Up for a Challenge?

I was thinking the other day about all of the challenges our family used to take part in as homeschoolers.  There was the Unplug Your Kids challenge, which issued a different word or theme each week as inspiration (such as purple or bug).  There was the Think! challenge.  I know there were many more, and we took part in some of them regularly.

The idea was that there would be a new theme each week, and families would do some sort of activity in the spirit of that theme and then blog about it and report back with the link.  People were encouraged to see what other families had done and it was also a fun way to find other like-minded blogs to visit.

We came up with the purple cabbage pH experiment for the purple theme.


For the “fruit” theme, we made watermelon playdough.


For the “smooth” theme we did sensory handwriting in flour, lotion and other materials.


We did crayon shirt transfers for the “wax” theme.


And so on (check out all of the projects we did for Unplug Your Kids challenges here).

Of course, back then we homeschool bloggers were a different sort.  We blogged to share ideas and resources, record our days, and support each other.  It was informal and personal.  There weren’t always pictures and there certainly weren’t SEO words or Pinterest-worthy title pics.  It wasn’t for money or hits, it was just what we quietly did in some of our spare time to connect with each other, help other homeschoolers and log a part of our lives.  I’m not sure how many bloggers of that sort even exist any more, which is probably a big part of why challenges have mostly died off (on the other hand, I know there must be lots of you out there so please holler if you are!).

But in the spirit of “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I thought maybe I could start a weekly challenge if anybody wants to take part.

Each Monday, I’ll issue a theme for the week.  If you want to take part, do some sort of project or activity with your kiddo(s) and blog about it over that week (I think Instagram posts and public Facebook posts could count, too, if you don’t have a blog).  Come back by the next Monday and leave a link to what you did, and check out what others did.

Anybody interested?  Leave a note if you’d like to take part and if there is any interest then I’ll start this month.  🙂

Snow Days


We’ve been snowed in for two days with a winter blizzard that’s led to closed highways and canceled plans.  While I’ll be awfully tired of this business in a month or two, I kind of like this part of Minnesota winters for now.

We’re forced to slow down, stay home and do cozy things like read, play games and bake.  I take long baths and browse seed catalogs to plan my spring and summer gardens.  I use up apples, pears, berries and pumpkin puree that we put up last summer and fall in homemade muffins and gluten free mix and match snack cakes.  We watch silly British math shows.  The kids have tickle fights and show each other funny videos.

We picked up this geography game for 99 cents at a thrift store and finally got around to playing it yesterday. It was quite old and exceptionally well made, and luckily every piece was still there. It led to quite a lot of great learning about geography and history for Jack,  Victoria and even me.


This morning, I set the little ones up with a giant bin of snow and ice cube trays of colored water.  They had so much fun mixing colors and experimenting with making tunnels with water.


Later, Victoria did marshmallow homeschool with Jack, Fiona and Alex while they warmed up with hot cocoa after shoveling the driveway.  She asked them questions related to math, social studies and spelling for them to earn marshmallows (examples for Jack: What’s the difference between a slave and an indentured servant?  If 4x + 4 = 20, what is x?).  She googled questions for various grades in order to come up with good questions.  My kids always love doing marshmallow or chocolate chip homeschool.  Afterwards, Jack asked me to do more algebra with him (no treats involved).


Hopefully, we’ll be able to dig our way out in the next day or so.  If not, I can live with a longer break from the outside world.  We have plenty of groceries, a warm house and a nearly endless supply of games, books, shows, Pinterest crafts and other goodies that I’ve been meaning to get to for far too long now (which led to last February’s Use it Up challenge).  🙂

Stay warm!

Toilet Paper Roll Crafts!

I’m loving this Pinterest board of nothing but toilet paper roll crafts.  With a family as big as ours, we can accumulate a lot of those tubes pretty quickly, and I’ve started to stockpile them so we can have fun making some of these.  🙂

Fun toilet paper roll crafts

I’ve started my own board of recycled crafts with my favorite of these and other craft projects that use things otherwise destined for the trash or recycling bin.

Because of all of the things that I need to catch up on, spending more time on Pinterest is at the top of the list?  🙂  Ah well!  It’s fun with the kids!


Felt Foods!

While we were in Nebraska a few weeks ago, Toria happened upon a stash of felt that Tiffany wasn’t using.  With Tiffany’s blessing, she used some to make a little felt waffle for Fiona, dents and all.  And then a little felt strawberry, and then a felt orange wedge, and then a felt strawberry (complete with little embroidered seeds!) and then felt salad ingredients and felt pizza ingredients and on and on.

felt3Fiona ended up with an entire set of darling felt food, and Toria made a set for Tiffany’s two year-old daughter, Millie, too.

She made so much that we had to run out and buy her more felt.

It was a darling project and both girls loved their new play foods.

feltfelt4(No, she doesn’t need glasses, she just likes to swipe my reading glasses!)

I’ll have her share some tips when she’s back from Oregon, and I’ll post better pictures then.  Fun stuff!


10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

What a week we had! There were lots of minor emergencies but here’s some of the good stuff we’ve done lately…

  1. We read piles of library books. Some current favorites include We Are In a Book (Mo Willems), Too many toys (David Shannon), Shark and lobster’s amazing undersea adventure (Viviane Shwarz), Terry Pratchett young adult books and Into the Land of the Unicorns.
  2. I cut and hennaed Victoria’s hair. She’s been wanting to dye it a crazy color forever (you might remember the front was purple for quite some time last summer!) and lately she’s been asking if she can henna it instead.  I’ve hennaed mine for years (Victoria and I both have dirty blonde hair naturally) and I finally thought why not? We talked Daddy into it and then went to work.  It wasn’t bright enough the first time (I diluted it with conditioner) so we did it again.  She likes it and frankly, it suits her!  
  3. Anna helped take care of me when I was sick and learned how to make easy,  natural gravy. I ended up very sick last night and Anna helped me get upstairs and stayed with me in bed.  She even brought me her teddy bear, since she said he helped her feel better when she was sick.  🙂  Then Daryl peeled and cooked potatoes for mashed potatoes for a simple supper and I talked Anna through making gravy for on top.
  4. The kids played with colored water and snow inside — and then out. Alex, Jack and Anna dripped colored water all over buckets of snow at the table until they were bored and then I sent the big kids outside with the melted (very bright!) colored water in ketchup bottles and dish soap bottles and then wrote in the snowbanks with it (no pictures of the snowbanks, it was too cold and I was too wimpy to go out with them!).  (photo by Victoria Bayer)
  5. We talked about the germ theory and a new theory that’s in a book I’m reviewing, plus the history of the AMA’s treatment of alternative medicine, conflicts of interest with drug companies and the regulatory agencies that are supposed to govern them, and more. I love having kids old enough to get into this sort of discussion at the dinner table!  😉
  6. Alex has been playing a measurement app called Mathomatix and he really likes it. Jack had some fun playing around with it too.  I reviewed it here
  7. We went to a hotel out of town to meet friends from far away and celebrated Anna’s birthday. It was a wonderful time.  The kids did lots of swimming and playing, played Do Tell, had pizza and popcorn and cake, ran, giggled, played chess and otherwise had a blast.  We rented a suite so a friend could sleep over with Anna and Victoria.  (I forgot my memory card at home so I have no pictures!)
  8. I signed up for a free 3-month trial of ALEKS math and got the girls set up. I’ll let you know how it goes!
  9. We made this watercolor mobile. Tentative directions here.  
  10. Tiffany has taken my daughter again! At the last minute as we left the hotel yesterday, Victoria came and said that Tiffany said she could go home with them to Nebraska for a week.  She’s done that in the past and loves it, so we just said yes.  The van was already packed and her stuff was in with all of ours, so she left with nothing but the clothes on her back (which included my new sweater, actually!) and her new camera.  As long as she has access to books and is with the Bakers, that’s really all she needs though.  They’ll work the rest out.  🙂  I’ll miss her but I know she’ll have a blast.  Times like this are when I’m especially glad we homeschool and the kids can have opportunities like this!  Of course, this means I have to make it an extra fabulous week for the three who are left though!

A Few Good Links

Here’s a bit of what’s clogging up my browser today…

Fear The Pumpkin: In Ukraine, It’s The Big Kiss-Off

Think jack-o’-lanterns are frightening? Try being a man in Ukraine. Then you’ll truly understand what it’s like to fear a pumpkin.

For centuries in the Eastern European nation, a pumpkin meant one thing: No, I won’t marry you.

An old tradition held that a would-be suitor would visit a woman’s house to propose. If the answer was yes, there was family toasting and celebration. If no, the poor guy was silently handed a pumpkin….

Poor guys!  🙂  Read the rest from NPR here.

Not-So-Scary Play-Dough Monsters!

Pink and Green Mama has more on how to make these fun beasties!

A throw of the Dice

Up to 20,000 years before they had bows and arrows to hunt with, those who roamed what would someday become the U.S. used something called an atlatl to put elk and venison on the supper table…

And mammoth!  Don’t forget mammoth!  If you’re curious about this atlatl thingee that I’m always posting about, this article has some good basic information about it.

Make Me: Spooky Story Dice

I’m not sure about you, but I have to admit that we’d never played with story dice before. Halloween is the perfect excuse to start seeing as spooky stories always seem to capture their imagination. It’s hysterical to hear the stories they come up with! We’d love to hear yours…

These printable dice sound like fabulous fun!  Visit Made in Me to print yours.

Explanation on ballot may baffle voters

A phrase says the amendment “would ensure that the right to vote for persons with mental illness cannot be taken away by the Legislature.”
See kids, grammar matters!  Because we all have a right to vote for persons with mental illnesses, right?  Oops… Read more about the poor wording that’s causing voter confusion here.
And lastly…

The Hundred Year Starship: The Nasa mission that will take astronauts to Mars and leave them there forever

The mission is to boldly go where no man has gone before – on a flight to Mars.

The snag is that you’d never come back.

The U.S. space agency Nasa is actively investigating the possibility of humans colonising other worlds such as the Red Planet in an ambitious project named the Hundred Years Starship.

Wow!  Amazing stuff to ponder.  Read the full story here.

Migraines, Crafts and More

I had an especially bad migraine today and got very little done.  I did manage to write up an article about the conference the girls went to yesterday and also finally wrote up the electric griddle craft I mentioned last week.

Oh yes, and an article about the rest of the story with the recent sling safety alert.

But mostly there was napping with Alex, major cleaning to get ready for the fridge delivery and whimpering.  🙂

I still have a ton to do (mostly giant furniture to unload and move) in the morning, so I’m done yapping and will post more later.

PS  Here’s a bit of the art the kids have done lately.  I love that around here the overheard conversation would be more along the lines of “We do so much art.  We almost never have time for tests!”.