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.  😉

birthdayselfie

(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!

Advertisements

Things Here…

spotit

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.

jackpageant

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.

sapsuckers

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.

fipageant

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.

bushcherries

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.

fluffcollage

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!

jezCollage

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!

 

 

 

New Beginnings and Old Traditions

medshowLots of things started in our family last week.

The foraging/gathering season really took off for elderberries, wild plums, pears, apples and acorns.

photo 2Daryl and Victoria even gathered wild plums from the banks of Plum Creek yesterday.  How cool is that?  🙂

plumcreekI’ve been drying trays of elderberries for a week and now I’m searching for ways to best use the plums quickly, too.  (Since starting this draft this afternoon, I’ve made one batch of Young Country Wine with them! I’ll report back on how that turns out.)

Daryl’s parents have more apples than they can use, so he headed out there and gathered four bushels of apples to process.  One bushel’s worth has already has been processed and two big pans of apple crisp are in the oven as I type.

I also traded some apples and dried elderberries to a friend who had extra backyard plums.  Aren’t they the most beautiful plums you’ve ever seen?

plumsVictoria also started her new job.  She did training on Thursday and she’s been working every weekday since.  It will go in spurts when her supervisor is in our part of the state, but he plans to do a lot of work around our area for a while.  Her first paycheck should be awesome.

firstdayIn other new beginnings, Rhia (Anna) has her first boyfriend.  Eek!  She’s fifteen  now.  He’s sixteen.  I am probably not allowed to say any more.  🙂

And then some old traditions were continued…

Daryl and the boys took part in the Old Time Medicine Show at the historic Hubbard House in Mankato.  Daryl played his riverboat gambler character and also taught the audience how to play the spoons.  Alex and Jack played old time pickpockets and helped our wonderful friend Susan run some old time medicine show swindles.  🙂

med3It was a wonderful day and we had such a good time with wonderful friends.  I love taking part in living history events, not just because of all the kids learn but also because it’s quite simply just fun.

I also love that one of my kids’ best friends is a 60-something year old lady who dresses up and plays in the past at so many of the same events with us.  One day she’s having my boys swindle her audience with her medicine show scams (they’ve been cured of worms more than once with her diabolically clever pills!) and the next day she’s a temperance lady dressed in black, hollering at my poor husband to take his gambling and boozing elsewhere.  🙂

med2Lots more has been going on — bowling and billiards at a birthday party, a new box of books… lots of things that start with B, I guess.  😉  And more.

I’m starting to do my fall planning and I hope to get a tentative schedule figured out.  It will be very loose and organic, as always.  I’m excited to get into some new topics with the kids, though, and see what the new season brings.

secretgarden

Gearing Up for Pageant Time

It’s that time of year again.

Opening night for the Wilder Pageant is in two days.

The next three weeks will be crazy.

  • Most of my family will be at the pageant every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until after 1 a.m.
  • Every evening there will be the frantic search for clean costumes from the dryer, missing shoes, bonnets, etc.
  • My kids will walk around during the day with smudged black “fishtails” around their eyes from stage makeup.
  • Thousands of people will be filling the hillside by the banks of Plum Creek in Walnut Grove to watch the show every weekend.
  • For two hours each performance night, the stage area will be transformed with real fires, horse drawn wagons, a grasshopper plague, singing, dancing and drama under the stars.
  • My cast members will bring Sharpies every night to sign programs, t-shirts and the occasional car (!) after performances.
  • My kiddos will fall asleep exhausted within minutes of getting home in the wee hours, and sleep late.
  • Our lives will be transformed in the frantic, exciting, magical annual passage back to the past.

This will be Anna’s 9th year in the pageant and Daryl’s 8th.  Victoria is sitting out this summer, after doing it every year starting when she was six.  This is Jack’s 2nd or 3rd year and Alex’s very first.

Click here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or especially here if you want to see pictures or read accounts of some magical memories from earlier years in the pageant.

Let the exhaustion begin.  🙂

"Our" Museum and Log Cabin

Okay, I have to admit that Daryl’s volunteerism has led to some pretty cool opportunities.  This is definitely one of them.

Last year, Daryl joined our little town’s historic society and was nominated as Vice President.  This year, he was automatically bumped up to president.  When he asked who wanted to take charge of the city museum and log cabin, there were no takers.  Some members had been shouldering more than their share for years, so he took it on.

This past month, he has been busy with the kids doing things to prepare for the grand opening today.  They swept the log cabin, arranged displays, cleaned up unfortunate bats and birds who’d met untimely ends, went through donations and so on.

Along the way, they’ve learned a ton of history about our town, railroads, pioneer life and more.  And helped our community.  And had fun.

And best of all, we now sort of have free run of our own little historic museum and log cabin.

The site is only open for two hours on Sunday afternoons.  It’s been that way for years and Daryl is hoping to expand that.  Victoria may take a shift to open another day and time.

I suggested seeing if the high school would donate their leftover greenhouse plants to the site to plant around the cabin as a historic garden.  Daryl checked with the principal and superintendent (they’re also on the committee) and they said sure.  Today, Daryl and Anna stopped by and picked up flats of marigolds, snapdragons, tomatoes and more.  We planted until we were too tired to do more.

On our way off the site, we turned off the lights to the museum and looked around one last time.  Victoria was taking pictures of artifacts.  Daryl showed me the sled from the giant old waterpark that was on one of our local lakes decades ago, until the owners shut it down rather than involve the government and pay taxes (not that it would have passed safety inspections either, by the looks of it!).

I love that my boys climb into the rafters of the log cabin for fun.  I love that my girls are taking on their on garden responsibilities to beautiful the spot and add a little more authenticity.  I love that Jack knows railroad history and hobo culture.  I love that Alex runs barefoot through the clover around the cabin and climbs on historic farm equipment.  I love walking through antiques and memories from a hundred years with my children before turning out the lights and locking the doors.

We have lots of plans for activities to draw more visitors and add more interest.  It’s a fun project and I’m very glad Daryl took it on.

 

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

It’s that time again.  I should be sleeping, or failing that I should be cleaning, and instead I’m up too late on the internet.  We’re buried in snow and not going anywhere for a while though, so I’m up with the snow and the wind and the moonlight.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to….

1.  We’ve been taking walks, winter or not.  Alex loves riding in the stroller and I can usually convince a couple of other kids to come with me, too.  Bundling is the hard part, but once we’re out it’s pretty nice until our fingers freeze.  😉

Yes, this boy has a coat but you try telling him to wear it.  He’s Minnesota stock.  I saw a woman in a t-shirt and jeans running through the snow the other day.  We’re an odd lot.

2.  We got a new (to us) laptop for Daryl and the kids.  The kids haven’t had a computer to use in months (other than Victoria, who has a netbook), so they’re having a blast doing email, Webkinz and other online stuff again.

3.  Daryl’s still having fun writing his Cooking With Kids column and the kids have been doing lots of cooking as a result.  Jack made pasta and veggies with cheese sauce (with a little help from mom), Victoria made Sugar Plums (don’t you love the way he makes it sound as if he’s never met me!), they all made sugar cookies with chocolate stars and Daryl made recipes like banana bread all by his lonesome.

3.  Anna made this quirky sculpture for our yard.  🙂  I told Victoria that when she’s famous someday, that could sell for millions.

4.  Anna is writing another play.  She talks to her friend Jessie on the phone for hours about it and keeps having me audition for parts.

5.  Daryl took the kids to see Mrs. Claus and do crafts at the community center.  I was in hermit mode.  After 15 years, I still feel like the weird new kid in this tiny town and I usually put on a mask and go anyway but that day I let Daryl rescue me and take the kids himself, and I soaked in the bathtub with trashy magazines.  It was heaven.  The kids had fun too.  They made cookies, played games and even won prizes.

6.  Victoria won this harmonica at the community center and has been learning to play.  She looked up songs online and practiced into the wee hours the first night.  She’s pretty good, though after a while harmonica music will make your brain very slightly explode.

7.  I taught Victoria short division, despite the dire warnings from some woman on my examiner page.  She picked it up well, especially considering she usually reacts to math much the way syrofoam reacts to fingernail polish remover (hint: not well, but vaguely entertaining to watch).

8.  We have a couple dozen cards made and I’ve started addressing envelopes for our mass mailing soon.  How do the holidays sneak up on me this much every year?

9.  Jack has been making stores and museums, and writing up lots of signs to go with them.  I love the funny way kids spell at this age!  I worried about Victoria when she spelled like this and worried a little less when Anna did, but by now I know that spelling will work itself out as easily as reading did, just a little later (with the help of reading, talking, life and all that jazz).

(Translation:  Come to Jack’s art museum.  We’re sure you will like it so come to Jack’s.)

10. Victoria has gotten excellent at spotting punctuation errors to send in to blogs like the apostrophe error blog.  She tries to take pictures of misuses of quotation marks, apostrophes in the wrong places and stuff like that.  I’ll ask her for the links and post them.  It’s certainly a fun and easy way to learn and she’s already better at punctuation rules than most sign makers.  😉

Now a little boy has woken up and crawled into my lap so I really ought to head to bed.  I hear there’s a winter weather emergency out there.  I’m thinking tomorrow would be a good day for snow crafts.  Ooh, maybe snow snacks…..

This and That and the Other

It’s the wee hours and I have a sleeping toddler in my arms.  I am an idiot to be blogging, and if Daryl wakes up he’ll growl something to that extent.  😉  But you know how I am!

So here’s 5 random things I’ll post and then I really will go to bed….

1.  Nonie, I’ll have the girls get to work on a list of books they’ve loved for you and post it soon!  Great idea.  And thanks for recommending Sabriel.  Victoria loved it and I know she’ll want to read the others!

2.  Daryl has a new Cooking With Kids column at the Examiner.  I think it’s wonderful even if I am biased.  Try the popovers.  They’re so easy and so tasty.  We devour them with jam!  And don’t add sugar.  Tsk!

3.  I found out today that Victoria likes to read Newsweek when it comes in.  Can I just say how much I love that she’s like that?

4.  We went to Erica’s today to play with her and her boys.  Daryl went grocery shopping and Victoria and the boys came with me.  Anna stayed home and talked on the phone and read.  She is currently reading two Harry Potter books (2 and 3, I believe) and a Harry Potter reference guide simultaneously.  Another Harry Potter reference book just arrived from interlibrary loan and she’s onto that one now, too.  She also used a dowel and shredded paper to make a fancy broom.  She insisted on performing an infomercial about it while I was in the bath.

5.  Jack has taken to writing me songs.  He writes out the lyrics with his 6 year-old creative spelling and then comes and serenades me as he reads from them.  He writes me at least two wonderful songs a day about how much he loves me.  Lest things sound too rosy, he also tells me at least two times a day that I’m the worst mother in the world.  He is also writing up polls and questioning us all with questions like “Do you plan to be good next year?”.  He’s a busy kid.

And with that, my sleeping toddler is no longer sleeping and is really rather annoyed with me.  That’s my cue!