Ten Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these lists so I thought I’d post quickly before catching up on my mile-long to-do list.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

1.  We got a ton of snow last week and the kids had a blast building snow forts, making snow ramps for sleds and playing in it.

2.  Victoria has taken up knitting again, and she’s so good (and fast!).  She made a lovely multi-colored scarf for a lady at church, and this hat for Fiona.


3.  Our couch was sagging and shot, so this morning Daryl and Jack took it apart.  They repaired and reinforced the insides so it’s as good as new.  It’s always been important to us that the kids get an education not just in academics but in life skills — knowing how to cook from scratch, repair household items, sew and mend clothes, preserve foods, find bargains, treat minor illnesses and so on.  I love that they’re growing up learning these skills that we had to teach ourselves much later in life, and that they have the knowledge to live well on very little since they won’t have to pay others to do jobs for them or just toss things out and buy new.  (See 10 Homesteading skills every child should learn for more on that).

4.  Victoria and Fiona keep drawing together.  I love that Victoria has passed on her love of drawing to Fiona and I love seeing their little joint drawings.  🙂


5.  We’re reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as a read-aloud, which has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember.  The kids never get tired of hearing that book.  🙂

6.  Rhia has kept busy with her photography, art, politics and her boyfriend, among other things.  She and Tyler are still going strong.  He continues to teach her things like car repair.  He fixed an old rusted manual typewriter for her that they found, and got it working as good as new.  He also fixed an old light that they found, wiring it and everything.  His mechanical skills are impressive and I love that she’s learning that from him.  She teaches him things too, and it’s nice to see how well they complement each other.

7.  I got a 75 cent calligraphy kit from a thrift store and got it out for the boys to use for handwriting practice.  They both need work on their handwriting but they say they hate to write.  With the pen out, they couldn’t wait to write.  Jack spent quite a long time writing out words and phrases, and Alex took a turn, too.  Later on, Victoria even asked if she could use it.


8.  We’ve been watching Drunk History with the kids.  The older kids and I get a lot out of it, and there have been so many times that I turned to Victoria and asked, “Did that really happen?” and she did a quick google and declared that yes, amazingly, that did.  It’s been a fun way of learning less-known history.  🙂  The younger kids have been watching more respectable Netflix shows like MythBusters, Odd Squad and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

9.  We’ve been participating in Bountiful Baskets, a non-profit produce coop that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to cities around the country every weekend.  They also have different add-ons every week, such as organic bread, granola, fruit by the case and themed boxes (such as all different kinds of citrus  or masa mix with corn husks and Mexican produce to make tamales).  Last week we got a 40 pound box of organic Fiji apples for $32.  It’s entirely volunteer-run (even the women who run it at the national level) and our family volunteers every Saturday to help out.  The little kids help clean laundry baskets (they use designated laundry baskets to portion all the food out for people to pick up and put in their own containers), smash boxes and carry things.  The older kids help people carry their boxes and baskets to their cars, and Daryl and I help check people in, load the baskets and so on.  It’s been a fun way to volunteer as a family, a great way to extend our grocery dollars (a basket full of fruits and veggies is only $15 and an organic box is only $25) and a neat way to discover some new fruits and vegetables.  Some of the produce we get in the boxes isn’t even available in our grocery stores.


10. We learned all about wassailing and it’s very pagan roots.  Daryl and Victoria tend to go down educational rabbit holes on our long car drives, and Victoria googles the topics and then reads everything she finds out to us.  Last week, that led to our learning more than we ever thought we could know about radon (which states have the worst problem, how radon led to lung disease in coal miners, which homes are at risk, what it does…).  This week, it was wassailing.  Now THAT was a wild tradition once upon a time.

There’s been all of the usual stuff, too, of course — Khan Academy, reading, worksheets, playing with friends, doing art, nature studies, games, cooking, talking, blogging, educational apps, playing Minecraft, playing with pets, fighting illnesses and so on.

And with that, I’m off to go read another chapter about those awful Herdman kids and try to get my downstairs remotely tidy looking.  Happy Wednesday!


Obama to appear on Myth Busters

And no, not about his birth certificate.  😉

Rueters says:

Obama’s appearance on the popular Discovery Channel show is part of a White House effort to highlight the importance of science, math and engineering as experts warn that low interest in these subjects among U.S. students could hurt the economy…

I especially liked this part:

“I can announce today that I taped a special guest appearance for their show, although I didn’t get to blow anything up,” Obama said at a White House science fair event. “I was a little frustrated with that.”

and this:

“We welcome championship sports teams to the White House to celebrate their victories … I thought we ought to do the same thing for the winners of science fairs and robotic contests and math competitions,” Obama said.

Read the full story here.

Random Thoughts

8 Random musings now that I’m back on my feet…..

  1. We have new neighbors and they have a 14 month-old daughter.  I cannot tell you how stoked I am to have nice people there (it was a truly horrible man for years) AND a little one to boot.
  2. Jack has suddenly become an excellent reader this month.  I love the magic of how my children learn to read.  He read a Level 2 reader about Balto the sled dog yesterday as if he had it memorized.
  3. My house looks like it was tossed by evil baddies and then raided by the feds.  And then hit with several natural disasters.  All that’s missing is the slash marks in the sofa cushions from where they searched for the stolen diamonds and the stray tree branch.
  4. For my first day back among the living I led the kids on a massive clean-up of the living room, started on the 85-load laundry backlog and then for some inexplicable reason completely reorganized the craft cabinets.
  5. We’re in the middle of a winter storm.  The world is white and windy again.  I don’t care.  I’m going to fill spray bottles with green food coloring and go spray my lawn tomorrow if it doesn’t melt.
  6. My crazy aunt sent me a mechanical hamster that dances and sings “It’s Raining Men.”  Alex loves it.
  7. My kids watched a half dozen episodes of “Liberty’s Kids” on DVD while I was sick.  They got in American history homeschool and I got delirious dreams about Arnold Schwartzenegger rallying the troops for Washington (yeah, he really was one of the voices).
  8. This was going to be 13 random musings but I’m completely out at 8.

Tomorrow, real homeschooly stuff.  Probably.  Almost certainly.   😉

Great Little ASL Site

The kids have been learning American Sign Language, using a combination of books and videos.  They watched Talking Hands the other day and it was nice and slow paced for the little ones and repetitive enough that even I know their signs after one viewing.  We got it through Netflix, a favorite HS resource for us.

Today I found this comprehensive ASL site where you can look up words and see them signed with a little written description of what the sign looks like too.  I was looking for “more,” since that’s something Alex asks for a lot and I wanted to show him the sign.  I found that, along with everything from Mormon to moron as well.  🙂

I’m ordering some more sophisticated DVDs from Netflix next time.  At some point I’d like to find a real person to do some tutoring with the kids and maybe a class.  Anybody have any recommendations for other good ASL resources?

Autism: The Musical

 [kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/U35Uc8eg7fo” width=”425″ height=”350″/]

“I said: ‘Honestly, people would rather show up for a root canal appointment than sit through an hour-and-a-half movie about autism. It’s painful, difficult and frightening. Why don’t you turn that on its head by making a movie about kids who are struggling to achieve something, and autism is the obstacle that gets in the way of their success? Find a group of kids with autism who are trying to put on a play.’ And it just so happened they knew Elaine.”

This sounds like a really interesting, moving show that adults and kids alike would enjoy.

Autism: The Musical

Following five Los Angeles children over the course of six months, director Tricia Regan captures the struggles and triumphs of their family lives and observes how this musical production gives these performers a comfort zone in which they can explore their creative sides.

One of our closest family friends is on the Autism spectrum.  My kids have known him all of their lives, since he and Victoria were 2 years old.  I’ve found that it’s more frequently adults who need education and empathy with our friend than children (though he’s homeschooled and I know this could be quite different in a school setting), but this film looks like it can deliver those to all ages.

It’s nice to see a project that focuses on the children themselves and some of their gifts.  My kids love singing and acting so much that I’m sure they’d be interested in this documentary just for that, but another window into the lives of families with the challenge of autism makes it all the better.  We don’t get HBO but I’ve ordered it through Netflix.

If you’ve seen it, please comment and post your review!