Today marks the official first day of Christmas break for the kids. Yea!!! When I told them on Friday that break started today, they were ecstatic. Which is hilarious. Because really, with the exception of daily math class, the kids will still be doing a lot of what we’ve been doing all month. And they’ll do it because they want to, not because I assign them anything. I love this stuff.
So what is it that we’ve been doing that is and isn’t “school” at the same time? I said in an earlier post that we keep a looser schedule in December, but that doesn’t mean we’ve just thrown everything to the wind. Ian still gets up and goes jazz band practice at 7:20 every morning. That gives me about 45 minutes to infuse my veins with a pot of coffee and Eva a chance to roll out of bed and find some fresh clothes. Some mornings at around 8:15, we go up to the university and play racquetball with Jamie and walk the track. Other mornings, we jump right into math.
Once we’ve done about 45 minutes of math, we’ve been moving into science. The specific activities have altered each day. Some days we’ve watched youtube videos, and I’ve had the kids take notes, sketching different ideas of Rube Goldberg components they’d like to incorporate into their own machine. Some days we’ve just built stuff – you saw the one complete contraption, but I’ve had them build smaller components too, mainly out of legos. We tried and failed at an experiment with pulleys (I bought the wrong kind of spring scale; the correct one arrived in the mail just this week). And Eva’s been finishing the last few robotics models in her Lego WeDo Education kit. We’re having such a good time. The video below is a little carousel that Ian created; my assignment was simply to build some kind of machine that he didn’t have instructions for.
Ian’s not really doing anything specific for literature this month, but Eva is reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. They both had book club about a week ago; Ian read The Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, and Eva read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.
We have had our weekly cooking class – the kids have made peanut butter cookies and pumpkin bread. This week we’ll be doing a lot a meal pre-prep, as my parents are coming to visit on Thursday. I’ll give the kids various casserole and pie assignments. We’ll of course play lots of Dean Martin and Bing Crosby whilst we cook.
Music practice happens most days, but not all; Ian is still composing, still practicing drums. Eva is learning to play her trumpet. And the kids have worked on Spanish a couple of times. But not much, to be honest.
This month we’ve also been focusing on giving back. The kids each receive a weekly allowance of $2; they are required to put 50 cents in a spending jar, 50 cents in a savings jar, and 50 cents in a sharing jar. The destination of the remaining 50 cents is up to them. Over time, their sharing jar has accumulated quite a bit – they each have about $30. So, this month, I assigned them the task of identifying and researching an organization they’d like to support. Ian felt compelled to help people with basic needs, such as food, housing, and medical care. We landed on Doctors Without Borders; he explored their website and was impressed with the quality and scope of their work. Eva, our animal lover, wanted to support conservation efforts, especially as they related to koalas. She’s found a couple of koala refuges in Australia that she would like to support; she’s still narrowing her choices down.
As a part of this project, Eva announced that she wanted to volunteer at our local humane society. I have a friend who works there, so one afternoon last week while Ian was in his earth science and band classes at the middle school, we drove out and took the tour. One of the things they need volunteers to do is to simply play with the animals, keeping them happy and socialized. We spent about a half hour covered in a litter of kittens. They jumped and tugged and pawed and were generally adorable, and I’m not even a cat person. We met other animals too – HIV cats, puppy mill rescue dogs, animals that came with various injuries and disease. There’s a lot of love to be given around there.
While we were there, my friend Chris told Eva that she had been mulling over an idea for a fundraiser for the Humane Society for some time. A particular dog that had come through the shelter had captured Chris’ heart and imagination; Chris asked Eva if she would write a book about it, and offer the proceeds back to the Humane Society. Eva has accepted the challenge, and she hopes to have a story outline ready by mid-January. I’m so excited about this opportunity for her; this is a gift that will support the shelter for years to come.
For those of you who don’t know, we lost our sweet dog Merlin last Thursday. He was 16 and a loyal and loving companion through many of my and Jamie’s life transitions. I had Merlin before I even started dating my now husband. So it’s happy and sad time around the Ridenhour household. We’re giving our other aged dog (Dakota, 15) tons of extra love – she is now officially Spoiled Rotten. We laugh with our sweet memories of Merlin, and then cry over them too. That’s the way it goes.
Happy holidays everyone, no matter where you spend them or what you celebrate. May your family be loving, your gifts meaningful, your food nurturing, and your gift-wrap recyclable. 🙂 See you next week-
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