Journal Entry 11

Tuesday, October 6, 1987

I am not sitting around unschooling with Camille, Mindy, and Lindsey today. Oh, no!

Instead, I'm hanging out with the Princess of Blue, the Princess of Pink, and the Princess of Red.

Well, that's what they call themselves. Actually, come to think of it, they do look a lot like Camille, Mindy, and Lindsey!

The girls are looking really gaudy because, first thing this morning, they got out the play dough, and Mindy had an idea to create fake fingernails with her play dough. So the other two girls followed suit, and now they all have long, bright-colored nails!

Whoops—hold the presses—they are no longer princesses! Now, they inform me, they are witches.

Well, duh. Halloween decorations fill the house, so the girls naturally want to dress up in Halloween costumes. And now they are pretending to be witches...

We are interrupted: Delia and Kiki arrive and whisk Lindsey off to Mommy and Me class. We promise Lindsey that we will come and visit later.

I am solemnly given the witch hat Lindsey had been wearing, and I am informed that I am the witch teacher, and Mindy and Camille are witch students. And school has just begun!

First, they want me to read The Witch's Hat, by Tony Johnston.
Next, the girls decide that “W” would be a perfect Letter of the Day, being a wonderfully witchy letter. So we do the guessing game in which I draw “W” words, and they see how quickly they can call out the word I'm trying for.
witch ........ window ........ whole ......... web ......... whale .......... world .......... wand ........ word

As they often do, the girls want to copy the words onto their papers and work to “sound them out” as they write them.

Then the girls ask me to draw witch pictures for them to color.

I can do that.

Mindy colors hers in but then starts drawing stuff around the picture. Then she starts telling a story about her witch picture. I quickly scramble to write the story down as she spins it; Mindy sees what I'm doing and is excited to keep going.

At one point, Mindy asks Camille if she wants to add to the story. Camille refuses the invitation. Mindy continues on.

When Mindy is entirely done dictating her story, Camille informs me, “I don't want to write a story about a witch, because that's too scary.” (Mind you, Camille IS a witch, hat and all!) I keep my surprise to myself as Camille informs me that her story will be about ballerinas. And she dictates her story to me.

A few lines into the story, Camille interrupts herself to tell me, “I like short stories, so this one will be short.”

And, as promised, her ballerina story is nice and short.

The ballerina story seems to have ended the witch period of the morning. Now the kids ask for some dinosaur stickers, and they apply the stickers on blank papers and draw scenery around them. As the girls work with stickers and markers, they reminisce about our museum trip. At some point, still talking about our museum fun, they start working on the dinosaur skeleton model.

And then Camille gets out another blank piece of paper, and she draws a whale.

The girls inform me that it is snack time. They all of a sudden remember that this is witch school, so Mindy says that the orange juice is Halloween punch and asks for spider web sticky-goo. Hmmm...what could that be? I hazard a guess that it is peanut butter and am rewarded with an enthusiastic nod. I realize that we also have orange colored crackers, and both girls are excited that they fit into the color scheme.

Camille's dad surprises us with a phone call. He is home because of a power outage at his company, and he asks if Camille wants to come home. She says, “No!” I wonder if her dad realizes that she's a whale-drawing scared-of-witches witch today...

As promised, we bundle into the car and drive to Mommy and Me class to visit. This makes a nice, active break from the rest of the morning, since the class is outside when we arrive. Lindsey is playing in the sand, and both girls run toward her with glad cries. Mindy gives her a HUGE hug—how nice, huh?—and then both Mindy and Camille start playing on the monkey bars. After that, it's the rings, the swings, and just plain old running on the grass. Lindsey jumps up to join in their zig-zagging run.

Time to come inside. The dear Mommy and Me teacher, Mrs. Popkins, starts sharing time. Lindsey “shares” her big sister! Mindy asks if she could share, too, and Mrs. Popkins nods with a big smile. I wonder what Mindy has to share, but she proudly shows off Lindsey's craft project, which she had just been shown minutes before. Then it is Kiki's turn to share; he shares his cousin Camille.

Time for more outdoor play. I'm excited that the girls are enjoying the playground so much and tell myself firmly that I've got to get them to the park more often. Somehow the large size of the playground invites much bigger, faster movements than our patio and small yards.

When it's time to go home, Lindsey surprises me by wanting to go home with Kiki. But...okay, sure.

Home again, Camille and Mindy both draw whales—which is pretty funny; it's as if they are picking up where they were before the snack and “recess” had interrupted their play.

Then the kids ask for read-alouds. I read The Count of Halloween, and Mindy counts all the witchy objects “to make sure the numbers are right.” The kids even ask me to read entries in the Halloween Dictionary. As I read, they color in pictures from The Count of Halloween.

I finally feel done with witch school, and I sneak off to do some dishes and start a load of laundry. The kids abandon their coloring project somewhere along the line and get out the two large Rainbow Brite dolls and some of the accessories. Camille has Rainbow Brite, and Mindy has Shy Violet. The girls dress them in sleepwear and arrange pillows and blankets. Then Mindy asks if she can have a turn with Rainbow Brite, and Camille switches dolls amicably. Soon they are restoring the doll's usual clothes and troop into the kitchen, where they grab two lunch boxes and the small ice chest. I almost want to ask them if they want to pack some food, but then I see that they are already packing food—invisible food—with intricate movements as they pour invisible juice into the thermos, spread invisible peanut butter on invisible bread, and pack invisible sandwiches in invisible sandwich bags. It's so cute, I dare not interrupt.

When the girls leave, their invisible lunch nicely made and packed, I go to the doorway to see what they're up to. They have pushed the love seat up next to the sofa, apparently creating a van. They carefully pack the lunch boxes and ice chest into the back of the sofa-van, balance the dolls in sitting positions in the middle portion of the sofa-van, and they themselves sit with crossed legs in the front.

Soon the van is abandoned (invisible lunch still apparently uneaten, although it's hard to tell!), and the girls are reading Halloween books to the two dolls. I am getting a lot of stuff done while keeping an eye on how wonderful it is to see non-readers “read” – they have such good memories of the stories I've read to them!

But all of a sudden I hear, “Thwack!” And a sudden onset of loud crying.

What happened?” I ask the two girls, who have abandoned books and dolls to come find me.

Still sobbing, the girls tell me that they hit their heads together. I hug them and suggest lunch (I'm thinking of real food here, but I wonder if they're going to go get the invisible lunch in the perfectly visible lunch boxes and cooler, still perched at the back of the sofa-van.) “We're not hungry,” Mindy says—Camille seems fine with her friend speaking for her—and I offer to read to them again, but they spy their Count of Halloween coloring books and want to color more of those pages. The tears evaporate.

It's getting late for lunch (2:30), and I'm starving. As the girls turn away from the coloring books to the dinosaur flannelboard, I decide to make a really special Halloween feast so (hopefully) we can all eat. When I see that the kids have wound down on the flannelboard project, I tell them to clean up the area so we can eat:
  • Crabapples and Gooey Glop
          (actually regular apples and peanut butter)
  • Gophers' Eyes
          (frozen peas)
  • and Ghost Water

The kids fall upon the meal enthusiastically. After I'm done eating, while they are still having fun munching on a frozen pea here, thawing and squishing a pea in their fingers there, I tell them that we can play the Continental Travel game—a brand new countries-of-the-world Colorform set.

For each continent, you can choose one country, and we'll visit that country. In the van.” (I nod my head toward the living room, where the sofas are still pushed together.)

The girls fall in with the plan, and we study the Colorform world map. “What's this continent called?” I ask as I point to each of the six inhabited continents. The girls remember every name. Then I ask, “What country should we visit in North America?” I ask the same question for each continent. The girls either name a nation, and I point to it, or they point, and I identify their choice. We end up with a great itinerary:

Continent - Country
Australia - Australia 
Asia - Japan and Korea 
Europe - France 
Africa - Kenya 
South America - Colombia 
North America - Canada

Then I get in the “driver's seat” of the sofa-van, and they pile into the back, and we drive to Australia. (I know that we should be going by boat or air—but I don't trouble the kids with trivialities!) A friendly-yet-invisible Aussie sits next to me and greets the kids with a lamentably bad Australian accent: “G'day, Mates!”

We sing “Waltzing Matilda” as we go, then “Tie Me Kangaroo Down.” I encourage the kids to come up with an Australian animal and a color, and then I delight them with a new verse:
If my koala's red, Fred, 
If my koala's red... 
I'll bonk her on the head, Fred, 
And send her straight to ___

Bed!” the kids shout to fill in my expectant silence, and we sing the red-koala verse again.

Of course the kids want to do another verse. This time they suggest a kiwi turning “rainbow.” Yikes!

If my kiwis turn rainbow, Joe, 
If my kiwis turn rainbow... 
I would make them glow, Joe, 
I would make them glow. – Altogether now!

We share our invisible “beano” (feast) with our new invisible Australian friend. And we pass around a real “billy” (can) with invisible water and pretend to drink. Then we drive through the “never-never” and take tours of Sydney and Melbourne (looking at pictures in the encyclopedia). We look at all the pictures of Australian animals in the big animal books. I remember another Aussie song, and we sing “Kookaburra.”

Let's stop at a craft store,” Camille says. We are supposed to be in Melbourne, and I'm sure there are plenty of arts-and-crafts supply stores there, so I make a flourishing turn into an invisible parking lot and announce our destination as “Melbourne's finest crafts store.” The girls clamber off the sofa-van and get out their half-done dinosaur puppets. They work happily until both are complete. I wonder if we are still in Australia, and if I dare pull apart the sofa-van. When the kids decide to dress up as bunnies, I'm pretty sure the Continental Travel game is over for the day.

My newly bunny-eared, whiskered girls help me put the living room to rights, put away the Colorforms, and place Australia on the world map. Then the kids ask for an end-of-the-day snack. Camille points to the package of English muffins. She pretends to be an Australian girl ordering the bread, and I pretend to be an Australian waitress filling her order, and one for the other Aussie, as well (Mindy). The girls ask what kind of money Australians use, and we check the encyclopedia: the Australian dollar. “Then,” says Mindy, “the muffins cost one dollar.”

After a few more G'days, we seem to finally drop the Aussie theme. The girls play piano until Lindsey returns to us and Camille's mom arrives. Whew! Our color-princess-witch-whale-Australia day is over!

I Was That Mom...

In the latest journal entry, I noted that a frightening and somewhat destructive earthquake meant that I had no privacy the rest of the day. I'm a pretty modest person, ordinarily, but of course I put kids' needs first. Years later, I now realize that some people are even more modest than I am—at least, it takes more than a nearby earthquake to breach their needs for privacy.

It got me thinking...

I was that mom who helped other kids when they needed it.

   Even in the bathroom.
   “I need help,” some little kid in our homeschool group would say. So just like any mom would, I'd help the kid.
   Even if it meant wiping a butt.
   Years and years into doing this (here and there, once in a blue moon). I was amazed to hear that some other people didn't feel that they could or should do that for a small child who was not their own.
   “You wouldn't help my daughter?” I asked, very much surprised.
   “No, I'd run and get you.”
   “Leaving my kid alone on a toilet in a public restroom?” I wasn't totally pleased at this mental picture. “Well, what if I were gone, unavailable?” I pressed. After all, I wasn't elbowing other moms away for the privilege of helping their kids in the bathroom—I did it because those other moms weren't available. And because I'd been asked. Often very nicely, with the word please.
   “You're never gone and unavailable,” the mom said to me.
   Note to self, I thought. Never leave my child in that particular mom's care.

I was that mom who was pretty open with my kids. So they knew a fair bit about things that some moms thought of as too adult for little ears.
   And sometimes they shared their knowledge with other kids.
   Somehow one of my preschool-aged kids' friends saw some menstrual blood. I can't remember exactly how this happened—maybe no toilet paper in the park restroom, so I was holding a certain something when I came out of the stall to get a paper towel. My kids and their friend were waiting for me, and the little girl gasped when she saw some blood.
   “Is that blood?” she asked, horrified.
   I quickly wrapped the certain something and ducked back into the stall to properly dispose of it, all the while hurrying to reassure her, “Yes, but don't worry, honey, I'm fine. Everything's fine.”
   The little girl still looked shocked as I began to wash my hands. So one of my daughters tried to comfort her with an explanation. “My mom's just on her period,” she said.
   “What's that mean?”
  I tried to intercede with words to the effect that we should let her mom explain, but my daughter had already gone into teaching mode: “The blood is coming out of her angina—”
   I interrupted to correct her: “Honey, it's vagina. Angina is the chest pains your papa has been feeling.” (Hey, what do you want? My daughter wasn't yet four years old!)
   And she was still talking: “...And that means that she isn't pregnant and she is not going to have a baby in a few months.”
   The little friend looked very confused. I tried to decide whether to address her confusion or change the subject, but my little chatterbox went on: “If she was pregnant, the baby would come out of her angina—”
   “Vagina,” I corrected again.
   “...Vagina,” she concluded.
   “Okay, girls, let's go play!” I said firmly. This time I succeeded in distracting them..
   Note to self: Tell the little girl's mother exactly what was said (and what was not said—we'd talked about two things coming out of the vagina but zero things going into the vagina!) Warn her that her daughter might think one of her private parts is called an angina!

I was that mom who didn't censor while reading books.
   My small kids and I had these lovely, amazing discussions whenever something strange or upsetting came up during a reading session. Ma Ingalls (Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother) just said something lousy about Indians. My kids adore and respect Mrs. Ingalls—so why did she say that awful thing??? We talked about racism, we talked about judging people by modern standards when those people lived long ago, we talked about people being complex mixtures of the good and the bad. The Swiss Family Robinson killed every animal they saw—even animals they had no intention of eating. What's up with that? We discussed different perspectives on animals and the environment and wildlife and hunting.
   When you come to think about it, what a lovely way to start conversations about hard subjects! When reading storybooks or novels with our children, we aren't as personally invested as we would be if we were discussing our next-door-neighbors or Uncle Don. There isn't as much chance for later embarrassing blurts from the mouths of babes!
   I was surprised to hear from a few friends that they'd never had these sorts of discussions. When Ma Ingalls said something racist, they changed her words. When the Robinsons killed a cute little seal, they skipped over that paragraph.
   “Why?” I asked. “We've had such valuable discussions whenever something like this comes up.”
   “I don't want a valuable discussion at bedtime!” one of my friends said with a shrug.
   I know a few little kids who get ultra-disturbed by things that other kids take in stride, so I “get” that their parents do and should protect them. It just never occurred to me to censor a children's book.

Journal Entry 10 - Earthquake!

Thursday, October 1, 1987


I won't have time to write much today...

Okay, I have a few minutes to say that, this morning, while I was in the shower with shampoo well lathered in my hair, there was a pretty powerful earthquake. The kids are totally freaked, because things fell off shelves and, worst of all, the pipe from the hot water heater broke and shot water all over the garage.

I went outside, wet and shampoo-slick, in a robe, and I tried to shut off my water—and I couldn't get the darned valve to turn. A man from down the street saw me and ran over to help. He was able to shut off the water.

Thank you, neighbor-I've-never-noticed-before!

(By the way, I'm probably stuck with drying shampoo in my hair all day. Oh, well...)

The girls and I have talked about what causes an earthquake, what happens during an earthquake, and about earthquake safety. They've been able to practice getting under a sturdy table far from windows, glassware, and other breakable items, over and over, every time there is an aftershock.

I'm really worried. The shake seemed so big-time—where was the epicenter? If it felt that big here, what was it like wherever the epicenter was?

I will not be confiding my worries to Camille, Mindy and Lindsey! They are already so worried, they cannot play two feet away from me. We are acting like a little mob of people attached at the hip. We practically have to scuttle sideways, it's so important to them to be right at my side at all times.

Even when I need to go to the bathroom

There shall be no privacy today. Sigh.

We color in dinosaur coloring books, we sew dinosaur puppets (from a kit), we read books, we watch Dumbo. Finally, when the aftershocks get very few-and-far-between, the kids can stand to be a little bit farther from me. (I'm talking maybe four or five feet away, NOT in the next room!) So now they can run around and be active. They do gymnastics.

And after doing not a whole heck of a lot, the day is over.

P.S. Just wanted to say that it turns out that the epicenter was pretty close, in Rosemead. They're calling this the Whittier Narrows earthquake, and they've assigned it a magnitude of 5.9.

Journal Entry 9

Wednesday, September 30, 1987

Just a quick note to say that the girls loved our trip to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

The dinosaur-ish stuff they enjoyed seeing includes two complete skeletons fighting, a pliosaur, a stegosaur, duckbilled dinosaurs, the head of a triceratops, the foot and head of a tyrannosaur, and a dimetrodon.

The girls also enjoyed stamping their coloring books at various exhibits, for plant eater or meat eater, feeling the cast of dinosaur bones in the Discovery Center, and doing crayon rubbings of fossil shells, leaves, and so forth.

Of course we branched off from dinosaurs to enjoy the seashells, luminescent rocks, pelts, modern bones, X-rays, microscopes, and the dress up station.

This is what the girls dictated to me when we got home:

We like the Discovery Center. Our favorite parts were the Dress-Up Corner, the Crayon Rubbing Tables, and the rocks that glowed. We also liked the check-out box about sharks.

Journal Entry 8

Tuesday, September 29, 1987

First thing in the morning, today: Play Dough.

All three girls are making Play Dough dinosaurs, trees, and volcanoes. Camille is also making dinosaur bones, and then she branches out to make some items that seem to have no relation to dinosaurs or their world. Mindy makes yet another dinosaur and then a tree. After getting them just how she wants them, she surprises me by flattening them down. “These are cookies,” Mindy says.

So I guess she's kind of branching out, too.

After what seems like a long time (but isn't) the girls help me put away the Play Dough, get dressed, and stand still long enough for me to brush their hair. They eat their breakfast. And then they begin to play again. This time, with stuffed animals and dolls.

The first time I walk by the girls, they have out a bear family. Soon I hear Mindy say, “I got a new Lady Lovelylocks nightie. See, Camille?” Mindy starts to take out the Lady Lovelylocks dolls, but Camille grabs one of the baby dolls instead. Right away Lindsey and Mindy fall in with baby-doll play, and each is soon washing, dressing, and feeding a baby doll. We have quite a few dolls, so they each can make a choice between several dolls, but I hear them squabbling a bit about who gets which doll, anyway. I am on alert, ready to go over to them if they need me, but they come to a solution on their own.

I go out to the garage to put in a load of laundry, and when I come back I am surprised to hear the girls talking about space. I remember that Mindy has been angling to “study” space after we're “done” with dinosaurs, and I sit down to watch with some amusement to see if they have really integrated space exploration, or something like, into their baby-doll play.

Mindy has the book Cosmos out again, in her lap, and she is talking about Saturn. I soon realize that they are pretending to be traveling to Saturn, but I don't think they are daring astronauts. I watch a while longer. Sure enough, it turns out that they are just ordinary moms with their babies, just traveling to Saturn as per usual. Ho hum.

Suddenly they troop off to the kitchen/family room. I get up and start to move to the bathroom that most needs cleaning, but they are soon back, so I turn to see what is afoot now. The kids have the bag of play money, and Mindy says, “Who wants to make a restaurant in space?” Lindsey and Camille both say, “I do! I do!” (It sounds trite and unnatural--but those are their actual words.)

We are interrupted by the doorbell. It's Delia and Kiki, ready to whisk Lindsey off to Mommy and Me. Lindsey had been excited to go, earlier today, but now she says that she doesn't want to go, after all.

She makes an excuse: “I don't like that game, Delia,” she says. “I'll get tired...”

I study Lindsey carefully. She seems a bit congested, and she is even a little clingy, which is unusual for her. I decide not to send her. Delia tells me that she would like to borrow an old toy organ for some project her older son, Eric, is doing, so we go off to find that. Then Delia and Kiki leave, and (the restaurant in space apparently forgotten) Mindy asks if we can get out the Halloween decorations.  “Please?”

So we do.

Once the boxes are brought in from the garage, and the basics are put out on display (I'll do some more decorating later), Camille and Mindy remind me that it is time for “school.” Mindy finds the bell, and this time Camille rings it.

Since nobody has announced a letter for the day or any other content, I ask the three girls if they want to read the dinosaur books we'd checked out of the library. There is eager assent, and we read about pterosaurs, we look at a great pop-up dinosaur book, and we read about dinos in Spanish. At the end of the last book, Los Dinosaurios Gigantes, there is a map of where the dinosaurs lived. The older girls pore over this, and we discuss all the continents where dinosaurs once roamed: North America, South America, Europe and Asia (identified on the map as Eurasia), Africa, and Australia. In other words, pretty much everywhere! The girls ask if dinosaurs lived right where we live now, and so we identify our continent, country, state, and general area on the map and decide that they had lived here, once.

Planning for the Dinosaur Day party, the kids decide to make “exhibits” (their word) out of Legos. Camille takes a break to undress and re-dress her doll, then does some more Lego-building, then undresses and re-dresses the doll again.

For snack today, we cut apple slices into rough pterosaur shapes and also have toast, cream cheese, and hard boiled eggs. We clean up our snack, and Mindy asks to get out the Play Dough again. Camille asks to watch the Mr. Rogers dinosaur show. Lindsey asks if we can do both!

So we set up a little table near the TV, turn on Mr. Rogers, and the kids start sorta-kinda watching while sculpting. Camille rolls the dough into what she says are dinosaur eggs, Mindy cuts and pats the dough without labeling her products, and Lindsey makes what she identifies as cookies. Soon Mindy decides that Camille's eggs are cool, so she reforms her Play Dough into dinosaur eggs, too. Once Camille has amassed a whole lot of eggs, she tells me that some are chicken eggs, and some are dinosaur eggs. She counts (accurately) and informs me that there are 27 eggs. Mindy reminds me that ALL her eggs are dinosaur eggs.

Mr. Rogers is talking about being scared, which is something that Camille experiences a lot when she watches videos. Mr. Rogers puts a coat over his head and pretends to be a monster. Camille shakes a few times (this shaking-with-fright thing is something I've seen before) but doesn't show any other signs of being scared. There is a mystery having to do on the show, and when it is about to be solved, Camille tells us, “I'm getting scared.” Then she gets up, runs over to me, and clings to my leg. “I'm getting scared,” she says again. Of course, I comfort her, but also (of course) the mystery is resolved in a comforting way.

The video over and the TV off, the kids put away the Play Dough, and I put away the table and chairs. The girls notice that there is a new song on the piano, and they ask me to play it. Then Mindy and Camille each try to play the song, using the number-scale on the piano keyboard to help them remember which keys to play. (By the way, for the rest of the day, I notice them singing snatches of the song.)

After my short performance on the piano, I go back to the long-ago interrupted bathroom cleaning and am happy to have the girls' piano playing as an accompaniment to my task. However, after a short while I notice that the piano has fallen silent and the girls are pretty darned quiet, too. Then there's a scream!

I emerge from the bathroom to see that Mindy and Lindsey have gone into their father's closet and put some of his shirts over their heads and are now making growly-snarly sounds. “Are you monsters?” I ask, nervous about possible damage to the shirts--but especially worried that Camille will get frightened again.

Yes!” roars Lindsey through her shirt. I then see Camille emerging around the corner, also with a shirt over her head, and also making fierce noises.

Just a moment,” I say. I quickly explain that these are Daddy's nice shirts, and I put the three shirts away. “Mr. Rogers used a coat like this one,” I say as I get a trench-type rain coat out of the hall closet. Camille eagerly adopts that coat and puts it over her head. As she roars and growls and snarls, I find two more similar coats for Mindy and Lindsey. Just a few minutes later, as I'm back on bathroom-clean-up duty, I realize that nobody is making monster noises, anymore. I poke my head into a bedroom to see why and realize that the three girls are wearing the coats the regular way, cinched around their waists with the belt ties.

Where'd the monsters go?” I ask, surprised that the play has turned so quickly to another scenario.

We're detectives!” the girls inform me. They are looking for purses in the closet. I go back to my bathroom tasks. I notice, as they troop through the hallway, that they have the play money out again and are stuffing it into pockets and purses. They are talking about money going missing.

Soon the kids check in with me. I am almost done with the bathroom, and they ask if I have any mystery that needs solving. “Um...” I remember their talk about lost money, and I quickly say, “Yes, my dog is missing. Could you find my lost dog?”

Not a brilliant and exciting (or even realistic) problem for detectives to solve, but the girls seem happy enough as they dash off to solve The Problem of the Lost Dog.

Next thing I know, as I go into the kitchen/family room, Lindsey is sitting at the little table, using letter stamps and a stamp pad. She doesn't seem to be a detective anymore.

Camille announces she is going to make a “detective sign.” She sits down at the table, too, and reaches for some letter stamps and a piece of paper. Mindy sits on a third chair and says, “Me, too.” Mindy's sign is hand-lettered. Next to a picture of a man, she writes:

C M L L C [star shape] T T A
F B W [star shape] V X Y

Camille has stamped letters on her sign and now writes the same letters underneath.



Lindsey is no longer using the letter stamps. Instead she is drawing, and she explains her pictures. “This is Mommy very happy,” she says. “Mommy getting married.” And, “This is the whole family.”

I start to prepare some food for lunch: cutting up cantaloupe into cubes, cutting cucumbers into circles, and so forth. I get out the still-frozen peas, which are fun to eat like the sweet, frozen treats that they are.

After lunch, the restaurant idea from this morning finally resurrects itself, but it is no longer a “space restaurant.” Each girl takes turns taking orders from the other girls, writing down the orders on a notepad (not really, of course, but scribbling as if they are writing). They always ask a question or two such as, “And what would you like to drink?”

The restaurant game eventually segues into a re-enactment of the “make believe” section of the Mr. Rogers dinosaur show. Mindy is Lady Abilene, and Camille decides that she is also Lady Abilene. The girls get out some tapioca pudding to “feed” to some dinosaurs.

In the meantime, Lindsey is not interested in feeding dinosaurs tapioca pudding—and she doesn't even want to be a third Lady Abilene. Instead, she has plopped herself onto the floor with the magnetic letters and board, and she is using the magnetic letters to make “words.” She keeps asking me to read the words, and I do my best, usually inserting vowels to make the “words” pronounceable. “GNF” becomes “GANEF,” for example.

After a long time of this word-creation play, I suggest that Lindsey put all the letters into the holding tray in alphabetical order. (There is a letter-shaped hole for each letter, so it's a bit like doing a wooden shape-puzzle.) Lindsey likes the idea and works hard to do the task. Actually, it is more challenging than I thought it would be.

When Lindsey is done with the magnetic letters and joins the big girls in their game, the scenario changes again. I listen long enough to realize that all three girls have special powers when they press their fingers together in certain ways. I know they must've gotten the idea from that brand new TV show, Out of This World—they saw the last few minutes as we waited for The Bill Cosby Show to start. In Out of This World, the main character is a teenage girl who can freeze time by pressing her two index fingers together.

After a good, long play session, the girls seem a bit tired and crabby. I give them some water and juice, and then they spot the materials I'd put out on the table: paper, crayons, a bowl of water, watercolor paints, and paint brushes.

They immediately want to use the art materials. I show them a quick demo of “crayon resist” art, telling them that we can do crayon drawings first and then add watercolor paint—and that the paint will not cover the crayon drawing. The girls want to try the idea.

Mindy slowly and carefully begins to draw a dinosaur for our Dinosaur Day party with a crayon. Lindsey and Camille quickly cover their papers with large, swoopy crayon lines. Once most of their papers are covered with “scribbles,” Camille and Lindsey seem bummed. Camille asks me for another piece of paper and a stencil. Lindsey asks me for help to make a “good” dinosaur drawing.

I find the dinosaur stencils and let Camille choose one. Lindsey and Mindy both decide that they want to use stencils, too. 

The girls enjoy the satisfying moments of swooshing bright blue paint over their drawings and watching the crayon lines and figures pop out, waxy and colorful, from the watery background.

From one art project to the next: the girls decide to color in Color Me dinosaur pictures. Camille wants to color in a mermaid but gets frustrated and announces, “I'm going to go with the dinosaur picture.” The art session ends when Maria arrives to pick up Camille. Maria looks over all the stuff the kids are getting ready for Dinosaur Day, we discuss the details of the museum trip we are taking together tomorrow, and then they leave.

Moving to Learn

One of my kids was great at sitting at a table and working at a computer, or building with Legos, or making a drawing, or filling in a homemade worksheet she'd requested, or doing a jigsaw puzzles. She was great at curling up next to me on a sofa or bed and listening while I read or, later, reading while I listened.

But two of my kids weren't quite as good at sitting still.

They liked to be more active!

As I look back on these journal entries, I remember that Lindsey moved more than Mindy and Camille, as she went about her day, playing and learning. However, I can now see that my youngest (who wasn't even a glimmer in a gleam when I journaled our first days of homeschooling) needed to be in motion even more than Lindsey!

She did better at decoding words, when she'd asked for help learning to read, while standing on a ball and fighting to keep her balance, than she did when she was trying to sit still. While watching TV, she would pile up sofa cushions and try to jump over them rather than plopping down on the rocker. (This was very distracting for the rest of us!) She would rather dance around the room while listening to a great story than curl up next to me in bed. She sometimes drove me a little bit crazy!

But some kids just think better while on the move! They learn by doing, often. People say they're “good with their hands.” They are good at sports or dance or acting or drawing or mechanics—or all of the above!

If we adults can help these movement-oriented kids learn what they want and need to learn in the way that best suits them—in an active, hands-on way—they may well grow up to be accomplished movers and shakers in the world!

Pretty Food

Huh! Looking back at the last two journal entries (here and here), I am surprised by the snacks we ate. Peanut-butter/apple spiders? Veggie flowers? What gives with the “pretty” food? Trust me, that is not the direction my creativity usually takes me!

At the time of this journal, 1987, I was receiving Family Fun magazine, and it was probably Mindy or Lindsey who'd spotted the snack suggestions and were inspired to try them. I was, no doubt, just following their lead.

Which is great. Naturally, I'm all for making healthy food fun!

Having seen all sorts of parents raise all sorts of kids, I still am not sure what makes some people have a “sweet tooth” while other people crave salty snacks, or what makes some people truly excited about healthy food—the healthier, the better—and others super-picky veggie-haters. I suspect there is a lot of genetic input to these and other food-related-tendencies, but also inputs such as early feeding practices, exposure to foods in the home, adult modeling, and much more. (That's always the way of it, isn't it? It's always nature and nurture!)

One family I've known had five (count 'em, FIVE) kids, and all the kids ate nutritious foods of every variety without complaint. There were never any gooey, salty, sugary snacks or desserts hanging around the house, but instead high-quality snack foods like dry-roasted nuts and fresh fruits. Every meal had a variety of real foods—not pre-packaged, processed foods—and the expectation was that every kid would eat every food. And so they did!

Now, I know that parental expectations can only get us so far, so I would assume that none of these kids had a genetic disposition toward “pickiness,” but I also have to make it clear that this was a blended family. The kids didn't share the same two parents—and one kid was a relative who didn't have even one parent in common with the others. It's possible that good modeling, early exposure to a variety of quality foods, and high expectations would be a successful recipe for healthy eaters for most of us.

What do you think?