A Little Women’s Studies Field Trip

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Victoria and Rhiannon each took a bit of a field trip yesterday.  They participated in the #WomensMarch in St. Paul (Minnesota), along with roughly 100,000 others (and several million around the world).  🙂

Victoria went with a charter bus from New Ulm, a city about an hour from us, and Rhiannon went with a friend and some of her friends and their children in a van that left from Mankato.  Poor Daryl had to leave at 5:30 a.m. with them to get them to their respective drop-off points so they could get up to the march in time.

They both had phenomenal times, to say the least.

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Rhia stayed up late the night before embroidering feminist statements on her jacket.  I’ll have to get a picture of some!

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(I gave Toria that hat for Christmas.  Wasn’t it perfect for the day?)

It was a profoundly empowering experience for both girls, and Toria called it one of the coolest experiences of her life.

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I’m very proud of my girls (and all who marched around the world!).

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.  😉

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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!

Happy Solstice!

Today was our family holiday for the winter season.  Every solstice, we open our presents to and from each other and have our own little celebration together, before Christmas Eve and Christmas and all of the mayhem of that season with extended family.

We had a sweet day.  There were hours of unwrapping, as a family of our size takes some time when we open presents one at a time.  Then there was general fun and mayhem as kids played with presents, read books and experimented with various gifts.

Now I’m heading down to finish supper and start our annual candle lighting tradition of welcoming back the light.  We’ll turn off every light and then talk about how today is the shortest day of the year but that after today, the sunlight will return.  Then the kids will run through the house turning on every light in the place, shouting out words of welcoming to the light for coming back.

Here in Minnesota where we have such long, cold, dark winters, this ritual always seemed especially fitting.  🙂

Happy solstice to you and your family.  Merry Christmas, happy Yule, happy holidays.  Here’s wishing the best of the season in whatever ways you celebrate.

The Dystopian Homeschool

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Well, that was quite a week.

I’m not going to go into any of my feelings about the election here.  I’m sure you can guess them, or you can take a look at my Facebook page to see them (along with a lot of articles I’ve been writing for my new gig at Inquistr).

I went to our little UU church yesterday hoping that the minister would somehow rally us up, give us inspiration and new energy and directives to go back out there and magically make things better.  I realized afterwards that I sort of expect her to be like the pit crew that services the race cars in the Indy 500.  I screech in when everything is blowing and failing, and she is supposed to fill my tank and fixes my shortages, then I go speeding back into the fray again.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, she offered a scrambled-up sermon reworked from one she had already planned on preaching yesterday.  It turns out she didn’t plan on these election results either, and had originally written an intellectual sermon on dystopian worlds.

(Yeah, UU churches are like that.  Don’t come expecting a lot of talk about sins or bible quotes.)  😉

But in her mixed-up, crazy dystopian sermon, she said something that took me by surprise.  She said that dystopian stories are always written about some terrible time to come, but at some point we needed to acknowledge the truth —

We’re already in the terrible time, and we were before Tuesday.

“an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

Not exactly a cheerful thought, huh?

But it’s true for much of the world.  Sure, some of us have been existing in a fantastic little bubble for a while.  Some of us are white, straight, upper class, two-parent families who have been awfully blessed.  But for the poor, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, people of color, people of other religions, LGBTQ families, refugees and others, things have already been unpleasant and bad.

Our environment is already degraded.  Climate change is a reality that’s affecting us more every year, from unpredictable winters to droughts to super-storms to rising sea levels.  Animals are going extinct at unprecedented rates.  Our air is poisoned.  Our water is contaminated.  The average child now has at least one chronic illness, not to mention the average adult.  We have finally reached the generation that is expected to live shorter lives than their parents. Scientists have been warning us for a while that it’s already too late to stop the catastrophic changes coming, and unless we radically change our ways of life very soon, we can’t even slow it down.

Well, huh.  Okay then!

While this is a pretty bleak conclusion to reach when one is already feeling pretty bleak, it also can be seen as liberating.  As Janis Joplin once sang, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

And how does that translate to homeschooling?  Or even parenting?  How do we protect our kids and give them hope, when things feel hopeless? 

Well, first we look to the people who already knew all this, who have had boots on the ground for a long time while.  DAPL protesters at Standing Rock.  Black Lives Matter organizers. Environmentalists. Even parents of vaccine injured children driving buses across the country to tell their stories.  People who act to be the change they want to see in the world.  They’re happy to train us, happy to have our help.  (Miley Cyrus has already set up a web site to match people to local organizations who could use help in whatever issues are close to your heart.)

And we teach our children.  We teach them how to make positive changes in the world and help others — and also how to take care of themselves when they’re feeling fragile and shocked by the dark in the world.  We need to model that, too, and take care of ourselves in the midst of all of this darkness.

We prepare them for all kinds of futures — not just a straight line into college and some utopian job waiting at the other side, but for learning trades and volunteering for the Peace Corps and taking gap years and starting businesses and doing freelance work and all of the many ways that we can live in the modern world.

We teach them how to live well on little money, how to meet their own needs, how to survive — not in some melodramatic sense like the zombie apocalypse, but in the sense of knowing how to do well in unpredictable times.  And how to share that knowledge to help our communities.

We fight the good fight, and raise aware kids who do the same.

And then we hug them and love them and read them stories and watch silly TV shows and play, because now, more than ever, they need boatloads of that, too.

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Back From Nebraska Again

We’re back from a short week at the fabulous home of Tiffany and company again.  Most of us went this time (me, Fiona, Alex, Toria and her boyfriend Gabe this time!), leaving Daryl home with Jack and Rhia.

We only went for 5 days and bunked in different spots around the house, but we had a fabulous time.

It is so fun to have kids so well matched.

When we visited for the very first time (10 years ago!), I was pregnant with Alex.  Tiffany had Jessie and Jack, and I had Victoria, Annalee (who now goes by Rhia) and Jack.  Her daughter was right smack in the middle of the ages of my daughters, and our Jacks were just about the same age (her Jack has Downs Syndrome and is a year older, but they were really wonderfully matched).

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Tiffany and Jack, 2009

Our kids were stair-steps in ages, but Tiffany lost baby Jacob the year before I had baby Alex, and that was such a terrible loss.  It left a gap in our families, in every way.

When I got pregnant with Fiona years later, she was very much an “oops!” baby, and then a year later, a wonderful “oops!” miracle happened for Tiffany too– Millie.  She was born a year after Fiona and we were back in stair-step.  🙂

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Jessica and Fiona, 2011

Millie, 2012

Millie, 2012

Now, after all of these years of friendship, our kids are still so well matched up:

Victoria (18)

Jessie (17)

Rhiannon (16)

Jack (theirs) (14)

Jack (ours) (13)

(Jacob would be 10)

Alex (9)

Fiona (5)

Millie (4)

Their Jack and our Alex are now good friends too, and happily play Minecraft and bounce on the trampoline and have all kinds of wonderful fun.

It is surreal and special to see these two new little girls of ours, starting their homeschool adventures in our bonded families.  They have really grown up with each other as family, which means so much to me.  My kids couldn’t ask for better homeschool cousins, so to speak.

It’s a pretty magical homeschool.

Now if we could just get back to more science lessons….

(Excuse the absence of any current photos!  My devices were all dead and I always happily abandon them all when I get there.  I planned on swiping photos from someone else’s Facebook or Instagram to blog, and there are none to swipe!)

 

 

Burned Out After Only 14 (or 41 Cumulative) Years of Homeschooling…

I’m really struggling as a homeschooling mom lately.  I’ve lost my motivation and I feel increasing pressure to get it back for the sake of the younger kids.

Toria has now officially finished homeschool.  She was educated at home from preschool through 12th grade, minus a few notable days in her junior year where she tried a public arts school three hours away (and promptly asked to leave it).

That’s 14 years done with child number one.  And there are 12 years done with child number two, 9 years with child number three, 5 years with child number four and now a year of preschool for child number 5.

If you could add them together cumulatively, you could say I’ve now homeschooled 41 years.  I know that’s not how it works, but it feels like it some days!  🙂

That’s a lot of educational games, historical adventures, science projects, read-alouds, lapbooks and lesson plans.

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And also a lot of math programs purchased that were never used, failed attempts to start curricula, projects never finished and abandoned lesson plans.

It’s September, and that used to mean a renewed excitement about a new school year.  I think the first 12 years or so, we always did something fun for the first day not back to school.  There were cakes and carnivals, not-back-to-school pajama parties and trips to the zoo.

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This year, I didn’t even remember that I was blowing that off for two weeks.

I’m struggling to fit a new writing job into the mix, along with more and more jobs around the house — preparing for house renovations, canning hundreds of pounds of pears and applesauce, keeping up with laundry and cooking and with what’s left of my garden after the slugs descended.

I also miss my old homeschool communities.

When I started homeschooling all those years ago, I started a yahoo group for homeschool moms and dads who practiced attachment parenting.  I found that I really needed a support system of other parents like myself, who weren’t homeschooling to avoid something negative in schools but just for the love of our kids and a desire to give them a happy educational life in addition to a happy childhood.  I found that I got along fine with parents of other faiths and other homeschool styles but I didn’t get along at all with the punitive homeschoolers who forced their kids to do hours of schoolwork and punished and controlled their kids.  That yahoo group became a large, vibrant group that really kept me company on this adventure over the years. It’s also how I met friends who became “real life” friends around the country, such as my friend Tiffany whom we visit so often.

Unfortunately, Facebook has sort of meant the end of email groups.  While the group still exists, we rarely chat.  And yes, there are many homeschooling groups on Facebook, but they feel like large crowds of arguing strangers more than an intimate group of friends to talk to about the day.

Blogs have changed, too.  Back then, we homeschool moms didn’t start blogging as in order to make money the way it seems most do these days.  We just wanted that connection and support (and to document it all for ourselves and loved ones), and there were so many moms who poured hours of work into creating free lesson plans for each other to use, making up educational games, scanning fun activities, sharing advice, you name it.

In the first years of this blog, it was hosted at Homeschool Journal and many of us would visit each other’s blogs on that site to check in on each other.  I’m still friends with some of those bloggers on Facebook now, but I don’t think most of them have blogged for years (or not about homeschooling any more).  Life gets busy and changes.  The new generation seems concerned about making things to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers or earning affiliate links or hits for google adsense.  People don’t talk about what their meal plans are for the week and the embarrassing thing their child said in the grocery store, it’s all professional and polished.

And many of my homeschooling friends are almost done with this homeschool business, or at least at a very different place than I am.  I went and kept having more children, so I have a child about to start kindergarten when most of my old homeschool friends are down to just high school kids.

I guess I feel a bit like the middle aged mom who gets unexpectedly pregnant and no longer fits in with friends about to enter their empty nest years but also doesn’t fit in with the young 20-somethings at the park.

I miss my tribe.  And I miss my passion for it all. 

My kids deserve that same enthusiasm that their older siblings got, though, so I’m determined to find it again — or fake it till I make it.

I’m not sure how I’ll do that, but I’ll keep you updated in case it helps someone else.  That’s what I originally created this space to be for, after all.  🙂

(Note:  I wrote this over a week ago and have been so busy with History Fest and other events that it’s been sitting on my dashboard all of this time!  I’m not sure what that says about this issue, but History Fest certainly does bring me back to my homeschooling passions and I can’t wait to share some of this year’s fun with you all!)