Which Parts Are Important?

We published our first post a year ago in April, 2013. The focus of the blog changed at times as we wrote and reflected and responded — it moved further from the old journal that had originally inspired it.

But in reflection on the blog’s one year anniversary this month, I picked up the journal and flipped to April of 1988.

My posts have slowed and drifted from the journal over the year of writing, and looking back at my mom’s journal, by the spring of that first “school year” mom had also slowed in her dedication to journaling. The momentum and confidence and ease of our routine was beginning to take root. She didn’t feel the same need to record, reflect, and keep track.

Her journaling was replaced over the years with more scrapbooks that kept projects, photographs of group events and activities, travels. But the kind of studied, thorough documentation that she kept especially in the early part of that first year didn’t last.

scapbooks replaced the journal over time

scrapbooks replaced the journal over time

April has only two dated entries, both are just listings of activities for the day, with the asterisk symbol bulleting the lists, which mom used to signify “kid-initiated activities.”

Here is her entry from April 14th, which is Camille’s birthday and the day after Mindy’s birthday; they were turning 6 years old:

Thursday, April 14


* → We began our day with enthusiastic doll play & also some bad feelings & tears. Mindy seems so tired & cranky (too much birthday?…)

* → A special birthday breakfast: pancakes & strawberries…

* → Read

* → Listened to Raffi

* → Checked out fairy garden (caught fairies, too!) & talked to mail carrier

→ Looked thru microscope at rocks, shells & other items.

→ Mindy, Lindsey & Camille did a preliminary job of laying out seashells for science fair exhibit…

→ Talked of plans for science fair exhibit: colored paper behind shells, labels, a poster about shells, a story book by Lindsey…

→ Lunch – leftovers from restaurant meal & fruit – & surprise (leftover) cake with 6 candles – singing happy birthday to Camille!

* → Children played “Gables” & wrote notes & pretended to be in attic & so on! Then they did some gymnastics, built a pillow house, & went on & on playing some pretend game!

→ More temper & problems! It soon blows over & Roz & Ginny add to the fun and confusion!

I was thinking about how the journal has functioned to initiate a bigger conversation, through this blog and more intimately within my own family. This journal was the catalyst of a bigger reflection on the experiences we had, and the choices we made, and the ways in which those things formed us.

But the things listed in the pages themselves are very humble, very small. How informing are these silly little lists of things we did, at the beginning? They are not very informative, on their own. Still, there is something mysteriously important to me about these asterisked days, listed out on lined binder paper. They show the incredibly democratic outlook on time and the simple parts of living that infused my mom’s view of our growth and learning.

In art school, I did a series drawings of the peripheries of snapshot photographs, leaving blank the intended subject of focus. I have an artist statement from that period of work that says, “I want to ask: which parts are important?”

In between April’s two short entries is a strange un-dated paper, scribbled in soft pencil, and fast handwriting. It reads like a dream sequence of kids-play…


My beginning

twin mermaids


talk at same time


Under water

they saw a man named Jonathan

white pants

red ruffles

pink shit

→ made out of shells


the mermaids told him they were taking

some children for a visit

went back to daddy & told & silly stuff


I’m too tired, let’s go home

I’m thirsty, I’m hungry

Did you forget, we’re camping here

Oh, I forgot. I thot I was a kid, too.


They went home & said to Cathy Earle

How was your trip, Cathy?

It was fine.

She went to South America & met her boyfriend, Jim.

How funny, and odd, that homeschooling spurred my mom to take note of these child-play exchanges, and other details, even if it only lasted a short while. Somehow, homeschooling made her look at all the elements in a different way, and draw unusual conclusions about which parts were important.