Thursday, November 16, 2017

Make like a tree and...leaf!

We are enjoying Fun Fridays now that our homeschool co-op has ended for the semester. Fun Friday flexibility allowed us to finish up some projects we've been working on for a while. 

In her weekly science class, Punky has been learning about animal classification. The week she learned about birds, we really got interested in learning how birds make nests. We watched several videos, made our own nests, and were especially intrigued by the weaver bird. We decided to try our hands at weaving, wondering how in the world that tiny bird can weave such an intricate nest with only its beak! Wow!

We've done paper weaving and we've made potholders, we've made loom band jewelry, and we were ready for something totally different. I happened to see a fun mash-up of string art and a nature loom, and we decided to try it out. Using a small pumpkin, I created a loom with nails and string. Punky collected some items from our back yard (long blades of grass, a dried out vine, flowers, leaves, etc) and then she chose a few lengths of fiber from our craft cabinet. She then proceeded to weave the items on her pumpkin loom.

The weaving skills are there,
but the cat decided to do some adjusting
before we could snap a picture. Silly cat!

On the opposite side of the pumpkin, Punky used more nails to create a "freestyle" nature loom. I believe her goal was to create a web of string in which she could secure all of her nature treasures. Goal achieved!

After our weaving projects, we decided to check out some fall leaves. We have previously talked about plants, photosynthesis, and seasons. I wanted to build on those topics by exploring why leaves change colors and fall. Our quick lesson started with a BrainPop video on leaves. This provided review of terminology and gave us a foundation on which to build our lesson.

The leaves around our neighborhood aren't as vibrant in color as other parts of the country, but we do enjoy some red, orange, and even purple color! Again, Punky went exploring and found some leaves for our investigation. We created a fall color leaf rubbing and talked about the veins in the leaves carrying the food and water, and providing structural support for the blades of the leaf.

We were excited to see this science in action through a STEAM project I happened to find on Pinterest (honestly, this is why *I* wanted to do this lesson). We used coffee filters to demonstrate the way the water and food moves from the center/stem out to the blades of the leaf.

Our leaves decorate our back door
(please ignore dog nose prints,
but notice the adorable Scout Autumn
 just waiting to be invited inside). 

Punky ended the project by reading the book The Falling Leaves by Steve Metzger, and watching a BrainPopJr video called Fall.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Finding my groove...again

We're starting our TENTH year of home education. If you look at the past ten years our path would fit right into an amusement park map—quite a rollercoaster!

When we started, I was teaching public school at home. It's what I knew. We had a set assignment for each content area and worked through the list each day. If I was feeling generous, I'd let Sunshine choose which lesson she wanted to complete first. We worked in our formal living room, which was empty except for a big chair. I added a folding table and chair for her, and a plastic crate full of books. We started out reading The Tale of Despereaux and did some Saxon Math. Science was out of workbooks full of explanations and experiments. We had fun, we got to know each other in our new roles, and we had school.

It became clear that we needed a designated work space if we were to continue this school at home method. That's when we turned our home office into a classroom, complete with a desk for the kiddo and a desk for the little sister (who was still in preschool 2 days a week but liked to sit with us when she was home). School at home continued, and we moved our classroom space back into the "formal" room of our house when we found out there was another baby on the way (the home office/classroom would turn into a nursery). The classroom looked like a modified public school classroom. Half of the room was dedicated to kindergarten (Belle) and half was dedicated to fourth grade (Sunshine). It was the first thing you saw when you walked into our home, but that didn't bother me because educating our kids was our priority.

Class in the "formal" living area

During that time we joined a homeschooling community in our town and started getting to know other homeschooling families. This was a critical step in our evolution. It was important for all of us to know and understand other approaches to home education. We met people from all walks of life, various spiritual backgrounds, and with a wide variety of educational philosophies.

Fast forward about a year and I was ready for a big change. I decided that I wanted our classroom to be connected to our kitchen, so we moved our learning supplies into the family room of our home. Our formal living room became the all-the-time living room. This made more sense for our family and felt more homey. This is the way our home is still set up, and we call our school space the library.

The Library Classroom (Year 1, it has changed a lot!)

The kids rarely work in the library anymore. It's a base camp of sorts. We keep the bulk of our books and teaching tools, games, arts and craft supplies, and such in the library. It's also next to the kitchen (a.k.a. science lab). The library also holds our kitchen table, so we take our meals in our school area. It has worked well and I really love the cozy feel of a room lined with books.

The past two years I've had 3 kids in my home school class. That was a stretch because my students are too far apart to do a lot of overlapping lessons. One bonus is that I've asked the older students to help their little sister with lessons and projects. She loves working with them, and it reinforces their knowledge and allows them practice in explaining concepts to younger kids. Neither have said they want to be teachers, but they will always have opportunity to teach others in their careers, communities, and families.

One of the major changes I've introduced with my youngest child is a VERY child-centered learning experience. I've always met my kids at their level and focused on their interests, but with the youngest kiddo I've full-on embraced the child-led idea. It's made each day an adventure and I've questioned my sanity a time or two, but she is growing and THRIVING in our environment.

Because of this new "throw away the text books and embrace the hands-on experiences" style that we've adopted, I'm started to clean out my stockpile of workbooks, curriculum, and other materials that don't fit my evolved philosophy. That doesn't mean we're not reading! It just means that we're reading different forms of media. We spend a lot of time at the library, and even more time getting into things or going on research trips.

Belle is officially a teenager and would be an 8th grader in public school. Her day is a mash-up of the two philosophies: teacher led materials (grammar, algebra), student led research, experiments, etc (science, independent studies), and a true mash in student led-teacher assigned activities (history, English).

Sunshine is a high school SENIOR this year! Crazy town! She started taking dual credit courses at a local college last year and will continue this year. In fact, all of her courses except English will be dual credit this year. More on why we chose dual credit and a well-rounded high school transcript in a later post.

Now that's that...and it's time for me to get to planning some activities for the kiddos. We're still embracing a summer schedule: sleep late, slow wake up, and lots of fun with friends. We also have family coming to visit for a few days this week and we're beyond excited. We get to show them some of our favorite places and see what kind of mischief we can scare up!

If this post has inspired your inquisitive side please leave questions in the comments. If you'd like me to write about a specific aspect of homeschooling, being a pilot's wife, or expand on something you've already read, I'm taking requests!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Many on social media use their online space each November to post things for which they are thankful. I have done this in the past and have enjoyed reading my old posts over the last several weeks. I didn't participate in the 30 days of gratitude challenge this year, so today I will list 30 things.
Of course, there are more than 30 but this is a good start. :) 1. My faith. 2. My precious children. 3. My friends, particularly those who truly are like family. 4. Adoption. 5. Foster parents. 6. Medicine, both conventional and holistic. 7. My education and my desire to continue learning as an adult. 8. My freedom of expression. 9. My church family. 10. My freedom to homeschool our children. 11. The support of our village in homeschooling our children (our community and our extended family). 12. My cozy home. 13. Utilities that are often taken for granted: fresh water, electricity, etc. 14. My dependable vehicle. 15. The means to provide nourishment for my family. 16. Organizations working hard to do good in the world (Heifer, International Child Care, Red Cross/Red Crescent, etc). 17. Text messaging capabilities. Let's face it: I prefer texting to talking most times. 18. That said, I love being able to call my family members and hear their voices. It amazes me how quickly time flies when I'm talking to my parents. 19. My kids' compassionate hearts. They amaze me. 20. I'm thankful for our menagerie. I have always been crazy and a cat lover, I've always loved dogs, and I've never been able to turn down most little creatures. Our current count is 3 cats, 2 dogs, 1 hedgehog, and 1 fish. I do believe we're at max capacity! 21. Campfires. 22. Safety & security. These are things I definitely take for granted, but not anymore. 23. Diversity. 24. The internet. (Thanks, Al Gore. hehe) 25. Nature. 26. Books. Libraries. Book stores. Kindles. 27. Libraries. (I decided this one gets its own number.) 28. My siblings. Constant support, listening ears, and a never ending supply of laughter. 29. My parents. Loving, giving, protective. 30. My husband. His dedication to our family and incredible work ethic inspire me to be a better wife, mom, and person. I never shy away from talking about how much I love him but don't often give specific examples of why I love him...he is my rock, my steadfast support. He lifts my spirits when I'm down, calms my nerves when I'm anxious, and supports me even when he's shaking his head at my craziness. He respects me as his equal, and has never put me down for "not working" or asked me what I do all day. He understands and appreciates my contributions to our family. His compassionate heart knows no limits. He does for others before thinking of himself. He gives freely and without expectation. He laughs and encourages laughter from others. He is thoughtful and understanding, he is my peace & calm. As we move out of our Thanksgiving season into Advent, I hope everyone continues to reflect on the blessings in their lives. We truly should show gratitude every day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Stronger. More passionate. More disciplined.

The first thing I said to my husband this morning was, "I hoped to sleep until it was 2020."
Laying in our cozy and safe bed, our youngest child in her safe place right between us, we started talking about unconditional love. It just seemed right. She knows she has it from us. That will never change. I believe that to truly love unconditionally is my calling in life. To love unconditionally ALL PEOPLE.
I then walked into my preteen's room. She is a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights. She is a role model in many respects, but especially in her ability to support someone she believes is being wronged. We talked about the way we lived yesterday. We talked about what we were going to do today. We talked about the way we live day to day, and how that is not going to change. We're going to keep loving, keep living, and keep standing up for what we know is right.
My 16 year old was last on my wake-up call list. She is quietly passionate about human rights, and in 2 years she will cast her first ballot in the midterm elections. That is a huge responsibility that she does not take lightly, and we discussed how she can be the change. Her face lit up when we talked about her role in the democratic process, she understands the sacrifices of suffragettes. She understands on a deeper level what the marginalized have had to overcome, and hurdles they still face today.
With everyone awake, I opened the cupcakes I had on hand for what I hoped would be a celebration of our first female president. Instead, I gathered the kids in the kitchen and they toasted with cupcakes. Toasted to the first female, major party candidate.
I fell asleep last night before I could process the gravity of this situation. I helped my kids work through but I still had not given myself time to feel.
I decided the best way to combat the hate that spreads like wildfire is to focus on MY LOVE. I chose my playlist accordingly and this was the first song that shuffled on. In the light of a new day, I hear the lyrics with completely different meaning. They're taken out of context and twisted to fit my mood, but isn't that what music is really all about? Listening to any song is an emotional experience.
When I listened to it yesterday or last week, it made me think of my husband. My kids. And it still does. But today it takes on an entirely different meaning. Today, it's for all of my brothers and sisters. Not only the ones my mother gave birth to, but everyone that inhabits this planet.
"I can't believe it's true..."
This needs no explanation, but I'll elaborate. I am horrified by the huge number of American people who can rationalize their vote for a racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, admitted sexual predator because they want change...something different. How do I explain that to my kids?
"I get to love's the best thing that I'll ever do."
The best thing that I will ever do is to love everybody. I don't care what color your skin is, who you sleep next to, where you were born or how you got to where you are. I don't care if you don't think like me, look like me, talk like me, believe like me, love like me, vote like me. I don't care, because I love you. And that is the best thing that I'll ever do. I'll love you and my kids will know I love you. I will stand up for you when you're shoved down. I will stand up to you if you're doing the shoving. And through it all, I will love you.
"It changes who I am. I am undone. I thank God once again."
I am eternally grateful to have a sensitive, compassionate heart. As much as today hurts, as much as I hurt that so many people are so full of hate, I am thankful to have love to share.
"It's a promise I'm making to you. Whatever may come, your heart I will choose. Forever I'm yours, forever I do."
Your heart. Your well-being. My love will ensure that I make others a priority.
"They say love is a journey, a promise that I'll never leave, when it's too heavy to carry, remember this moment with me."
So many of my friends, my brothers and sisters, woke up scared today. They were a target of a campaign promise or threat. They are scared that their way of life, everything they've ever known, could be taken from them. I will never leave your side. I will always advocate for you. When it's too much, when you're scared, remember this—right now. Remember that you are not alone. I will stand up for you.
Stronger. More passionate. More disciplined.

Friday, July 17, 2015

reflecting on captured memories

This song came on today while I was driving home from dropping kids off at activities. In January 2012, I wrote a post about what this song means to me. As soon as I got home I came to my computer to read the post. Immediately I felt a wave of emotion, but it wasn't the same wave I felt 3+ years ago.

Yes, I still believe it happens in a blink. Yes, I still want to hold on tight. Yes, I'm trying to make the most of each moment.


Yes, the calendar is still full (possibly more now than ever before). Yes, my kids are still growing up too fast for my liking (but I am singing praises for healthy kids). Yes, I still look forward to the rare, empty square on the calendar.


I have learned what contentment is, because in contentment I find joy.

There are still things I want to do with my life. I have quite a long list including travels, books to read, classes to take, things I want to learn about, and memories I want to make with my family. All of these things are important to me and as I work toward completing an item on the list, I am also constantly adding more.

I have learned that there is nothing I can do to stop time, but I can continue making wonderful memories with my family & friends. I can continue teaching my kids not only from books but from life's lessons.

Contentment doesn't mean we're settling. It doesn't mean that we are capable of more but we can't get there. It doesn't mean that our lives are lacking. For us, it means that we don't take for granted the countless blessings in our lives.

Now, when I blink, I keep my eyes closed a bit longer and find a captured memory* of my pudgy fingered babies, my curious toddlers, my young scientists, my little explorers, my daydreamers. We still have so much living to do. I still get to see them grow into women who, without a doubt, will make a difference in this world. Maybe they'll be world leaders, maybe they'll lead a family or a business, maybe they'll be activists for change. Maybe I'm raising a doctor or an NPO board president. I'm a daydreamer, too, and each day we're closer to seeing our daydreams come true.

*A special thanks to my moma, who taught me to pause in the midst of life's happenings and capture memories, tucking them close to my heart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Getting ready for lift off!

Belle and Daddio have been working through a unit on flight and decided to put all of their studies into practice by building an airplane.  After securing the supplies, they set to work in the garage.  There were a few mishaps and it turned into a learning experience for everyone. Coming soon: photos of their first flight!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Farmstead

There is a local farmstead in a neighboring city that has been preserved for tours and school groups.  On select Fridays, they host a preschool storytime and activity.  We have been to a few and always have a great time.  Last fall, Daddio and I took Punky to the Charlotte's Web themed activity.  We listened to the story of Charlotte's web, then had the chance to meet some farm animals like Wilbur the pig!  We also learned about farming "back then" and planted a few seeds.  The kids had a chance to grind corn into chicken feed and even went on a wagon ride behind the tractor.

At the ranch...the wildlife ranch!

Since we moved to this area, I have been wanting to visit this exotic wildlife ranch. They host a homeschool day each year, but it's never worked out for us to attend, until this year.  It was a gorgeous day.  We enjoyed visiting the animals, listening to the animal talks, the petting zoo, learning about their bears, Punky's first horse ride, and the big girls took a class about animal conservation.  We will definitely be back, as this is one of those places that we can learn something new on each visit.  Enjoy the pictures...this is just a fraction of what we took that day! :)