Fresh Homeschool Starts

2018 homeschool fresh startHappy New Year!

I am honestly so excited about 2018, as I’m thinking that after the epic awfulness of 2017 there’s nowhere to go but up!  🙂  I feel as if a light is being turned on again, or I’m making it turn on.  Things will turn around.  I just know it.

I’m not going to bother talking about the bad going on right now (see a previous entry if you want a taste of what has me up at 4:35 a.m. talking to you instead of sleeping!).  Enough with the bad.  It’ll go on whether I acknowledge it or not.  So let’s look at the good.

Fiona is in such a hurry to get to more homeschooling.  It makes me smile the way she nags me for more homeschool.

She has been playing like crazy with letter cubes, math manipulatives and pen and paper lately.  She happily made up words with letter dice yesterday, bringing me four cubes at a time for me to help her form words from them.  Her reading and spelling are coming along so fast now. I have promised her that we will get to lots of everyday homeschooling on Tuesday after the holiday.  We had a forced (by me) school break with everything else going on.  🙂

Santa gave Alex a 3-month Gamefly subscription for Christmas and as a result I have seen him far less than usual!  He and Jack have had so much fun playing together though, and it’s the dead of winter when it’s hard for him to get out and do as much as he’d like to.  It’s currently -20 F (no, that doesn’t factor in the wind chill and yes, it is really that cold) so he can’t even play in his beloved snow until it gets a bit less life-threatening out there — though this weather is good for the occasional quick outdoor science experiment like freezing bubbles and vaporizing hot water to make instant clouds.

cold weather homeschool science freezing bubblesJack, Alex and Fiona have all been having a ball with library books right now, too.  Toria has a weekly appointment in a city an hour away that turns out to have a fabulous library, so we go and stock up every couple of weeks.  The little ones love it and even Jack has discovered some beloved new book series.  I love the way he’ll say he has no interest in a book and then read the entire thing before we get home that day!

I have made all sorts of resolutions for this new year on every front there is — housekeeping, homeschooling, work, personal, health…  We’ll see how well they all work out but I am really excited about trying, which is a nice change.

Magic and Mayhem -- fresh homeschool startsI’ve been homeschooling for over 15 years now, with one child already completely done and one about to finish (Rhia will graduate in the spring!).  I don’t want to shortchange the younger kids with waning enthusiasm for it all, but it is hard to juggle the needs of so many different ages and stages — especially with Victoria’s scary health issues and now the issues with her new (old) house and all that it’s bringing into our lives (burst pipes and dead furnaces in 20 below weather anybody?).

But I’ve renewed our memberships to the science museum and the zoo, I’ve made up daily plans and I just have this faith that has been missing since the train wreck that was 2017 begun.  Hope, optimism, all that jazz.

I’m ready to blast through a hundred lesson plans, art projects, history games, math challenges and educational obstacles and make some magic again.

Happy 2018, all!  May it be a fantastic one for all of us.


(P.S.  Trying something new and linking up with Homeschool Highlights.)


A Plan for What's Left of September

I’m working on plans right now.  Not in the typical homeschool mama scheduling sort of way, but as a sort of crisis management plan.

My issues are:

  • This summer, I was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease and some problems with my brain (nothing fatal, but apparently some form of epilepsy that is happening quite often each day).  I was also diagnosed with some issues with my blood and stomach, and some deficiencies, but those are the two biggies.
  • I need to find a new balance for homeschooling and properly parenting five children.
  • I need to find a balance for writing four columns that I rely on increasingly more to pay the bills.
  • I need to get my house in some sort of working order.  I have never been much of a housekeeper but when I am sick or overextended I get messier, and this summer was a whole lot of both of those.
  • I desperately want to get my book (A Magical Childhood) finished and published, in one form or another.  I know it’s not the best timing but it never has been and I don’t want to die someday with it 90% finished on my computer somewhere, having spent my whole life putting it off until that “right time.”
  • We had planned to move Victoria to the attic and move Anna into her room and Jack into Anna’s room, since Victoria was going off to art school.  She’s back home but all the kids want to move things around anyway and it was half done, so we’re working really hard to finish all that relocating.  That means major work right now in clearing the rest of the attic, getting it painted and prepped, getting other rooms painted and prepped and on and on.
  • It is fall, and that means a whole lot of work around here.  In-town homesteading is part of how we get by on next to nothing, and that means some major effort in the harvest season.  It doesn’t matter if my brain is short circuiting and Fiona is hanging onto my skirt when my kitchen is full of 4 bushels of free apples, 2 bushels of wild pears and a basket of acorns all needing to be processed and my garden is exploding with stuff to harvest, freeze, dry, dig and pluck.  That’s not even getting into the elderberries to turn into flu-fighting syrup and the others that need to be picked at the county park and the walnuts and the grapes and the plums and the pumpkins….

I have been feeling overwhelmed and overextended.  Truth be told, I have also been having a little bit of a pity party for myself.  I wish that I had more friends nearby.  I wish that I had help with the kids or the house or something, outside of Daryl and the kids themselves.  I wish I had any family alive, other than some long-lost (wonderful) cousins and a grandma and aunt in Ohio.  I wish I had a tribe.

I wish I had a girlfriend who’d come over and drink wine with me.

I had paid to have someone come and help with the house and that didn’t work out.  That person isn’t in a place to help me right now, and I need to just accept that and save myself instead.

So September is my month to save myself, migraines and seizures and clingy toddlers and messy house and all.

September is my month to get back in a homeschool schedule, to knock out that fall work, to take baby steps when I need to and monster steps when I can.

My goal is just to breathe, push, breathe, push, just like having a baby.  Sometimes you just need to keep on going, cuz it’s not going to get better until you get it done.  🙂

Wish me luck!

10 Things I Want to Do in Our Homeschool in July

I have a Pinterest board just for things I want to do soon, but my list keeps growing.  I’m logging ten homeschool-related ones here so I don’t forget them.

  1. Go hiking at night with flashlights.
  2. Take part in Maker Camp, and at least one of the virtual field trips (Blue Man Group! Jim Henson’s Creature Shop!) too.
  3. Gather mulberries.
  4. Do some new lapbooks.
  5. Take part in’s DIY summer camp with the littles.
  6. Do daily messy art or science.
  7. Keep having Jack do daily pages of writing his story for handwriting/spelling practice.
  8. Do this math art project with the younger kids.
  9. Do lots of algebra and geometry with Victoria to make sure she’s “up to code” before starting Perpich in August, and involve the other kids too.
  10. Standardized tests (per MN law), via the CAT.

I’m due for an MRI next week since my neurologist said my EEG results showed some abnormalities in my brain, specifically “lightning strikes” and “sharp waves.”  I’m hoping it goes as well as possible (IV’s are not my friends and the bruises are just now finally gone from all the blown veins from last month’s IV Venofer treatments) and that I get some answers about my headaches, vision problems and neurological issues.  And I’m hoping to get a copy to show the kids.  You know how homeschoolers turn everything into a teachable moment.  😉

Summer Goals

Last summer, I journaled 50 or 100 things I wanted to learn about as a family over the summer.  Daryl and the kids helped make up the lists.

We knew we wouldn’t get to all (or even most) of them, but it was fun to have a go-to list of neat stuff to throw ourselves into.

Some of the things on the list were big successes.  I wanted to learn to forage for wild edibles and wow, did Daryl (and I) run with that.  Over the summer and fall, we got hundreds of pounds of mulberries, walnuts,  apples, crab apples, black raspberries, and less-conventional goodies like milkweed pods (they’re scrumptious when they’re tiny, battered and fried like poppers), acorns (for acorn flour) and even cattails (delicious when you boil the tender new bottom shoots and serve with butter and salt like asparagus).  (See my Wild Edibles board for info on all of these and more.)

We also really got into lots of other subjects on our list, from the Civil War to animals and colors for our youngest homeschooler.  🙂

I’m making up my list for this year.  I really like having it hand-written in my journal, in all different colors, full of scribbles and notes and silliness.

If we get to 3 or 5 or 30 of the things on the list, I’m just hoping it will lead to some of the fun we had with last year’s list.

Now to get on with the making of it…..

Female Philosopher Unit Study

Image from this wonderful sounding class:


After reading what this dingbat said about the lack of even one great female philosopher in history (he said that he could only recall one important female philosopher, “and she was not a significant thinker in the estimation of historians of philosophy.”), I decided it would be nice to do a unit study of famous (and not so famous) female philosophers with the kids.

Here’s a list of some to start, courtesy of Wikipedia:

A list of women philosophers ordered alphabetically by surname:

I figure we can combine copywork with history and philosophy, filling a journal with bios and some printed photos and quotes.  My goal is to work on it with the kids over the summer.  Even if we don’t make it through the entire list, the kids will be better educated on the subject than Mr. Murray.


February's Plan: Try it Out, Use it Up!

You know how I love to have themes this time of year.  Well, I’ve decided on the theme for Feburary… Try it out, use it up!

We have so many things we’ve accumulated that we still haven’t used, done and tried…

  • Board games
  • Science kits
  • Art supplies
  • Recipes
  • Pinterest ideas
  • Exotic foods
  • Craft kits
  • Books…

So every day of February, I plan to do/try/make/read/use up at least one thing that we previously were leaving to sit unused…

I want to use up the urad dahl beans that I got from the Middle Eastern store in NY and the canned jackfruit that is supposed to be the world’s best shredded chicken substitute for vegetarians and the apple pie filling that we canned last September…

I want to try out the science kit we picked up at a garage sale and have sitting in the front porch closet and the box of soil we received to sift for fossils from a university project and the laminating machine I’ve never even taken out of the box…

I want to make at least a dozen recipes that are dog-eared in cookbooks and still  haven’t tried.

I want to try at least 10 homeschool ideas that I have pinned on various boards.

I want to use up a ton of art supplies!

I want to actually finish any history book we’ve ever purchased as a read-aloud.  🙂

And so on.

I’ll report back as I go.  Wish me luck!


10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Fiona wearing Anna's glasses, photo by Toria Bayer

We’re plugging on here. It’s been 3 1/2 weeks now since Daryl’s hip replacement surgery and he’s still on bedrest.  He’s recovering well, all things considered.  I keep saying that if you have to be stuck inside for six weeks in Minnesota, you might as well do it in February when there’s not much to miss!

We’ve fought our way back from several colds, flus, mastitis, sinus infections and other maladies.  We’re all hanging on, though.

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

1.  Jack and I played Roll 100, a dice addition/multiplication game I picked up at the MHA conference vendor area one year.

2.  Toria and Anna have been doing Khan Academy for math.

3.  Jack and Alex had a playdate with friends. This was the second Saturday in a row that Alex got to go to his HSing buddy Alex’s house for the day, and Jack’s first time joining them to hang out with Alex’s older brother Zach.  The boys had a fabulous time and we’re on for next Saturday too.

4.  Toria and Jack completed the Dragon Box algebra game. It’s a paid app available on apple and android devices and is very clever.  I downloaded it for my Google Nexus and I think it cost $6.  Both kids got through all of the levels in a day (by choice!).  It allows for four individual accounts and is fun enough that Daryl even did the levels for fun.  Recommended.

5.  Toria has been going down educational rabbit holes. I always smile to hear the latest things she’s educated herself about.  Some of the topics this week include ghettos, maps, psychology, the U.S. budget for military spending and NASA, and crime, just to name the few that I can remember.

She has also signed up for a psychology class through Coursera that starts in May.

6.  I’ve been experimenting like mad with GF baking. I’ve made three cakes and one batch of muffins this week!  The muffins (blueberry-cranberry with fresh lemon glaze) were especially fabulous.

7.  We’ve started a presidents project. I printed out small pictures of all of the presidents and bought some large index cards, and we’re pasting them to the cards with a few important events and facts on each card.  Once they’re complete, we’ll tape them in order along the wall next to the ceiling as a temporary timeline.

I’ll post links and pictures once it’s finished.

8.  I’ve been reading Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths as a read-aloud to Anna, Jack and Alex. We are enjoying the book but Anna (quite an expert on Greek mythology) keeps interrupting to complain that the stories are “wrong” compared to the stories she knows from her other sources.  It’s led to many talks about various interpretations of the myths.

I think the book is fairly well written but the teacher’s kid in me cannot get over the many sentences that start with conjunctions in some of the stories.  About every other sentence in some places starts with “And” or “But.”  I have no problem with breaking this picky grammar rule once in a while in conversation, blogging or occasional writing, but it annoys me to see it used really excessively, the way it is in some of the stories.

Also, some of the stories have incomplete sentences such as:

For they were joyous scenes.

Again, I can get on board with occasional bad grammar for the sake of good writing, but I dislike masses of it when the author seems to simply not know the rules.

Yes, I’m one of those.  😉

That said, the author was apparently one of the most highly regarded on mythology, and did just fine with his writing as far as the rest of the world was concerned.  According to Wikipedia:

Bernard Evslin (1922-1993) was an American author best known for his adaptations of Greek mythology. With over seventy titles, which include both novel-length retellings and short stories, Evslin is one of the most widely published authors of classical mythology in the world. His best-known work is Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths, which has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and has been translated into ten different languages. An estimated 30 million students have come into contact with Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths due to its repeated use in high school and college classrooms over the years. This bestselling anthology includes such well-known stories as “Theseus and the Minotaur” and “Perseus and Medusa.” He also published non-Hellenic titles such as The Green Hero, based on the Irish mythological character Finn McCool.

Evslin won many awards for his writing, including the National Education Association Award in 1961, National Education Award nomination in 1975, best television documentary on an Educational Theme Award, Washington Irving Children’s Book Choice Award, and Westchester Library Association Award.

So that shows what I know.  😉

On the plus side, we are enjoying how many gods, goddesses, demi gods, nature myths, fables and such are in the book.  I like that they are short enough to keep the kids’ interest and they do a good job of succinctly telling each story.

I have been reading a few at a time, while giving the kids colored pencils and paper to illustrate the stories (however they like) as they listen.  I find this is a good way to keep their hands happy so they can concentrate.

(Note:  I got a review copy for my Kindle via Net Galley.)

9.  Jack has been inventing and creating. He’s been using recycling to make robot arms, throwing stars, rocket shoes and more for Alex and others.  He also came up with the idea for a moveable tail.  He planned to string tin cans end to end with a string through them, with the end attached to Alex’s shoe, so when Alex moved his foot it would pull the tension in the tail.  Alas, the bottoms of all of our cans are rounded and he has to come up with a new prototype.

Look at this robot he made for Alex for Christmas.  I think he rocks at recycled creations!  🙂

10. The kids have been… blogging, reading, watching MythBusters, writing songs, writing novels, drawing, painting, doing ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), talking to friends on the phone, cooking, playing in the snow, doing chores, watching shows on Netflix, emailing, helping care for D during his recovery (Anna is quite helpful for the night shift so I can sleep!), shopping, beading, playing with Legos, using blocks, doing copywork, playing educational iPod games, taking pictures, chatting online, running errands, playing physics games online, making up jokes, doing Suduko puzzles, watching Crash Courses on history and science, organizing their rooms, redecorating, and so forth.

On the agenda this week: The Bill of Rights, more myths, some lapbooks, more math, lots more crafts, lots more reading aloud, cooking with one kid each day, handwriting with the boys, starting a poetry unit with everybody, signing the kids up for the writers’ conference, and doing at least 5 things I have pinned on my educational Pinterest boards.

Wish me luck!