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July is flying past!  We’re so busy, as usual.  Here’s a bit of what homeschool looks like around here lately….

  1. Daryl and the boys just finished the second weekend of the Wilder Pageant. Attendance is averaging between 800 and 1,000 audience members a night.  The performances have been really good and the weather has held out.  Next week is a huge production with many of the cast members from the TV show attending.  Ticket prices are higher, reserved seating has been sold out for months, and we’re anticipating crazy crowds.  It should be fun!
  2. Jack took part in a 6-week day camp at a horse stable with other boys his age. They focused on crafts, woodworking, care of the horses and developing self confidence.  Daryl paid off part of the tuition with volunteer hours, including teaching the boys how to play the spoons and teaching a group of 150 senior citizens about old time musical instruments.
  3. The kids have learned all about the brain from my many medical procedures. Last week I had another EEG, this time after sleep deprivation.  The good news is that my MRI showed no sign of a tumor or stroke.  My neurologist is continuing to look into the cause of  the “sharp waves” and “lightning strikes” that showed up on my EEG and the source of my neurological issues.  Bonus:  I asked for a copy of the MRI on CD so the kids can see pictures of Mama’s brain.  ;)
  4. I printed out these Minecraft math worksheets for the boys. I thought they’d love them since they were Minecraft themed, but after an initial cheer, Jack got a closer look and asked what was Minecraft about them.  I had to admit it was just a graphic on the bottom of each page and neither boy was very impressed.  They did them anyway, but they weren’t pleased!  I have to see if I can figure out how to really make Minecraft math worksheets.  Maybe word problems?
  5. We’ve gone to the family festival in the park at Walnut Grove each Saturday. I love the family festival!  It’s free and full of fun crafts the kids can do, plus lots of demonstrations of old fashioned fun.  There is also lots of great food to buy (go to the Hmong stand! the egg rolls and sesame balls are awesome!), plus there are vendors who sell everything from handmade jewelry to old time bonnets to pottery. 
  6. The three big kids continue to do Khan Academy for math. It’s just an ongoing assignment around here — “Do some math.”  They do the subjects and amount of time they want and I get a report once a week telling me how much they’ve each done and what they’ve learned.  I congratulate whichever kid did the most minutes for the week (it’s almost always Jack).
  7. Anna is writing a book. She’s been writing for a couple of months now and is quite serious about it.  She’s on page 80-something and plans to self-publish it on Kindle.  She has been a writer all of her life but I have never seen her stick to a project for this long.  I’m looking forward to reading the finished book!
  8. The kids have been doing a lot of swimming at the city pool. We got a summer pass and Daryl has taken Victoria, Jack, Alex and Fiona just about every day for an hour or two.  Anna prefers lakes.
  9. I’ve had lots of long conversations with Victoria and Anna. Recent talks with Anna have included the topics of the Gulf War, transgender issues, Iraq, Afghanistan, women’s rights before and after the Taliban, abortion, contraception, medical marijuana, photography, endangered animals, killdeers, toads, college, careers, Facebook, personality types, Edgar Allen Poe and lots more.  Recent conversations with Victoria have included the topics of finances, relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, #IamJada, naturally healing sinus infections and UTIs,  single-celled organisms, LGBTQA issues and oodles more.
  10. We’ve been raising a baby praying mantis from birth! He/she is currently about 3 weeks old and about 3/4 of an inch long.  Praying Mantis (PM) lives in an antique mason jar with a paper towel and rubber band lid, with an assortment of fruit on the bottom of the habitat.  Every day or so, I tap the top enough to get PM to scoot off the top and then I remove the paper towel for a few minutes while we all watch carefully (we do not want a wild praying mantis living in our kitchen) and lure in some innocent fruit flies that are menacing my counter.  PM is speedy fast at catching them!  We’ll release our pet at some point into the garden, but it’s been a lot of fun to watch him/her grow.

Life is also full of gardening, sleepovers, park days, sprinklers, sandboxes, picture books, chapter books, photography, poetry, video chats, art, play dough, hair experiments (Toria is currently bleach blonde and awaiting a new crazy color and Anna asked me to chop most of her hair off into a bob that looks adorable on her), bike rides, homemade contraptions, berry picking, LEGOs, Minecraft, beading, nature documentaries and the usual mayhem.

Lots of that mayhem!  But it’s all good.  Wine helps.  :)

Anna’s Photography

Toria has been our resident photographer for a few years now and she’s starting art school in the fall to specialize in it, but she has some competition in the family.

Anna has become quite a photographer herself.

Check out her Flickr page here.  She’d love it if you followed her, too, if you’re a photography fan yourself.

I have a Pinterest board just for things I want to do soon, but my list keeps growing.  I’m logging ten homeschool-related ones here so I don’t forget them.

  1. Go hiking at night with flashlights.
  2. Take part in Maker Camp, and at least one of the virtual field trips (Blue Man Group! Jim Henson’s Creature Shop!) too.
  3. Gather mulberries.
  4. Do some new lapbooks.
  5. Take part in education.com’s DIY summer camp with the littles.
  6. Do daily messy art or science.
  7. Keep having Jack do daily pages of writing his story for handwriting/spelling practice.
  8. Do this math art project with the younger kids.
  9. Do lots of algebra and geometry with Victoria to make sure she’s “up to code” before starting Perpich in August, and involve the other kids too.
  10. Standardized tests (per MN law), via the CAT.

I’m due for an MRI next week since my neurologist said my EEG results showed some abnormalities in my brain, specifically “lightning strikes” and “sharp waves.”  I’m hoping it goes as well as possible (IV’s are not my friends and the bruises are just now finally gone from all the blown veins from last month’s IV Venofer treatments) and that I get some answers about my headaches, vision problems and neurological issues.  And I’m hoping to get a copy to show the kids.  You know how homeschoolers turn everything into a teachable moment.  ;)

Another Nebraska Getaway

We were lucky enough to get to spend another week at the fabulous Baker house in Nebraska last week, and it was a wonderful break.

The original plan was for me to go down with just Fiona and Anna since Daryl and the boys have pageant practice, but Alex missed me so badly that Daryl brought him and Jack down to join us a couple of days later.

Tiffany is doing day care out of her home now, and it was fun getting to help out.  Most of her day care kids are around toddler and preschool age, so they were great fun for Fiona to play with.

There was lots of painting, lots of messes and lots of chaos (though still less than there generally is in my house with just my kids!).  :)

The big kids even joined in the day care fun on some days!

The theme for the week was dinos, and we did all sorts of dino-related fun such as……

  • Drawing the length of an apatosaurus on the sidewalk and marking its stride, and then seeing how long the kids’ stride was in comparison.
  • Having dino snacks (carrot sticks carved like dino teeth, hard boiled eggs, etc.).
  • Reading dino books.
  • Singing a dino song each day about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores (we considered it a great success when Kennedy was overheard singing “carni, carni, carnivore….” on Friday).
  • Cutting out life-sized T-rex feet and putting them on the dining room wall at the proper spacing for how far apart their footsteps were (it took up the whole wall!).
  • And so on!

I’ll try to post some examples after I download the pics from my camera.

I’m inspired to do some themes around here each week now, even for the bigger kids.  Some of the ideas I have are seeds, space, fire, continents, oceans, mammals, fish, birds, invertebrates, amphibians, weather, the periodic table, colors and senses.  I am thinking of having a different general theme each week, and maybe doing lots of science themes too — magnets, electricity, evolution, etc.

As always, Tiffany’s house has inspired me to try even harder to get organized too.  Hope springs eternal.  ;)

 

 

Summer Goals

Last summer, I journaled 50 or 100 things I wanted to learn about as a family over the summer.  Daryl and the kids helped make up the lists.

We knew we wouldn’t get to all (or even most) of them, but it was fun to have a go-to list of neat stuff to throw ourselves into.

Some of the things on the list were big successes.  I wanted to learn to forage for wild edibles and wow, did Daryl (and I) run with that.  Over the summer and fall, we got hundreds of pounds of mulberries, walnuts,  apples, crab apples, black raspberries, and less-conventional goodies like milkweed pods (they’re scrumptious when they’re tiny, battered and fried like poppers), acorns (for acorn flour) and even cattails (delicious when you boil the tender new bottom shoots and serve with butter and salt like asparagus).  (See my Wild Edibles board for info on all of these and more.)

We also really got into lots of other subjects on our list, from the Civil War to animals and colors for our youngest homeschooler.  :)

I’m making up my list for this year.  I really like having it hand-written in my journal, in all different colors, full of scribbles and notes and silliness.

If we get to 3 or 5 or 30 of the things on the list, I’m just hoping it will lead to some of the fun we had with last year’s list.

Now to get on with the making of it…..

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.  :)

 

 

Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational has created an awesome free printable card game that helps kids learn all about the geography and history of the states.

Battle of the States is played a little bit like “War” but by comparing numbers and dates related to the states such as population, number of counties, electoral votes and year of statehood.

One nice thing about it is that it is slightly skewed in favor of younger players, since they start the game and pick the category to compare first.  The player who has the higher number in that category gets both cards and gets to choose the next category.  The player with the most cards at the end wins.

I’m hoping to try the game with at least a few of my kiddos once I find enough cardstock to print them out.  I seem to have been raided by small crafters lately.  ;)

 

Bad Blogger

Hello there!  Sorry to be MIA for so long.  I hereby pledge to start showing up and yapping far more.  I miss it.

I know that one of the problems is that sites like Pinterest have really changed the blogging universe, and it started to slowly change me.  Blogs used to be personal ways to record our days and help each other out, and then they became flashy monetized ways to try to lure people in for ad revenue.

They all started to look like colorful magazine layouts with fantasy families.  They were full of professional looking photos with titles that used 8 fonts to promise life-changing information if I only clicked in and read on.

And I started to feel pretty plain, posting my black and white words with random links and musings, grainy photos and personal accounts of our little life in our messy house.

Okay, and I also just got really busy with life.  Five kids, a few writing gigs and way too much housework will do that to a person, too.  ;)

But no more!  I am pledging (once again) to commence yapping.  Because there are already plenty of flashy blogs that promise to help you teach your kids every president in order over breakfast, and even if hardly anyone else is out there, I still kind of like showing up and talking about our life here.

To start, here’s a super-fast catch-up of 10 things we’ve done lately….

  1. We made violet syrup and violet candy — and even made the violet syrup change colors with chemistry (violets are pH indicators).  How cool is that?!  (And yes, I hope to write it up online soon.)
  2. We signed up for a new CSA and are excited to get our first veggies soon.
  3. We found our first foraged morels and found out why people pay crazy amounts of money for them.
  4. We made slime out of water, food coloring and psyllium husks (hoping to write that up soon, too).
  5. We registered Victoria for her fall classes at Perpich.  Eek!
  6. We played with friends.
  7. We’ve seen handfuls of doctors and specialists to deal with various ailments and injuries.
  8. We’ve done tons of hiking now that the weather is nice again.
  9. We discovered lots of new book series and put together lots of puzzles.
  10. Daryl and the boys are once more taking part in the Wilder Pageant (Daryl is the Doc this year instead of the usual reverend).  The girls are all home with me this year.  It is the bittersweet end of an era for me, with no little girls in braids in the pageant, but I’m happy that my boys will be part of that magic once more.

There have also been the usual talks, puns, walks, photos, art projects and so on.  And the house is still a wreck and it’s still chaos here.

And with that, I should go switch the laundry and find some books to read some little people.

Till tomorrow!  I hope!  :)

We took a family vacation to St. Augustine, Florida!

It was Daryl’s first time to ever see the ocean, and our first big family vacation all together — ever!

We rented a very affordable condo on the beach for a week and it was all kinds of heavenly.

We celebrated Victoria’s 16th birthday, Jack’s 11th birthday and Alex’s 7th birthday.

Of course, life had to resume soon after we made the long drive back, and this week has been filled with sick kids, too much laundry, squabbles, cold Minnesota weather, a temperamental washing machine, an epically messy house and a bit of this…

It turns out I’m crazy anemic and need four weeks of IV iron.  It also turns out that my veins are as impossible to stab with a pointy thing as ever.

But all in all, life is good.  Give me access to a real beach once every two or three years and I remember how to breathe again.  :)

I can’t wait to share more, but for now I have laundry to switch and messes to clean and some teenage drama to sort out….

Toria has some big changes coming up.

She is going from this school…..

To this one……….

She’s been accepted into Perpich Center for Arts Education.  She’ll be focusing on media arts (especially photography), though she’ll also have the traditional subjects and can take additional arts.  It’s for grades 11 and 12 and is a public high school in the Twin Cities.

She applied a few months ago and had several steps to get through the approval process, including her application, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, an interview where she had to present approximately 15 photos to the panel, and a photo assignment where she had to take a photograph to capture the meaning of six words like layer, catch, diffuse, corner, etc., plus do an impromptu photo assignment the day of the interview.

The school has a residence hall for outstate students (approximately 30% of the students live too far to commute daily and live in the dorm) so she’ll be staying there.  Luckily, she’s already pretty independent and self-sufficient and we have lots of friends and family in the area.

She’ll be about 3 hours from us and I imagine we’ll be doing a lot more driving to the Cities.  She informed me tonight that there’s a Trader Joe’s up there too.  She knows what will lure me to the big city.  ;)

I am very proud of her for getting accepted and very excited for her.  The school seems like a perfect fit for her.  She’s already toured it and talked to many of the current students and teachers, plus some who attended in the past.  She is in love with it and they offer lots of opportunities we couldn’t provide, plus it’s the kind of environment she thrives in — full of diverse, artistic people who are excited about learning and growing.  And she really is a big city girl, despite her small town roots.

We have a lot to prep to get her ready to head out in August.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the last of my time homeschooling 5 children.

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” ~Anatole France

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” ~Pauline R. Kezer

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