A Little November Check-In

I keep meaning to start posting more often, and then I forget for another month! πŸ™‚

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to.

Ten Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately…

I. We volunteered at History Fest again. I’m not sure how many years we’ve been doing it. Maybe 18? A long time, and it’s just as magical every time.

II. Daryl took the kids out to the country to see the meteor shower. I love that they do that so often. They tried to see the lunar eclipse too, but visibility wasn’t good here that night.

III. Jack wrote an awesome song. It’s about his lack of love for his new job and I’m going to try to get a video and post it. It’s both hilarious and catchy. πŸ™‚

IV. I got a grant to write and publish a children’s foraging alphabet book! Part of the grant is to pay local artists for the illustrations, including Toria, who has already made up some sample pages.

V. The boys have been helping friends with their math homework. This is ironic, as they’ve never done any kind of formal math curricula (Jack did Khan Academy online for years by his own choice, Alex does all real world math and Dr. Evilton math with Daryl). Alex told his friends that the reason he’s so much better in math is because he’s never been forced to do it so he does it for fun. To be fair, Toria hated math anyway, but I think Alex has a point.

VI. Alex and Fiona have been doing homeschool ice skating.

VII. Fiona and I have been doing a math array dice game. I made it for a hands-on math book I’ve been writing of different ways to play with math every day of the year, and we liked it so much I had to keep printing out more sheets. It’s so fun! There’s a bit of strategy involved and a lot of luck. Fiona quickly picked up some multiplication facts that she didn’t have memorized. She almost always wins! (If you want me to make a PDF and try to upload it, just holler.)

VIII. We put up a ton of foraged foods. Some of it included:

  • 70 quarts of applesauce (from friends with 3 apple trees they don’t use)
  • about 16 pints of pears in syrup (from a rural park)
  • dried hawthorn berries for medicinal tinctures
  • many quarts of roasted, leached acorns for flour
  • 2 quarts of cold water processed acorn meal for baking
  • 2 pints of roasted acorns for coffee
  • 1 pint of goldenrod tincture
  • many quarts of dried elderberries
  • several quarts of dried wild mushroom powder
  • several quarts of dried water mint (the most delicious mint!)
  • a zillion pint freezer bags of pumpkin puree (Okay, not exactly foraged but a local family farm gives their extra pumpkins away the day after Halloween when their selling season is over)

I think there was more but that’s some! The dining room table was full of jars for weeks. πŸ™‚

IX. Daryl and Fiona have been doing art on Mondays. They go to the Jackson Center for the Arts free classes for adults and kids. They mostly do drawing and watercolors. One is in the morning and one is in the afternoon (when they have it) so they have a daddy-daughter day and go take pictures and hang out at the park and such in between.

X. We’re having more and more programs at the arts center (the church we bought to turn into a free arts space). We’re doing regular song circles/music jams, game nights, homeschool art and music days, and more.

(Old photo, gotta get some newer ones!)

That’s a bit of the fun and mayhem here. What’s new in your corner of the world?

Back from the Renaissance

We took the youngest three and a friend to the Renaissance Festival on Friday and had a lot of fun.

It was education day, so the tickets were cheap and there was a little less of the bawdy stuff. πŸ™‚

Jack wore his plague doctor outfit and had to challenge every other plague doctor he saw, silently. It was very silly and very fun.

He had a silent, comedic battle with one small plague doctor.

He took a dive at the end and the small one was triumphant.

We stopped to let a magician show us some magic tricks.

Alex then proceeded to do a card trick for him. In all honesty, I thought Alex’s was more impressive but we still tipped him. πŸ˜‰

We had a long, exhausting day and a long, exhausting drive, but it was great fun.

We also stopped at Minnesota’s largest candy store with the world’s largest soda pop selection, and the kids picked out a horrible assortment of flavors they adored.

We have History Fest next week and then it will be four days of absolute historic magic and mayhem. This was a taste of playing in history as tourists. Next week we go back to helping to lead the fun. πŸ™‚

Hobo Day at End-O-Line

Daryl led a historic hobo event at End-O-Line railroad park on Saturday that was lots of fun. Jack, Alex, Fiona and I went out to support him and join in the fun.

He brought in three other musicians to play hobos and they created life stories to tell passersby and teach them about what life was like for train hoppers in the early 20th century. They sang historic songs and Daryl made up a treasure hunt of sorts for hobo signs all around the park. Once kids had found them all, they could bring the paper back to the gift shop and get a free rock candy stick.

If you don’t know about hobo signs, it was a way of communication back then that folks would leave for each other. They would use a bit of coal or chalk and leave a mark near homes and businesses to represent things like “kind woman lives here” and “unsafe drinking water.”

Daryl made little wooden signs that he put all around the park. He put “good place for a handout” by the gift shop where they had free lemonade and cookies, plus they had the hobo sign handouts there. πŸ™‚ He put one by the church that meant free food if you listen to religious talk. One by one of the historic houses meant a kind woman lives here. In front of the school, he was a smart*ss and left one that meant “nothing to learn here.” πŸ˜‰

It was a fun time!

Rhia at 22

I posted this to a homeschooling group I help run on Facebook, Almost Unschoolers, and some people asked hey could share it. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on Rhia (Anna in the tags, Rhiannon officially) so I thought I’d post it here. πŸ™‚

People ask a lot of questions here about how unschoolers and almost unschoolers grow up and whether they get into college or are “successful.” This is my second oldest, Rhia, 22. She’s definitely the kid who helped me grow most as a parent of our five kids. LOL She is passionate, artistic, smart and determined (some might say dramatic, volatile, pigheaded, stubborn, resistant, etc.). My oldest child was the classic mama-pleaser, while Rhia dug in her heels about anything she didn’t want to do. We signed her up for guitar lessons and she refused to go back after two times. We signed her up for soccer and she refused to go back no matter how much I threatened and bargained. Her handwriting was terrible. She did things halfway and called it good. She refused to read the books I got her on photography when she decided to take up photography. She got into everything alternative. She was a very volatile teen. So how did she turn out?

She has run her own photography business for about 5 years now and has a small but very loyal following who keep her booked. She specializes in band photos, LGBTQ+ folks and low income folks with a “pay what you can” price model (here’s an example of one of her shoots) because she says everyone deserves to get to do photo shoots and feel beautiful. Her photography has been used in magazines and by musicians in their promo campaigns. She is also an artist who does commissioned pieces also on a “pay what you can” basis with some clients who pay several hundred dollars for her work. There is a professional artist in a nearby city who wants to help her set up an exhibit and get a grant for her art. She taught herself guitar, banjo and ukulele without those lessons I tried to make her take and is also a gifted songwriter. She also illustrated a children’s nature poetry book that I wrote. Despite resisting all that handwriting work, she does incredibly intricate artwork and has great handwriting when she wants to. She’s starred in a music video and has worked on multiple small films.

She owns her own tiny house a half mile from our house, debt free, that she got for $4,000. It’s on a large lot and she learned to roof to fix the garage roof and to lay flooring to redo the floors to fix it up. She painted it light pink and she lives there happily with her two rescue cats, one of which is three-legged. She’s been a vegetarian for 10 years and she’s an extremely knowledgeable forager who helps run our family’s 55k member foraging group. She’s taught herself to cook, to run her own business, to identify all kinds of mushrooms and a million other things. She is a dedicated hiker and hikes up to 8 miles at a time with our rescue dog, Moose. If she had wanted to go to college then I have no doubt she would have rocked it, but she chose this path and she was well equipped for it.

All those things that could have been labeled flaws as a kid helped her create exactly the life she wanted as an adult. I had to learn not to force my desires and expectations on her.

Did she go to college or get a high paying job? Nope, but she lives debt-free in a house she owns outright and she loves what she does. She has a life that gives her lots of time for all of her passions and interests. She’s brilliant, beautiful, talented, kind and yes, I’d say “successful.” ❀

In Like a Wildebeest

I read once that March comes in like a wildebeest and goes out like an entirely different wildebeest. I like that much better than the lion and lamb thing.

March came into Southwest Minnesota with sunny days and then a bit of rain, and then this week we had heavy snow for two full days. Now it’s just above freezing and there are still patches of snow on the very confused green grass around town. This week is giving us a bit of everything.

I’m excited about spring. It’s time for me to wear shorts and bare feet outside even if it’s through the snow. I’m going to take a pick axe to the garden soon and chip through the permafrost.

Here’s a bit of what’s going on with us this week…

  • Fiona is still attending art class with Sima. Sima is going to LA for an art exhibit next week and will be gone for a month or so, but then they’ll resume. They have been doing clothing lately, like Fiona painted a toucan on a $1 t-shirt and then fringed the bottom. I framed one of her paintings she made with Sima because I’m in love with it. She has been spending lots of time online playing with friends. She video chats at the same time. She still does Anton most days for math, English and a few incidentals. It’s free and fun, though we paid a tiny bit to upgrade so she has additional features (and to support them).
  • Jack has been hosting D&D campaigns for friends online. He’s created an elaborate story that they’re all loving and he writes down everything that happens. He’s applied to work at a local historic tourist site for the summer and I hope he gets it. He’s so good at teaching the public from his years of volunteering with us at history events. He still does Khan Academy every day and has a many-year streak on Duolingo (Spanish). He’ll be graduating this spring.
  • Alex’s current obsessions are science (always), physical fitness, gaming and music. He’s my most social kid and is frequently off meeting a friend or two or three somewhere in town. He hosts game nights at the church (the arts center we’re opening) sometimes. While he’s the second youngest person in the family (14), he’s now the tallest and over 6 feet. Jack is not happy. πŸ˜‰
  • Daryl is doing a million projects. He’s wrapping up one short movie he got a grant to produce and just got a grant to do another that he’s starting working on. He’s helping a crew of “very enthusiastic young people” make a movie this summer based on the Legends of Zelda storyline and he’s agreed to play the father/weaponsmaster in it. He’s also taking part in online music jam sessions, learning film editing, and agreed to two jobs at historic events in the near future. That’s just a fraction of it.
  • I am finishing my first poetry book in my “Poems from the Attic” series that I got a grant to publish. It’s been far more overwhelming and emotionally draining than any other book project I’ve done. I’m planning readings and other events that I’ll need to do to fulfill the grant too, all of which is slightly terrifying after this many years away from poetry. Oh, and building the website for that, which has been a huge learning curve since I’m used to just using WordPress templates and the easy stuff. I’m juggling a few dozen other things as well, as always, but I also spend lots of time curled up with a book or soaking in the tub (or both) because I have learned that those things deserve to be as big a part of my daily life as making supper, earning money, mothering or doing laundry.

Rhia and Toria are doing well in their little houses and little lives nearby. Toria, Daryl and I are headed to a library in a nearby town in a few minutes to pick up free craft kits they’re offering to learn a new-to-us type of traditional crafting.

I am going to try to get back to posting here more often because I miss it and also miss having that record of our lives.

Of course, I say that all the time. πŸ™‚ We’ll see!

Fiona’s Art Lessons

Fiona’s been taking part in a really fun opportunity lately. She’s been getting private art lessons from an Iranian artist in Marshall once or twice a week!

The lessons are paid for by a grant (Minnesota is wonderful at supporting artists and artistic opportunities for its people), so even the materials are free!

Sima is wonderful. It’s like Fiona has a sweet Iranian artist grandma to support and teach her. πŸ™‚

She raves about Fiona’s talents and has shown her how to do all kinds of cool techniques. I’m loving some of the pieces she’s created with Sima’s help!

Alex’s Bragging Rights

Alex and his friend Jack flexing in Nebraska with Fiona a few weeks ago.

Alex (14) loves learning strange science facts and he’s leveraged that into some fun bragging rights he tells people lately. I thought some other kids might enjoy them too.

“I can lift a bear.” He found out that some smaller bear species are around 200 pounds or under, which he can (briefly) lift.

“I’m bigger than a shark.” He found out that lantern sharks are very small — green lantern sharks are about 10 inches long and dwarf lantern sharks are about the size of a human hand.

“I purposely ate wasps today.” He found out that wasps live their lives pretty much inside figs and the males are left behind when the females escape to find new figs to pollinate (who then die inside after they lay their eggs). Figs can’t ripen without the wasps, and fig wasps can’t reproduce without the figs. He asked if he could have a fig, ate it, and then proclaimed that he’d purposely eaten wasps (which are pretty much dissolved into the developing “fruit” that’s not really a fruit either). That’s just like Alex to seek out something to eat because it’s full of wasps. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a great 5 minute video that I watched with Fiona about it.

If you know of other good brags, please let me know! It’s becoming a fun challenge for him to add to his list.

2021 Wilder Pageant Season

Our family is once more involved in the Laura Ingalls Wilder outdoor play, Fragments of a Dream, based on Laura’s time in nearby Walnut Grove (some of which was included in the book On the Banks of Plum Creek).

Daryl is playing Mr. Kennedy again this year, which is one of his favorite roles. He’s played just about everyone in the pageant other than Pa and Mr. Oleson. He also plays the dulcimer, calls the square dance, plays the part of the old time photograher, and plays at least one other character. Actors were much fewer this year than usual!

Fiona has a bigger role this year. She plays Cassie Kennedy, and has lines in two scenes. During the grasshopper plague, she runs out and climbs onto her mother’s lap in a rocking chair and tells her that she can’t sleep because she just sees grasshoppers everywhere. In the schoolhouse, she shouts at a nasty boy who spits on her slate. πŸ˜‰ She is rocking her lines and some of the adults have commented that she should have an even bigger role next year since she’s so good. (Not to brag but I am a very proud mama!)

Signing autographs after the show, from a couple of years ago

Alex doesn’t have speaking parts (his request) but he has lots of physical roles which he loves. He starts the show rolling a hoop across the stage and has lots of roles like holding the flaming torches used to try to burn the grasshoppers, leading the little boys fishing at the creek, helping with the sets, dancing, being in the kids’ scenes, etc.

I’ll post lots of pics when I get them uploaded!

This is the last week of the pageant and then we’ll probably head down to Nebraska to hang with the Bakers again for a while. And rest. Maybe! Summer is always so busy, but in mostly wonderful ways. πŸ™‚

Free Animating Software for Homeschoolers

Alex asked me to help him find some free animation software so I asked around and got some recommendations from other homeschool parents. We haven’t checked them out much yet but I’m posting them here in case it helps others.

These are all free, with no subscription required. I know there are quality ones for monthly costs, but we don’t really want those. These are also all computer-based. I know there are lots for iPads and android but he has a new computer and wanted to play around on it.

Wick Editor

The Wick Editor is a free, open-source tool for creating games, animations, and everything in-between!

It’s designed to be the most accessible tool for creating multimedia projects on the web.

screenshot of wick editor

The Wick Editor is a hybrid animation tool and coding environment, inspired by similar tools such as HyperCard, and Scratch. It was developed in response to a growing need for such a tool for the modern web.


Krita is a free and open source cross-platform application that offers an end-to-end solution for creating digital art files from scratch. Krita is optimized for frequent, prolonged and focused use. Explicitly supported fields of painting are illustrations, concept art, matte painting, textures, comics and animations. Developed together with users, Krita is an application that supports their actual needs and workflow. Krita supports open standards and interoperates with other applications.

_images/Hero_userManual.jpg _images/Hero_tutorials.jpg Tutorials and Howto’s Learn through developer and user generated tutorials to see Krita in action.

Khan Academy’s Pixar in a Box

Khan Academy also has this free course for kids, plus more.


Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipelineβ€”modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation pipeline.

Animation Director Alexandre Heboyan demonstrates his hybrid Grease Pencil/3D workflow for storyboarding.
“A still from the animatic for Alex’s forthcoming film, Maryam & Varto. β€œIn the past, an animatic would take me weeks.”

Alex is going to play around with these and see which ones suit him best. We’ll report back on his favorites.

If you know of any others, please add them in the comments!


I’ve always been a terrible procrastinator, especially with the practical stuff like housework and math lessons. I’ve been reading a lot of self-help books to review lately on the topic of overcoming avoidance and procrastination, and one tip that came up in one of them was to do the smallest change possible first.

Something about that appealed to me. I can do tiny things! And I know from experience that I usually keep going once I start something (but even if I don’t I’ve started progress in new habits). So I am going to try to do some micro-homeschooling and micro-housework this week for things that I keep feeling behind in. πŸ˜‰


  • Ask Alex to spell 3 words
  • Pick up the clothes on the bathroom floor that missed the hamper
  • Do a pushup
  • Wipe the counter
  • Go to the church (arts center) and do five minutes of organizing
  • Play one round of Jackbox with the kids
  • Read one page of history with Fiona
  • Take one vitamin/supplement

Anybody else feeling behind and want to join in? (Here I am pretending anybody reads this!)

I’ll keep you posted… Maybe! Since blogging is one thing I’ve fallen behind in. πŸ˜‰