The Month of Winds and Magic

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Daryl told me years ago that he read in a novel that September was “the month of winds and magic.”  That has always stuck with me and while I kind of hate September for signalling the end of summer, I kind of love September for a hundred other reasons.

(Of course, this year September has really been the month of winds, with the hurricanes and tornadoes.  Tornadoes even hit our area of Minnesota last night.  My heart goes out to everybody affected by the storms.)

We’ve been super busy with homesteading this month, as always.  September is a month where lots of garden goodies are ready to harvest and when we forage large amounts of some of our favorite wild foods like acorns and elderberries.  It’s also when we forage less than wild foods like apples and pears that are free for the picking, literally.  We have friends and neighbors who let us pick from their trees (we keep the ground underneath clean and often bring them goodies in thanks) and there are a lot of public places where we pick, too.

The nursing home in town has a huge pear tree that bears delicious fruit that they want no business with and also has a row of elderberry shrubs that are only there for a windbreak.  Daryl has permission to go picking there and we get gallons of elderberries and bushels of pears every year.  There’s also a pear tree at a rural park that bears delicious canning pears (too firm for fresh eating but perfect for canning).  You can always tell where homesteads were years ago because even though there is no sign of a house anymore you will find apple trees, pear trees, peonies and other long-lived plants that once blessed the people who lived there.

We’ve also been busy with Daryl’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.  As I’ve talked about before, we get married in a different way every year around our anniversary and this year we had our first back yard wedding.  We made it a zany theme with lots of color and silliness.  It was simple and fun.

And in other news, Jack (15) has his first job!  He was hired by a local farm family to help with the harvest.  He was originally hired to work 4-6 hours a day during the day just until the end of harvest season in October.  Then we found out that homeschoolers under 16 are not allowed to work during public school hours even if they homeschool during other times and they’re not allowed to work more than 3 hours on a public school day, so we’ve  had to change his schedule around.  He now works 3 hours “after school” most weekdays and longer on Saturdays.

It’s hard work but he is doing a great job and he got his first paycheck yesterday.  His boss also told him yesterday that he was his best worker and that he’d decided to give him a raise!  I could not be more proud of my boy.  🙂

The weather is turning cold and I’m doing my best to embrace it and not yearn for lake days and sprinkler weather.  Snow will be coming way too soon here in Minnesota but for the most part we’re too busy to focus on that anyway.

The rest of September and October will be very hectic.  I’m giving an acorn foraging presentation at a library by the Twin Cities in early October, then we have Fiona’s birthday and the week of History Fest, which is a crazy but wonderful time.  And then there’s processing hundreds of more pints and quarts of applesauce, pears, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and so on.

Oh yeah, and this homeschooling business.

 

Crash Course Kids: Month by Month

I’ve been a long-time fan of Crash Courses for older kids, but we hadn’t used the newer version for younger kids yet, Crash Course Kids.  Fiona, Alex and I checked it out last week and we’re going to incorporate it into our video watching.Crash Course Kids Homeschool ScheduleThe series is designed for 5th grade but Fiona (starting 1st grade) easily comprehended everything so far and it still kept Alex’s attention fine (6th grade).

The series consists of 7 main playlists and 2 extras (one compilation and one blooper set).  I’m tentatively planning on using one playlist per month this year (September through May), other than the longest set (earth science) from February into April with the blooper set added in for April (April Fools).  🙂

Here’s our schedule for watching them, as we have spare minutes:

September:  Space and stars

October:  Space and the sun (weather, seasons, etc.)

November:  Engineering and Physics

December:  Physical science (matter, chemistry):

January:  Life science (biology, ecosystems)

February and April:  Earth science (weather, natural resources, climate, etc.)

April:  Outtakes and bloopers

May:  Physical science (gravity)

View full playlist (5 videos)

We’ll supplement with good books, art projects, and hands-on learning.  This won’t be the younger kids’ sole science curriculum, of course, just a fun way to add some extra stuff in.

Fiona’s First Grade Math Goals

Fiona is loosely doing first grade this year (and some second grade).  You know we don’t strictly follow any skills lists or curricula, but I like to keep track of what kids her age would be covering in school and find ways to playfully teach those concepts through hands-on activities like using Cuisenaire rods, playing games, playing with math tools, measuring and making things, and so on.

a week's worth of fun mathI found this great resource at Houghton Mifflin that provides outlines, teaching tools, free printouts and family homework assignments to correspond with the concepts their textbooks teach in each year’s math books.  Here’s the general outline for their first grade math:

I plan to play with all of these concepts in the following months, and to make up some fun worksheets to reinforce the concepts.  I don’t generally print out worksheets and instead I write out problems myself in my kids’ homeschool notebooks.  It allows them to be more personal (I’ll often write out silly word problems or have sweet or funny copywork that is tailored to them, for instance), saves ink and cost, and makes it more fun for them.

They also provide these great teaching tools for the year:

Another Wilder Pageant Down

 

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Last night was the final performance of the year for the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Fragments of a Dream” pageant in Walnut Grove, and it marked the 15th year our family has acted in the outdoor play.

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Long-time readers might remember that Victoria and Rhia (then known as Annalee) started in the pageant at ages 6 and 4, all those years ago.  Daryl joined the next year, playing Reverend Alden.  The girls were in it for about 10 years each and Daryl has acted in it every year since.  Eventually they were joined by Jack and later Alex, and Fiona started acting in it 3 years ago at age 3.

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This year’s pageant was quite the drama.  We experienced a “hundred year flood” the week of opening night that completely washed out a road and put the entire pageant set under water.

Here’s the road leading to the pageant site, or what was left of it after the rushing water in the drainage culvert under the highway literally blew it out from under the road and destroyed the road completely.

Some of the crew even took a row boat to rescue the calf (“Spot”) from the set.

We didn’t know if we’d be able to have a show at all, or even if the set could be saved, but the cast and crew came together, cleaned everything up and fixed it all, and scheduled 3 shows a week for the next two weeks to make up for the missed first shows.

Here’s a a few shots of my crew this year, featuring Daryl, Alex, Jack and Fiona (who played two parts — Alice Kennedy in the first half and little Grace Ingalls in the second half later when the family returned in real life and spent more time here).  Fiona is in the yellow dress.  The boys are shaggy blonde boys in white shirts and suspenders, so they’re often harder to spot.  🙂

And even though there is no video taping allowed, here’s a tiny clip of the rehearsal for the children’s dance in the town social, since I’m such a rule breaker and I consider it good advertising.  😉

It was a grand, exciting, exhausting, worrisome, wonderful season that showed how hard work and a team effort can make anything happen.  The cast and crew worked tirelessly and once again put on a really incredible performance night after night.

My kids are sad that it’s over.  They’ll miss their pageant friends (some of whom travel from as much as 3 hours away and camp or stay with relatives in order to take part as a family!) and the acting, singing, dancing and play with their fellow cast mates.

If you ever happen to be in the Walnut Grove area around July, I highly recommend coming to see the show.  There’s drama, comedy and history, complete with an incredible prairie fire, a grasshopper plague, singing, dancing, sad times (Mary goes blind, crops are destroyed, Pa has to leave to find work in Mankato, and more) and fun and funny times — even a pie in Mrs. Oleson’s face.  🙂

And now we rest for a good 15 minutes before starting the next summer adventure…

 

Five Things That Are Making Us Happy Right Now

 

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I’m trying once again to get back to regular blogging after so many false starts, so I thought I’d just dive in with a quick post for anybody who’s still out there.

Here are 5 things making us happy right now, thanks to the convenience of Instagram.  🙂

1.  Our rescue kitten, Oscar.  Long time readers know that we’ve found homes for many feral kittens and cats over the years but we decided we were down to a manageable enough number of pets again (3 cats) that we could adopt one ourselves.

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Oscar and Fiona 💕

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2.  Silly car games on car rides.  This one that Rhia made up to occupy Fiona and Alex had us all in stitches.

3.  Easy nature studies projects.  We grew grass in CD cases a couple of weeks ago and have also been doing all kinds of other seasonal nature study activities.  (Obligatory affiliate link to my nature studies book if you want lots of other simple nature study ideas arranged by season.)

4.  Foraging as a family.  As always, we’re gathering loads of wild edible foods so far this season.  It always makes me smile to think that this all started as a fun summer homeschool project and it’s evolved into something that provides hundreds of pounds of free, healthy food for our family (and two books!).  So far this year, we’ve gathered over 60 pounds of wild asparagus and various quantities of morel mushrooms, lambsquarters, pheasant back mushrooms, nettles, ramps, violets, wild onions, and more.

5.  Membership to the science museum.  We’ve been getting lots of use out of our annual membership, even though it’s an hour and a half away in Sioux Falls.  We do much of our shopping in Sioux Falls and Rhia’s boyfriend lives there, so we have lots of excuses to go lately.  I always try to combine educational benefits and fun for the kids in our travels even to nearby cities, so we tend to go as a family and make an adventure of the day.

There is a lot of other stuff going on (mostly good, some less so) and I hope to start catching up on all of it.

What are you and your kiddos up to this month?

A Week’s Worth of Fun Math Projects!

a week's worth of fun mathOne of my resolutions this year was to do some sort of fun math activity with the kids each day. I don’t care if it takes just a few minutes or what level it’s at, just as long as math play becomes a regular and enjoyable part of each day.

So far, we’ve been doing well. We’ve been playing with Cuisenaire rods, darts, dice, cards, silly word problems, made flower factors and so on.

Here are my plans for this week, in whatever order they work out. Since we have such snow and cold in Minnesota right now, I figured I would work that into some of the fun.

  1. Get a box of sugar cubes and divide them among the kids. Give them small things to measure in sugar cube units and show them how to figure out the items’ area by lining up sugar cubes along the length and width and multiplying the numbers, then have them fill in the area with sugar cubes and see if they get the same answer. Then have tea with sugar cubes.
  2. Tint some water with food coloring and fill various containers with it. Have the kids guess which containers hold more, and then measure. Compare tall, skinny, wide and oddly shaped containers. Then let the kids play at mixing the colors in the containers.
  3. Have each child guess the temperature outside and go see who’s closest. Subtract that temperature from the temperature inside to see how much warmer it is inside. Also check the temperature on the back porch, in the basement and in the refrigerator and freezer, and see how close they are to inside and outside temperatures.
  4. Sing 100 bottles of beer on the wall, the math version. Instead of taking one down, take turns singing out how many are taken down each time, and then as a group sing the answer. For instance, “95 bottles of beer on the wall, 95 bottles of beer… take 9 down, pass them around… 86 bottles of beer on the wall.” Feel free to switch out the traditional beer of the song for juice, milk, water or whatever your family chooses, of course!
  5. Give each child 25 chocolate chips. Ask them to figure out how many times 7 goes into 25 with the chips, with lines of 7 to show the answer. Eat the remainders. Then do it with 4’s, then 6’s, then 5’s and so on.
  6. Fill a measuring cup with one cup of snow, then bring it inside and let it melt. Make guesses on how much water it will melt into.  See who gets closest and subtract the difference, and talk about why snow takes up more volume than water.
  7. Play War, but make black cards positive and red cards negative.

If you have fun math ideas to share, please add them in the comments!

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a while since I posted one of these updates.  🙂 Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

1. Fiona has been doing lots of writing and copy work.  She loves writing and fills up page after page of dollar store handwriting and spelling workbooks.

2.  Rhia is learning to play the electric guitar.  She is already a wonderful acoustic guitar player and is now excited to get an electric guitar and learn that.  She’s been practicing on a guitar that Gabe (Toria’s fiance) has lent her.  I got her an amp for solstice and she is hoping to be able to buy the guitar by her (18th!) birthday at the end of the month.  She is not just a great guitar player but also a great song writer.  With her love of music and the connection she already has with small bands in around the country, I’m pretty sure her future will be in music in one way or another.

3.  And she’s still busy with photography… Speaking of Rhia’s music connections, she took some photos for a small Mankato area band last month and she’s done some concert photography for some bands at Minneapolis and Sioux Falls concerts.  I’m pretty sure photography will be in her future, too.  Here’s her photography page on Facebook.  she’d be thrilled if you liked it!

4.  Alex has been enjoying the snow.  It’s been bitterly cold, but any time it’s above zero he’s pretty happy to be making snow forts, building snow zombies and so on.

5.  Fiona learned to play happy birthday on the lap harp.  She and Alex also learned a bunch of other songs.

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❤️

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6.  Alex has been learning to cook more meals and treats.  His latest accomplishments are 2 minute microwave GF bread (which he made about 30 batches for family in the last month) and scrambled eggs.  He also helps me cook a lot, so he’s become a great sous chef for things like taquitos.

7.  Victoria and Gabe have been in their house for a month.  They got their first utility bill today!  Luckily the house is so small and they’re so frugal that it was a fraction of what ours is.  They come over for dinner just about every night but they are settling in well and finally have reliable heat (a big thing when it’s been 20 below zero!).

8.  We’ve been doing lots of visits to the Washington Pavilion science and art center.  I took advantage of a holiday special and renewed our membership, which Alex told me he really missed.  We try to visit every time we’re in Sioux Falls, which is often since Rhia’s BF lives there and it’s also where I do my bulk grocery shopping.

They have great science presentations and Alex and Fiona got to take part in one about physics.

And last time we headed over to the art center and the kids got to do some pretty cool spin art projects.  The only thing better than messy art is messy art you don’t have to set up yourself.  😉

9.  Jack is crazy about Hamilton and it’s led to all kinds of history education.  He knows all of the songs by heart and is really excited that the show is coming to Minnesota in 2018.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I could effortlessly teach him his entire high school curricula if I could find musicals for every subject.  😉

10. We’ve been doing tons of learning with Cuisenaire Rods and other hands-on math tools.

Alex and I even tried doing long division with Cuisenaire Roads, which is really tricky to wrap your brain around!

I also published another book (affiliate link: Acorn Foraging: Acorn Foraging: Everything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step InstructionsEverything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step Instructions) and we’ve been reading lots of books, playing with friends, going to movies (since Daryl and Rhia work for a local non-profit movie theater, our family can go at any hour and put on whatever movies we like, which makes for some pretty fun late-night excursions!), playing music, watching shows and the usual mayhem.

Now, I’ve promised a little girl that we’d do crafts so I should sign off.  I hope everything is wonderful in your corner of the world!