(Almost) 10 Ways We’ve Played and Learned Lately

I haven’t done one of these lists in so long, so I thought I’d try to do a quick one (like I have ever been able to in the past?!).

Here are a few ways we’ve played and learned here lately……

1. We went to Valleyfair, an amusement park in the Twin Cities, for their homeschool days.  I brought Fiona, Alex and their friend Cody.  It was a fantastic day!

2. I’ve been publishing a free printable nature magazine for kids this year, Wild Kids Magazine, and Fiona especially enjoys it.  I’ve had Alex and Jack write articles for it, too.  As soon as I print it, Fiona grabs it and sits to read through it.  It has nature journal pages where she can track the birds and animals she sees that month, color botanical coloring pages, keep track of the weather for each day of the month (coloring in a weather tree) and such.  She also loves that she often spots pictures of herself and her siblings in it.  🙂

3. It’s always been a struggle to get Jack to want to write, so we’ve compromised and I have him lead his younger siblings on D&D campaigns.  He writes out all the information, stats, maps, etc. on a giant whiteboard.  He also reluctantly keeps a private journal, just so he has a little bit of regular time writing and recording his days.

4. Fiona has been working on telling time, along with a.m. and p.m.  She has a little workbook I picked up at the dollar store that has you do things like put times in order from first to last, choose whether to use a.m. or p.m. and write in how many minutes past the hour it is and how many minutes to the next hour.

5. We went hiking with friends at a nearby park with a waterfall.  We try to go there a few times a year and it’s such a magical place.

(almost) 10 ways we learned and played lately6. We’ve spent a lot of days at the lake, especially with Rhia, Fiona and Moose.

7. Jack had a suspicious lump removed from his jaw by his parotid gland.  The doctor thought it was just a cyst but because of Toria’s parotid cancer in the same spot, we wanted to be especially cautious.  He had to be put under for the surgery but came through it well and the tests came back negative.  This wasn’t fun at all, of course, but it was educational and was a pretty big thing for Jack.

….

And as I was blogging this, Fiona came and asked me to go play in the rain with her.  I told everyone else to go play in the rain and Alex finally reluctantly went, and I realized that I never want to be the kind of mom who says I have to finish blogging instead of playing in the rain with my kids.

(No photo because I was playing, not taking pictures!)

So I left the blog and went and ran in puddles and played in the rain, and now we’re wet and I have hosed off a shrieking little girl in the shower and a grumpy 12 year old took his own shower to hose off the mud (meaning 5 minutes longer he had to wait before running outside to play with Cody) and I have to get supper on the table before they all leave for rehearsal, so you don’t get to know what 8, 9 and 10 would be.

Okay, I guess one of them would be that we played in the rain.  🙂

 

 

 

A Happy Little June Update

I’ve decided to go back to blogging here even though I know that nobody really reads blogs (especially this one!) any more.  🙂  I love having the record of all that we did and all my wandering thoughts for all the years I kept it when the older kids were HSing, and I want that for the younger kids’ homeschool lives.

So here’s a quick little June update, and I’ll try to keep things up and just come here to check in regularly again.

Toria (21) and Rhia (19) have graduated but both of them are still happily part of our days.  Toria and Gabe still live in their house (if you remember, I bought it for $4,000 cash a couple of years ago and they have been fixing it up and paying me $200 to pay it off).  It will be paid off in a few months and they will own their own home, debt free.  It’s tiny and a bit of a wreck, but it’s theirs and it’s on four lots.  We had hoped to get their first garden in this year but life got busy.  They have a walnut tree and a pear tree, though, so they will still have some bounties this year from those.

Rhia is still living at home and is working on getting her photography business established.  She has some regular clients who like to book her for fun shoots (she’s very inexpensive so it’s an affordable splurge) and she is working on expanding to new clients.

You can follow her on Instagram or Facebook if you want to show her some support.  She’s been traveling a lot, too, and has gone to Oregon twice in the last six months.

Jack (16), Alex (12) and Fiona (7) are all in the Wilder Pageant again this year, along with Daryl.  This makes something like 15 or 16 years straight that at least some of our family members have acted in the pageant.  It’s always a lot of work but they make great friends and are part of something really special.  Opening night is July 5.

Jack is planning on working on a nearby farm again this summer.  He worked there last fall but was 15 at the time and was not able to work much during school days because of labor laws (homeschool kids aren’t allowed to work during public school hours by law, even if they school at other times of day or on other schedules).  This year he’s 16 so he can have a more flexible schedule.  It’s hard work but good money, and he’s developed a wonderful work ethic that makes me proud.

Alex’s friend Cody is here for the summer again from Indiana (he spends summers with his aunt, our next door neighbor), which is great fun for him and for Fiona too.  We took the three of them to Valleyfair for their homeschool day and had a blast.

We also got a new dog!  We adopted Moose from a shelter in March.  He is a year old and is a black lab – English setter mix.  He’s smart, energetic, playful and never met a dog or person he didn’t love.

There’s so much more going on, but this is already less than quick.  🙂  More next time!

The Month of Winds and Magic

fiona butterfly

Daryl told me years ago that he read in a novel that September was “the month of winds and magic.”  That has always stuck with me and while I kind of hate September for signalling the end of summer, I kind of love September for a hundred other reasons.

(Of course, this year September has really been the month of winds, with the hurricanes and tornadoes.  Tornadoes even hit our area of Minnesota last night.  My heart goes out to everybody affected by the storms.)

We’ve been super busy with homesteading this month, as always.  September is a month where lots of garden goodies are ready to harvest and when we forage large amounts of some of our favorite wild foods like acorns and elderberries.  It’s also when we forage less than wild foods like apples and pears that are free for the picking, literally.  We have friends and neighbors who let us pick from their trees (we keep the ground underneath clean and often bring them goodies in thanks) and there are a lot of public places where we pick, too.

The nursing home in town has a huge pear tree that bears delicious fruit that they want no business with and also has a row of elderberry shrubs that are only there for a windbreak.  Daryl has permission to go picking there and we get gallons of elderberries and bushels of pears every year.  There’s also a pear tree at a rural park that bears delicious canning pears (too firm for fresh eating but perfect for canning).  You can always tell where homesteads were years ago because even though there is no sign of a house anymore you will find apple trees, pear trees, peonies and other long-lived plants that once blessed the people who lived there.

We’ve also been busy with Daryl’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.  As I’ve talked about before, we get married in a different way every year around our anniversary and this year we had our first back yard wedding.  We made it a zany theme with lots of color and silliness.  It was simple and fun.

And in other news, Jack (15) has his first job!  He was hired by a local farm family to help with the harvest.  He was originally hired to work 4-6 hours a day during the day just until the end of harvest season in October.  Then we found out that homeschoolers under 16 are not allowed to work during public school hours even if they homeschool during other times and they’re not allowed to work more than 3 hours on a public school day, so we’ve  had to change his schedule around.  He now works 3 hours “after school” most weekdays and longer on Saturdays.

It’s hard work but he is doing a great job and he got his first paycheck yesterday.  His boss also told him yesterday that he was his best worker and that he’d decided to give him a raise!  I could not be more proud of my boy.  🙂

The weather is turning cold and I’m doing my best to embrace it and not yearn for lake days and sprinkler weather.  Snow will be coming way too soon here in Minnesota but for the most part we’re too busy to focus on that anyway.

The rest of September and October will be very hectic.  I’m giving an acorn foraging presentation at a library by the Twin Cities in early October, then we have Fiona’s birthday and the week of History Fest, which is a crazy but wonderful time.  And then there’s processing hundreds of more pints and quarts of applesauce, pears, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and so on.

Oh yeah, and this homeschooling business.

 

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a while since I posted one of these updates.  🙂 Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

1. Fiona has been doing lots of writing and copy work.  She loves writing and fills up page after page of dollar store handwriting and spelling workbooks.

2.  Rhia is learning to play the electric guitar.  She is already a wonderful acoustic guitar player and is now excited to get an electric guitar and learn that.  She’s been practicing on a guitar that Gabe (Toria’s fiance) has lent her.  I got her an amp for solstice and she is hoping to be able to buy the guitar by her (18th!) birthday at the end of the month.  She is not just a great guitar player but also a great song writer.  With her love of music and the connection she already has with small bands in around the country, I’m pretty sure her future will be in music in one way or another.

3.  And she’s still busy with photography… Speaking of Rhia’s music connections, she took some photos for a small Mankato area band last month and she’s done some concert photography for some bands at Minneapolis and Sioux Falls concerts.  I’m pretty sure photography will be in her future, too.  Here’s her photography page on Facebook.  she’d be thrilled if you liked it!

4.  Alex has been enjoying the snow.  It’s been bitterly cold, but any time it’s above zero he’s pretty happy to be making snow forts, building snow zombies and so on.

5.  Fiona learned to play happy birthday on the lap harp.  She and Alex also learned a bunch of other songs.

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❤️

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6.  Alex has been learning to cook more meals and treats.  His latest accomplishments are 2 minute microwave GF bread (which he made about 30 batches for family in the last month) and scrambled eggs.  He also helps me cook a lot, so he’s become a great sous chef for things like taquitos.

7.  Victoria and Gabe have been in their house for a month.  They got their first utility bill today!  Luckily the house is so small and they’re so frugal that it was a fraction of what ours is.  They come over for dinner just about every night but they are settling in well and finally have reliable heat (a big thing when it’s been 20 below zero!).

8.  We’ve been doing lots of visits to the Washington Pavilion science and art center.  I took advantage of a holiday special and renewed our membership, which Alex told me he really missed.  We try to visit every time we’re in Sioux Falls, which is often since Rhia’s BF lives there and it’s also where I do my bulk grocery shopping.

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#sciencefun #scienceforkids #realworldmath #homeschooling

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They have great science presentations and Alex and Fiona got to take part in one about physics.

And last time we headed over to the art center and the kids got to do some pretty cool spin art projects.  The only thing better than messy art is messy art you don’t have to set up yourself.  😉

9.  Jack is crazy about Hamilton and it’s led to all kinds of history education.  He knows all of the songs by heart and is really excited that the show is coming to Minnesota in 2018.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I could effortlessly teach him his entire high school curricula if I could find musicals for every subject.  😉

10. We’ve been doing tons of learning with Cuisenaire Rods and other hands-on math tools.

Alex and I even tried doing long division with Cuisenaire Roads, which is really tricky to wrap your brain around!

I also published another book (affiliate link: Acorn Foraging: Acorn Foraging: Everything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step InstructionsEverything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step Instructions) and we’ve been reading lots of books, playing with friends, going to movies (since Daryl and Rhia work for a local non-profit movie theater, our family can go at any hour and put on whatever movies we like, which makes for some pretty fun late-night excursions!), playing music, watching shows and the usual mayhem.

Now, I’ve promised a little girl that we’d do crafts so I should sign off.  I hope everything is wonderful in your corner of the world!

 

 

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 Little Jack Update

 

 

It’s only a matter of time before Jack asks me to quit writing about him online, so I’d better talk about him now while I can.  😉

Here’s a glimpse of our oldest baby boy, who turned 14 a little over a week ago.

That’s Jack at his birthday pool party, with a good friend, along with Fiona and Alex, and here with some other friends.

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Jack had such a good birthday 🎈🎈🎈

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And lest he looks like he’s all grown up and not a kid anymore, here’s another shot from his birthday party.

Jack is finishing 8th grade, though we don’t pay much attention to the numbers.

He is much taller than I am — though that’s not hard since I’m just under 5 feet tall!  🙂  He’s nearly as tall as his dad, though, and Daryl is just over 6 feet tall.

He’s a huge help to me around the house.  He is probably the biggest help of all of the kids, and I thank him for it often.  He helps with laundry, cooking, taking care of Fiona, garbage, yard work, you name it.

He even took care of my artichoke seedlings while I was in Nebraska for nearly two weeks.

He loves gaming (video, board and role play), music, nature, animals and puns.  He also still loves doing crafts, particularly if he can invent them himself.  He collects and alters bottle caps, and loves all things weapon-related (from swords to nerf guns).  He’s rather introverted and very goofy when he feels comfortable enough to show his goofy side.  He is also the ultimate peace-maker, an important role for a kid in a family of 5 kids!  He would be well suited for any table at the UN with his skills at un-ruffling feathers and calming folks down!

He is still quite left-leaning.  This is a kid who happily pounded one of only two signs in our town that supported marriage equality into our front yard as a little boy, and he remains fiercely caring about the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks and other oppressed groups.

He is not sure what he wants to do with his life when he crosses that imaginary line into “grown up” but I suspect it might have to do with nature or science.  I could also see him as a writer, even though he still balks at any formal writing assignments.  He is so creative that I think he would do well as a writer or game designer.  I am guessing that he’ll come up with his own path that I’d never have seen coming, though.

He can be moody at times (what 14 year old isn’t?) but in general, he is my “easiest” teenager yet.  I have told him and Alex — often! — that they were so exhausting as young boys that they owe me easy teen years, and he seems to be keeping his end of the bargain!  😉

I could not be more proud of him than I am, especially of his soul.  He is so caring, so smart, so giving.  He is a wonderful brother, son and human being.

 

 

The Daily List is a Fun Way to Get Kids Writing

I’ve been working on getting Jack and Alex to do more writing lately.  Victoria and Rhiannon always loved writing and it was one way they quite naturally improved their handwriting, spelling and composition skills over the years.  Since the boys aren’t as keen to do it on their own, I’ve been finding fun ways to get them writing.

writing2

 

As long-time readers know, I’ve never been a fan of forced activities.  I want my kids to love to write (and read and learn in general), not to put up with it because they have to.  After all, I want them to be lifelong readers, writers and learners, and this only happens if they learn to love reading, writing and learning.  This has always worked for us, in part because we come up with ways to show them the joy of these things.

Daily lists are a fun and easy way to get this going with writing.

I gave Jack a notebook and asked him to make a list of any 20 things each day.  The list could be of things he wants for his birthday, jobs he might like to do when he grows up, birds he can ID, characters who annoy him on TV, things he likes about Minnesota… Anything.  I help brainstorm list ideas if he comes up blank, but he chooses what he wants to list.  Alex will be starting his own notebook this week, too.

They don’t have to list 20 things in one list if there aren’t that many things that apply.  They can do a couple of shorter lists, such as who their best friends are and who they’d like to get to know better, or states they’ve visited and states they’d like to visit.

 I shared this idea with a friend and she used it quite successfully with her son yesterday.  He has Downs Syndrome and tends to balk at writing.  She asked him to write a list of 10 things he likes on pizza (which he loves).  After he wrote his list, she sat and helped him correct the spelling and they talked about sounding out words and spelling rules.

One of the great things about this is that it works with any age and it can become a journal of sorts.  Keep all the lists in one notebook and have kids date them, and they can look back to see what their favorite books or songs were, what they considered their best qualities, and so on.  It also just helps get you into a creative mindset, and get thinking about those bigger topics like possible careers and things you’d like to get better at.

As always, it helps to have fun notebooks and pens to use, too.  Everything is more fun when you have cool materials to use.  😉

I’m thinking of making up a big list of lists now, and printing it up as books for the boys.  This is working really well for now, though, and I’m excited to get Alex started.

I kind of want to start my own list journal too!