 2-6: Rinse with clean water, drain, and lay the jar on its side in a bowl or plate. Do this at least 3x/day (morning, afternoon, before bed)

By day 3, you should start seeing little “tails”. By day 5, it should look like

And by day 6 or 7, once the sprouts have clear leaves, rinse one more time, discard any lentils that didn’t sprout, and store in your fridge in a closed container. They keep great for a week or longer. Discard if they become slimy or smelly.

That’s it. So easy, and they taste great on top of a salad or added to a sandwich or pasta dish.