History Fest 2014

Another History Fest has come and gone, and it was another magical week for our family.

This is something I posted to my homeschool email list about this year’s event and it sums it up well…

I’m home at last from History Fest today.  Most of the family has been going since Wednesday (and helped set up Tuesday) but I stayed home with Fiona until today (her birthday) because it’s such a long day that starts so early.  We have to leave at 6:45 a.m. before the sun is up.

Every time I go I am just dumbfounded at how amazing it is, and the awesomeness of Jack McGowan and the mass of people who help make it happen.  It’s like we have our own personal Walt Disney, except he’s an Irishman and he does it for free, for the love of kids and because  he’s a bit of a big kid himself.  It’s just INCREDIBLE what he’s created there and what he continues to build and dream and make happen just about every week.

Last year, the EPA or some crazy organization suddenly announced that his History Fest buildings (a saloon, chalet, places like that — wooden structures built to be used for special events like History Fest of Boy Scout events, stuff like that) were on the flood plain because his land is between a fork in two rivers, and that the whole county would lose flood insurance by the government if his buildings weren’t moved.  They gave him something like 90 days to move 5 huge buildings and all of the outbuildings to another part of his property.  Keep in mind that History Fest is a nonprofit thing he does on an old sheep farm that the owner has let him use next to his house for years.  It started as a project he did at a local park because he thought the Mankato kids ought to have something like the Renn Fest to learn about history, and it just grew and grew and grew.  He’s a retired guy who owns a water conditioner business (that’s still big in Mankato), so this is not someone with the means to just move 5 buildings in 90 days.  He’s like 70 years old (though he’s tough and sprite!).  And we did it.  We moved all those damn buildings with help from all sorts of people and a construction crew that volunteered a bunch of it and donated money and Sentenced to Serve workers who did their time there and Jack busting his butt every day up on some ladder or using the backhoe or doing what needed to be done.  I was in one of the buildings today and realized I helped smooth that dirt floor and carry the log sections of floor back in.  That’s a pretty neat feeling.

And the owner of that sheep farm finally officially gave the land to Jack for History Fest and the finished buildings are even better now that they’re moved to their own little village area… and somehow Jack has managed to build even more amazing contraptions and improve even more buildings and do even more great stuff, out of the scary situation of thinking it was impossible last summer and the government was going to shut it down…  It’s done, and even better.

To give you an idea of how magical this place is, down by the river there’s a troll tunnel (marked with a painted sign) that goes all the way under the hill and comes up through a brightly painted grate in another part of the land.  He built a concrete troll tunnel for children to climb through!!!!! And there’s a giant piece of a house with a gas pipeline that goes on fire that the kids get to put out all day with water pumped through a fire hose from the river….. and there’s a trebouchet (sp?) that launches pumpkins into the river…. and he gives pianos to anybody anywhere who wants a piano (we got one last year and I love it)…  and there’s an ENORMOUS sandbox that’s always filled with buried treasures like dragon tears and coins… and so much more.

Daryl plays a gambler in the saloon and teaches kids card tricks and how to play chuck-a-luck (a fun dice game in a spinning cage).  He’s a hoot to watch — he really is great with kids.  But I found out today that Jack built the saloon because this lady Annette came to play the piano for history fest a few years ago and there wasn’t a good building for her to play in.  He asked where he ought to put another piano and she said, “Well, if you had a saloon….” and she said, “So Jack built me a saloon.”  Just like that!  This giant building with a bar and tables and stage and fun props (old time guns, funny signs…).  It’s just so amazing.

And all the people involved are amazing too.  I love being a part of it.  We have sassy trolls who fight children with foam swords and shields (the children always win!), and SCA knights who battle and teach the kids everything authentically, and presidents Lincoln and Jefferson and Roosevelt, and a blacksmith and a 1600′s Scottish camp where they make bread in a real stone oven and wooden stilts and carts everywhere for children to climb on, and horses and goats and sheep, and people teaching you how to spin alpaca and sheep wool and then how to weave it, and gunfights and soldiers and pirates and our fantastic friend Susan Hynes who dresses all in period black with her temperance sign about the evils of alcohol who yells at that awful JD Wyatt (my hubby) and his hooligan children who steal her sign and give her grief.  :)

Tonight was the pot luck for the volunteers and reenactors and there was a guy doing balloon animals for the kids.  He’s one of the reenactors and he did these massive balloon hats and 8 silver swords for Alex plus giant horns for his head, and just dozens of crazy balloon creations for all of these elated children.  And the trolls were still in character, giving me grief for having “a little fishy” (I was carrying Fiona’s balloon goldfish on a pole) and the pirates and settlers and everybody filled the hall and they’re just all such neat people and it’s such a magical thing to be a part of.

Anna was chatting with a friend tonight and said she had such a great day, and she told me afterwards, “It must have sounded like I was on a drug trip!  I was talking about getting so many pictures of the belly dancers and that the pirate captain told terrible puns and taking Fiona to sit with the buffalo and jousting with my brothers.”  LOL  I am just so happy that my kids have been able to grow up being a part of this.  :)   And now I’m off to sleep!  Tomorrow morning we’re heading back for the public day (the weekdays are for school kids — SOTH and HS) and it will be another full day!

I just had to share it with you all though.  I wish I could bring you all and your kids, and that everybody could come experience it.

 

and here’s a blog entry about it
http://magicandmayhem.homeschooljournal.net/2008/10/12/history-fest/

Jack McGowan gave an interview to the local news about why he does History Fest and it sums up his funny spunky personality so well.  You can also see my hubby playing the spoons in the beginning of it!

I am so happy to be a part of this magic, and so glad that this is one way my kids are growing up experiencing history class.  :)

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….

Well, I’m glad that’s over!

Is it sacrilege to admit I’m happy the holidays are done with? :)   We don’t even have stressful holidays.  They’re rather nice and low key, but the whole tone of the world is so frantic and annoyed this time of year, and you can’t go anywhere at all because of the masses of people out shopping day and night.

And the disparity among the children — my kids have some teenage friends who got new cars and computers, and others who got next to nothing (some family friends weren’t going to be able to have any Christmas at all but that has been remedied).  I’m always acutely aware of how tough it is to be a really poor kid the week after Christmas.

Not to mention the friends who are dealing with grief this time of year — death, divorce and so on.  The only thing harder than dealing with something devastating is dealing with it while everybody else seems to be blissfully happy.

In any case, we had a nice holiday (or set of them).  We celebrated the Winter Solstice and opened our presents together Solstice morning, then Daryl took all of the kids to the matinee while I cooked and visited with a friend who stopped by.  We had an evening feast that night.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, braving quite a lot of snow and terrible roads to get there.  We had a lovely feast there too, and the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with family.

 

And now, I’m preparing for the new year and all sorts of goals and resolutions.

I am not at all the type to make New Years resolutions other than ones like these better homeschool resolutions for 2014 but I am looking at the new year as a time to try to implement some fun schedules and changes.

They go along with the new winter schedule that I posted recently, wanting to have some daily activities (reading aloud educationally and for fun, math each day and so on) and some weekly ones (messy art on Wednesday, field trips and literature on Friday, and such).

I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all better… homeschooling such different ages, spending quality time with five kids, keeping up with four columns and two blogs, cooking, chores and so on.

I think it ought to be one of my personal goals for 2014 to be completely caught up on laundry even one day:)

In any case, I’m working on it and will report back on anything that works well.

In the meantime, here’s a few odds and ends that might be of interest…

Bradshaw & Sons: how to make snow lollies...  Maple syrup, snow & a stick. Looks fun!

How to make snow lollies (boiled maple syrup, snow & a stick)

Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it's cold outside?

Cold weather exercise ideas… Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather science!

Vaporize hot water in the air, blow frozen bubbles, testing the freezing points of various liquids and more… Cold weather science!

Waldorf ~ 3rd grade ~ Math ~ Vertical Subtraction ~ main lesson book

An interesting (Waldorf-inspired) way of doing subtraction (I couldn’t find a link, just the graphic on someone’s Pinterest page from their iCloud, but it is pretty self explanatory)

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

And more… Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

Graphing with sponges from teachertipster.com (no more info, just the pic)

And a nice little set of goals…

Now on to that laundry…..

 

 

Hiking Monday

It’s fall, and that means we ease into the fall season of homeschooling. I love homeschooling by the seasons, and even though I am always so sad to see summer end I have to admit there are things to love about fall.

One tradition I love is hiking.  We generally plan for hiking every Monday, and we aim to go to a different place every week.

Last week we tried out Kilen Woods State Park for the first time, even though it’s barely more than a half an hour away from us.

It was a wonderful visit.

We had it to ourselves, and had so much fun.

Daryl announced when we got there that it was important to mark the start of fall with an acorn fight, and the kids had an immensely wonderful time ganging up on poor Daddy with acorns by the hundreds.

Even Fiona grinned and grinned.

Then we left our oldest and youngest behind (Daryl’s legs are still not up to hiking and Fiona is not quite old enough for the amount we wanted to do) and we headed down the wooded paths while they stayed behind to gather walnuts and acorns and play.

It was a wonderful trail, full of meandering creeks and treasures to find.

There was even a section that met up with the Des Moines River, and it was a beautiful spot to rest.

When we got back, we played with caterpillars (we ID’ed ours thanks to the ID books in the little cabin at the site but I’ve forgotten what he was!) and water pumps and sand boxes.

It was a lovely way to do our nature studies and PE for the day!

 

So Much for Posting Every Day….

Well, right after I resolved to try to post every day for the rest of July, I went and got myself into a funk and then took off to the wilds of Nebraska with Fiona and Toria to visit Tiffany and family.

So here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to since then…

We went and saw a Scottish homeschool family band (Jiggerypokery!) at a little hometown event.  Mom and Dad each had a baby strapped to their backs and four bigger ones! :)

We went to the library twice, went walking, read books, made gluten free goodies, visited with friends, went swimming…

Oh yes, and Tiffany helped give Toria a more exciting haircut!

We also took the younger kids to the zoo…

And we got Tiffany caught up in wild foraging, with some tasty mulberries and other goodies.

And we watched Sherlock, drank wine, ate chocolate, had lots of tea, talked and relaxed.

While we were gone, my actors all carried on in the Wilder Pageant, performing for another couple of thousand people (nearly) over the weekend.  They also did lots more foraging and I came home to a freezer full of black raspberries, mulberries and raspberries, each labeled with contents, dates and where they were harvested.  Those should make for some good jellies, syrups, ice creams, cakes and other goodies later in the year and I hear they made for many smoothies over the week we were gone.

I am working on getting my head in order, battling this funk and also figuring out how to juggle all that I want to juggle this year — homeschooling 5 such different kids at different stages, doing crafts, reading books, homesteading, cooking, editing and completing two books, keeping up with blogs, keeping up with my columns, having a social life and support system, getting us all exercising more, getting the house in order…

Yep, feeling overwhelmed again!

Ah well, I’m working on it.  The break gave me a bit of breath to dive back in.  At least it’s never boring!

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these updates.  Here’s a few of the ways we’ve learned and played in our homeschool recently…….

  1. Jack, Alex and Daryl dressed up in old time clothes to volunteer at Pioneer Village in Worthington for Independence Day.  Our friend Nancy and her son Logan dressed up to join in, and Anna joined them all in modern clothes.  Alex, Jack and Logan taught kids how to roll hoops and Nancy was dressed as a prairie woman.  Daryl was a riverboat gambler in the saloon and he taught visitors card tricks and old-time gambling games like chuck-a-luck.  He even made the local paper!  
  2. We stayed with some fabulous homeschool friends near the Twin Cities so Daryl could take part in yet another historic event (a Civil War event commemorating the First Minnesota’s amazing sacrifice at the Battle of Gettysburg).  While there, Anna’s friend Ryker taught her how to use a blow dart and throwing stars!
  3. Victoria’s friend shared this video about infinity on her Facebook wall, which she loved and went to learn more about.  http://youtu.be/A-QoutHCu4o
  4. Victoria is learning how to build websites via sites like Code Academy.
  5. The kids went to our town’s “Fun Days” and bounced in bouncy houses, met zoo animals, watched the parade and had other festival fun.  Anna got this picture of Fiona meeting Luna the skunk. 
  6. Daryl and Toria went and collected cattail pollen, which I incorporated into homemade GF pasta.  It is a vibrant yellow gold and it’s full of nutrients.  This is a continuation of our summer of learning about foraging and wild edibles, and it’s the second way we’ve eaten cattails (the lower part of the spring stalks are wonderful boiled and served with butter and salt and pepper).
  7. Anna, Jack, Alex and Daryl are in the last week of rehearsals for the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant, which opens next week.   Family friend Logan is in it for his first year this year, too.  It should be a great show again this year and it’s always exciting! 
  8. We all went and visited Great Grandma Lueck (Daryl’s grandma, who’s nearly 97 years old and still beautiful!) at the nursing home with Daryl’s mom.  It was wonderful to see her again, since we hadn’t visited her since she moved from her own home into the nursing home earlier this year.  We also talked to a man who brings in his therapy dog to visit with the patients. 
  9. Alex and Fiona had lots of fun sheet painting and then getting clean in the sink. 
  10. I’ve been working on handwriting with Jack, writing out lines for him to copy.  We’re also working on spelling.  One of our summer HS goals is for him to get one grade level of spelling improvement by the end of the summer.

The kids have all been doing lots of other things as well…. gardening, biking, walking, playing, skyping, writing stories, doing art, reading books, watching educational (and non-educational) TV, cooking, helping with the little kids, doing pet care, hanging out with friends, keeping up on current events (the political unrest in Egypt, the fires out west, the Texas filibuster and its aftermath, DOMA and other news), bird watching, learning about the Civil War, having deep talks, doing educational games, taking photos, making videos, shopping, climbing trees, playing ball, going to the park, snuggling and enjoying life……..

And in case you need it, here’s over 50 free curricular resources for your third grader that I wrote today.

 

Finding My Voice Again

I’m resolved to try to post close to every day for the rest of July. I really miss my voice, especially here where I have always felt comfortable really being myself.

It’s hard feeling pulled in so many directions.  I frequently feel like I’m failing at just about everything — homeschooling five kids, keeping up with housework, keeping a steady stream of healthy food coming in our tricky household (mostly natural, organic, gluten-free, dairy free, vegetarian, tasty and cheap for a family of seven????), my writing, my blogs, projects around the house, the gardens….

I’m firmly in a new stage of life right now, with two teenagers in the house plus the boys and little Fiona.  We’ve had to change a lot of how we homeschool and generally live because the kids just have such different needs and interests.  I’m grateful that there’s still so much we can all enjoy together, from heading to Dutch Charlie Creek to have a campfire at dusk to hanging out with fun homeschool families to tromping around the Badlands.  Daryl and the four “big” kids even all had fun watching Monster University together last night.  I’m glad we all find so many things we still love to do together, despite our family’s diversity.  :)

Life is good here.  It’s hard to believe that only one year ago we were reeling from Victoria’s cancer diagnosis and surgeries, struggling to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it through the summer.  The kids are in good places.  We have lots of good things going on.  There are stresses, but they are everyday stresses like tires going bald and kids bickering.

I’m excited to get back to blogging regularly, to have my little corner of the world to sit and ramble.  Let’s see if I can stick to it!

 

Back from the Civil War

We’re back from Wasioja!  It was so much fun and so much work, and I’m so glad we did it.

We learned so much I couldn’t possibly share it all, and it was so incredible.  I really recommend taking part in Civil War reenactments, not just as a visitor (do that the first time) but also as a volunteer/reenactor.

Here’s just a bit of what we learned….

  • How to do a field amputation.  In detail!

  • Why so many body parts were amputated.

  • The medical degree requirements of the time, and the medical “wisdom” (egads!).  It’s a wonder any human beings survived at all.

  • What it was like to be a southern woman in the south during the war.
  • The drugs (prescribed) of the day and how common they were for man, woman and child.
  • The language of the fan.
  • Battles, generals, songs and traditions.

  • What foods and materials were substituted during the shortages and blockades.  Roasted beet coffee, anybody?
  • The real casualty numbers of the Civil War and why they were so off (it’s actually closer to a million, they think).

 

  • And so much more.

 

We stayed with a fabulous unschooling family on their dairy farm Saturday night (Alexandra and her whole family are just delightful, and her Brazilian mother is a magical creature in her own right…. such neat people!!!!).

(Photo of Cupcake by Anna Bayer)

We got filmed for several news reports and for the Wasioja video, and interviewed for the local paper (note: How funny that the reporter managed to spell Hrdlicka right but misspelled Daryl, and that we have three children named Jack, Alex and Annie… reporters invariably get almost everything but your planet wrong even when you give them a direct quote and spell it all out!).

Jack and Alex worked tirelessly to teach kids (and some adults) how to roll hoops, play the game of graces and do other old-time games.  They also disappeared into the tall grass with our toy rifles to play war all weekend.

Daryl had a constant crowd in front of him to learn about old time musical instruments from the spoons to the dulcimer to the one string.  I hardly got to spend a minute with him the whole weekend because he was so popular.

Anna spent the first day in full costume (corset and all!) with me, but chose to go modern for the second day and be a little more comfortable.  :)

(Anna has taken part in the Wilder Pageant enough to know that you’re never supposed to smile in old time photographs!)

All of the kids (minus Victoria, who was up with friends in the Twin Cities for two weeks) helped out in the children’s craft tent where we were stationed too, and made me proud in the way they chipped in there.

Fiona stole the show on both days, waving and saying hi to every passer-by and even charming Abraham Lincoln.

We will definitely take part next time (two years from now).  Pipestone is next year again.  I’m so happy they stagger them so there’s one every summer.

It was a lot of work, but good work.  And we really came home with such a feeling of the realities of the Civil War times, minus the romantic movie versions and sound bytes.  We have a deep appreciation for the many ways it affected everybody.

If you have never taken part in a Civil War event, I highly recommend it.  Ren Fests are so popular but there are lots of historic times worth visiting.  Why just play in the Renaissance era?  :)

 

50 Things We Learned About in the Badlands

 

We’re back from a fabulous four days in the Badlands of South Dakota.

This was the first time the kids and I had ever been there, though Daryl was there years ago.

It was absolutely magical!  Not only is the landscape breathtaking, but it’s rife with educational opportunities and it’s all sorts of fun to climb and explore.

It will definitely be a regular vacation stop for us.

We all agreed that May seemed to be the perfect month to visit, too.  The weather was warm but not hot, the landscape was green and filled with the start of wildflowers, there weren’t many people yet, and hotel rates were cheaper since it was before Memorial Day.

Thank goodness we homeschool and can go on adventures all year, instead of waiting until school is out and the rates are highest.  :)

There were so many magical experiences…. watching thousands of prairie dogs running around and chirping at us, seeing our first burrowing owls (read “Hoot” to fall in love with these darling birds), having bighorn sheep crossing in front of us on the road, driving past grazing buffalo (no fences!) in the park, seeing spectacular views, climbing landscapes that felt like the surface of Mars…

And there were so many educational aspects too…. touring the Minuteman Missile museum (SD was once filled with missiles during the Cold War and you can still tour one site!), earning ranger badges at the parks, getting up close to animals we’d only seen in zoos like pronghorn antelopes that just lay in the grass as we drove by, learning how the Badlands were formed, seeing fossils preserved under glass at the site from animals that lived there millions of years ago, learning the Native American history of the area, stopping at educational sites along the way and so much more.

Here’s 50 fun subjects we learned about on our quick trip!

  1. burrowing owls
  2. prairie dogs
  3. bighorn sheep
  4. bull snakes
  5. The Cold War
  6. Minuteman missiles
  7. The Great Inland Sea
  8. black-footed ferrets
  9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  10. short, medium and tall grass prairies
  11. Wall Drug
  12. molting
  13. animal sounds (miss Fiona learned many!)
  14. new words (Fiona again — including vulture, buffalo and goat)
  15. Dr. Seuss and how his books were written to help children deal with fears of the Cold War and to diffuse politics
  16. Lewis and Clark
  17. long boats
  18. The Corn Palace
  19. pronghorn antelopes
  20. two-layered animal coats
  21. erosion
  22. soils, sand and dirt (components, how they’re made, etc.)
  23. fossils
  24. Native American names and how they’re given
  25. the meaning of Badlands
  26. outlaw history
  27. wagon trains
  28. The Wall Wildlife Museum
  29. baby prairie animals (Fiona)
  30. baby forest animals (Fiona)
  31. ghost towns (we explored one, Okaton)
  32. mesas
  33. buttes
  34. Pine Ridge Reservation
  35. vulture courtship
  36. Greek myths (on tape for the drive)
  37. baseball cards
  38. Lovecraft/Cthulhu (Victoria’s reading for the trip)
  39. Mt. Rushmore (we didn’t visit but we learned about it)
  40. vocabulary through Bananagrams at the hotel  :)
  41. river bluffs and landscapes
  42. glaciers
  43. prehistoric animals
  44. magpies
  45. coyotes
  46. South Dakota geography and news
  47. distance (we drove across the Missouri River and found out it was exactly a mile even though it seemed small)
  48. paleontologists
  49. change, time and impermanence (Jack had a bit of an existential crisis at ten about how “someday this will all be gone” and we talked about how much it had changed and the vast amount of time it had all been there.)
  50. “Prairie Dogs Have Plague!”

Stay tuned for pictures of the ghost town we explored and more.

 

 

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

Fiona wearing Anna's glasses, photo by Toria Bayer

We’re plugging on here. It’s been 3 1/2 weeks now since Daryl’s hip replacement surgery and he’s still on bedrest.  He’s recovering well, all things considered.  I keep saying that if you have to be stuck inside for six weeks in Minnesota, you might as well do it in February when there’s not much to miss!

We’ve fought our way back from several colds, flus, mastitis, sinus infections and other maladies.  We’re all hanging on, though.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to here…

1.  Jack and I played Roll 100, a dice addition/multiplication game I picked up at the MHA conference vendor area one year.

2.  Toria and Anna have been doing Khan Academy for math.

3.  Jack and Alex had a playdate with friends. This was the second Saturday in a row that Alex got to go to his HSing buddy Alex’s house for the day, and Jack’s first time joining them to hang out with Alex’s older brother Zach.  The boys had a fabulous time and we’re on for next Saturday too.

4.  Toria and Jack completed the Dragon Box algebra game. It’s a paid app available on apple and android devices and is very clever.  I downloaded it for my Google Nexus and I think it cost $6.  Both kids got through all of the levels in a day (by choice!).  It allows for four individual accounts and is fun enough that Daryl even did the levels for fun.  Recommended.

5.  Toria has been going down educational rabbit holes. I always smile to hear the latest things she’s educated herself about.  Some of the topics this week include ghettos, maps, psychology, the U.S. budget for military spending and NASA, and crime, just to name the few that I can remember.

She has also signed up for a psychology class through Coursera that starts in May.

6.  I’ve been experimenting like mad with GF baking. I’ve made three cakes and one batch of muffins this week!  The muffins (blueberry-cranberry with fresh lemon glaze) were especially fabulous.

7.  We’ve started a presidents project. I printed out small pictures of all of the presidents and bought some large index cards, and we’re pasting them to the cards with a few important events and facts on each card.  Once they’re complete, we’ll tape them in order along the wall next to the ceiling as a temporary timeline.

I’ll post links and pictures once it’s finished.

8.  I’ve been reading Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths as a read-aloud to Anna, Jack and Alex. We are enjoying the book but Anna (quite an expert on Greek mythology) keeps interrupting to complain that the stories are “wrong” compared to the stories she knows from her other sources.  It’s led to many talks about various interpretations of the myths.

I think the book is fairly well written but the teacher’s kid in me cannot get over the many sentences that start with conjunctions in some of the stories.  About every other sentence in some places starts with “And” or “But.”  I have no problem with breaking this picky grammar rule once in a while in conversation, blogging or occasional writing, but it annoys me to see it used really excessively, the way it is in some of the stories.

Also, some of the stories have incomplete sentences such as:

For they were joyous scenes.

Again, I can get on board with occasional bad grammar for the sake of good writing, but I dislike masses of it when the author seems to simply not know the rules.

Yes, I’m one of those.  ;)

That said, the author was apparently one of the most highly regarded on mythology, and did just fine with his writing as far as the rest of the world was concerned.  According to Wikipedia:

Bernard Evslin (1922-1993) was an American author best known for his adaptations of Greek mythology. With over seventy titles, which include both novel-length retellings and short stories, Evslin is one of the most widely published authors of classical mythology in the world. His best-known work is Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths, which has sold more than ten million copies worldwide and has been translated into ten different languages. An estimated 30 million students have come into contact with Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths due to its repeated use in high school and college classrooms over the years. This bestselling anthology includes such well-known stories as “Theseus and the Minotaur” and “Perseus and Medusa.” He also published non-Hellenic titles such as The Green Hero, based on the Irish mythological character Finn McCool.

Evslin won many awards for his writing, including the National Education Association Award in 1961, National Education Award nomination in 1975, best television documentary on an Educational Theme Award, Washington Irving Children’s Book Choice Award, and Westchester Library Association Award.

So that shows what I know.  ;)

On the plus side, we are enjoying how many gods, goddesses, demi gods, nature myths, fables and such are in the book.  I like that they are short enough to keep the kids’ interest and they do a good job of succinctly telling each story.

I have been reading a few at a time, while giving the kids colored pencils and paper to illustrate the stories (however they like) as they listen.  I find this is a good way to keep their hands happy so they can concentrate.

(Note:  I got a review copy for my Kindle via Net Galley.)

9.  Jack has been inventing and creating. He’s been using recycling to make robot arms, throwing stars, rocket shoes and more for Alex and others.  He also came up with the idea for a moveable tail.  He planned to string tin cans end to end with a string through them, with the end attached to Alex’s shoe, so when Alex moved his foot it would pull the tension in the tail.  Alas, the bottoms of all of our cans are rounded and he has to come up with a new prototype.

Look at this robot he made for Alex for Christmas.  I think he rocks at recycled creations!  :)

10. The kids have been… blogging, reading, watching MythBusters, writing songs, writing novels, drawing, painting, doing ATCs (Artist Trading Cards), talking to friends on the phone, cooking, playing in the snow, doing chores, watching shows on Netflix, emailing, helping care for D during his recovery (Anna is quite helpful for the night shift so I can sleep!), shopping, beading, playing with Legos, using blocks, doing copywork, playing educational iPod games, taking pictures, chatting online, running errands, playing physics games online, making up jokes, doing Suduko puzzles, watching Crash Courses on history and science, organizing their rooms, redecorating, and so forth.

On the agenda this week: The Bill of Rights, more myths, some lapbooks, more math, lots more crafts, lots more reading aloud, cooking with one kid each day, handwriting with the boys, starting a poetry unit with everybody, signing the kids up for the writers’ conference, and doing at least 5 things I have pinned on my educational Pinterest boards.

Wish me luck!