Yesterday and Today, In Pictures

Boy, if these photos don’t show what our homeschool is like, I don’t know what does.

Yesterday, we went hiking at Red Rock Dells, a park about 20 minutes from us.



It was so much fun.  It was nature study, history, science, PE and more.  And it’s just beautiful and good for the soul.



Today, Daryl took Toria and Alex and some homeschooling friends two hours away to take part in a movie shoot.

As extras.  In a zombie movie.  🙂


Isn’t my boy darling?!

This is the movie they’re shooting.

Daryl just called to check in.  They didn’t wrap up shooting until after seven so they’ll be back late.  They’re excited about going back tomorrow and Saturday, even though it involves an awful lot of sitting around (they’re bringing iPod chargers and more books tomorrow!).

They’re learning lots about the movie business and I have no idea what else (can I somehow make this count for social studies?), but what an experience!

And in contrast, this is what Jack and I were doing while they were filming….


He stayed home and helped me with Fiona (no zombies under five allowed).  He’s not sure if he wants to have anything to do with this zombie business, though he’s signed up so he can take part if he chooses to.

And we had a pretty fun time on our own.

It’s an odd life, but a fun one!  🙂

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

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

1.  Making deviled egg sailboats.

2. Continuing to read our Revolutionary War diary.

3.  Having guitar lessons with Daddy (for Victoria and Anna).

4.  Doing art.

by Victoria:

by Jack:

5.  Creating games and busywork.

6.  Running businesses.

I love how Jack creates his own spelling and handwriting practice in his bead selling shop.  🙂

Victoria has started a nail painting business.  She works for free and does awesome designs.

7.  Learning French.  Victoria has been playing Kirby’s Adventure, a Nintendo game in French.  She says she’s picking up French vocabulary from it.

8.  Learning square roots for fun.  Anna has been memorizing square roots.

9.  Went to the YMCA for exercise.  We played basketball games, had races and generally goofed around.

10.  Lastly, I don’t think I ever posted pictures from Anna’s belated birthday party.  Here’s a bit of what we did there!

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

We’re getting back in the swing of homeschooling around here.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to…

1. We’re reading book two (Utah) of the “Wright on Time” homeschool series.  (Geography, social studies, reading)

2.  We’ve been sledding, taking walks and playing in the snow.  (PE)

3.  The girls have been taking photographs like crazy.  They’ve taken some beautiful pictures and I’ll share some once we get them online.  I subscribed to an inexpensive photography magazine to support their new hobby.  (Art)

4.  Anna spent the day at her friend Addie’s house today.  Christmas vacation is fun because you can hang out with your public school friends during the day again.  🙂 (Socialization!)

5.  We played Blackjack.  Alex is a fan.  😉  (Math)

6. Victoria finished reading “The Witch of Blackbird Pond.”  (Reading, literature, history)

7.  We made up some matching cards for Alex, using index cards and pictures cut from magazines.  We’ve been making matching games to play with him, such as concentration.  He also likes to say the names of the objects since some of them are new words for him.  Each set of cards has two pictures of a type of thing (like dogs, eyes, balls and cars) but the pictures themselves are different.  (Vocabulary, memory, fun, art)

8.  Daryl has been cooking with the kids, as usual.  Some of the latest goodies– sunny day cheese biscuits and Scotch pancakes.  They’ve had to do some math to convert Scotch pancakes from the original recipe (in weight and different measurements) and we also learned about the differences between English, Scotch and American pancakes plus the reasons some countries did not have yeast breads.  (Home ec, math, social studies)

9.  Anna has a new subscription to New Moon Girls magazine and online community and she’s been writing short stories, leaving messages, making new online friends, drawing logos and artwork to submit, and reading through other girls’ submissions.  (Reading, creative writing, socialization, art)

10.  Jack, Anna and Victoria have been reading for pleasure.  They’ve read everything from Psychology Today to Us Magazine to Paddington Bear to The Magic Schoolbus to Harry Potter to an entire set of E.B. White books this week.  Daryl and I have been reading to Alex.  (Reading, social studies, science)

They’ve done lots of other fun stuff– tons of art and drawings, building elaborate creations with bristle blocks, making up songs, writing plays, calling friends, playing online, having snowball fights, asking questions, making playdough… and lots of fighting, complaining, bemoaning, bewailing, bickering and being crazy-making at times too, lest things sound too ideal!

It’s been a nice few days.  I’m hoping to do some really fun HS stuff this week too.  We might as well take advantage of this cold and do some fun homebody things!

Just a Little Snow

I took the boys for a walk today and pulled Alex in the sled.  It was bitterly cold but bright and sparkling white everywhere.  Jack had quite an adventure even navigating our front yard!

Here’s Jack giving Alex a hand to pull him into our yard.  🙂

I got quite a workout pulling Alex and sometimes Jack too.  Poor Alex’s face was bright red by the time we were done and he still kept saying, “No, more walk!  More walk!”.   He loves to go on walks (or rides!).

I’ve also been enjoying watching the birds at the feeder.  My computer desk is by a window looking down at them and I love watching the bossy blue jays chase away all the little sparrows and then watching them all flock back again.  It may be cold, but it’s still so pretty.

I am still not a fan of winter, but I have to admit it can be a tiny bit magical.  🙂

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to in between illnesses, arguments, emergency room visits and general craziness.  🙂  This will be a very camping-intensive entry!

  1. Home-Ec: We made homemade ice cream with all different recipes and inclusions.  We used whole milk, whipping cream and half and half to compare the differences in fat contents.  We used egg recipes and eggless.  One of our favorite recipes was one we dreamed up using our frozen strawberries from strawberry picking.  We microwaved a bunch of them and used the resulting strawberry juice, mashed strawberries and whole milk, vanilla and sugar.  It tasted somewhat like sherbert and was much lower in fat and calories but one of the tastiest recipes. 
  2. Nature Studies: Jack caught a cute little frog and hung out with him for a while. 
  3. Math: Shopped for polished rocks for 3 for $1 for souveniers and other goodies.  We figured out what exact change we’d need to get a big jug of honey ($5) and honey blackberry jam ($4) to leave in the drop box on the way home from camping.  Can I just add that you should travel to this intersection near Marshall, MN, just to get yourself some of this local honey and jam? 
  4. Science: The dad from this neat homeschooling family taught Jack how to crack a whip and to know how fast it was going (742 mph I think!  I should look it up or ask the kids before posting it!) since it was fast enough to break the sound barrier!  He also showed the kids how he could snap the whip around them and it wouldn’t hurt at all, since only the very tip stings.  Talk about a leap of faith! 
  5. Physical Education: The kids hiked up and down the big hill by our campsite with friends.  They also threw with atlatls and helped teach others how to do it.   
  6. Survival Skills: We had a bear of a time getting a fire started since the air was so humid and the wood (which they provide for free, along with the free camping for this event) was still wet.  While we usually have good luck with the tipi method of fire starting, the log cabin design worked better this time.  The kids gathered dry bits of pine branches for kindling and we used that with scrap paper and lots of blowing to slowly build two wonderful fires (one Friday night and one Saturday morning).   I’m glad the kids are learning to build fires when they’re young.  I was grown before I ever learned how!
  7. Art: We supported the arts by commissioning our very own crayon caricature of the four kids at the world’s best price ($5 per person!) and got to watch him work.  We love it!
  8. History: We talked to these ladies who were spinning wool from their own sheep and learned what materials were used to dye all the types of yarn (they were all natural, some made with bark and other interesting materials).  We also watched these folks get into an argument and a shoot out right before the corn boil started.  Those gunfighters squabble over the smallest things!  It ended with one poor chap on the grass with his distraught lady friend wailing next to him.  Later on, Annie Oakley and her husband were set to appear and do some pretty neat things with rifles but we packed up and left before she showed up (we care more about approaching thunderstorms than Annie Oakley, I’m afraid).
  9. Strategy & sportsmanship: We played Swap in the shelter, which was partly great fun and partly crazy-making (Alex tried to climb on tables, Jack quit in a huff when he was nearly out and someone got to swap cards with him…) but it was mostly fun! 
  10. Fun! We saw old friends and made new ones, had treats, listened to music, played ball and blinking badminton, read magazines, roasted marshmallows and enjoyed beautiful scenery once again. 

Ten Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

I’m still playing catch-up here, especially with Victoria STILL sick and Jack and Alex both sick with some sort of flu that caused pretty high fevers the past couple of days.  Everybody but Anna is on forced rest, like it or not.  🙂

Here’s a bit of what we were up to before the boys got sick…

1.  Badminton! Daryl picked up some rackets at a garage sale and made a net out of an old hammock.  We’ve been playing every single day and loving it!  At first we were all pretty pitiful but we’ve all improved greatly and love seeing how many volleys we can get back and forth in a row.   It’s quite a workout!

2.  Tracked some money. Daryl got this dollar in change and he and the kids looked it up online to see where it was from and where it had been.

3.  Greek myths. I’ve been reading the kids Greek myths from a favorite book at bedtime.  Along the way, we’ve been talking about other subjects that sneak in (like word origins, history, similarities with some stories and bible stories, etc.).

4.  Daily walks. Alex dearly loves to go on walks and stroller rides, and with the weather nice there’s just no excuse not to go at least once a day.  Along the way we splash in puddles, collect egg shells, watch bugs, gather cool rocks, you name it.  I try to take just one child with me besides Alex, so we can talk while Alex rolls or explores.  It’s nice one-on-one time, and I even sneak in math problems until I get too many complaints.  😉

5.  Painting the set. Daryl took Jack and Anna with him to scrape and paint part of the set of the Wilder Pageant.  They did a great job!

6.  Drawing on the walls! Yes, with permission.  🙂  We have a bare white wall on the side of our staircase and it’s badly in need of a good scrubbing and a new coat of paint.  I had a few educational tidbits and children’s art stuck up there but I pulled them down and decided that we ought to jazz it up.  If we’re going to paint it or clean it anyway, why not let the kids have some fun and dress it up in the meantime?  So I traced squares for each of the older kids and gave them a pail of washable markers and instructions to do whatever they wanted in their squares.  They loved it!

Anna decided hers should be graffiti and gave herself a graffiti name (Fang!).  She also talked smack talk about herself and her sister in her square (later revised to be nicer, then changed again when Victoria annoyed her later).  That child!  Victoria was not impressed!  🙂

7.  Went to the mall! Okay, now this may not seem like a big deal to people in the real world, but this was a very big deal to my sheltered gang!  🙂  They actually said things like “We’re going to go to a REAL mall?!” and “Wow…..”.  Yes, they have taken part in archeological digs, met celebrities, been on TV and been on a lobster boat, but they were over the moon at the prospect of going to the mall.

(Worst picture of Alex ever!)

8.  Searched for worms and bugs. I had the kids looking for worms for the compost ball and showed Alex how to flip over rocks to find cool bugs.  He loved digging for worms and creepy crawlies and seeing what kind of creatures he could find!

9.  Reading, reading, reading. The big kids are reading to the little kids, the big kids are reading on their own and I’m reading to everybody.   They were planning on keeping track for the library summer reading program but it was too much trouble keeping track of them all and they really don’t need plastic toys and prizes to want to read so I’m actually a bit glad the forms ended up in the trash.  Jack is impatiently waiting for me to come down and read to him now, as a matter of fact.  Mama takes too long blogging!

10. Free play! What is summer without swinging like a monkey, making messes in the mud, stopping at the lake, playing in the sandbox, swinging, sliding, swimming, building,  playing in the rain, running through the yard after dark, searching for fireflies, picking flowers and lazing around in the sun?  And the kids have been busy too!  😉

5 Fun Ways to Learn Today

It’s not usually hard to find fun ways to homeschool in the summer time, but here’s a few ideas I had for spicing things up around here.

1.  Have a trivia obstacle course.  Set up an assortment of balance beams, hula hoops, kiddie pools and other props in some sort of fun way and get a stack of question cards from any educational game you happen to have (Kids’ Trivial Pursuit, Brainquest Cards, flash cards, that geography game you always meant to play…) or just make up some on your own.  Now challenge the kids to run the course, stopping at each station to answer a question before being able to move on.  Give one child a stop watch and the job of recording times.  Each child gets to run the course three times (with new questions each time) and keep his/her best score.

2.  Give the kids colored chalk and ask them to decoratively cover the driveway with math facts.  🙂

3.  Play FBI Most Wanted with garden bugs.  Give the kids a bug ID book and a bug box, net or jar.  Tell them they’re agents who have to rid the garden of evil.  Their assignment (should they accept it) is to find bugs, look them up and ascertain if they are on the side of good or evil in the garden.  Bad bugs should be captured and sent to prison (a location away from beloved garden plants).  Have them make up ID cards with pictures and descriptions of any criminals they catch.

4.  Spray math.  Put kids in bathing suits.  Turn on the hose.  Ask rapid fire math questions.  They have to answer in under 3 seconds.  Wrong answers or missed answers get sprayed!  Make sure you play this on a really hot day when it’s not so bad to get sprayed!

5.  Give the kids an outdoor thermometer and have them see how wide of a range of change in termperature they can find outside.  Help them hypothesize about the difference between full shade and the sunniest spot, and guess the temperature to begin with.  Place bets about what the temperature will be at 6 o’clock and at sunset.  If you’re up for a little flashlight science, have them perform the same tests after dark.  Is there still a difference in warmth in places that were in the sun all day?  If so, is it as much?  Is it warmer right in front of the flashlight?  Then head inside and see if it’s warmer or cooler in bed.  🙂

10 Fun Ways We've Learned & Played Lately

Egads, we’ve been busy!  Summer is always such an explosion of activity.  On the one hand, it’s wonderful to have so many opportunities.  On the other hand, it gets a wee bit overwhelming.  🙂

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

1.  Jack started T-ball and is loving it!  His first game was in the rain (that’s some of our cheerleading crew in funny hats to keep the rain off of us) but he did great anyway.  He’s really enjoying himself.  He played outfield and catcher.  His second and third games were rained out, so we’re really hoping it dries up around here soon!

2.  Anna and Victoria are in swimming lessons, levels 4 and 5.  Victoria is not sure she wants to take level 6 next year since she’ll need to swim the length of the pool and back 20 times in a row to pass!  They’re having a blast though, and swimming all the time on their off time too.

3.  Anna and Victoria are taking their California Achievement Test.  Since it’s in 9 fairly long sections, we do about one a day.  Afterwards I sometimes go over any that I spotted that they got wrong so it’s a learning tool and not just an evaluative tool.

Victoria zipped through all the language arts tests and then got to the computational math one and was not nearly as happy.  We went over some of the concepts that were new to her afterwards.  I do not teach to the test.  We don’t do any review or practice or anything ahead of time because I want it to be an honest evaluation of where the kids are at, not a test of how well they can cram before a test and then forget half of it a week later.  Since we don’t report the scores (we are required by the state to do yearly standardized tests but only we see the results), I see no reason to worry about what numbers they get.

The kids have always scored well above grade level even without any studying beforehand.  I think Victoria would prefer it if she could though, because she panics if she’s not perfect at things and some of the material was brand new to her (it has advanced concepts to see how advanced the student may be).  Maybe I’ll buy some tests for her to take for fun and use those as a curriculum after this.  🙂

4.  Anna and Victoria attended Who Wants to be a Scientist? on the Ecology Bus.  From the flier….

Science is great fun – especially when you get to do it outside! Take an Ecology Bus field trip to Boot Lake wetland and do what aquatic scientists do – test water! You’ll have a blast conducting a variety of tests and exploring the wetland from the inside out! Meet at the PEBC in Spark’s Park in Lakefield to don rubber boots and board the Ecology Bus.

They got to attend free since they were taking part in their Survivor day camp through the same organization, and one of their friends attended with them.

At one point they had a big container of water creatures they’d scooped up from the lake to observe and a Predacious Diving Beetle larvae was one of the creatures in the jar.  It apparently is well named and is VERY predacious!  It began to gobble up all the other creatures in the jar that they were supposed to be studying.  Anna was despondent for the other creatures, their friend Bella got mad and Victoria said she just thought it was really interesting.  🙂  Their leader said it probably appreciated them catching him his dinner.  Here’s a pic of the nasty creature, which is apparently bigger as a larvae than as an adult!  Note the description of them as vicious.  My little scientists concur!

My trusty camera and I weren’t around to take pictures but here’s some shots of the girls with some of the other creatures they got to meet on their field trip, from when we visited the next day.

Victoria said this little guy likes to be petted and he feels a bit sticky!

5.  Jack and Victoria gathered sand from the banks of Plum Creek.  We wanted to contribute something to the silent auction for Carol Decker that I blogged about recently and I wrote the woman in charge of it that I could donate some little decorative jars with sand from the banks of Plum Creek, Victoria was going to donate some earrings that she made and Daryl would donate a Native American style choker that he made.

I sent Daryl and the kids down to get sand so I could make them up right away but the woman never wrote me back.  I’ve seen the items on the auction and they really are beautiful and above our standards I suppose, or maybe I volunteered our items too late (it was only a day or so before the auction started but I said I would assemble it all and rush the pictures to her that afternoon).  I was a little surprised I didn’t even get a polite refusal though!  Perhaps we’ll have a fundraiser ourselves and just donate the money directly to the Decker family.

6.  The girls had their first official sleepover with a friend at our house.  They’ve camped out in the back yard with their friend Addie before but this was the first time Addie spent the night inside.  They watched movies, ate popcorn and spent lots of time playing on computers.  I made sour cream coffee cake in the morning and it was so sweet we got belly aches but we think it was worth it!

7.  Daryl and the girls are busy with play practice every weeknight.  The boys and I are having a lot of together time!  The girls love getting to spend so much time with their pageant friends.  When they’re not in the scenes that are rehearsed the kids all play games and talk.

8.  We’re learning about plant propagation, thanks to Alex.  He was quietly playing on the window seat the other day and then Victoria shrieked.  He had happily pulled all of the “babies” off my spider plant and every single long stem off my happy, long and dangly plant next to it.  (That’s it’s official latin name — Happylonganddangly Planteus!).  So I put the spider plant babies in dirt and the dangly stems in water, to show two ways to start new plants from old ones besides seeds.  If life gives you lemons, right?  🙂

9.  We’ve been watching nature around us, as always.  From stopping to watch families of ducks and geese with their babies to finding different kinds of birds nests to rescuing Japanese Ladybeetles from water buckets, we’ve been enjoying the explosion of life that spring and summer brings.

 10. Books, books, books!  As always, we’re keeping the libraries in business.  🙂  We made a detour to a neighboring town’s library today while on a grocery run to snag some new-to-us books and the latest in the Ivy and Bean series.  We’re reading about amphibians, medieval castles, silly chickens, middle children, haunted woods, funny toddlers and dozens more.

And with that, I’m off to sign a permission slip, read three books, give one bath, switch one load of laundry, snuggle one toddler and rest for a bit.  T-ball practice and swimming lessons come very early in the morning!


10 Fun Ways We've Learned & Played Lately

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

1.  Jack started T-ball for the first time ever!  He did great and we’re really excited for him.

2. We’ve been studying the Rainforest — reading books, learning songs, making rainforest mix and match bread, doing rainforest spelling words and putting them in alphabetical order, talking about why the rainforest is important and how we can help protect it, making rainforest goop (bananas, coconut, chocolate chips, vanilla, cinnamon all smashed together on a cracker!) and lots more. We even did circle time under the treetops in the backyard and up in the canopy.  🙂

3.  The girls have been swimming at the city pool just about every waking minute of the day.

4.  Daryl and Anna caught another friendly toad.  I think its expression is priceless.


This one did not turn into a prince.  😉

5.  Jack has been doing lots of addition and multiplication in comparison shopping candy at the grocery store.  They have lollipops for 15 cents and he wanted to figure out how many he could get for a dollar.  He knew there were 2 in 30 cents and 3 sets of 30 in a dollar, so he started to figure out how many he could get with $1.05 and how tax would shake it up.

6.  Daryl and the kids have been on some nature drives and have spotted lots of nifty critters, from a coyote to deer to a turtle to a new type of hawk.

On another drive, Victoria helped this little guy across the highway.

 7.  We’ve been doing lots of library runs and reading boatloads of books.

8.  Jack and Alex have been doing lots of playing in the back yard, especially with assorted props that they make into obstacle courses, boats, houses and so on.


9.   Alex played as fearlessly as ever at the park with a friend.

10.  I got Victoria her new prized possession, a netbook computer.  It was $199 and is really wonderful.  She’s buying it herself, with a combination of cash from her savings and doing hard labor for me at $5 an hour.  The deal was that she had to pay off the first $50 before she took possession and then she has to do at least an hour a day of work to pay off the rest.  She’s been doing major cleaning to pay it off, which is a big help to me too.  I also told her she had to use it for a lot of educational purposes.  🙂

It even has Wifi so she can visit her sites outside!  Lucky kid!

(with our cat Josie, who is about 150 years old in cat years and is allowed outside during the day in her old age, where she lies in the sun and follows people around shamelessly begging for scritches)

Entertaining 2 small boys and a cat!