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!

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.  🙂

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Oh what a long time it’s been since I blogged!  We had massive heat and I had massive contractions and several of us were sick, plus the pageant was going on….

In any case, I finally had a minute to post and thought I’d do a little update.

Here’s some ways we’ve been learning and playing lately…

1.  We went to the science museum in Sioux Falls.  Annual memberships to science museums are so worth it, especially on hot summer days!

2.  Anna is reading “Little Women” on my Kindle.

3.  Victoria is learning Latin from a book she downloaded from this list of free Latin books online.  She loves it.  She’s doing the Latin for Beginners one.

4.  We went bowling with fabulously fun friends in Mankato.

5.  The kids did math and such in various workbooks.

6.  We went hiking on Loon Island with some wonderful homeschool friends.

7.  Daryl took the kids to various lakes and to campgrounds to visit friends.

8.  We had sprinkler fun in the back yard.

Even Mama…  🙂

9.  The boys and I made a nature abacus out of sea shells and did some math with it (more on that and some other fun summer HS ideas here).

10.  Daryl, Jack, Victoria and Anna finished this year at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant.  We figured out that the girls (who have been in the longest) have performed in 51 shows now for roughly 50,000 people!  Jack loved his first year, too.  It was a wonderful season.

That’s a bit of what we’ve been up to.  There’s also been lots of reading, art, educational apps, cooking, chores, tree climbing, playing with friends, photography and so on.

Hopefully we’ll get a break from the heat soon and things will calm down a touch after tomorrow.  I’d like a few days of catching up for a while!

 

Ten Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

It’s been so long since I’ve done one of these posts, it’s going to be hard not to be 30 or 40!  🙂  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been doing around here…

1.  We’re reading Kayak Anna. I got the book Kayak Anna and Palindrome Creek (or something similar) to review and started reading it to the kids.  I am so pleasantly surprised!  It’s a chapter book that deals with the environment, bullies, palindromes and trolls, just to  name a bit!  I am really enjoying the rich language and the adventure.  I’ll review it once we finish it.  We read a chapter or two per day so I figure we’ll be done around next weekend.

2.  We made fruit leather with blackberries and raspberries from our back yard and strawberries that we’d frozen from berry picking.  Oh my goodness.  Homemade fruit leather beats all, guys.  You must try some!

3.  The kids have all been reading. Anna read On the Banks of Plum Creek, plus a pile of other books I’ve forgotten.  Victoria is still reading young adult novels at an astounding pace, Jack has been reading A Crack in the Night (another that I reviewed and one that he really enjoys) along with picture books.  Alex has been listening to picture books, most noteably If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (the giant sized version), Where’s Pinky? and Llama Llama Mad at Mama.

4.  Jack, Alex and Anna went to the Walnut Grove festival in the park. They did crafts, sampled treats, met Laura Ingalls Wilder fans and helped their daddy teach people how to play the dulcimer.

5.  Jack has been learning about eggs, embryos, fertilization and chickens. We’ve been getting eggs from our friend Erica again, and Jack has delighted in some of the gigantic (and teeny tiny!) eggs that we find.  This one was enormous and had two yolks.

There was also an egg that was the size of a robin’s egg.  It had no yolk at all.

6.  Jack has me working on collecting printouts for him to make a reptile lapbook. He has started assembling mini-books and coloring, but is impatient to get to work.  He wrote up a book of facts he learned about reptiles, too.

7.  The kids have been doing lots and lots of art. Behold, a few examples…

8.  I got the kids new composition books for homeschool studies. We use these all year long — I leave them pages of silly math problems or write letters full of grammatical errors and so on.  Each child got an extra one for something fun.  Victoria wanted one just for German work.  Jack wanted one for art.  Anna wanted one for drawings and stories.  They’ve decorated the fronts and are having fun using them.

9. We did science with friends. That’s all I’m saying.  😉

10.  Daryl and the girls are busy in the pageant. The boys and I went and watched a dress rehearsal last week and got to sit in the front row for the show.  When Mary went blind, she was “looking” right at us (Jack cried for her!) and it was neat being so close to all the action.  We went again the other night with Grandma and Grandpa.  The boys played football on the hill before it started and then sat so nicely for the whole show.  Alex was enchanted with the singing, dancing, fire and so on.

Last night, there was an enormous crowd because the actor from Little House on the Prairie who played Almonzo was there and it was part of “Laurapalooza,” a huge multi-day conference about L.I.W. that took place in Mankato.  A huge storm passed through before it started and the audience was instructed to wait in their cars while it passed through.  The cast all waited in the barn while lightning flashed and thunder boomed, and when all the rain had passed they dried off all of the chairs and the audience came back.  By then it was around 10 pm (the show generally starts at dusk, around 9) and almost nobody had left.  They estimate around 1,400 people stayed in the dark and the rain and then watched until past midnight to see the show.  🙂

Above, Anna is dancing by Nellie Olson while Daryl plays the spoons in the background. You can see a lot of pictures here.

I am so proud of Daryl, Anna and Victoria for their part in the pageant, and of everybody involved in it.  This year is the best ever that I’ve seen.  They’ve added so much more music (Victoria even plays the spoons and Daryl plays a couple of lovely dulcimer duets in the background of certain scenes) and they’ve really fine tuned the script.  The sets, the special effects and the whole production are just amazing in my not-so-humble opinion.  🙂

~~~~~~~

And now, I am really late in starting supper and rescuing Daryl from a certain 3 year-old, so I’m off!

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Recently

Oh my goodness, we’ve been busy!  Summer is just a blur around here, even with the pageant finally over.  It’s been nice, though, and it was cool and rainy for part of the week and I really liked that.  It makes it nicer for our nightly badminton games.  🙂

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

1.  Went to De Smet, SD, to check out Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home after Walnut Grove.

This is what’s left of the big, beautiful Silver Lake from Laura’s books.  It’s marsh land now, drained for agriculture by area farmers and further dried up by drought.

They are trying to protect/restore it now in order to have a habitat for water birds (hunting is a big part of the tourist industry in South Dakota) and because draining the lakes led to the land being vulnerable to floods and they’ve realized they need wetlands to protect the towns and farms.

2.  Watched another Wilder Pageant, the De Smet version.

The kids got to take a wagon ride before the show and got to meet the cast.  They also liked being in the audience for once!

It was so small compared to ours!

And it was a bit surprising to me that they had Santa in the cast!  🙂

We went there and back the same day and got home very late that night.  We didn’t think we could afford the trip if we stayed at a motel and it seemed like a waste if we were only going to be sleeping there anyway!  It was kind of fun having a road trip into the wee hours!

3.  Anna went to the library, the pool and her friend’s house today. Her friend called and said, “You’re finally home!  You’ve been busy for like three years!”.  It does seem like it!

4.  Jack has been having a blast with these giant Tinker Toys. My aunt gave them to me when the girls were tiny and they were buried in the garage.  I’ve been cleaning out the garage this week and I knew the pefect boy to show them to!  Here’s the robot we built together.

5.  The girls have been reading and reciting poetry. They are both on a poetry kick and have been arguing over who gets to read aloud at night before bed!  Yes, my girls will even argue about reading poetry.  🙂  It doesn’t hurt that we have some beautiful little poetry books covered in velvet and embossed leather, plus picture books of classic poems that are wonderfully illustrated.  Current favorites– The Highwayman, Annabelle Lee, The Raven, Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Shakespeare.

6.  Anna and I made a million squash blossom dishes. She was such a great sous chef!  She hand washed and cleaned every blossom to remove the bitter stamens and then we stuffed some with a ricotta mixture, battered them and fried them.  You can read our results in the comments of the squash post a few days ago.  We weren’t that impressed.  🙂  Next time we’re just going to use them as pretty toppings!

Filling the flowers!

Filled, twisted and ready to be battered…

Topping our pesto veggie crazy-crust pizza…

The pizza was a big hit!  Victoria wants me to make it every night, but she’s easy to please.  Here’s what it looks like when you eat flowers for dinner.

It was still a fun experiment and we learned a lot about plant fertilization, male and female blossoms, etc.!

7.  We played Snail Pace (or Snail Race or something like that!). My grandma sent this game today and the kids liked it a bit but I am really not impressed.  It says that it’s non-competitive and I really do like that sort of game but egads, I just thought it was the dullest game ever.  You line up 6 colored snails and roll colored dice to see which snail you move forward.  Everybody takes turns rolling, moving snails and guessing who’s going to win.  That’s it.  It’s supposed to be for kids ages 3 to 7 but I’m not sure what 7 year old would really get excited about this.  I think we might pass it on to the local Head Start or another family.

8.  We made homemade butter. Jack and Daddy did the first batch after learning how at the Walnut Grove family festival.  Then the girls each made a batch of their own.

Straining the buttermilk out…

Make sure you rinse your finished butter lots under fresh cold water and press it all out.   It will mold if any buttermilk remains!

Yum!

9.  Cooking, cooking, cooking! Yesterday we made a giant batch of the most delicious walnut basil pesto from the farmers’ market basil haul.  We get it from the man we call The Purple Bean Guy because he sells purple beans that we love.  We did a taste test of his purple, green and yellow beans one week.  He’s a really fun guy with a wonderful spirit and he sells enormous bags of gorgeous herbs for 75 cents each.  We also made zucchini muffins, zucchini cake, deviled eggs (from farm fresh eggs from “Those Crazy Goat Ladies” at the FM — and yes, that’s their business name!), refrigerator cukes,…. tons of wonderful foods!

10.  Inviting in some guests! Victoria found a miniscule little monarch caterpillar egg on a milkweed leaf in the yard the other day.  She’s been on the lookout for them!  She brought it in, leaf and all, and put it in a jar with a cloth cover (air can get in, caterpillars can’t get out!).  Today we had an itty bitty caterpillar in there, so tiny you had to squint to see him!  Victoria went out to get him a fresh leaf and accidentally brought in another little egg.  Let the butterfly season begin.  🙂

(Looks like I need to dust!)  🙂

It is now 11:30 and every single one of my children is awake!  Ack!  Alex took a very late nap and woke up when he ought to be going to bed.  Anna is sick and unfathomably cranky.  Jack is just being trouble, trouble, trouble.  Victoria is halfway in my good graces (she’s helping keep a fussy Alex entertained) and half on my bad side (she keeps taunting her already cranky sister).  It is probably going to be a long night.

It’s all good though.  It may be bedlam, but I still love summer… and this loud, crazy bunch!

Pageant Pics!

At long last, here’s a billion or so pictures of the Wilder Pageant from last weekend.  I think the average attendance was around 1,100 people and I don’t think there were any nights with less than a thousand people in the audience!

All of us back stage before the show, with Daryl’s mom

Victoria with two friends from the cast before the show

A crowd starting to form!

Grandma and Grandpa with the boys (Jack made friends with the lady in the orange shirt and talked her ear off!)

Two fisted snacking!  This is Alex’s favorite part of the pageant — lots of cheap goodies from the concession stand!  The lollipop was his.  The push-up pop he stole from Grandma!

The opening scene, as “Old Laura” starts to tell us her tale, we meet the townspeople and the Ingalls Family arrives on the banks of Plum Creek

The Ingalls meet their neighbors (my “sweet” Anna Nelson is in the foreground to the right and has Laura’s beloved doll Charlotte)

Anna plays with Charlotte while the neighbors talk

When Laura takes Charlotte back, Anna wails loudly and Ma makes Laura give her beloved doll to her.  When the grownups aren’t looking, she gleefully jumps up and down on Charlotte!  That’s my girl!  😉

The Nelson kids at the Kennedy house (Anna is in the middle) as they prepare for Reverend Alden’s arrival

We meet the Reverend (Daryl) as he makes a joke and leads a prayer

In one of the more impressive scenes, the town builds a church!  It’s constructed as we watch, with some narration and music in the background during this very quick process.

More walls go up, as Mrs. Oleson strolls by

(gratuitous horse and wagon scene!)

Finally done, with the cross on top!

Later, the church is turned around and used as the schoolhouse

Reverend Alden drops by the school and Willie forgets his bible verses (Victoria is in the purple/burgandy in the front row.. I miss getting pictures of her big scenes while toddler wrangling)

The exciting fire scene (there is a gas pipe along the ground on the set and there is a line of real flames that Ma, the girls and Mr. Nelson beat at to save the house and land!)

The kids dancing at the social

Curtain call, where we find out what happened to the characters afterwards (including the accident that claimed Willie’s eyesight!)

The audience meets the cast and mulls around the set afterwards

Alex finds Daddy

Jack explores “Plum Creek” with some other small audience members (the real Plum Creek is much larger but nearby)

Grandma presenting flowers to Annalee

Grandpa presenting flowers to Victoria

Victoria signing an autograph

Annalee with one of her best pageant friends

Victoria with one of her best pageant friends (who played Laura)

Boys being boys  🙂

We’ve all survived another pageant year!

Celebrating at home, our tradition of running through the streets on the final night with the girls still in costume

Looking up at the sky at the end of the night, looking for more shooting stars (we spotted two!) with my own shining stars  🙂