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!


Homesteading 101

We’ve been so busy “putting things up” the past few months, and we have one more big push to do now — pumpkins — before we’re nearly done for the year.

Daryl picked up 19 pumpkins from our local farm family source for $5 today.  Daryl told Mr. H that we needed one jack-o-lantern pumpkin and 9 pie pumpkins and Mr. H told him, “How about you take as many as you want for five dollars?”.  After Thursday, all the ones left over are going over the fence to the cows, after all.  🙂

We have 5 gallons of hard apple cider brewing on the kitchen counter right now and 18 pie pumpkins waiting on the lawn to become pumpkin puree tomorrow.

Oh yes, and Mr. H had a couple of extra flats of tomatoes and another big box of peppers he threw in cheap, so we need to prep those tomorrow too…

It is a lot of work, but I honestly really love this time of year and this work we do as a family together.

Over this growing season, we’ve canned, dried, frozen, foraged and otherwise “put up”:

  • applesauce
  • apple juice
  • hard cider
  • apple pie filling
  • chopped apples
  • green, yellow, red and purple pepper strips
  • roasted onions
  • shredded zucchini
  • wild elderberries
  • elderberry honey syrup (anti-flu medicine)
  • pears in light syrup
  • peaches in light syrup
  • roasted pumpkin seeds
  • simple roasted tomato sauce
  • rhubarb
  • refrigerator pickles
  • traditional pickles (various recipes)
  • corn (frozen and canned)
  • cattail stalks
  • cattail pollen (used as a flour and incredibly high in vitamins and Omega-3 fats)
  • acorn flour
  • mulberries
  • black raspberries
  • raspberries
  • triple berry sauce
  • mulberry fruit leather
  • dandelion syrup
  • tomatoes
  • roasted corn salsa
  • easy fresh salsa
  • fresh tomato bisque
  • grape juice
  • grape jelly
  • milkweed pods (when tiny, they can be cooked like breaded and/or sauteed and the insides are like melted mozarella cheese)
  • walnuts
  • various other wild berries (gooseberries, etc.)
  • whatever I’ve forgotten!  🙂

I love the fact that even 6 year-old Alex knows how to ID wild asparagus and he can’t pass by walnuts in the park without gathering them up in his shirt to bring home.  🙂

I get a kick out of teaching my kids how to do things like baking, canning, gardening and preserving the harvest. Most people used to think of these skills as those of our parents and grandparents, but I grew up with different role models.

My mother was a single mom who put herself through doctoral school and became a professor and then a prison psychologist.  Her mother was a teacher, then a principal, and eventually the dean of education at an Ohio university.  After retirement, she opened an educational resource center and ran that for over twenty years (she’s nearly 90 and just sold it and retired a few years ago).  Her mother was a factory worker.

My mom was actually a phenomenally terrible cook.  Not a single woman in my life seemed to know how to sew, garden, can, cook, bake or anything else remotely domestic.  Even normal jobs related to the keeping of a home were missing from my upbringing, since we moved at least once a year, rented wherever we lived and didn’t even own furniture.

Since my mother hid me from my father until after his death, I grew up not knowing anybody on my father’s side of the family.  I have been told that my grandfather loved to garden and my grandmother may have known all of the skills I missed out on from my mother’s side, but they were all dead before I found them.

So I had to teach myself.  I’ve become a regular pro at some of it (cooking and gardening, especially), and I’m still working on a few of those domestic skills (like using a sewing machine and keeping my house tidy).

I do love knowing these skills, though, and I love that my kids are growing up learning them.  They can choose to become deans of education and know how to grow an organic garden and pressure cook twenty-five quarts of back yard salsa. 🙂

Maria Montessori actually advised that the middle school years should focus on teaching homesteading skills instead of academics, for many reasons.  We loosely follow that during the middle school years, since it seems to suit the tween years so well, developmentally.  (Montessori taught that the high school years should see a refocus on academics, along with real-world work opportunities in the form of internships and volunteer work that provides helpful experience for later careers.)

I recently wrote up 10 Homesteading Skills Every Child Should Learn, and I pointed out some of the reasons it’s so good for kids to learn homesteading skills:

  • They have skills that can save them a lot of money when they’re on their own, since they won’t have to hire others to do them.
  • They are able to be self-sufficient and don’t have to rely on other people to help them or take care of them.
  • They are able to help their neighbors and communities. They can pass on their skills and use their knowledge to help others. Homesteading practices tend to help the environment, too.
  • They have the skills needed to not just survive but thrive even in difficult financial times.
  • They are prepared for emergencies and challenges.
  • They have what they need for financial freedom and are equipped to live comfortably within their means.
  • They have added pride and the sense of accomplishment that comes from “doing it yourself” and doing it well.

I’m still working on teaching a few of the top ten list to the kids (and myself!). I put links to lessons for each category in the article, like free woodworking pages and sites that help teach kids to sew.

If you’re interested in teaching your kids homesteading skills, I also have all my favorite stuff pinned on Pinterest to boards like:

You can see all my Pinterest boards here(BTW, if you’re on Pinterest too, leave a comment and let me know!)

Daryl also focuses on some homesteading skills like making applesauce, using wild foods, foraging with kids and “putting up” foods in his cooking with kids column and his urban foraging column.

I honestly think that teaching our kids homesteading skills is one of the most important parts of their education. It gives them so many advantages in life, and sneaks in plenty of science, math and other subjects along the way.

I also just find that it greatly improves our quality of life, and gives us some pretty neat memories together — and really good food.  🙂

Folktales, Freebies and more

Jason snatches the Golden Fleece. Greek Vase from the 5th century BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Here’s a round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to share…

Fairy Tales, Folktales, Fables, and Folklore

This great web site contains hundreds of stories from mythologies around the world.  From Finnish folk tales to Anderson fairy tales to parables of Buddhism, there’s something for everyone.  This would be great to combine with studies of countries or family heritage.

70% of science fair winners are children of immigrants

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.
Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.
“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.
…”Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.
Pinterest pages
I’ve heard about Pinterest, where you “pin” web sites you like and can see what others pin, but I wasn’t all that interested.  Until I saw this mom’s homeschool pins and realized what fun this site could be.  I could lose a lot of time here!
Newest homeschool writings
Here’s what I’ve been churning out in the HS front lately at the examiner, on everything from free transcript templates to how Montessori changes from middle school to high school years…

And here’s the latest in other subjects…

And a little sap…  🙂

The Never-Ending Parent

On the personal front, the baby is now very, very wiggly.  He/she doesn’t have a certain time of day or night to bounce around.  It seems to be most of the time!  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound next month and finally get to know whether it’s a girl or boy.  I’m so impatient to know.

Victoria is visiting homeschool friends a few hours away this week.  I’m impatient for her to come home, even though I’m sure she’s having a blast.

Anna is taking Irish step dancing lessons for a performance she’ll be doing with a small group of girls in the pageant this year.  The teachers are local homeschool graduates who taught themselves to do Irish step dancing years ago and have performed all over through the years.

Jack and Alex are currently helping Daddy at the cabin and museum.  They’ve been spending much of their time outside and generally end each day covered in mud, sand, scrapes and who knows what else.  I do like summer!


A Few Good Reads

There’s some news stories and web pages that have caught my interest lately. Here’s a few of them…

Who Stole Homeschooling? This article talks about the history of the homeschooling movement in the US and how some groups have claimed ownership, made exclusionary rules and changed the spirit of the movement over the years.  I think it has an important message about our need to be there for new homeschoolers, to support each other and to speak for ourselves when organizations attempt to take our voice.

There are still good groups, good folks, good leaders and great support available outside of these heirarchical, exclusive groups, but they aren't always easy to find. Folks have to do their own homework and seek them out. I'm reluctantly coming to the conclusion that those who homeschool strictly for the love of children are probably never going to be as organized, as visible, or as powerful as those who homeschool for religious or political reasons...

Those of us who are inclined to be inclusive, relationship oriented, and concerned primarily for our homeschooled children will be less frustrated if we understand that regardless what has happened to the homeschooling movement itself, there are, in fact, still homeschoolers who are ready and willing to offer their support and encouragement without strings or agendas to families outside of the machinery and averse to it, who are still and only homeschooling for the love of their children. Just as we did in years past, we can continue to speak up every chance we get. We can let folks know we're out here, we can let them know which organizations do and do not speak for us, we can dispute questionable research and openly, publicly, reject the publicly-made statements of people when they do not really represent us.

Quake shifted Japan; towns now flood at high tide

I had no idea that Japan’s earthquake shifted the entire country so that it’s been literally pulled out and under the sea more than it was.  Coastal towns now flood twice a day, and the changes are permanent.

Twice a day, the flow steadily increases until it is knee-deep, carrying fish and debris by her front door and trapping people in their homes. Those still on the streets slosh through the sea water in rubber boots or on bicycle…

As surrounding areas clear rubble and make plans to rebuild, residents in this section of Ishinomaki are stuck in limbo — their homes are mostly undamaged and ineligible for major insurance claims or government compensation, but twice a day the tide swamps their streets…

“Everyone here still has housing loans they have to pay, and you can’t give away this land, let alone sell it,” says Seietsu Sasaki, 57, who also has to pay off loans on two cars ruined in the flooding…

The article goes into the science behind the shift and also offers the dire news that summer rains will begin next month and in the autumn, tides will be higher.

10 Educational History Podcasts To Subscribe & Listen To

These all sound great.  I guess podcasts are in our future.  🙂

And a few of my latest yappings…

On the homeschooling front:

On the green front…

Tomorrow we have homeschool day at the Petroglyphs.  It’s art day, and the kids will get to make glorious messes with all sorts of art supplies.  I’m sure it will be a fun day!




What Does April Snow Bring?

Well, spring was nice.  Apparently it’s over though. We woke to snow on the lawn today and it’s been dreary and cold for a week.  The weather forecast is more of the same as far into the future as they’ll tell us.  Sigh.

I’m still in a bit of a pregnant fog.  The morning sickness (they really must come up with a better name for that, since it’s day and night!) is getting a little bit better.  I am still prone to holding my belly and cursing the heavens, but without quite the same level of ferocity.  😉  I’m not exactly peppy though, and tend to get about as much done per day as your average ball of lint.

Tonight I gave each of the “big three” kids a list of 10 chores to do in exchange for a Kit Kat bar.  They don’t get candy bars often and they pretty much raced through their lists.  I’m thinking chocolate will play a big part in my housekeeping routine in the upcoming months.

In two weeks we have our annual frantic birthday marathon.  Jack will turn 8 on April 30, then Victoria will 13 on May 1, then we’ll have a day off and then Alex will turn 4 on May 3.  I am not ready for this.   I want to find a way to make it all magical for the three of them.  On May 4, I’m totally collapsing.

Daryl took Anna, Victoria and Jack to the auditions for the Wilder Pageant on Friday.  Jack tried out for the first time and I hear he rocked it (he even sang!).  This will make the girls’ 7th year and Daryl’s 6th I think.  Anna started acting in it when she was four!   I’m excited about another year starting up, even though it’s so much time and work for everybody (even me and Alex, who have long nights alone for two months!).

Her’s a bit of what I’ve been yapping about online lately…

On the homeschooling front:

Science freebie roundup — 23 free magazines, curricula, classes, DVD’s and more

My Science Box offers free science curriculum

On the parenting front:

Artisan’s Closet holding art contest to win up to $40 worth of art supplies

Attachment Parenting 101: How can I parent without punishment?

Review: Amanda Soule’s “The Rhythm of Family”

On the Green front:

Get free glass reusable straws for taking a stand against plastic

29 Reasons to hang out your laundry

And with that, I’m off to finish my own list of 10 chores.  And moan a little.  It’s what I do!  🙂



The Eat Local Challenge

We’ve joined in with the Eat Local Challenge from August 15 to September 15 and it’s been fun so far.

We’re not doing it that we have to eat *just* local foods, but that we have to eat at least one local food per day.

So far, our local foods have included…

  • Japanese and heirloom corn on the cob from the Worthington Farmers’ Market
  • Sliced tomatoes from Grandpa’s garden
  • Pesto made from basil picked by our back door
  • Sliced cucumbers from a nearby family farm
  • A taste test of yellow, pink and orange heirloom tomatoes from the Mankato Farmers’ Market, plus gobbling lots of colors and types of cherry and grape tomatoes also from there

We’ve also enjoyed melons, herbs, peppers and lots more.  It’s a great way to make sure that we are even more mindful of using the fabulous local foods that are all around us right now.

Today, we’re making salsa from a huge assortment of colors of tomatoes and types of peppers with cilantro, onion and lime.  No, the lime isn’t local but otherwise we’ll be doing pretty well!

What local foods do you eat this time of year?