The Dystopian Homeschool

dystopian

Well, that was quite a week.

I’m not going to go into any of my feelings about the election here.  I’m sure you can guess them, or you can take a look at my Facebook page to see them (along with a lot of articles I’ve been writing for my new gig at Inquistr).

I went to our little UU church yesterday hoping that the minister would somehow rally us up, give us inspiration and new energy and directives to go back out there and magically make things better.  I realized afterwards that I sort of expect her to be like the pit crew that services the race cars in the Indy 500.  I screech in when everything is blowing and failing, and she is supposed to fill my tank and fixes my shortages, then I go speeding back into the fray again.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, she offered a scrambled-up sermon reworked from one she had already planned on preaching yesterday.  It turns out she didn’t plan on these election results either, and had originally written an intellectual sermon on dystopian worlds.

(Yeah, UU churches are like that.  Don’t come expecting a lot of talk about sins or bible quotes.) 😉

But in her mixed-up, crazy dystopian sermon, she said something that took me by surprise.  She said that dystopian stories are always written about some terrible time to come, but at some point we needed to acknowledge the truth —

We’re already in the terrible time, and we were before Tuesday.

“an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

Not exactly a cheerful thought, huh?

But it’s true for much of the world.  Sure, some of us have been existing in a fantastic little bubble for a while.  Some of us are white, straight, upper class, two-parent families who have been awfully blessed.  But for the poor, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, people of color, people of other religions, LGBTQ families, refugees and others, things have already been unpleasant and bad.

Our environment is already degraded.  Climate change is a reality that’s affecting us more every year, from unpredictable winters to droughts to super-storms to rising sea levels.  Animals are going extinct at unprecedented rates.  Our air is poisoned.  Our water is contaminated.  The average child now has at least one chronic illness, not to mention the average adult.  We have finally reached the generation that is expected to live shorter lives than their parents. Scientists have been warning us for a while that it’s already too late to stop the catastrophic changes coming, and unless we radically change our ways of life very soon, we can’t even slow it down.

Well, huh.  Okay then!

While this is a pretty bleak conclusion to reach when one is already feeling pretty bleak, it also can be seen as liberating.  As Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

And how does that translate to homeschooling?  Or even parenting?  How do we protect our kids and give them hope, when things feel hopeless? 

Well, first we look to the people who already knew all this, who have had boots on the ground for a long time while.  DAPL protesters at Standing Rock.  Black Lives Matter organizers. Environmentalists. Even parents of vaccine injured children driving buses across the country to tell their stories.  People who act to be the change they want to see in the world.  They’re happy to train us, happy to have our help.  (Miley Cyrus has already set up a web site to match people to local organizations who could use help in whatever issues are close to your heart.)

And we teach our children.  We teach them how to make positive changes in the world and help others — and also how to take care of themselves when they’re feeling fragile and shocked by the dark in the world.  We need to model that, too, and take care of ourselves in the midst of all of this darkness.

We prepare them for all kinds of futures — not just a straight line into college and some utopian job waiting at the other side, but for learning trades and volunteering for the Peace Corps and taking gap years and starting businesses and doing freelance work and all of the many ways that we can live in the modern world.

We teach them how to live well on little money, how to meet their own needs, how to survive — not in some melodramatic sense like the zombie apocalypse, but in the sense of knowing how to do well in unpredictable times.  And how to share that knowledge to help our communities.

We fight the good fight, and raise aware kids who do the same.

And then we hug them and love them and read them stories and watch silly TV shows and play, because now, more than ever, they need boatloads of that, too.

safetypins

 

 

 

 

 

Back From Nebraska Again

We’re back from a short week at the fabulous home of Tiffany and company again.  Most of us went this time (me, Fiona, Alex, Toria and her boyfriend Gabe this time!), leaving Daryl home with Jack and Rhia.

We only went for 5 days and bunked in different spots around the house, but we had a fabulous time.

It is so fun to have kids so well matched.

When we visited for the very first time (10 years ago!), I was pregnant with Alex.  Tiffany had Jessie and Jack, and I had Victoria, Annalee (who now goes by Rhia) and Jack.  Her daughter was right smack in the middle of the ages of my daughters, and our Jacks were just about the same age (her Jack has Downs Syndrome and is a year older, but they were really wonderfully matched).

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Our kids were stair-steps in ages, but Tiffany lost baby Jacob the year before I had baby Alex, and that was such a terrible loss.  It left a gap in our families, in every way.

When I got pregnant with Fiona years later, she was very much an “oops!” baby, and then a year later, a wonderful “oops!” miracle happened for Tiffany too– Millie.  She was born a year after Fiona and we were back in stair-step. 🙂

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Millie, 2012

Millie, 2012

Now, after all of these years of friendship, our kids are still so well matched up:

Victoria (18)

Jessie (17)

Rhiannon (16)

Jack (theirs) (14)

Jack (ours) (13)

(Jacob would be 10)

Alex (9)

Fiona (5)

Millie (4)

Their Jack and our Alex are now good friends too, and happily play Minecraft and bounce on the trampoline and have all kinds of wonderful fun.

It is surreal and special to see these two new little girls of ours, starting their homeschool adventures in our bonded families.  They have really grown up with each other as family, which means so much to me.  My kids couldn’t ask for better homeschool cousins, so to speak.

It’s a pretty magical homeschool.

Now if we could just get back to more science lessons….

(Excuse the absence of any current photos!  My devices were all dead and I always happily abandon them all when I get there.  I planned on swiping photos from someone else’s Facebook or Instagram to blog, and there are none to swipe!)

 

 

Burned Out After Only 14 (or 41 Cumulative) Years of Homeschooling…

I’m really struggling as a homeschooling mom lately.  I’ve lost my motivation and I feel increasing pressure to get it back for the sake of the younger kids.

Toria has now officially finished homeschool.  She was educated at home from preschool through 12th grade, minus a few notable days in her junior year where she tried a public arts school three hours away (and promptly asked to leave it).

That’s 14 years done with child number one.  And there are 12 years done with child number two, 9 years with child number three, 5 years with child number four and now a year of preschool for child number 5.

If you could add them together cumulatively, you could say I’ve now homeschooled 41 years.  I know that’s not how it works, but it feels like it some days! 🙂

That’s a lot of educational games, historical adventures, science projects, read-alouds, lapbooks and lesson plans.

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And also a lot of math programs purchased that were never used, failed attempts to start curricula, projects never finished and abandoned lesson plans.

It’s September, and that used to mean a renewed excitement about a new school year.  I think the first 12 years or so, we always did something fun for the first day not back to school.  There were cakes and carnivals, not-back-to-school pajama parties and trips to the zoo.

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This year, I didn’t even remember that I was blowing that off for two weeks.

I’m struggling to fit a new writing job into the mix, along with more and more jobs around the house — preparing for house renovations, canning hundreds of pounds of pears and applesauce, keeping up with laundry and cooking and with what’s left of my garden after the slugs descended.

I also miss my old homeschool communities.

When I started homeschooling all those years ago, I started a yahoo group for homeschool moms and dads who practiced attachment parenting.  I found that I really needed a support system of other parents like myself, who weren’t homeschooling to avoid something negative in schools but just for the love of our kids and a desire to give them a happy educational life in addition to a happy childhood.  I found that I got along fine with parents of other faiths and other homeschool styles but I didn’t get along at all with the punitive homeschoolers who forced their kids to do hours of schoolwork and punished and controlled their kids.  That yahoo group became a large, vibrant group that really kept me company on this adventure over the years. It’s also how I met friends who became “real life” friends around the country, such as my friend Tiffany whom we visit so often.

Unfortunately, Facebook has sort of meant the end of email groups.  While the group still exists, we rarely chat.  And yes, there are many homeschooling groups on Facebook, but they feel like large crowds of arguing strangers more than an intimate group of friends to talk to about the day.

Blogs have changed, too.  Back then, we homeschool moms didn’t start blogging as in order to make money the way it seems most do these days.  We just wanted that connection and support (and to document it all for ourselves and loved ones), and there were so many moms who poured hours of work into creating free lesson plans for each other to use, making up educational games, scanning fun activities, sharing advice, you name it.

In the first years of this blog, it was hosted at Homeschool Journal and many of us would visit each other’s blogs on that site to check in on each other.  I’m still friends with some of those bloggers on Facebook now, but I don’t think most of them have blogged for years (or not about homeschooling any more).  Life gets busy and changes.  The new generation seems concerned about making things to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers or earning affiliate links or hits for google adsense.  People don’t talk about what their meal plans are for the week and the embarrassing thing their child said in the grocery store, it’s all professional and polished.

And many of my homeschooling friends are almost done with this homeschool business, or at least at a very different place than I am.  I went and kept having more children, so I have a child about to start kindergarten when most of my old homeschool friends are down to just high school kids.

I guess I feel a bit like the middle aged mom who gets unexpectedly pregnant and no longer fits in with friends about to enter their empty nest years but also doesn’t fit in with the young 20-somethings at the park.

I miss my tribe.  And I miss my passion for it all. 

My kids deserve that same enthusiasm that their older siblings got, though, so I’m determined to find it again — or fake it till I make it.

I’m not sure how I’ll do that, but I’ll keep you updated in case it helps someone else.  That’s what I originally created this space to be for, after all. 🙂

(Note:  I wrote this over a week ago and have been so busy with History Fest and other events that it’s been sitting on my dashboard all of this time!  I’m not sure what that says about this issue, but History Fest certainly does bring me back to my homeschooling passions and I can’t wait to share some of this year’s fun with you all!)

The Month of Winds and Magic

camping

Daryl always told me that September is the month of winds and magic.  I think he read it in a book, years ago.  He’s always been a voracious reader.  I have always loved that saying, and it helps me embrace September and not view it the way I did when I was a kid (back to school sadness, the end of summer’s fun and the reminder that winter is not far off).

September is the month of our anniversary, Daryl’s birthday, and a whole lot of putting things up.  We tend to be extreme homesteaders this time of year, even though we don’t live on anything like a farm.  We’re knee deep in wild elderberries, apples, pears, garden harvests, homemade salsa and a whole lot of homemade liquor (hard apple cider, hard pear cider, eldberberry cordial, elderberry wine, cherry wine…).  I suppose that will help me put up with winter better. 😉

It is always nice this time of year that the world gets quieter and the back-to-school season means that the zoos, museums and parks clear out again.  Homeschoolers know that this time of year, it’s like we have our own personal playgrounds as the other kids go back to school.  And I swear, there’s a change in the air the first day that happens.  The summer heat just blows away and everything feels different.  You’d never think that just turning a calendar page would make such a striking change, but somehow it does.

We’ve been doing a lot to make the most of the last of summer.  Toria and her boyfriend Gabe have been camping twice.  Most of our family took part in Civil War Days (that deserves a post of its own!).  The kids have been skateboarding, bike riding and playing outside.  Half of us also took off to Nebraska to hang out with the Bakers and had a blast playing at their house.

jandv

This month I’ll also be (hopefully) starting a new job.  Most of you (I write that as if more than two people even read this anymore!) know that examiner has gone to all-entertainment and my columns are now gone.  I’m moving most of my relevant articles to new sites (holler if you want links to any) and I applied for a new online writing gig.  I have been accepted and have passed all of the tests.  Hopefully I’ll be writing soon but it will not be homeschool related.  I’ll just have to yap about that here and on A Magical Homeschool to share that stuff. 🙂

I’m still working on easing us back into some sort of homeschooling schedule.  We’ll do that gradually as we ease out of outside opportunities.

In the meantime, here’s to winds and magic.

(Photos by Toria Bayer, stolen from her Instagram — since I haven’t uploaded any of mine forever.)

 

 

Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  :)  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.

 

 

Things Here…

spotit

I’m just popping in for a long-overdue post and update.  I always say I’m going to get back to regular blogging but I’m really going to start making it a priority soon.  I miss this. 🙂

Things are as busy as usual here.  As an update on each of the members of our family…

Toria (18 now) is in North Carolina with my cousin Eddie and his wonderful family for the week, and visiting their home in Ohio as well.  They’ve rented a house in Nag’s Head on the coast and she’s hanging with her beloved second cousins and they’re wonderfully fun household.

She is taking a gap year this year, having officially graduated homeschool this spring.  She’ll be spending this year focusing on travel, volunteer work and finalizing her thoughts on which passion to follow first in terms of college and career.  She has already traveled to visit friends in Oregon this spring, then Ohio, and now North Carolina and Ohio.  We’ll be going to see Tiffany in Nebraska for a while after we come back from getting her, and our family friend Val (whom I’ve known since high school and is like family to me and to the kids) is planning to take her to Europe sometime this year.

She is also starting up her own little shop, selling whimsical glass jewelry.  Once she has it established, I’ll post a link!

Rhia (16 now) will be officially starting her new job next month, taking over Toria’s old gig since Toria aged out (it’s only for teens under 18).  It’s a fantastic job with good pay and pretty cool experiences.  She did all the training for it this spring and got her feet wet, but they have to wait until the new fiscal year starts in August to jump back in.  That’s about all I can say in a public forum.🙂

She just celebrated her 11 month anniversary with her boyfriend, Tyler.  He is such a great guy and we all really adore him. She’s made some new friends that she really enjoys, and has been having a lot of fun playing with fashion and hair choices.  Her hair is currently green and yellow ombre with a partly shaved side.  She is one of the only people I’ve ever known who can look good with something like that!

She’s doing the hair and makeup for the Wilder Pageant, but otherwise just enjoying the summer off.  She has been going to quite a few cool concerts with Ty, his sister and friends, and she’ll be going to the Warped Tour soon.

Jack (13) is in the Wilder Pageant again this summer.  I forget how many years he’s been in it now.  Maybe six?  He’s suddenly growing like a weed, and is now quite a bit taller than I am (though that’s not hard as I’m only 4’11”!).  His voice is now deep enough that whenever I’m on the phone with Tiffany she says, “That can’t be Jack talking!”.  :)  His blond hair has gone quite curly from the summer humidity and it’s so thick and full that I think it adds another few inches.

jackpageant

He’s been getting into Manga books and fell in love with a series I brought home from a thrift store yesterday.  He is also quite a fan of Nerf guns and we’ve amassed a massive cache of them from thrift stores since most of the other kids have caught the fever too.  I’m not a fan of guns or the mayhem that ensues in their Nerf battles.  One such battle accidentally landed Alex in the ER and required an eye patch for a week, so protective eye gear is now a rule in our house.  But I also try to bite my tongue and let him do the things that bring him joy.

He’s one of my biggest helpers around the house these days and I don’t know what I’d do without him.  He helps a lot with laundry, Fiona, the pets and occasional cooking.  He is the one I rely on the most for little odd jobs throughout the day — putting canned goods away in the basement pantry, hanging clothes on the line, grinding a batch of millet or brown rice flour in the Vitamix, setting up Fiona with something fun so I can fix dinner, and so on.

Alex (9) has a temporary best friend next door.  Our new neighbor has her nephew with her every summer, and he is Alex’s age and a fabulous fit for him. They play a lot of Minecraft together and we bring him with us when we do some fun things like head to the lake.

sapsuckers

We went to Sioux Falls yesterday for much-needed shopping, and we worked a visit to the zoo into it and brought the neighbor boy along.  We have memberships to the zoo and children’s museum in Sioux Falls, and try to make time for something fun for the kids every time we head there for the boring necessities like groceries since I stock up on better deals at places like Costco and Aldi once or twice a month to help keep our food budget frugal.  It was fun (and noisy) having an extra small Alex-like boy with us all day!

Alex in the Wilder Pageant again, too.  I think this is about his 3rd year, but I’m not sure.  He has a lot of fun in it and does well.  He is still a super active kid.  He loves riding his bike and playing outside, and he’s got endless energy.  He is slightly less exhausting as he ages, and he is constantly making me smile.  He continues to be fascinating with anything scientific, and soaks up scientific information like a sponge.  I was trying not to grin last week when he had a new friend in the back yard who was listening rather glassy-eyed as Alex explained in depth how to make a still.

Fiona (4) is in the Wilder Pageant for her second year.  She loves it, and looks adorable in her long braids and prairie dress.  She is quite the actress already and she’s learned most of the lines for the other actors.  She sometimes quotes them to me and then expects me to know how I’m supposed to answer.  She particularly likes quoting the little girl in the grasshopper scene (“Mama, mama, I can’t sleep.  I keep dreaming about grasshoppers.  They’re in the house and in my hair and everywhere!”… Or something like that — she could tell you exactly!).  Then I answer with a silly answer that’s not quite what the mama is supposed to say and she grins and corrects me with my proper line.

fipageant

She is learning to spell and read a few new words, and is impatient to learn to read.  I’ve told her that she’ll learn soon.  By child #5, I can tell how close she is to having it all click into place, and I have a lot of tools in my tool chest to help that happen soon for her.  It’s a goal for me to do something fun in reading readiness every day this summer, and then step it up a bit in the fall if she wants.  Of course, we read together every night and that’s probably the single best way to get children ready to read.

She still loves doing art, too, and it’s a huge part of her day.  I love her drawings and paintings.  Toria has been a big influence for her there.  That really helps her writing, too, since it gives her the fine motor control to make it easy.

Daryl is in the Wilder Pageant for his 11th (?) year, playing Mr. Kennedy this year.  He has also been busy with loads of other things, most of them volunteer-based.  And he was in a movie this week!  He got to be an extra for the movie “Hap and Ashley” that’s filming about an hour away.  He helped them as a reader when they were casting in another city a few months ago.  He even got a line!  He got to be the guy at the pot luck who shouts out, “Someone call Hank!  We’re gonna need an ambulance.” 🙂

He’s also been doing quite a lot of foraging with the kids.  He and the kids (mostly Toria) gathered over 60 pounds of wild asparagus this spring that’s in our freezer for the winter now.  He’s also gathered black raspberries (several gallons), mulberries and now bush cherries.  We transplanted a few black raspberry bushes from the wild a few years ago and they happily took over a section of our back yard, so it’s questionable if that counts as foraging or not.  I’m glad we did, as the county mowed down all the raspberry plants and cut down the mulberry trees last summer.  I wish there was less focus on making nature look tidy and empty.  I know we were hardly the only family who gathered those delicious fruits every summer.

bushcherries

I have been extremely busy,  even compared to my normal level of mayhem.  Examiner notified all of its writers on July 1st that it would be taking down the website around July 10th, and I had to move thousands of articles to a safe place to keep them.  I am starting several new websites where I’m reposting those articles.  It will be better for my readers, since they won’t have to put up with those annoying pop-up ads and sometimes-horrifying “trending stories” that adorned the sidelines.  It’s not so good for us, though, as I’m out that paycheck!  I’m putting Amazon affiliate links on the sites and asking people who wish to support us to click through for any shopping they wish to do, hoping that helps a bit in making up for that loss of income.  I am choosing to look at it as a blessing, since it will give me that push off the proverbial cliff in to new directions and new beginnings, like it or not!

Our house is currently brimming with kittens and cats, and I’m working to get that down to a calm roar.  I rescued a beautiful feral female last winter and it turned out she was pregnant, so I had to find homes for her 4 kittens (3 down, one to go).  Then another feral cat moved her kittens into our garage. The mama was very wild and the kittens were already becoming as wild as mama, and I knew that they could never be adopted if I couldn’t tame them soon.  They were too young to be weaned though, so I tried a desperate experiment and caught one and brought him up to our feral (now tame) rescue mama inside.  She sniffed him, licked him and proceeded to nurse him, and I caught the other babies and she adopted them immediately as her own.

fluffcollage

Now they are old enough to be weaned and move on to new homes.  They have become friendly, social, loving and litter trained.  My neighbor has agreed to take one (a black kitten she’s named Zeus) but there are three left to place.  In the meantime, our old cats are doing a fairly good job of being overrun by all of these manic kittens!

jezCollage

We managed to catch that feral mama, brought her in to the local vet to be spayed (courtesy of a wonderful county rescue organization) and released her again.  She has adopted me as the only human she will let pet her, and she is slowly becoming trusting and very loving.

In addition, we’re having a ton of much-needed renovations done to the house over the next month, and it will require pretty much emptying our entire downstairs and work done on all four floors (main, upstairs, basement and attic!).  I am completely overwhelmed by all that has to be done, but it’s another thing that will ultimately be a huge blessing when it’s done.

That’s just a fraction of what’s been going on here!  I will try to start popping in more regularly so I don’t have to do massive updates like this every time.  Hope your summer is going well!

 

 

 

5 Nontraditional ways we’ve learned math this week

I just found this post in a window of my computer, unfinished, from last week.  Since I wrote this we’ve been to Cincinnati and back, and have done all sorts of other learning.  That’s another post, though!  :) 

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You know we’re never very traditional, and that includes math.  The kids do some math through more conventional means like Khan Academy, Prodigy (a free site that uses Pokemon-style games to teach math concepts) and worksheets, but they also do it in all kinds of not-so-typical ways.  Here are a few that we’ve done this week:

  1. Playing darts:  We got an electronic dart board at a thrift store a couple of months ago and it’s been a great source of fun.  We typically play 301.  You take turns tossing three darts at a time trying to get down to 0 from 301 points.  Once you get near zero, if you go over, you bust and your turn is over.  You can hit any number between 1 and 20, bulls eye (25) or double bulls eye (50), plus you can get doubles or triples of 1-20.  The kids are constantly figuring out what numbers they (or we) need to get exactly the points they have left.  For instance, if they are down to 51, they’ll call out “Triple 17!”.  Then if someone hits another number instead, they’ll figure out what combinations of darts they can use to still get zero that round from the new number.  They’re good at figuring out if there are doubles or triples of anything to get a necessary number, and also of recognizing prime numbers that mean it’s impossible to get to zero that round.
  2. Mad scientist math:  We’ve been doing this for years and did it again in the car yesterday on the way to Mankato.  Daryl and I took turns asking the kids weird mad scientist questions (If a mad scientist made cats that had 5 legs and 3 tails each, how many more tails and legs would 3 of his cats have compared to regular cats?) and other oddball questions.  Daryl asked Jack a tricky question about battling a hydra — if every time you cut off one of its heads it grows two back, how many heads will it have after x many times you’ve chopped its heads off?  We also did lots of Vikings football player volume ones (how many can you fit in a swimming pool and such, like these at Magical Homeschool).  The kids love them and they really get them thinking about complex math.
  3. Foraging:  You know we do a lot of foraging as a family and math even comes into play there.  Daryl and the kids gather asparagus just about every day in May and they always weigh it (along with everything else we forage) to keep a running total of our harvests on the fridge.  The kids tend to hold the bag and estimate the weight before weighing it on the kitchen scale.  They’re getting very good at estimating weights.  Then they add that total on to the last tally.  (In case you’re curious, we’re at just over 25 pounds now and here’s how we find wild asparagus in different seasons).  Also foraged so far in May — morels, pheasant back mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, violets (violet liqueur is steeping now), waterleaf, ramps and probably a few I’ve forgotten.
  4. Walking math:  When I go on walks with Alex, I make up math questions as we go along.  For instance, I’ll ask him what 1/4 of 300 is, or ask him how much a shirt would cost if it was 90% off and it was originally $18.  I also ask him spelling questions, and do the same thing with Jack while I’m driving with him. There is also a lot of time we just spend chatting, but it’s a nice way to sneak in some homeschool.  Yes, I am that homeschool mom. 😉
  5. Helping the neighbor:  We have a new neighbor next door to us and she was trimming her trees the other day.  Alex, Jack and Fiona gathered to help her trim and haul the branches, and she thanked them for all their work.  After they were done, she got out a big coffee can of change the last owners had left and divided it among them.  Fiona got mostly pennies but still had over $3, and Jack had over $7 and she told him he owed her an hour of work sometime for the extra (Alex didn’t tell me his total).  The older kids helped Fiona count her change, and they all started making plans for how much they would spend on what. The boys are constantly torn about spending their money or saving it up for better things.  Jack has been wanting to save up for a Wii U but it’s a daunting amount of money.  Alex wants to buy a 3D printer and I told him that I’d chip in $100 if he and any of his siblings could gather the rest.  He gets $15 a month allowance and Jack gets $30, so he was figuring out how long it would take them with my contribution if he was the only one saving, if Jack helped, and so on…