Whirl Whirl Whirl

Oh my goodness, we’re busy!

Yesterday we drove up to Alexandria (3 hour drive) to see some HS friends before they leave the area.  They wanted to see the Runestone and we’d just visited it last month, but we’re always up for a mini-vacation with fun people (AND a little homeschooling!).

We spent the night in a hotel, the kids swam and swam and swam and swam together, we yapped in our room until the wee hours, we visited the Runestone museum, hung out at a scenic spot and then drove 3 hours home just in time to get to the end of the year pageant picnic….

The kids ate, played with friends, climbed trees, jumped from trees…

Then encroaching storms scared us off and back home, where I have to pack for 5 days in Nebraska.  Tomorrow we have four kiddos with dentist appointments and we leave from there for our journey south to Tiffany’s.

Pant, pant, pant.

This would all be much more relaxing if we had air conditioning in our van.  Or if it weren’t 96 degrees today……

This is what it’s like to be on a family trip in our family:

Drive down the highway with the windows down, wind blasting us all with our clothes stuck to ourselves.

Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, Avril Levigne, They Might Be Giants or the Pirate CD blasting, depending on whose turn it is to pick the CD.

Victoria:  Play number 8!

Anna:  It’s my turn to pick the CD!

Jack:  Play No!

All:  No!

Alex:  Hold me foot, Mama!  Hold me foot, Mama!

Victoria!  Mom!  Make Alex stop spraying me with Coke slushee and his fan!

Tomorrow we get to do 5 to 6 hours of that.  PLUS dental work.  Ooh boy!  But at the end of the day it will all be worth it.  🙂

Time Out

I’m taking a little time off from the computer for a bit.  Parenting a preteen girl is kinda sorta ripping out my heart and BBQing it at the moment and I am taking a week or so off.

I’ll be back soon…


Last week I was the grateful recipient of not one but two blog awards from two fabulous HS mothers I greatly admire.

In true blog award form, they came with instructions on how to properly respond and pass it on.

So I went to work compiling two lists of blogs I love, 10 words to sum up my blogging philosophy, 7 new things to reveal about myself…

And somehow crashed my computer and lost it all.

Apologies for not blogging for several days now, and apologies for not responding to the lovely blog awards.

Tomorrow I will start all over again, but for now I’m off to sleep.  🙂

Ten Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these posts, it’s going to be hard not to be 30 or 40!  🙂  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been doing around here…

1.  We’re reading Kayak Anna. I got the book Kayak Anna and Palindrome Creek (affiliate link) to review and started reading it to the kids.  I am so pleasantly surprised!  It’s a chapter book that deals with the environment, bullies, palindromes and trolls, just to  name a bit!  I am really enjoying the rich language and the adventure.  I’ll review it once we finish it.  We read a chapter or two per day so I figure we’ll be done around next weekend.

2.  We made fruit leather with blackberries and raspberries from our back yard and strawberries that we’d frozen from berry picking.  Oh my goodness.  Homemade fruit leather beats all, guys.  You must try some!


3.  The kids have all been reading. Anna read On the Banks of Plum Creek, plus a pile of other books I’ve forgotten.  Victoria is still reading young adult novels at an astounding pace, Jack has been reading A Crack in the Night (another that I reviewed and one that he really enjoys) along with picture books.  Alex has been listening to picture books, most noteably If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (the giant sized version), Where’s Pinky? and Llama Llama Mad at Mama.

4.  Jack, Alex and Anna went to the Walnut Grove festival in the park. They did crafts, sampled treats, met Laura Ingalls Wilder fans and helped their daddy teach people how to play the dulcimer.

5.  Jack has been learning about eggs, embryos, fertilization and chickens. We’ve been getting eggs from our friend Erica again, and Jack has delighted in some of the gigantic (and teeny tiny!) eggs that we find.  This one was enormous and had two yolks.

There was also an egg that was the size of a robin’s egg.  It had no yolk at all.

6.  Jack has me working on collecting printouts for him to make a reptile lapbook. He has started assembling mini-books and coloring, but is impatient to get to work.  He wrote up a book of facts he learned about reptiles, too.

7.  The kids have been doing lots and lots of art. Behold, a few examples…

8.  I got the kids new composition books for homeschool studies. We use these all year long — I leave them pages of silly math problems or write letters full of grammatical errors and so on.  Each child got an extra one for something fun.  Victoria wanted one just for German work.  Jack wanted one for art.  Anna wanted one for drawings and stories.  They’ve decorated the fronts and are having fun using them.

9. We did science with friends. That’s all I’m saying.  😉

10.  Daryl and the girls are busy in the pageant. The boys and I went and watched a dress rehearsal last week and got to sit in the front row for the show.  When Mary went blind, she was “looking” right at us (Jack cried for her!) and it was neat being so close to all the action.  We went again the other night with Grandma and Grandpa.  The boys played football on the hill before it started and then sat so nicely for the whole show.  Alex was enchanted with the singing, dancing, fire and so on.

Last night, there was an enormous crowd because the actor from Little House on the Prairie who played Almonzo was there and it was part of “Laurapalooza,” a huge multi-day conference about L.I.W. that took place in Mankato.  A huge storm passed through before it started and the audience was instructed to wait in their cars while it passed through.  The cast all waited in the barn while lightning flashed and thunder boomed, and when all the rain had passed they dried off all of the chairs and the audience came back.  By then it was around 10 pm (the show generally starts at dusk, around 9) and almost nobody had left.  They estimate around 1,400 people stayed in the dark and the rain and then watched until past midnight to see the show.  🙂

Above, Anna is dancing by Nellie Olson while Daryl plays the spoons in the background. You can see a lot of pictures here.

I am so proud of Daryl, Anna and Victoria for their part in the pageant, and of everybody involved in it.  This year is the best ever that I’ve seen.  They’ve added so much more music (Victoria even plays the spoons and Daryl plays a couple of lovely dulcimer duets in the background of certain scenes) and they’ve really fine tuned the script.  The sets, the special effects and the whole production are just amazing in my not-so-humble opinion.  🙂


And now, I am really late in starting supper and rescuing Daryl from a certain 3 year-old, so I’m off!

An Unexpected Homeschooling Conversation

Today we took Alex and Anna to Worthington to hit the farmers’ market and 3 different grocery stores.  One of those was Walmart, and they were having back to school sales so I stocked up on markers, composition books, glue and such.

The young woman who checked us out looked up and asked, “Are you a school teacher?”.

I smiled and told her no, we homeschool.  I explained that we always stock up this time of year since the sales are good.

She told me she’d been homeschooled all the way until 8th grade, when her mother thought she ought to go to public school.  She said, “I hated it and dropped out of school.  Never do that to your kids!”.

I smiled and said we intended to homeschool all the way through.

By this time, I had paid and our assortment of wildly colored cloth bags were stacked in the cart.  She kept talking though.  Her aisle had been closed down so she could have lunch and instead of leaving, she went on about her family.

She said her mother tried to send her little brother to public school too and he hated it.  “After a year, she let him come home,” she said.  Then she said her youngest brother wouldn’t go at all so her mother didn’t even plan to try.

She told me it can get lonely for homeschooled kids, so I should put them in open enrollment.  By law in Minnesota, schools have to let homeschooled kids take part in classes or activities if they want to.  She rattled off those that she took part in and her brother’s choices.  Her little brother wanted no part of any of it, though.  Her little brother made me smile.

Anna and I enjoyed the conversation and relayed it to Victoria when we got home.

It’s always nice to talk to homeschoolers who have grown up and hear their side of things.

And now, my pageant stars are finally home at 1 a.m. and I’m going to listen to stories of their wild stormy night. Such excitement!  More on that later!


Here’s a few nifties I’ve been meaning to share….

Right now you can download Dan’s Doodles for free from CurrClick.  They look like some really neat designs for coloring with the kiddos!

Freely Educate (which you should follow if you don’t!) has their favorite freebies for elementary ages here.

Manga High’s math games look pretty cool and they’re free.  Has anybody tried them?

And now, I’m being summoned downstairs to teach a 10 y/o how to set the coffee pot so she can make fresh coffee for me every night for the morning.  There’s no way I’m interfering with that plan!

New Secular List for MN

I have a dear homeschooling friend who is leaving Minnesota mostly because his family has felt so ostracized being a secular homeschooler in SW Minnesota.

I have a homeschool friend who signed a statement of faith that didn’t match her beliefs (left leaning Catholic) in order to finally get some HS opportunities for her kids in the Twin Cities.

I have a homeschool friend who’s “in the closet” in her local group because she’s pretty sure she’ll be shunned if they know she’s not religious.

Lately, I’ve been hearing from so many HS friends that they feel so alone because of being secular here.  It’s something that’s weighed on me too, ever since we started this homeschooling journey here all those years ago.  I have plenty of depressing stories of my own.

So tonight I made an email group for secular HSers in MN and surrounding states.  I am hoping to coordinate actual get-togethers periodically throughout the state, since it’s wonderful to find support online but every so often it’s even better to get to sit on a park bench with fabulous people who accept and like you and watch a whole herd of happy children playing together.  🙂  If you’re not in MN you can join too (I don’t like exclusion!) but then you have to promise to try to come visit us once!

If you know anybody who’d like our group, please pass it on!

Picturing the Ideal


Lately I’ve been feeling pulled in too many directions and generally overwhelmed.  I took on another writing column (this one on green living, a subject I really love yapping about!) and have been juggling…

  • Homeschooling four ages
  • Housework
  • Two blogs
  • Three daily columns
  • Cooking mostly from scratch and now having to also provide vegan meals (Anna’s gone vegan!)
  • The garden
  • Time with each child (and we have two VERY difficult ages going at once!)
  • Volunteering
  • Exercise with the kids
  • Fun time for me

I’m pretty much failing at most of that.  😉  Or at least walking around feeling as if any moment my head might implode.

What I realized today is that I needed to figure out my ideal schedule.  I can’t try to adopt that if I don’t really know what it is.

The same principle is true of homeschooling or homemaking.

I can’t properly get my house in order if I haven’t taken the time to visualize what the house would look like in my perfect world.  Once I have an ideal in my head, I can start implementing all the little parts of it I am imagining.

Once I see my own vision clearly for what the dining room will look like, I can take small steps like paint the window seat the right color or look for the drapes I envision.  Before I know what the plan is, I can’t really ever get any closer to it.

The same goes for homeschooling.  I need to think about what our perfect homeschool day (or year) would entail.  How much of the kids’ schoolwork will be self directed?  Will we do “schooly” things together for part of the time?  At a certain time of day?  What will the routine be like?  What subjects will we cover?  What sort of things will they do on the computer?  What sort of art projects?

It’s also true of parenting, of course.  So many times we as parents get caught up in the daily management of our kids and don’t take the time to figure out what we want for them long term.  If we want them to be independent, self assured leaders, for instance, teaching them to mindlessly obey is not going to work out so well.

So my assignment for myself today is to daydream.  I am going to just take time to visualize… My perfect daily schedule (do I want to continue to write my columns in the morning or should I switch to a circle time in the morning and write during naps and evenings?), my ideal living room, a perfect homeschool for our family…

I am not foolish enough to think that we will ever achieve any kind of “ideal” here.  I don’t think perfection exists outside of nature (babies, flowers, oceans… plenty of things there are pretty close to perfect!).  I don’t want perfection.  But I do want to know my own ideals so I can at least know what I’m aiming for.  🙂

What about you?  What are your ideals?  What’s your fantasy homeschool day, homemaking routine or personal schedule?  Do you know it yet?

The Rag Doll

The children in the Wilder Pageant often carry little cloth dolls like Laura’s beloved Charlotte.  Often, their “mothers” in the pageant sew them as gifts but sometimes the girls make their own.

Victoria decided to make her own last week.

This is what her doll looked like.

Yep, green hair, one big eye and a toothy smile.  Of course.

That’s my girl.

Reason #899 Why I Love Homeschooling

(Sparkle image by Victoria)

Okay, I made that number up, but I’m pretty sure there are at least 900 reasons I love it, and it seemed silly to start at one.  🙂

Victoria just put up a tutorial on how to make a sparkle picture using Sumo Paint on her blog.

The tutorial included screen caps, lots of steps about gradients and other tools, but this advice in the comments when someone had a question:

If you don’t have an account, the only save is to computer and if you get one you can save it online. Also if you want the app to be a popup window, click Launch Sumo. And if your computer blocks popups, erase everything after the .com, then type /app and it’ll open in your tabs bar.

What?  This just floors me.

She’s twelve.  Nobody has taught her any of this.  Not how to do tutorials, not how to do screencaps, not how to make sparkle pictures, not how to launch a program if your pop-up blockers won’t allow it.

And I thought, “How did she learn all of this?” for a half second and then remembered:  Self directed learning.  Nobody has to teach her.  She knows how to find information, push herself, educate herself and even educate others — and does so nonstop because she loves to learn.

It’s not that we don’t teach her too, but I love the fact that she so enthusiastically teaches herself.

Here’s to kids who never lose the joy of learning, teaching and growing.  🙂