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.  😉

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(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!

Feeling the Bern

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We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

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Among the issues he discussed were:

  • Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
  • The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
  • Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
  • Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
  • Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
  • Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
  • Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
  • Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
  • Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
  • Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
  • Establishing a $15 minimum wage
  • Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
  • Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
  • Getting rid of Citizens United
  • Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
  • Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
  • Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
  • Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
  • The importance in taking part in democracy
  • Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a $15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

 

40,000 Years of London’s History—Made Entirely of Paper

Here’s a great short video to teach a lot of history in a short time.  National Geographic has produced this wonderful three minute video that covers some of the major events of British history.

National Geographic says:

Thousands of artifacts have been unearthed as a result of the construction of the new Crossrail transportation system in London. These paper animations will take you on a journey through the city’s history—from the Stone Age to the present day.

 

Pretty neat!

Snow Days

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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.

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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.

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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).

marshmallow

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!

Beanie Baby Biology Class

Beany Baby Science

Here’s a fun way to learn about animals in all kinds of ways.

We’ve started a collection of animal beanie babies for the younger kids and it’s turned into such a fun and educational collection.

We get them at thrift stores for about .50 each on average. They make just about every species you can think of.

We have a robin, moose, fox, beetle, rhino, loon, starfish, zebra, aardvark, dragonfly, squirrel, goldfish, seal, lobster, elephant, butterfly, gecko, snake, blue jay, flamingo, giraffe, poodle, ladybug, fox, wolf, black bear, raccoon, koala , octopus and lots more.

We keep them in a large basket in the living room and just about every day we find a new way to make an educational game out of them.

For instance, I’ve asked the little ones if they can sort by whether they live on land or water, the ones who lay eggs from the ones who give birth, by birds and bugs and mammals and so on.

Or sort by how many legs they have, whether they have scales or fur or feathers, whether they hibernate, whether they’re carnivores or omnivores or herbivores, or whether they can be found in our part of the world……

There are so many ways to use them.  I’m thinking we could even work language arts and such in (sort by syllables in their names or whether they start with vowels) and social studies (sort by continents).  You get the idea!

Fiona (four) loves to line them up and make up her own games with them too. And since they are pretty small, they don’t take up much room.

They also work for bean bag games and are fun to toss back into the basket to clean up.  🙂

All five of the kids now look at every thrift store we visit to see if there are any new ones to add to our collection.  Even I have fun looking for fun new species to add!

 

History Fest Recap

I’m finally suitably recovered from History Fest, which took place this year October 6-10.  It was even more fun and amazing than usual, and that’s saying a lot.

This was the 20th anniversary of History Fest, which is amazing in itself.

Keep in mind that this is an annual event that was created just because a wonderful local man (Jack McGowan) went to the Renaissance Festival and said that the Mankato area kids ought to have something like that to learn history in a fun way — and then made it happen (with the help of a whole lot of other people).

For twenty years now.  For no profit.

(Admission is only $5 to help cover the costs. Teachers, chaperones, children under 5 and volunteers get in free.)

And it also has become one of the most magical, educational, fantastic things I have ever experienced.

Jack McGowan didn’t just get some people together to reenact some historic events.  He used his own land and an adjacent sheep farm that was later donated to the cause, and built a historic playland.

There’s a saloon, a jail, a lodge, a troll tunnel that goes underground and comes up at a grate far away, a massive sandbox stocked with treasure to dig for, a house front rigged with a gas line to stay on fire with a fire hose attached to a working pump going into the river, stilts, carts, an enormous trebuchet that takes teams of kids to wind to launch pumpkins into the river….  And so much more.

All built by Jack and volunteers over the years for the love of the kids and “playfully preserving history.”

That’s Jack in one of the whimsical creations he’s constructed.  🙂

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

There are just no words for how incredible it is to take part in History Fest, and how proud I am of all of the people who come together to do this incredible thing.

This year, I took part as Lucrezia Borgia (Lucrecia for the Americans).  Our friend Dané , a local homeschool graduate whose mom helps run History Fest, made my gown — in under two weeks!

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Daryl even got me a compartment ring that we filled with pop rock candy (I mean poison!) so I could drop it into drinks to fizz mysteriously for the kids.  🙂

Of course I told them that I was an innocent and it was all nasty rumors.  The little girls especially were always on my side by the end of my story, with big eyes and outrage at all of the things my father the pope and my awful brother Cesare had done to me (and to my poor husband #2).  I told them that historians now say that Lucrezia was probably just a loyal victim of her family’s, and not involved at all in their corruption or killings.

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(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

I didn’t mention her fondness for extramarital affairs or the illegitimate child born while she was “resting” in a convent at seventeen (in between arranged marriages #1 and #2), though.  I did tell them that her third husband greatly mourned her when she died, and the people of her land did, too.  I told them that she was a patron of the arts and loved poetry, and had eight children, and died at age 39 after having her last (stillborn) child.

Perhaps sometime they’ll hear the name Lucrecia Borgia and offer up a bit of “inside information” from when they chatted with that infamous lady one October at McGowan’s farm.  🙂

As for the rest of the family…

Daryl once again played the gambler in the saloon.

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Jack manned the Huck Finn raft and taught old fashioned games like rolling hoops and playing graces.

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He also helped out in the saloon.  He runs a mean chuck-a-luck game.

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Victoria was Joan of Arc but mostly helped out behind the scenes feeding the hordes of volunteers and reenactors.

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On the last day, she donned a gown we picked up at a thrift store for $3.

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Alex allegedly helped out at the Huck Finn raft, but mostly he just ran wild and played.  It’s hard not to run wild and play at History Fest.

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Rhia played the part of a fairy, doling out dragon tears and treasures to children (and hung out with her boyfriend, who was helping to park cars in the mornings).

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

And Miss Fiona played one of my daughters, Leonora d’Este (who became a nun), and also turned four years old on the last day.  Four!

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It should be noted that Fiona is a History Fest baby.  Her birthday always takes place during or right around History Fest.  I actually scheduled her C-section for that date so our family (minus myself) could still volunteer at History Fest that year.  🙂

Here are a more pics of the magic.

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

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(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

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(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

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(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

Sorry to deluge you with photos, and this is still only a fraction of the things to see and do at History Fest!

Now this is how to learn history.  🙂 

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Jennifer McLaughlin Ware)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)

(photo by Mike Huerkamp)