Sunday, March 14, 2010

Planting the seeds

Well, it's that time of year again, when we order our seeds (or pull some from last year's stash out of the fridge) and get to planting! Yes, our gardening adventures are getting underway, and we have already spent 2 weekends learning about and planting our seeds.

We started in mid-February with tomatoes (heirloom and Riesentraube - giant cherries), carrots, eggplant, onions, broccoli, lettuce and some lovely annuals, giant zinnias and African Star of the Veld. We borrowed some grow lights (actually just full spectrum lights) from our friend Lily, brought up a storage shelf from the basement, and set to work. First, Sy and Vi sat down to make labels for the seed trays.

Then we added peat pellets to our trays and watched them "grow" with warm water. Once our trays were ready, we pulled out a packet of seeds, read about their origins, light preferences and growth tendencies, and took turns planting them. It was really cool to see how different each seed was.

At the beginning of March, we planted another round of seeds: pumpkin, chives, smaller zinnias, a new perennial - cupid's dart - as well as our herb staples - basil, rosemary and cilantro (we have so much thyme left over from last year, we decided not to plant anymore!) The pumpkins have really taken off and are already bigger than the Star of the Veld:


Star of the Veld

By mid-March we already needed to do some transplanting, and it seems to have been successful: our tomatoes, broccoli and lettuce have all sprouted new leaves since transplanting. Next weekend we will be transplanting the rest of our seedlings into 2- or 4-inch pots. Our efforts have been very fruitful, indeed.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

R is for Reading

As a homeschooler, I am constantly aware of what my kids "should" be learning, according to school-based requirements, according to my own experiences in school, and according to general social expectations. Reading is always on my mind, and can at times become a source of anxiety. While the days of Syler's infancy and early toddlerhood were filled with hours (literally) of reading, as our family grew each child became more interested in and able to accomplish other things. Some days are simply too full of these other things: hikes and nature play, soccer and gymnastics, piano lessons and music class, dress up and make believe play, painting and working with clay, and so on. Some days we only open one or two books. (gasp!) I say this jokingly, but as someone who reads for a living, it can be a source of guilt.

And while Syler was quite keen on doing his alphabet puzzles, tracing his letters and learning the sounds that accompany each, Violet is far from being a fan of phonics. However, one thing remains: they absolutely love to be read to. Picture books, chapter books, rhyming books, poetry, in English or German, each has them sitting and listening for as long as you, not they, have the patience.

And now, Sy is reading to us. Not just his Bob Books but also Hop on Pop; Panda Bear, Panda Bear, and he reads to us from his Your Big Backyard issues! His voracious appetite for reading has even been encouraging Violet - not only does she sit down to read to her baby, Mickey, and to us, but she points out letters while driving along in the car and she's really become interested in how different letters have similar shapes.

In fact, my anxiety about their ability to learn to read is about as silly as anxiety about them learning to walk or talk. As Margaret Phinney has suggested, the only thing children need to become good readers is a reading-friendly environment that includes real books (not level-appropriate readers!), someone to read to them and with them, a risk-free environment to practice, and time. Oh, and the parents have to be reading, too.