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.  :)

 

 

Free Fun U.S. States Game!

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!  :)

Look What We’ve Been Up To….

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….

Big Changes in Our Little House

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

Kill Kancer

Last January, Victoria got a chance to take part in a PSA for a new organization that’s working to educate young people about cancer.  They were taping in the Twin Cities that night and wanted to know if she could come then (we’re 3 hours away) and take part as a young cancer survivor.  She and Daryl jumped in the car and made it up there in time.  She had a fantastic experience taking part (though she told me she wished she had time to grab makeup!).  :)

The PSA is now finished and the organization’s website is going live soon.  I think it’s an amazing work, and would say that even if my girl wasn’t in it.

She happened to have turquoise hair that month, so she’s easy to spot.  ;)

I am so proud of Victoria.  For so many reasons.

Yay for all the young people who are beating cancer, and please take unusual symptoms seriously.  If your doctor blows them off and you don’t think it’s “nothing” then go see another doctor.  Three different doctors told Toria that her cancer was nothing to worry about.  Thank goodness we decided to remove it anyway, that the surgeon was able to remove it all and we ultimately ended up with a surgeon and oncologist who takes good care of her.

Cancer is a word, not a sentence. ~John Diamond

Female Philosopher Unit Study

Image from this wonderful sounding class: http://www.women-philosophy.org/portfolio/university-of-paderborn-erasmus-mundus-history-of-women-philosophers/

 

After reading what this dingbat said about the lack of even one great female philosopher in history (he said that he could only recall one important female philosopher, “and she was not a significant thinker in the estimation of historians of philosophy.”), I decided it would be nice to do a unit study of famous (and not so famous) female philosophers with the kids.

Here’s a list of some to start, courtesy of Wikipedia:

A list of women philosophers ordered alphabetically by surname:

I figure we can combine copywork with history and philosophy, filling a journal with bios and some printed photos and quotes.  My goal is to work on it with the kids over the summer.  Even if we don’t make it through the entire list, the kids will be better educated on the subject than Mr. Murray.

 

Genetic Profiles of Dog Breeds

Here’s a neat look at genetics from a different standpoint, by looking at the DNA of 85 dog breeds.  Click on the image to view it full size.

Found via Pinterest.  Source:  Human Genome Research Institute, NIH

What I Learned the First Dozen Years of Homeschooling

 

Okay, there is no way I am really summing up twelve years of homeschooling in one blog post. :)

It just occurred to me today that I’ve been officially doing this for 12+ years, since we decided to homeschool for Victoria’s preschool years and then kindergarten and so on, and she’s now in 10th grade.  Counting two years of preschool, that would make this her 13th year of homeschool.

Add in an eighth grader, a fifth grader, a first grader and a toddler, and that’s an awful lot of homeschooling.

No wonder I get a little burned out once in a while.  ;)

I honestly have no idea what big lessons I’ve learned along the way, now with five kids of all ages.

But I think the biggies for us would be…

  • Kids learn best when it’s fun.
  • Kids learn best when they feel control over what they’re learning and how.
  • Homeschooling isn’t fun for anybody if you don’t keep it fun for kids and parents.  And yes, it can be fun for parents too.
  • Your homeschooling should fit your personality, and your children’s.  If you love schedules and deadlines and following directions, you’ll thrive using “boxed” curricula.  If that’s not how you roll, don’t try to make that your homeschooling MO.  Likewise, don’t try to make your kids homeschool in ways that fit your learning style and preferences and not theirs.
  • Everything is easier when it’s hands-on or there’s a pile of fun books to expand the learning.
  • Learning opportunities are everywhere.
  • Games are invaluable as educational tools.  All types.
  • It’s okay to hang around in your pajamas and play unschoolers for a while even if you’re not unschoolers.  “A while” can be however long you need.
  • Never underestimate how much your kids can learn just through copious trips to the library and huge piles of books.
  • Scope and sequence lists are for suckers.  Teach each subject until it’s fully mastered to your satisfaction and your child’s need, at whatever pace that takes, in whatever order works for your kid.
  • There are excellent free educational materials out there for every grade and subject.  Sometimes you just need to look a little bit to find them.
  • There are also more and more free educational materials that are not excellent and have ulterior motives.  From free history curricula that teach political agendas to free nutritional curricula that are paid for by GMO companies, there are lots of organizations working to buy off your family with a free poster and some lesson plans.  They are not worth it.
  • Your enthusiasm will set the tone for everybody else’s.
  • Sometimes the best way to teach a difficult subject is to step back from it for a while and do something else.  Nine times out of ten, it won’t be as difficult a subject next time.
  • If you homeschool, you have even more of a moral obligation to provide your kids with things to fuel their passions.  That means you consider it an educational expense to buy cool science materials or zoo memberships or art supplies or legos (I recommend thrift stores for those or you’ll need to start selling body parts).
  • Life is too short to stick to the lesson plan.

Okay, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the things I learned the first dozen years, but those are some big ones to come to mind.

Any you’d add?