An Epic Nature Study Fail

As I posted earlier in the week, we’re house sitting at Tiffany’s house in Nebraska this week.

Tiffany’s house is fabulous.  It’s roomy and relaxing, with lots of white.  This week, it also has lots of something else.

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Ants.  Not tiny little back yard ants, but impressively large, black ants who march along as if they are on very serious business.

Tiffany is a rather live-and-let-live kind of person.  She lets insects pretty much do what they want, and they pretty much leave her alone.  So she warned me that they had suddenly appeared last week and said that I could do what I wanted about them once they left but that she was just letting them be.

Well.

I was not fond of the ants.  They had the unfortunate habit of appearing on my arms or legs as I was cooking in the kitchen, which did not leave me feeling calm and peaceful.  They also intruded on my cooking area, which I did not take kindly to as I do a lot of cooking and do not like sharing the space with giant interloping insects.

Live and let live, though…

So I did what any homeschooling mama would do.  I googled for key words like “kids science make humane bug catcher” and such and came up with this.

So we made a bug catcher!  Brilliant, huh?

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Um, no……

First off, these ants are huge.  We’re pretty sure they’re carpenter ants because they are not the dainty little ants we’re used to seeing.  So when you put the straw next to them, you have to put it right next to them and you feel like you’re trying to squeeze a hippo into a pair of panty hose.

Second of all, even though there is gauze wrapped around the straw you suck through, it is extremely unnerving to try to suck up a large ant.  Your brain will try very hard to stop you.  It is also extremely hard to convince your 9 year old son to suck up a large ant, even if he is usually pretty fearless about weird, gross and otherwise bizarre challenges.

But poor Alex finally acquiesced and attempted to suck up the first subject.

Nothing.

Turns out that big ants are heavy, and you have to put the straw practically on top of them.  Okay….

So he did that, and voila!  An ant got sucked right in…. halfway through the straw, and he was busily running back out of it.  This resulted in me shouting, “You have to suck more!” and Alex giving a mighty suck and then a very annoyed face.

“It tastes awful!  It’s like lemon, but awful!” he scowled.

I assured him that was impossible and it was probably just an odor that had been in the straw or jar.  Nonetheless, he refused to suck up another ant.

I recruited Toria next, who was not too keen on the idea despite her usual gung-ho attitude about anything nature related.  Still, she gave it a go — And promptly gasped, gagged and started looking for places to spit.

She announced that she’d just got a mouthful of the worst taste she’d ever tasted.

A google search confirmed our suspicions, that ants release formic acid (the same chemical that stings when they bite you) when they believe they are under attack, like if you try to suck them through a straw into a mayonnaise jar.

Yep, both of my poor kids had basically huffed ant toxin.

We ended up with one very annoyed ant whom we released outside, and a house full of absolutely safe ants remaining, because none of us are about to use that contraption again.

Still, they’re almost all gone today.  Live and let live does work pretty well if you have the patience (and get good at flicking them to the ground with an index card).

The bug catcher project site is full of videos of kids who successfully made one of these things.  I guess we just got unlucky.

I’m pretty sure our days of making bug catchers are over, though.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Homeschooling Through Construction Mayhem

There’s been a little more mayhem than usual in our homeschool the past few weeks.  We’re having extensive home repairs done on all four floors of our house (main floor, second floor, attic and basement).

This is what our back porch looked like last week after they ripped out the floor, walls, insulation and ceiling.

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To say it’s been hectic is an understatement.

While it will be so worth it in the end, it’s been pretty exhausting — especially since we had just one day notice that they’d be starting on the renovations since we set it all up early last summer!

The construction crew knows we homeschool (of course) and I’m pretty sure they think that involves nothing at all (!) since we’re not doing anything remotely traditional while they’re here.  After all, they’re ripping up floors, walls, counters, windows, you name it, and it’s not like we could just pile into the kitchen to do science experiments and lapbooks all day or read quietly through the hammering and drilling!

Nonetheless, we’ve still managed to learn and play through the chaos.

Here are ten ways we’ve learned and played during the construction.

1. Alex and I have been playing Timeline on the new living room floor.  We have three sets of this fantastic little history card game (Discoveries, Inventions and Historical Events) and love them all.  The other kids have been joining in some of the games too (Rhia even played a few rounds with her college friend one night!).  Not only is it great for putting historical events in perspective to each other, but it’s led to all kinds of great conversations on everything from pulsars to Darwin and Lincoln (they were born the same day of the same year, as you may know).

2. We’ve been reading lots of library books.  Winter is always the time to hit up the library extra often and it’s a good place to escape to when the chaos is too loud, too.

3. The boys have been playing Dragonbox for algebra.  It’s been a while since the kids played it so I loaded it up on Jack and Alex’s Kindles and had them do a little every day.  I’m planning on getting the higher level one (Dragonbox 12+) for Jack once he finishes the original version, too.  The nice thing about educational apps is that kids can just hole up in a room somewhere or just take them in the car with them and use them anywhere.

4.  Fiona, Alex and I have been playing Wildcraft. It’s a wonderful game that I finally broke down and bought last year after coveting it for years.  I love that it’s cooperative and that it teaches so much about helpful plants.  All players work together to get to the top of a mountain and gather huckleberries for a pie for grandma.  Along the way, they run into various maladies (sunburn, insect bite, hunger, sprained ankle, etc.) and they see if they have any of the plants that can help the ailment (jewelweed, field mint, plantain, echinacea, etc.).  If they don’t, one of their teammates can help them if they have a cooperation card, or they can use cooperation cards to pull the player who’s farthest behind up to their space.  It’s a bit like a nature studies “Candy Land” — except everybody works together and it teaches you.  🙂  It’s also just plain pretty!  Fiona especially loves the game and asks to play it constantly.

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5. Daryl has been taking the kids hiking and longboarding at the nearby state park.  The weather has been strangely warm for February for Minnesota (we had rain last week!) so they’ve been taking advantage of it to get some much-needed fresh air, sunshine and exercise — and of course, some nature studies!

6. I’ve been teaching the older kids about Kindle publishing.  Now that I’ve published my first Kindle book, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming and I’ve realized what a great tool it could be for the kids to share some of their knowledge and passions.  I told Toria that I would love to see her publish a “Hard Core Nature Studies” book because she has taught herself so much cool stuff about hands-on projects for serious science and nature lovers (like how to whiten bones), for instance.

Shameless plug…. Speaking of my book, it’s free to read if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.  Otherwise, it’s $2.99.  There are 52 nature study projects, broken down so there is one a week for all four seasons.  Most of the projects are ones that we’ve done many times in our own homeschool over the years, including lots of our favorites.

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7. Alex is on a spelling kick.  With all of my kids, spelling was one of the last things to kick in naturally — well after they were reading very well.  Alex was no different, and it was to the point where I cringed when I saw his spelling even though we did play spelling games, talk about spelling rules and activities like that.  As with all of the kids, though, it did finally click and he found his own way to learn to love it and excel at it.

In his case, his spelling suddenly skyrocketed because of two things — texting friends and spelling everything he says to me.  He now communicates half the time by spelling his questions and sentences to me.  It drives the other kids a little crazy, but he jumped a good 2 grade levels in spelling the past month just through these two habits.

(It should also be noted that the two friends that my 9 year-old boy texts the most often are a 9 year-old girl who lives a block away and a middle-aged world-traveled lawyer from Beverly Hills who lives next door to us.  The neighbor has become a close friend to our whole family since she moved in last spring, and it makes me smile that Alex texts her regularly to check in on things.  🙂  I love that homeschooling means that “socialization” occurs with all ages and all types of people, instead of kids growing up segregated into grade-level groups of like-minded peers.  I also love that it often means that kids have no concern about gender or age when choosing friends.)

8. I’ve put on lots of educational TV.  I love having You-Tube, Netflix and Hulu because it means there’s always something entertaining and educational to occupy the kids when things get hectic.  The younger kids particularly like Maths Mansion, which we watch on You-Tube.  It’s the weirdest children’s show I’ve ever seen but it’s oddly hilarious and even the big kids watch it because it’s just so bizarre. It’s a very surreal British show that I read about a while back on another homeschool blog.  It features a villain who traps children in a spooky house and makes them do math to escape and a nice (but ridiculous) guy who teaches the kids the math concepts.  The villain also accosts random real life people on the streets to ask them strange math questions.  🙂  It’s really odd but we like it!  It covers some pretty advanced math for a children’s show, too, and gives the kids problems to solve at the end of each show.  They’ve also been watching Myth Busters, National Geographic documentaries and various other programs.

9. We’ve been dragging out various books in spare moments to learn American history, algebra, science and more.  One of the nice things about having a massive library amassed from thrift stores and the occasional Scholastic book splurge is that we have wonderful books to teach about everything from how gravity works to rocks and minerals.  Today, I grabbed a Scholastic book about “everything you need to know about American history for homework” and we read through the section on the French and Indian war.  Alex figured out how many years ago it started and we read through the causes and results (pretty monumental).  Earlier in the day, I read a picture book with Fiona and Alex about how gravity works (and then added to it since it didn’t do much of a job of explaining it).  A couple of days ago, I went through a college-level “algebra for dummies” book with Jack upstairs when they were tearing up the living room.  These books give us small doses of pretty rigorous information and discussions that we often continue later.

10. Of course, the kids are learning all about construction, electricity, plumbing and renovation work.  I can’t possibly name all the things the kids have learned from the workers and the work they’ve done the past couple of weeks.  When the foreman found out we had an older type of wiring called knob and tube wiring in the attic, he explained how electricity passed through it as opposed to modern systems and what the risks were.

Knob and tube wiring gets its name from the ceramic knobs used to hold wires in place and ceramic tubes that act as protective casings for wires running through wall studs or floor joists. Instead of the three wires found in modern electrical installations, knob and tube wiring has only two — a black (hot) wire and a white (neutral) wire. This means there is no ground wire in the system for excess charge or in the event of a short.

The kids have also watched how counters are replaced, how all kinds of power tools are used, how various kinds of flooring are laid, how a frame is built for a bathtub and shower, and tons more.  Toria talked to the foreman about how many boxes of flooring they’d need for her to do our hallway later on, figuring out square footage for the hallway and factoring in how many square feet are in each box (and figuring the cost).  They’ve learned about plumbing lines, material costs, housing codes and oodles more.

And yes, it’s going to be so worth it when it’s over. Here’s a picture of Fiona practicing drawing and writing on our living room floor last summer.  We had pulled up the big area rug thinking they were going to start on the renovations soon (the original completion date was supposed to be in August!), so we were looking at this floor for about 7 months!

Here’s a picture of Fiona meditating on our new living room floor last week.

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It’s a happy sort of chaos, then, and one we are grateful for!

This was just another example of how well homeschooling can work so well around life.

We have homeschooled through getting snowed in while visiting other cities, making trips to take care of my ailing grandmother, vacations, new babies, Toria’s cancer, Daryl’s hip replacement and all kinds of other challenges.  I am so grateful that with homeschooling, school can so easily fit around life, instead of life having to fit around school.

But boy will I be glad when the construction is finished.  🙂

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10 Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

We’re 2 weeks into 2017 and hanging in there.  I had a birthday a week ago and Rhia has a birthday next week.  She’s turning 17 (how did that happen?) and I won’t tell you what age I turned.  😉

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(Yes, our kitchen ceiling is completely covered with the children’s art!)

We had some more sadness, as my grandmother died right before the new year.  She was 93 and impatient to move on to her next adventure, but that doesn’t make it easier.  I am very glad that we made so many trips to Ohio for the kids to really get to know her, especially this year (3 trips in 6 months).

That doesn’t mean homeschooling was happening, though.  Or magical moments.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

  1. Daryl has been doing “Teach Your Monster to Read” with Fiona just about every day.  She is beginning to get the hang of how phonics and words work, and she enjoys it.
  2. I got out an old science kit that I found at a thrift store years back, dusted it off, and started doing science experiments with Alex.  It contains a hand-held scope and lots of gadgets and chemicals.  We did things like examined different cloths under the scope, compared types of salt under magnification (black lava salt just looks dirty!) and did some simple experiments.  We’re going to try to finally start putting it to regular use.
  3. Daryl is acting in a winter play.  He has the lead in a community theater production in Worthington.  It’s a comedy and he plays a detective.  Rhia goes with him to rehearsals and all of the kids help him run his lines.
  4. Toria is working on getting our family Etsy store running.  She has some beautiful glass fox pendants that I got her for her birthday as a start to her own business (I purchased a large assortment wholesale for her to sell).  We are planning to sell a variety of things out of a family store.  Rhia creates elaborate zentangle-like artwork that she’d like to list and I have been creating magical homeschool sort of printables (such as colorful cards of hands-on ways to do all different subjects).  It has been a fun learning experience for all of us so far. Toria is taking pictures this week and then we should be able to finish creating the storefront.
  5. Rhia has been writing songs.  She is very talented on the guitar and writes amazing songs.  She wrote one last week that is quite feminist, and wrote another for a friend who needed cheering up.  She also has been learning how to cover other songs on the guitar.  Daryl and I heard a song I really liked during “Listen to Your Folks” on campus radio last week (Painting Houses) and she and Daryl learned to play it and performed it for me.
  6. I wrote a Kindle book.  I decided that it was time to start writing about the things that I am passionate about again, and that I finally needed to learn how to write Kindle books and give it a try.  There’s a steep learning curve but I got my first book written.  It is part of a series I’d like to write under the umbrella of “A Magical Homeschool.”  This one is A Magical Homeschool:  Nature Studies (52 Wonderful ways to use nature studies for science, math, art and more).  I am working on the cover today.
  7. Rhia is learning Spanish.  She has started doing Duolingo and has progressed quite far already.  Toria has been using Duolingo to master German for years, and Daryl does the free language app daily in German, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Swedish.
  8. Jack has been running D&D games for Alex.  This role playing game involves creating a world, drawing out maps, storytelling and running the game to create the adventure as the players go along.  Players roll dice to determine the outcome of decisions, battles, etc. and use miniatures to represent the players and the world.
  9. Alex, Fiona and I played a US states geography board game.  It involves drawing cards of states that you need to travel to and then answering questions about the states to move across the board and try to reach your state.  Once you visit all four of the states you’ve drawn (driving across the country in your car token), you win. A friend lent it to us and Alex really enjoys it.  Fiona doesn’t have to answer the questions.  We just let her roll the dice and travel across the country, and she is still picking up geography from the states she “visits.”
  10. Daryl and the kids have been shooting winter footage for a movie.  Daryl has a friend making a movie down south and she needs to incorporate footage of winter memories for the characters, who are supposed to be in Montana.  They have been shooting footage of snowy scenes and of the kids running in the snow and so on.  Daryl, Toria, Jack and Rhia have all shot footage, and Alex and Rhia have been in some of the scenes.

Of course, we’re doing all the usual homeschool stuff too — reading books, playing games, texting, blogging, using educational apps and shows, nature studies, cooking, chores, math pages and so on.

And now, I’m off to work on that cover and pretend I’m going to get housework done.

Okay, really try to at least get a little housework done….

Have a magical week!

Things Here…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

10 Things We’ve Been Up To Lately

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I’ve gone and disappeared for too long again!  I really want to get back to writing and connecting here regularly.  I have to figure out a way to make it work again!

I have a massive to-do poster on my bedroom door right now, with quadrants for the house (we have a huge remodeling project starting this month), the kids, school, work and miscellaneous.  I think I’ll add blogging to the list even though it isn’t a “must” — simply because it hangs over me like one and I do feel so much better when I am keeping track of our little life here.  🙂

So in an effort to quickly catch up in a tiny way, here are 10 random things we’ve been up to lately!

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  1. We all went to the Maple Syrup sugarbush boil-off at a local nature camp, as always.  There was a huge breakfast buffet with a free-will donation, and Daryl once again worked one of the tables selling maple syrup and teaching people how to tap maple trees.  (If you want to know how to tap maple trees, check here, and learn about tapping black walnut trees here.)
  2. Toria is currently in Oregon, visiting friends.
  3. The youngest three kids, Daryl and I went looking for morels at a nearby nature area today.  We figured it was too early (it is) but we wanted to check.  One good rain and they should pop!
  4. Fiona, Alex and I went to Tiffany’s for a getaway.  They had the flu and we came back the very next day.  It was a very long drive for a very short trip!
  5. We made easy gluten free playdough.  Easy recipe: 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup corn starch, 1 1/4 cups cold water. Stir over medium heat until thick, turn onto a surface until cool enough to handle (covered with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out), divide into balls and color. I may add a touch of oil next time, but it’s a very nice dough. Keep it in the fridge to last longer (in a baggie).
  6. Toria now has a longboard and has been riding it quite a bit.
  7. Alex was bit by the neighbor’s dog, which caused the neighbor to feel understandably bad for him and ask what sorts of things he liked.  I said he liked anything, even rocks, but that he is particularly fond of Snap Circuits since he loves science and building kits so much.  She surprised him a few days later with this massive motion exploration kit.  He literally jumped up and down and shrieked quite a bit, and has spent many hours building movable creations (ones suggested in the kit and ones he’s created himself with it).  He recovered quite well, incidentally.
  8. We have been doing lots of work on the yard and gardens now that spring is here.  It’s so nice to be around green and dirt again!
  9. The younger kids have been doing online educational games for some homeschool fun.  Fiona and Daddy play on Teach Your Monster to Read and the boys play on Prodigy for math, both of which are free.
  10. We’ve been playing lots of board games, card games, dart games and other real-life games, too.  We got an electronic dart board at a thrift store and we’ve all had a blast playing it, but it’s also been good for math.  We play 301 most of the time and you have to end up exactly on 0 to win, which means that the kids frequently have to figure out which combinations of doubles and triples would help win (like triple 17 if you’re down to 51 and have only one toss left, for instance).

Unfortunately, the flu has also invaded (we brought it home from Tiffany’s), so I have to go back to snuggling a little four year old who is not fond of being sick.  She announced today that she doesn’t remember ever being sick before and she is quite over it!  I’m dosing her up with elderberry syrup to kick it fast.

I swear I’ll be back soon!

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An Afternoon Visit 7 Miles Under the Sea

Most of our family went to Sioux Falls today to do our regular trek to Costco, the science museum and thrift stores.  We try to combine fun and educational things with practical trips like grocery shopping every time we can so we have memberships to the science museum and zoo to help make it easy to stop by even for an hour or two any time we head to the city.

We usually get there in the afternoons and miss the free films at the cinedome, but this time we got there early enough to catch today’s movie, which was James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge.

Alex, Fiona, Rhia, Toria and I went and saw the 39 minute 2-D film (I suspect it may be longer in the 3-D version in some theaters) and we loved it.  It was just wonderful.  It was educational, inspirational, beautiful, exciting…. all you could ask for, especially for kids ranging in age from 4 to 17.  Here’s the synopsis:

As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface—piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.

 

I visited the film’s site when I got home and saw that they have all sorts of lesson plans for educators.  If you get a chance to see the movie either in theaters or once it’s available at home, I highly recommend it.

In the movie, Cameron talks about how he’s been obsessed with visiting the deep sea since he was a child.  He also talks about how important it is for us to keep discovering and exploring, and how today’s children will be going on their own wonderful explorations.

Afterwards, Alex (8) really wanted to talk about how Cameron did his job (making movies) in part to pay for fulfilling his dreams (going 7 miles down to the deepest part of the ocean where nobody had ever been).  He’s really thinking about what jobs would be best for him and what dreams too.  Hopefully he can combine the two.  🙂

 

Yesterday and Today, In Pictures

Boy, if these photos don’t show what our homeschool is like, I don’t know what does.

Yesterday, we went hiking at Red Rock Dells, a park about 20 minutes from us.

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It was so much fun.  It was nature study, history, science, PE and more.  And it’s just beautiful and good for the soul.

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Today, Daryl took Toria and Alex and some homeschooling friends two hours away to take part in a movie shoot.

As extras.  In a zombie movie.  🙂

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Isn’t my boy darling?!

This is the movie they’re shooting.

Daryl just called to check in.  They didn’t wrap up shooting until after seven so they’ll be back late.  They’re excited about going back tomorrow and Saturday, even though it involves an awful lot of sitting around (they’re bringing iPod chargers and more books tomorrow!).

They’re learning lots about the movie business and I have no idea what else (can I somehow make this count for social studies?), but what an experience!

And in contrast, this is what Jack and I were doing while they were filming….

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He stayed home and helped me with Fiona (no zombies under five allowed).  He’s not sure if he wants to have anything to do with this zombie business, though he’s signed up so he can take part if he chooses to.

And we had a pretty fun time on our own.

It’s an odd life, but a fun one!  🙂