New Book!

My Kindle book went live on Amazon this morning!

You can find it here: A Magical Homeschool: Nature Studies (52 Wonderful Ways to Use Nature Studies in Every Season to Teach Science, Math, Art and More) (affiliate link).

This is utterly terrifying new territory, but very exciting nonetheless.  🙂

It’s broken down into four seasons, with 13 activities for each season (enough for one every week of the year).  They are designed to work with multiple ages, so families can do the activities together.

Examples of the activities include:

Spring:

  • Test your garden soil pH with vinegar.
  • Make homemade playdough and dye it with a variety of natural materials to make all different colors.
  • Use an empty Valentines Day chocolate box to start a rock collection.

Summer:

  • Count cricket chirps to tell the temperature (with information about how crickets make the chirps and why they speed up when it’s warm).
  • Use a magnet to find micrometeorites at the beach.
  • Use ants for nature studies (draw a chalk maze to see if they’ll run it to avoid the chalk lines, watch how they’ll follow an invisible path on a piece of paper if you turn it after they start walking a line on it, test out various natural repellents, etc.).

Autumn:

  • Use glycerine to preserve a branch of colorful fall leaves.
  • Use apples for a variety of science and nature (and homemaking) projects.
  • Do an amped up scavenger hunt with all the kids (past the usual find something blue kind of stuff, find something Native Americans used for food or medicine, find an insect that’s an omnivore and one that’s an herbivore, etc.)

Winter:

  • Carve avocado pit pendants.
  • Measure the volume of snow when it’s frozen versus melted (and extensions from there).
  • Make a tabletop observation garden from root vegetables.

It’s $2.99 in the Kindle store, or free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.  It should be free sometime soon and I’ll post and let you know when that happens.

 

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!

Pre-reading Fun

Fiona has asked me to help her learn to read and since she’ll be turning 5 in the fall, I know that it will all start clicking for her in the next year or so.  We don’t use a formal reading curriculum to teach the kids to read.  With all of the older four, we just did lots of reading readiness in the form of reading together, playing letter games, having fun with phonics, doing early writing, and so on.

I found a fish puppet in the broom closet the other day as I was trying to reorganize.  Of course, there was a fish puppet in our broom closet!  🙂  I had also picked up a bag of assorted decks of kids’ games at a thrift store that week, and there happened to be a deck of letter cards in there.  Voila!  A pre-reading game came together!

I posted a pic online and on the Magical Homeschool page, if you want to peek.

Today's reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

Today’s reading practice. Fiona has asked me to do more all day. I just made a game of feeding letter cards to a fish puppet I found to help him spell words. We also are spelling words with the cards and she wanted to write the words.

I explained:

Here’s how we play games to help learn reading. This particular one involved a puppet I happened to find in a closet as I was cleaning. I had some letter flash cards so I made a game with Fiona where the fish puppet would ask in a silly voice for her to feed him things that started with each letter. She’d have to find the letter and then he’d gobble it. Then we moved on to spelling words for him, such as HI. She ran and got her colored pencils and paper and wanted to copy the words, so she wrote simple words such as HI, MOON and CAT that we “fed” to the fish. We also used the cards to change words, such as changing MOON to SOON by moving one letter.

I was going to post more, but my noisy crowd (well, those who aren’t off at the ocean) just got back from pageant rehearsal and mayhem has once again ensued.

I have promised Fiona that we will continue to do some sort of reading fun together just about every day.  I’ll keep updating here with a peek at what we do.

 

 

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.

fifihat

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.  🙂

fividrawing

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.

calligraphy

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.

bb2

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!

 

At This Moment…

I thought it was about time for a check-in!

It’s a dreary Wednesday here, the third rainy day we’ve had in a row.  The cold and wet has actually been rather nice, since it was so hot and dry for so long.

I haven’t had to water the garden.

There’s no need for air conditioning.

I can cook without making the kitchen unbearably hot.

We can cozy up inside.

It’s kind of nice, as long as it eventually gets back to a bit of summer before fall hits!

Daryl and Victoria are out gathering elderberries during the break from the rain.

IMG_1560

I’ve spent the last 3 days drying three trays-full that Rhia (our Rhiannon Lee no longer goes by Anna or Annalee, but Rhia these days) gathered for us Sunday.  She climbed down into a very deep ditch near our rural UU church to gather them, and a hummingbird mistook her bright pink hair for a flower and kept whirring alongside her!  🙂

IMG_1443

I have one quart jar and one pint all safely filled with dried elderberries that we’ll use for the best anti-flu remedy in the world, elderberry syrup. (Daryl has info on how to find elderberries and harvest them in his foraging column, if you want to get some in your neck of the woods, but honestly the easiest time to find them is when they’re in flower and you see them all over — this is what that stand looked like six weeks ago and how we knew to send Rhia down there this week!.)

Jack is taking a break from the story-writing that has consumed his past week in order to watch Fiona for a few minutes.  I love how he’s thrown himself into this book, and how he comes to Daryl for help in correcting the capitalization and punctuation to make it perfect.

This is his second draft of this book, since he worked on it for three days straight and then accidentally deleted the entire first draft and replaced it with the word “barbarian.”  He was trying to look up the spelling and somehow not only copied over his whole manuscript but closed the program in panic, leaving us unable to save him by undoing it.

It’s going to be a very long time before he sees the humor in that!  Poor kid.  🙂

On the bright side, he now does admit that I was right when I told him the second draft would be even better.  Even though it’s so much frustrating extra work, I promised him that second drafts are almost always better.  Luckily, he concurs and he’s once again happy with his book.

Alex is copying a page of sight words I wrote out for him in his homeschool journal.  I’m rewarding him with two chocolate caramel cups.  I’m okay with that.  🙂  Writing doesn’t come easily for him so I’m going to stock up on some fun ways to help make it easier, as I’m sure he doesn’t want to do copywork every day for the next months even for chocolate.

Here are some of my favorite ways to make writing come easier:

Victoria and Daryl took part in an acting workshop last night.  They went to Mankato and she spent some time with a friend of hers first.  They learned how to do convincing slaps, punches and foot stomps, for one thing, and they’ve had fun teaching Fiona and Alex how to do the same.  Fiona doesn’t quite get it, and keeps actually punching people in the stomach.  😉

Victoria also has a new job that she’ll start soon.  I can’t say too much about it, but it’s a government job and she’ll be picked up in one of those shiny black government SUVs every day that she works (which will be for about a week each month, during the day). She’s very excited and will start training soon.

We have our first monarch chrysalis in a habitat on the piano, with two more caterpillars happily munching on milkweed leaves to “J” soon.  It’s exciting to raise butterflies again after a couple of summers off.  (Here are some pictures of the process from one of our earlier years.)

Otherwise, things are going well. Alex has a new best friend who lives a block over that he spends most hours of sunlight playing with. They are pretty much always at each other’s houses — either she’s playing with our kids in our yard, or he’s over at her house.

cassandraHe also has a best friend at church who he is happy to get to see again (our church doesn’t have service in the summertime, which I guess is an old UU tradition).

jocelynHe’s been doing a lot of reading and bike riding, too, along with lots of the usual building and playing and watching science documentaries.  Toria and Rhia have both been spending lots of time with friends who live in nearby towns, and lots of time reading and studying.  All three “big” kids are doing math online through sites like Khan Academy, and Toria is also still learning German on Duolingo.  Rhia has been reading poems to Fiona (particularly Edgar Allen Poe).  Everybody reads to Fiona and takes turns watching her, playing with her, drawing with her and keeping her happy.  I love how the older kids dote on her, and how she is such a reflection of every one of them!

We’ll officially start homeschooling next week.  You know we are never “school at home” types, but we’ll start doing more projects and unit studies.  I’m once again committing to doing country studies every week.  I know I won’t get to anywhere near all the countries I want to, but it’s fun to plan.  😉  I’ve also made a list of 60+ different topics I’d like to cover with the kids this year, and that’s before asking them to add theirs!

And while typing this, Daryl and Toria came home with a bucket full of elderberries to process, Alex finished his copywork and wants me to check it, and the sun came out.  I went outside and it felt absolutely marvelous on my skin.  I guess I can deal without rain for a while after all!

I’m going to grab a towel to put down on a lawn chair, dole out some chocolate cups, and invite my kiddos to play outside with me.

What’s new in your homeschool?

25 Poetry Prompts

Got a kid who loves to write poetry?  Got one who wants to but can’t think of what to write?  Want to get past some writer’s block yourself?  Here’s a few random prompts to play along with, off the top of my head because I’m in a poetry mood again lately.  🙂

  1. Write a sentence about how you feel right now, with each word starting one line.  Fill in the lines with a poem about anything.
  2. Write a poem that starts with the words “I never thought…”.
  3. Repetition can be a powerful tool.  Write a poem that uses any of these words at least 10 times:  rub, blind, so, pulse, knock.
  4. Write a poem through your mother’s eyes.
  5. Write a poem through your pet’s eyes.
  6. Write a poem to yourself as a child (or younger child).
  7. Write a poem that uses these words anywhere in it (all of them):  my, high, shy, white, flight, right.
  8. Write a poem that is exactly 25 words long.
  9. Write a poem that starts every line with “and then.”  Don’t capitalize anything in it.  Punctuation is optional.
  10. Write a poem using 5 random lines you pick from the newspaper.
  11. Write a poem in which every line is exactly 5 words long.
  12. Write a poem about something that scares you.
  13. Write a poem about a color.
  14. Write a poem about something you dreamed, as if it were real.
  15. Write each letter of your name (first or full) down a sheet of paper and then write a poem about yourself starting each line with that letter.
  16. Rewrite a nursery rhyme into a new poem.
  17. Write a poem about a part of your body and what it represents.
  18. Write a poem inspired by a song.
  19. Write a short poem that would be good for a gravestone.
  20. Write a poem with your non-dominant hand.
  21. Write a poem that involves science or math (even in vague ways).
  22. Write a haiku (5-7-5 syllables) about a memory.
  23. Search random key words on Morguefile and then write a poem about one of the pictures you find that inspires you.
  24. Write a poem about a character from a book.
  25. Write a poem that starts with a number.

Feel free to come back and post poems here in the comments or post links to where you post them!  I’ll do the same if any of my kiddos or I tackle some.  🙂

 

 

30 Days of Poetry Assignments to Get Creative Juices Flowing

Anna is really into poetry lately and Toria has been having fun writing some poetry too.

I used to be quite a prolific poet, with over a hundred poems published in my angsty younger days (mostly in small journals).  I minored in creative writing in college and did poetry readings in coffee houses in slightly scandalous clothes.

I also used to have fun doing poetry assignments with friends, challenging each other to write in different voices or with strange requirements.

I thought it would be fun to make up a list of a month’s worth of poetry assignments for my kids, and post it here in case anybody else wants to play along — parents too!

If you or your kids do take part and you want to share any of the resulting poems, please do!

Remind the kids that the only rule of poetry is that there are no rules. Poems don’t have to rhyme.  You don’t have to use proper capitalization or punctuation.  You can break sentences in the middle of the line (and it’s often a good thing!).

In the spirit of no rules, let the kids know that they’re free to substitute their own assignments or change them up on any day, too!

30 Days of Poetry Assignments

  1. Write a poem where every line starts with the same letter.
  2. Write a poem from the point of view of a plant.
  3. Write a poem that uses a great deal of alliteration (here’s a refresher what alliteration means).
  4. Write a poem to yourself.
  5. Write a poem that starts with the first three words of a song lyric that you like.  End it with three more words from the lyrics.
  6. Create a found poem.  Here’s a refresher of what found poetry is.  Experiment a lot with where you break the lines and end the poem in order to make the biggest impact.
  7. Write a poem with lines that all have odd numbers of words, and no repeat of numbers (for instance, lines could be 7, 5, 9, 13 and 1 word long).
  8. Write a poem about a historic figure.
  9. Write a poem that retells a fairy tale theme in a new way (for instance, from the perspective of the wicked witch, or with Snow White choosing a different ending).
  10. Write a twitter poem — it must be 140 characters or less.
  11. Take an old poem of your own and replace at least 50% of the words with new words (they can be synonyms, antonyms or any words at all).  See which version you prefer.  Then write the poem again with whichever words you prefer.
  12. Do the same exercise with a classic nursery rhyme.
  13. Write a poem that is exactly 16 lines long and starts with the word sometimes.
  14. Write a haiku about winter.  (Remember, a haiku is generally 5-7-5 syllables long.)
  15. Open up a book and put your finger on a random word.  Do it 9 more times.  Write down those 10 words and use them in a poem.
  16. Write a poem that includes the words other, mother, smother and/or cover at least 10 times (any of the words or all).  Feel free to add other words and phrases that sound similar (such as brother and of her).
  17. Write a poem as an elderly version of yourself looking back on these years.
  18. Write a poem that starts with the word and.
  19. Find a photograph that you like (that you took or found) and write a poem to accompany it.
  20. Write FOREVER down a sheet of paper.  Write a poem with each line starting with the corresponding letter.
  21. Pick one of the 24 poets every child should know and read at least 5 poems by her/him, then write a poem about a subject in one of the poems while the poet’s voice is still fresh in your mind.
  22. Write a gravestone poem — a poem about someone who has died (made up, real, historical, anyone) that would fit on a gravestone and sum up that person in just a few short lines.
  23. Write a poem about an aspect of yourself that is made up for the poem (for instance, what it’s like to be an immigrant or the time you saved the world).
  24. Write a dice poem.  Get out one or two dice and roll to see how many words each line should be.  If you like, roll to find out how many lines long it should be, too.
  25. Think of a popular ad slogan and work that into a poem.  Try to use the phrase in a totally different way (for instance, making “good to the last drop” be about tears).
  26. Write a poem about a childhood memory.
  27. Set a timer for 3 minutes and write a random poem about anything that comes to mind nonstop with your non-dominant hand (for instance, your left hand if you are right handed).  When the timer goes off, recopy it with your dominant hand and add three lines anywhere in the poem.
  28. Write a poem about a dream you’ve had.
  29. Write a poem that incorporates at least three senses (for instance, what you can hear, see or taste).
  30. Write a poem about yourself in the third person (as if you were writing about someone else).

If you want to do more with poetry, I have my 10 week poetry for kids course (free) online here.

I’ll share some of the poems we come up with here.  🙂