First Day of Language Classes

We got to take part in some free foreign language classes this semester and the first ones were on Monday.

Victoria took German, and Victoria and Anna took Spanish.  I am attending with the girls so I guess I’m taking them too.  🙂  I’ve already taken both languages but that was many years ago!

The classes were fabulous!  They are held at the state college in Mankato, and put on by international exchange students.  We have a slightly nervous young woman from Germany for German and a very fun young man (who never said where he was from, though I’m guessing Mexico) for Spanish.

They are very different in teaching styles but I have a feeling we’ll enjoy both classes.  We’re already learning a lot and the girls had homework in Spanish.  They each had to write a paragraph about themselves and both did a fantastic job!  Perhaps I’ll post them later.

We’ll be going to Mankato each Monday for the classes through November.  We think it’s going to be a pretty neat thing.

Atlatls, new friends and making memories

Yesterday was the last HS day at the Petroglyphs for the year and the theme was atlatls.  In typical form, almost nobody showed up.  In typical form, we had fun anyway.  🙂

I don’t know how much longer the Petroglyphs will do HS days.  We’ve been doing them for some crazy number of years like 7 now (can time really have gone by that fast?) and it’s a sad fact that you just cannot count on homeschoolers to show up at stuff, no matter how much cool stuff you plan or how hard you try to please them.

We consistently draw families who travel from far distances to come take part (one family came quite often from South Dakota, and people regularly come from the Twin Cities 3 hours away or from farther), but the locals… eh.  They just don’t bother.  The vast majority have never been once.

One HS mom who lives on a nearby farm told a friend of mine, “I’ve seen the notices but I just  never really thought my kids would be interested.”


We have had programs about astronomy (we did HS Night!), photography, art, weapons, animals, survival, snow, history, plants, geology, archeology…

Kids have cracked open geodes, made blow guns from mop handles to pop balloon targets, painted their nails with UV changing nail polish to do solar experiments, made atlatls, flint knapped their own arrowheads, done watercolor painting, made bead necklaces, created ledger art, taken part in real archeology programs, done dozens of crafts, played dozens of games…

NONE of that seemed interesting enough to check out once?  Sigh.

But in any case, we had an event yesterday and it was a fun time.  Two families came from several hours away each and I had a great time visiting with the adults while my kids loved both sets of children.  Emails and blog addresses were exchanged between kids, and we ended up all staying an hour and a half past when the program was supposed to end.

Anna, Alex and I walked the trail through the prairie, which is over a mile long.  Alex made it all the way to the buffalo rock on his own, happily marching ahead of me and sometimes stopping to take hold of my hand.

The weather was perfect and I was once again reminded of how thankful I am… for having the Petroglyphs as practically a second home for my children, for our fabulous homeschool life together, for spring and for getting to be a mama (especially to these four fabulous kiddos).

It was a really nice day.  I hope there are lots more to come there.

If you want to see pictures of the petroglyphs, I put up a slide show of yesterday’s event here.

Upcoming Minnesota Conferences for Kids

Crystal asked for details about the conferences the kids are attending this month and I thought others might be interested.  Here’s more info:

The Fifth Annual SCSC Science & Nature Conference is being held at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter on Tuesday, October 27.  It’s for students in grades 3-9 and they can pick their classes (there are different options for different grade levels).  Each child attends the keynote and 3 other workshops.  The keynote presentation is “Fire and Ice” by Mad Scientist Colin Killbane.  The registration fee is $25 ($30 after October 20) and adult chaperones attend free.  More info here.

The Young Artists Conference at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall is for kids from kindergarten to 8th grade.  It’s on Friday, October 23 and I couldn’t find a web page about it (we’re on the mailing list for their conferences) but there is an article about last year’s conference here.  Registration is around $45, I believe, and $10 for chaperones.  We took part in their Young Writers Conference last spring and the girls absolutely loved it.  You could contact the college for more information.

History Fest is this October 8-10.  While it’s not a conference, it is a fantastic event that brings history alive in a hands-on, fabulously fun way.  Here’s my post with billions of pictures from last year’s event.  The girls will be volunteering at the Betsy and Tacy exhibit Thursday morning and we’ll be there Thursday and Friday just enjoying ourselves.  History Fest is open to the public on Saturday and to school kids (homeschool, public and private) on Thursday and Friday.  The event is slightly different on school days and public days.  You need to register to attend on a school day.  There is a small admission fee (around $3).

Survivor Camp!

Victoria and Anna went to a three-day Survivor day camp hosted by the Prairie Ecology Bus Center this week.  They had so much fun!

The kids learned how to use a compass, build shelter, start a fire without matches (this was a real struggle!) and more.  They made some new friends and had a really wonderful time.  Every night when they came home they were so excited it was hard to keep up with the happy stream of stories that bubbled out of both of them nonstop.

On the last day, Jack and I went with them to take some pictures from the background and explore the site for ourselves.  I see what all the fuss was about!  It’s a magical place with fun, dedicated staff and the love of nature, learning and the environment just comes naturally as soon as you set foot at the place.

Since we’re members, it was only $25 for three days for each child.  AND they got to take part in the “Who wants to be a scientist?” program Wednesday night for free (which was another fantastic and fun activity I’ll have to share!).  You can’t beat that with a stick!  🙂

Here’s some pictures….

Getting ready to head out with her compass


The girls with a new wonderful friend

 The recap before the final knot-tying test (Annalee set a 1.15 second record for her figure 8 knot!)

Anna shows me a cattail and what parts you can eat, and how (this one isn’t a good one!)

Finding North

Jack discovers the first fort out behind the group (the woods are filled with kid-built forts!)

Watching the lessons from the fort

Anna’s group heads off for their last adventure

Victoria’s group prepares to embark on theirs

Jack heads off to explore the woods

It was a perfect June day, about 75 degrees and sunny with a breeze!

We found this massive tree that was almost entirely hollow at the base, with plants growing out of it

But it still stretched out tall towards the sky and was full of green branches

Another fort!

Jack held my hand and pulled me along exitedly.  He loved exploring the site!

An old abandoned barn added character

This doesn’t capture it, but the air was filled with floating cottonwood seeds.  They look like big dandelion seeds and we sometimes say they’re fairies.  We caught them and made wishes and blew them away again.  They’re very hard to catch!  Especially in pictures, apparently.  Told you they were fairies.  😉

We found Victoria deep in the woods

Jack tromped down and asked if he could help

Victoria was gathering sticks to add to the shelter

So Jack happily went looking for some to add!

Victoria also cleared out any of this invasive weed (garlic mustard weed?)  if she found it, which all the kids were taught to do to help the forest

Wandering on, we found Annalee

We kept going and found this little stream

Shhhh!  Sleeping fairies

Jack discovered this lovely pond when we came to the clearing and lay on the ground with his head right between this stinging nettle!  He escaped unscathed, but I got some on my legs in helping him out.  The plant didn’t stand a chance against the magic of the day and the stinging barely registered though!

Heading back into the woods to find our way back

We found this cool animal den at the base of a tree

And then my batteries died for all the parts where we got lost in the woods!  Guess we should have taken a class!  But it’s a tiny wood and we knew to get back on a path and we’d be fine.  One surreal element was the lowing from nearby cows!  One does not expect to hear moos when one is tromping through a magical forest.  Or maybe one does, because it is magical after all….

<insert imaginary pictures of wandering lots more, then insert pictures of me, Jack, Daddy and Alex going off to town for fun at the park, ice cream treats and more.  I have those photos but this is getting reallllllllly ridiculously long!>


When we came back to get the girls at the end of the day, there was more exploring to be done!  And more fun!

There were giant furry dogs to meet (the other was even more giant and more furry… I think it was part bison!)



These four girls built this fabulous fort themselves on Day one!  Doesn’t it rock?  The staff said it was the best fort.  It was!  It also looks better than half the shelters I’ve seen after two days’ work on the real Survivor show.  😉  They’re sitting on the log “couch.”

Thousands of fairies slacking on some leaves

Apparently they’re scavengers (sorry! couldn’t resist!)

Victoria and a friend in the shelter their group built today

With a raccoon skull mounted by the door to warn away evil spirits (and raccoons)

Following Anna to her shelter

Hers even had big leaf carpeting

The girls showed me evidence of spit bugs and explained about them (I’m not sure if that’s what they’re called!  I was photographing more than listening!)

Victoria and her new friend have exchanged emails, phone numbers and webkinz handles!  They really hit it off!

Heading back from a magical day

We love all of the programs and people at PEBC.  If you have anything like this is your area, I highly recommend seeing what they have to offer!


HS Journal

Oh, we’ve been busy!  I’m still sick but quite a lot is going on nonetheless.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to.

Maple Syrup Tapping

We took part in an annual tradition of having a big community breakfast and then learning about tapping maple trees at a nearby camp.  The girls know it by heart by now but we always have a ball.  Jack made a new friend and they played together outside.

Microscope Ecology Trek

The kids took part in an activity where they learned the history of microscopes, trekked through the woods collecting cool samples and then looked at their bounty under microscopes.  They drew and identified the goodies.

Prairie Grammar

Daryl made up a bunch of pages of grammar lessons based on Anna’s favorite book series, the Sadie Rose books.  She’s over it, though!  LOL  Anna much prefers to learn organically through writing, reading and doing.

Pirate Grammar

Victoria is still doing the 60 or so pages of pirate grammar that Daryl got for her.  She likes it and always finds a way to make the answers silly.

Computer art

Victoria has gone to town taking pictures, finding images and then creating new images by splicing things together.  She’s doing optical illusions, wacky pictures, you name it.  She created a unicorn with Alex’s head for Anna to use as wallpaper on her computer settings.  Anna and Jack have started doing computer art of their own with special effects like oil painting looks.  They’re already able to do things Daryl and I can’t.


Still plodding away at the tests.  Yesterday was too busy but Victoria did the reading comprehension test this morning.  I’m planning on doing one or two sections with each girl later today.  They like to gleefully point out how ridiculously easy it is.  Snort.  Show offs.  😉


I am reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to Anna as a bedtime book.  Victoria just finished the next Molly Moon novel and is impatiently waiting for the next to arrive via interlibrary loan.  She loves that series.  Jack just gets piles of picture books read to him.  One current favorite is No Matter What.  (I am reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and discussing it online, along with a pile of decorating books and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, which is not nearly as fun.)

100 Birds

Daryl set a goal for seeing/identifying 100 birds this season.  He has started a list and we already have a good number of interesting birds on it, from bald eagle to grackle to kestrel.  Victoria is enjoying helping him look new specimens up in the bird book.

Snow and mud

We’ve had spring mood swings galore over here, with balmy days followed by snowstorms.  The kids have been able to play in snow, mud, slush, grass, ice and gigantic puddles.  My kitchen floor reflects this.  😉


Jack and Anna have been making money, making stores and trying to do commerce in any way for days.  Annalee is simply destined to go into retail or fundraising.  She just loves to make, buy and sell things and to rack up money.  I’m trying to find new and creative ways to meet that need, since we’re all getting tired of her trying to charge us for art, carnivals, beads, favors and anything else she can think of.  I’m thinking of signing her up for Girl Scouts next year since around here the cookie drive is huge.  That always bugged me but she loves selling things so much (whether she gets the money is secondary) that it might be a good fit.  I was also thinking of some sort of charitable fundraiser or walkathon.

Bird & animal ID

Jack and I looked around the ecology center yesterday while the girls were doing their microscope workshop.  They have a lot of mounted critters like owls, fish, racoons and other native birds and animals.  They had a Great Blue Heron and we looked at it up close and talked about how we’d seen one flying nearby on our drive over.  Then we used their specimen sheets and crayons to draw our own funny bird and animal breeds.  Jack quizzed me on them, saying things like “Okay, which one do you think is the most complicated?”.  <G>


The girls didn’t  have Japanese class last week but I bought some neat Japanese books and they’ve been looking at those.  Victoria has been reading a book about the right thing to do in different cultural situations in Japan, and she loves it.  We also got a Japanese picture dictionary and she noticed some disparities between the words Kenai has taught them and ones the book mentions.  We’re bringing the book to ask her about it Friday.

Imaginary numbers

Daryl taught Victoria about the meaning of i and imaginary numbers.   She has started to quiz Jack and Anna about things like the square root of -25 and so she’s now taught them about imaginary numbers.

Math quandaries

We got into a discussion in the car yesterday about why Anna will not always be double Jack’s age.  It was really confusing Victoria that it could only be true sometimes, so we got into a deep discussion of why that was.  We ended up figuring out what ages each of the kids would be double each other’s ages and talking about ratios and such.

And now…

The kids are cleaning the table downstairs so we can do a little art.  We’re going to look at some Picasso and then the kids are going to try their hands at painting in his style.  I also have to put some laundry in, vacuum, clean the front porch and play with a baby.  Maybe not in that order.  🙂

St. Patrick's Day Program

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Jack’s Head Start teacher asked me to host a family fun night for the local Head Start families in our town and the next. I picked March 17, with the themes of St. Patrick’s Day, Spring and green. We had the program on Monday and it was lots of fun!

The agenda included:

  • Bopping balloons with pantyhose/coat hanger paddles while waiting for everybody else to arrive.
  • Having a circle time where I introduced myself and read the books “Splish, Splash, Spring!”, “There’s a Frog in the Bog” and “Knuffle Bunny.” The first was obviously about the theme, the second had to do with a green thing (a frog) and the last one is just really fun.
  • Making leprochaun masks.
  • Painting the kids’ hands to make handprint tulips on paper. (Stamp the hands and then have the children draw leaves and stems with a green crayon or marker.)
  • Freeze dancing– I had traditional Irish songs playing and everybody danced crazily. I’d hit the pause button and they had to freeze as they were.
  • Coloring and cutting out little finger puppets of leprochauns and clovers.
  • Green food– broccoli, kiwi, celery, pea pods, green jello, green dip and juices, etc.
  • Finding clovers– I hid construction paper clovers all over a large room. The kids had to run and find them and then bring them to a parent or sibling to read the instructions. They said things like slither like a snake, sing the abc song, hop backwards 5 times and tell me something that starts with a B.

I had a little magnet/picture craft planned but the photo printer didn’t cooperate and we had more than enough to fill the time as it was. It was a really fun night!


Learning Japanese

Today the kids start their new Japanese lessons.  We’re so excited.  A homeschooling dad set the class up at a college about an hour from us.  The teacher is a Japanese student at the college and she’ll be teaching the kids not only the language but also culture.  It’s a small class of just 5 kids total right now.  It’s a long drive but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity!