Snow Days


We’ve been snowed in for two days with a winter blizzard that’s led to closed highways and canceled plans.  While I’ll be awfully tired of this business in a month or two, I kind of like this part of Minnesota winters for now.

We’re forced to slow down, stay home and do cozy things like read, play games and bake.  I take long baths and browse seed catalogs to plan my spring and summer gardens.  I use up apples, pears, berries and pumpkin puree that we put up last summer and fall in homemade muffins and gluten free mix and match snack cakes.  We watch silly British math shows.  The kids have tickle fights and show each other funny videos.

We picked up this geography game for 99 cents at a thrift store and finally got around to playing it yesterday. It was quite old and exceptionally well made, and luckily every piece was still there. It led to quite a lot of great learning about geography and history for Jack,  Victoria and even me.


This morning, I set the little ones up with a giant bin of snow and ice cube trays of colored water.  They had so much fun mixing colors and experimenting with making tunnels with water.


Later, Victoria did marshmallow homeschool with Jack, Fiona and Alex while they warmed up with hot cocoa after shoveling the driveway.  She asked them questions related to math, social studies and spelling for them to earn marshmallows (examples for Jack: What’s the difference between a slave and an indentured servant?  If 4x + 4 = 20, what is x?).  She googled questions for various grades in order to come up with good questions.  My kids always love doing marshmallow or chocolate chip homeschool.  Afterwards, Jack asked me to do more algebra with him (no treats involved).


Hopefully, we’ll be able to dig our way out in the next day or so.  If not, I can live with a longer break from the outside world.  We have plenty of groceries, a warm house and a nearly endless supply of games, books, shows, Pinterest crafts and other goodies that I’ve been meaning to get to for far too long now (which led to last February’s Use it Up challenge).  🙂

Stay warm!

Rhubarb Lemon Juice!

Just for Liese, who’s waited so patiently, I finally posted the rhubarb lemon juice recipe!  Sorry it took so long.  The original recipe was really sweet (even the kids couldn’t drink it without diluting it with kefir lemonade!) so I had to rework it.

Here’s the recipe.

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!


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 (affiliate link) 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 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 Good Things

I’m so behind in housework and homeschooling and laundry and writing (and getting out of pajamas, if we’re going to be perfectly honest!) but had to share a few good things with y’all…

1.  Thirteen “extinct” animal species that were found alive (in pictures).  Check out the little marsupial who was thought to be extinct for 11 million years and the giant lizard thought extinct for 500 million years!

2.  These pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are to die for.  (Recipe note: I just used 2 cups of pumpkin puree because I freeze it in one cup portions and I use half a brick of cream cheese, which may be 4 oz. instead of 3.)

Also to die for, getting to have one with a birthday candle you can blow out again and again.  Talk about an easy way to make a kid’s day.  🙂

(Note:  This is a crafting shirt.  The kid does have better clothes!)

3.  Here’s a great list of all different ways to search for books on various subjects.  What a great resource if you’re looking for children’s books on obscure themes or have kids who are very interested in certain themes.

4.  I’m going to blog a full post about how to do the cabbage juice pH experiments but in the meantime here’s a super easy and fun way to occupy kids from toddlers on up.  Cover some chopped purple cabbage in boiling water, put a lid on it and steep it for 10 minutes.  Strain the cabbage and use the juice to fill compartments in a light colored ice cube tray or other dish.  Put out a small dish of baking powder or baking soda, and another small dish of an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.  Put an eye dropper in the acid and a baby spoon in the base and give the child another little spoon to stir with.  Show him how to put a scoop or squirt in a compartment and watch the color magically change.  Put the opposite in and it changes back!  Plus you often get fizzes too, depending on what base you use and how much acid.  Make sure your tot doesn’t drink it (though these are non-toxic).  Total fun!  I told the kids Cinderella must have had a pH testing dress the way it changed from pink to blue.  🙂

5.  History for Kids seems to be a very helpful site.  We’re studying explorers right now so I’ve been looking through that section.  The information is short but helpful, though I’m not a fan of reading off the computer so I’m still figuring out how to use it best.  There are apparently games and such too.  I’ve just started to scratch the surface of it but it looks promising.

6.  Chore sticks are working so well for us right now!  Yesterday, Annalee did 16 chores — 13 more than she had to!  Granted, some of the “chores” she pulled were treats like “get a quarter” and “take a walk with Mom” and “get a candy.”  But she also read an educational book for 20 minutes, cleaned the microwave, vacuumed the living room and lots more.  As soon as she woke up, she asked if she could pull 3 chore sticks.  She got dustbust the stairs, color with Mom and tidy the yard, and announced “I love chore sticks!”.  Victoria and Jack have been happily doing them too.

7.  Here’s quick and easy links and lesson plans for Veterans Day.

8.  Chem4Kids looks like another fabulous site we’ll have to explore.  They have sister sites on geography, math and more, too.

9. The Washington Post has a good article about the history of H1N1 and how viruses spread and mutate, what those letters mean, and more.  This is a very interesting article and it’s explained simply.  It’s a science lesson and a history lesson in one.

10. That duck in the zoo picture was a goose, I’ve been told.  I’ve been told the exact type of goose, but I’ve already forgotten.  See why Daddy’s in charge of bird ID?  Speaking of which, while we were at the zoo Victoria pointed out a rare something or other bird, which I had never heard of.  I love when my kids teach me things, and I love how often it happens!  🙂

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

We’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to post half the fun stuff we’ve done.  Here’s a bit of it though…

1.  We hand fed some kittens at Nancy’s.  Their mother had abandoned them and Nancy has been taking care of them.  She taught us her recipe (evaporated milk, corn syrup and an egg yolk I believe) and showed us how to dribble the formula into their mouths.

2.  We tried to break an egg with our bare hands, since I challenged others to try it on the Magical Childhood blog.

Unfortunately, Anna found a way to easily do it!  She missed the part about squeezing it and rapped it with her knuckles.  She was so surprised!  Poor thing!

3.  We went to the 2nd annual Not Back to School breakfast picnic in Mankato.  We got there very late (it’s an hour and a half drive and it started at the unholy hour of 8 a.m.) but there were still plenty of fun moms and kids and even some tasty treats to gobble.  We had a blast!  I forgot my camera so you’ll have to just imagine it.  😉

4.  Anna has been writing a screenplay for her and her friend Logan to produce and star in.  It’s very elaborate.  It has to do with a movie star and her castmate who are filming a movie and then suddenly are attacked by real ninjas.  She updates Logan with rewrites and emails him her latest drafts.  She’s really into it!

5.  Victoria caught this fabulous toad…

…who then proceeded to try to catch her!

She was so surprised!  Then it got tangled in a strand of her hair and she and Nancy had to work for several minutes to free its back leg.  It was a delicate operation.  They finally got him taken care of and they helped him find a nice safe place to rest up afterwards.

6.  We found these beautiful doves under our lilac bushes when we came home from a walk.  They let us come to within a foot of them!  They finally flew up into a tree in the back yard, but they still stayed close.  It was pretty neat!

7.  Jack has been drawing the most marvelous little creatures. He’s also been cutting snowflakes, designing clothes (can you tell Project Runway is back and we watch it?), coloring, making cartoon monsters and drawing lots of other nifty stuff.

8.  Anna had an appointment with an optometrist to check her eyes since she’s been having headaches.  He said she had perfect vision and he gave her a great lesson about eyes, complete with photos of her retinas!  How cool is that?

9.  We’ve been doing more apple picking and apple prepping. We’ll have apple goodies well into winter!

(I love how Logan is holding Anna’s pink backpack for her!)

10.  We’ve been making crab apple goodies. We harvested some bags of crab apples at Nancy’s and then tried making crab apple bread.

It was just all right.  I suspected I wouldn’t like it since it was made with shortening and not much sugar, plus an awful lot of baking powder.  Then I read up a bunch of recipes that all sounded very difficult and finally decided to just make one up myself.  I made crab apple cider and we’re all in love with the stuff.  It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s beautiful colored and I’m sure it’s loaded with vitamins and phytonutrients with all that color.  And it’s virtually free!  I have a feeling this will be an annual tradition.  🙂


So much of our learning and playing is nature based right now, and I think that’s perfect.  The kids are learning so many life skills — how to harvest, how to put away food for winter, how to cook various recipes, how to care for animals and so on.  These are all important life skills that will help them live healthy, frugal, happy lives.

Plus, the weather is so divine I can’t imagine cooping ourselves inside to do math pages or write reports.  This is a good time to keep our bodies healthy with fresh air and play.

Soon enough it’ll be cold and white here in Minnesota and we’ll move on to history read-alouds, factor trees and workbook pages.  Right now I’m so happy that our school consists of things like kittens and cider!  🙂