Thursday, May 23, 2019

Time to GROW

It's been a busy spring so far.  After a disheartening attempt to garden in our backyard last year, I decided that I really needed to increase my knowledge about how to grow things successfully in North Carolina.

Our raised beds in WA almost seemed to grow food on their own.  It was literally so easy.  But the hard, clay-like soil in NC is another story.  Our thickly wooded lot also presents a challenge.  And since we had a new little baby in the house last spring, time was also a challenging aspect of gardening.  But this year she's a little bigger.  We've cut down some trees.  I've moved the boxes further out into the middle of the yard.  And perhaps most importantly, I've been trying to educate myself.

For Christmas, my "Secret Santa" bought me a book about gardening in the Carolinas.  Loved it.  Read it up as fast as I could.  I also attended a seminar about vermicomposting and have started (ok, I purchased it from a friend) a worm bin. It lives on our deck.  And I also purchased a gardening video series from a guy online named Dan Bartell in Colorado who has a site called   His series was really helpful and gave me courage to try some new things.  He has some free videos on YouTube as well.

So armed with new raised beds, copious amounts of compost, and fresh seeds we set out to do better than our "lucky garden" from last year.  I coined the term "lucky garden" a few years back when I was feeling over whelmed by life at planting time.  I told the kids, "Hey, we'll just throw out some seeds and if anything comes up we'll just be plain lucky!"  We've had several lucky gardens over the years and some of them did produce a little.  But this year I wanted to really try.

I have to say, trying actually makes a difference!  Still making some mistakes.  Still having some issues.  But so far this is the best looking garden I've had in a long while.  Here are a few pics of what's brewing right now.  These are actually about a week old and already we've had lots of growth since I took them.  I can't wait for the summer to progress and the garden to continue growing.


These pics were taken in the evening. You can see how shady it is with the trees casting their shadows as the sun lowers.  I do love this time of day in our backyard. It's so peaceful and green.  But these boxes do get a good 5-6 or so hours of HOT sun each day.


The herb box has oregano, lemon thyme, cilantro and basil.
I'm trying my hand at composting this year for the first time.  Sometimes it works and it gets hot! Right now things seem to be off and I can't get it up over 90!  Hm.....


We recently ate all the lettuce in this box as the weather suddenly heated up this past week.  What a great salad that was! So satisfying to eat your own veggies.  Likewise, we've had to pick all the peas and will probably have to pull up the plants too.  It's already just too hot around here.  UG.

This pumpkin plant is so big and healthy! It's sprawling everywhere.  I love dreaming of the jars of spicy pumpkin butter that will haunt our freezer like frosty little ghosts this coming winter.


You can barely see the baby carrots coming up in the middle of this bed.  I had to replant a bunch because some of them just didn't make it the first time around. Those are purple potatoes in the upper corner. We've got the black trellis in there ready to support cantaloupe when they begin to vine.  I had to move out some of those tomatoes as they've already grown quite a bit!  I put them in pots and buckets because I'm just out of garden space.  They live over by our hydrangea bushes like foster children waiting for a permanent home along with our potted lemon tree, which, by the way, has recovered from the horrid winter it spent in our kitchen.  I though the poor fellow was mostly dead.  But it has new leaves and lots of growth!  It even had a little bud on it but some eager beaver apparently came along and snapped it off.  Grrrrrr....

This Teepee trellis is something we've never tried before. My 13 yo and I harvested the poles from our forest, dug the trench, erected the poles and tied them together, filled the trench, and layered the cord around it.  It's very sturdy! I think it could last several seasons.  I wanted to create something for my preschooler that would make gardening an interesting adventure for her too. I have high hopes that it will be covered in vines before long!  We'll see.  Wouldn't it be a lovely little summer retreat to hide inside a shady, green, living teepee?  How magical for a little (or big!) person.   We've got cucumbers, cantaloupe, morning glories and peas around it.  You should see it now! The cucumbers are the clear winners at this point; sprawling and vining as they twist their tiny, spindly fingers around the cords. I think the peas are going to tucker out with the heat that's coming on. We started the peas much too late.  But this has been a fun project for my 13-yo and I this spring.  We enjoy taking care of it together.  We put in sunflowers at the teepee entrance to stand as cheery sentinels.


Look at this cool critter! Not even sure what you would call it.  The body is furry white! Can you see the antennae that look like fern fronds?

And this is us picking strawberries at a local organic farm just ten minutes from our home.  Oh my, seriously the best strawberries I've EVER had (and that's saying a LOT coming from WA).  They were little sweet jewels that just burst with flavor in my mouth.  They come with a hefty price, however, and I probably spent more than I should have for this seasonal indulgence.  I also purchased a subscription to this farm (CSA style) and we pick up our our box of veggies weekly.  I'll have to show you some of the recipes I've made with our CSA veggies another time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Keeping It Real

Just it case you ever had the idea that things always run smoothly around here I thought I'd share a few pics to clarify that.

Even though I was holding her on my lap during our group lesson, I was totally clueless that she was eating a blue marker and coloring herself with it.  yep.  She did produce her first piece of artwork from this experience though, so you can't get too upset with her.


 Yeah, and then there was this day (below) when we were trying to do yoga as part of our morning loop.  Preschooler playing dead on my mat. Toddler crying in front of my mat.  Middle schooler hiding in couch cushions.  The other girls were trying.  They get an A for effort. :)

Sometimes I can laugh at these crazy moments in our day and shake it off.  Other times they have me feeling really overwhelmed and just DONE with it all.  Thank goodness for a few quiet moments in between that recharge my soul and give me energy to keep this thing going. 
 These two are the snuggliest girls I know!


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Homeschool Sports

One struggle for homeschooling parents, especially in NC, is providing their homeschooled children with adequate opportunity for team sports without going broke!  Where can you find  team sports for your kids, how do you juggle the different practice schedules, and how do you pay for it?

The answers to those questions will greatly depend on the homeschoolign laws in your state. So start there.  If you live in a state where homeschooled kids are able to participate in public school sports, then you've got it made!  Hurrah!  You live in an inclusive state and you get to take advantage of some of the tax dollars that you are already paying into the public school system!  wahoo!

But if you life in a state like North Carolina where the state leaves homeschoolers' involvements in public school sports at the discretion of each school administration, (but every single school "prohibits" homeschool participation in any school activity), then you've got more work to do.  If playing sports is really important to your homeschool, then you've got to be ready to 1) do some research 2) do some driving and 3) do some check writing.  So it all comes down to priorities.  How bad do you really want Jonny to play baseball?

Most of us grew up playing a sport and want that same experience for our kids even if they don't go to public school. I know I did and I do want that for my kids.  So here is where we generally have luck finding sporting opportunities for our kids.

1) Your city leagues.  If your city has a parks and rec program this is a good place to start.  If you live in city limits you will generally have a better rate than for participants that live over city lines. I find that the difference is not very much so if the next town over has a better program you may want to check into it.

2) YMCA.  I've had mixed feelings about the YMCA over the years, but the Y here in NC gets my thumbs up.  We are members at the Y again and have had positive experiences playing sports there.  In addition to their sports, my older girls are now old enough to join me for fitness classes! How fun is that! These are the kids I used to drop off at child-watch while I exercised.  Now they join me in the cardio room or at the weight lifting class.  I must be getting old.

3) Churches.  Many large churches, especially here in the south, sponsor or host private sports teams that are open to the community.  These teams are generally more focused on sportsmanship and character building than skills training and competition.  But your child will still get a great team experience and will likely gain something greater than just a sport in the process.  We've done all kinds of sports through churches from volleyball, to soccer, to basketball, to track and field.

4)  Homeschool Leagues.  If you're lucky enough to live in a place that actually has private homeschool leagues and you don't mind paying several hundred dollars per season, per student, and then driving them do the various games, then this is a good place to look. You can do a quick google search to find homeschool leagues in your state. Here's information for NC:

5) Health Clubs: Some health clubs are ready and willing to capitalize on the homeschool community by offering day-time sports and clinics for homeschool athletes.  We have swim and tennis clubs in the area that offer these sports to homeschoolers.  If  your local gym doesn't offer a program like this currently, then it might be worth suggesting it to the gym administration, especially if you're willing to help coach!  Cross-fit often has kids programs and we even had a great homeschool program back in WA.  Check them out too.

Ok, so you found a program you like for each do you juggle the practice routine?   We like to find programs where we can get at least two kids enrolled at the same time and if possible we try to get them on similar practice schedules when the option is given to parents.  For example, we currently have 3 of our kids all playing basketball through a program called UPWARD that is hosted at a local church.  It does mean that we have eight consecutive Saturdays that are 100% consumed by back-to-back basketball games...but at least we get it all done in one big swoop and we don't feel as scattered throughout the week.

And paying for it all?  Well, some of those options I mentioned are going to be cheaper than others. I find that the churches and the city leagues are the most affordable, so that's usually the route we go.  If your child is especially good at a sport and you want to pursue it in depth, then of course it will require more financial support from you.  But we have found that our kids really enjoy the process of team sports rather than the outcome and so far we're ok with just allowing them to be well rounded in a variety of sports rather than diving deep into any one particular endeavor.  That may change! We'll see.

Maybe all you need to do is organize a free ongoing event where kids can come play together and enjoy a variety of sports for free!  When we moved to NC I started a dodge ball "club" for my son and it was super fun (and free)!

Honestly, the hardest part for me is just keeping up with all the sports seasons and getting the kids enrolled on time!  I often find that I miss enrollment dead lines for sports programs because I just can't keep up with all the emails in my inbox or keep on top of all the programs in our area and what they offer during different times of the year. It does take some serious organization to make it all happen for each of your kids.  So I guess you have to decide how much time you're willing to put into sports on the back end so that your kids get the experience your hoping for.

Anyway, this has been on my mind lately because our basketball season is about to wind down and I've got to look around for what's next: Soccer? Softball? Tennis?  The emails are starting to swirl around in my inbox! I've got to get it together.

Here's a look at my daughter's latest basketball game through a church sponsored league.  It's not the church we attend, but I dont' mind that. They are good people who love God.  I do love that they start with a prayer!

this is actually my son's team

Friday, February 1, 2019

A New Age of Evil: America Chooses Death for Children

My heart is so heavy this week. As I continue to hear over and over again of the vile and shameful news regarding the abortion laws celebrated in NY, I can't help but think we've now entered an all new age and stage of evil.  I don't even know where to begin with my thoughts.  My head and heart are tangled up in each other trying to understand how this country that I love has debased itself to this state.

This hits me especially hard as I am three days away from marking the fifth anniversary of my daughter's passing.  She died the day after she was born.  She was born at 41 weeks.  She was nine pounds.  She had a head full of dark silky hair.  Her name is Hazel and I miss her every. single. day.  My life has never been the same since she died.  I mark time from the moment she died.  Every thing in my life is now seen in perspective of "before Hazel died" and "after Hazel died."  My heart yearns for the day when I have her back in my life.

It sickens me to think New York is celebrating the death of children.  Children like Hazel.  New, precious, tiny humans entrusted to us from the heavens.  Celebrating the death of what should be our most valued resource is nauseating and indicative of just how far we've fallen as a nation. 

I believe in a book of scripture called The Book of Mormon.  A particular verse comes to mind in relation to his heart wrenching matter:

Helaman 5:2

For as their laws and their governments were established by the avoice of the people, and they who bchose evil were cmore numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were dripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
 I fear that God will not look on this evil with any degree of mercy, which leads me to fear for the future of our nation.  America is only great because America has generally been good. America: What you've done is not good.  How can God protect our land when we fail to protect our most frail and precious souls?  How can we choose death for our children?  How did we get here?!!

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Gift that Keeps Giving

I know. Second post in just minutes.  But I was just taken off guard by my sweet daughter's talent, insight, love, and sincerity.  I need to record it.

I was saying good night to two of my older girls when my 13 yo whipped out this paper and said, "Hey mom I made this the other night.  Want to read it?"  Of course I did.

Maybe it's because Hazel's 5th would-be birthday is coming up in just a couple weeks and I'm already on the verge of tears all day.  But this totally took my breath away.

A mother and her baby;
such pure and precious love.
What a lovely blessing
sent from above.
The mother holds her baby dear
cuddling it ever near,
The baby- so content and small
though not knowing much at all
Can feel its mother's tender love
like the olive twig and dove

Her ability to capture this sentiment at the age of 13 is astonishing to me.  It brings me back to the moments I had sitting in a hospital with a newborn on top of my soggy stomach, in a sloppy robe, with sore nipples, so in love with my new baby.  Or those long, late nights when sleep is scarce but joy abounds.  And at the same time it makes me ache for the moments like these that I didn't ever get to have with my sweet Hazel.  She was gone much too quickly and I miss her still. Every day.

I'm so grateful for the talents God gives to his children.  I'm so grateful for individuals who take time to develop their talents and then share them with others to bless and beautify this human experience.  I'm so grateful to mother such lovely children with such lovely souls.

The joys of children - so sweet and deep. Truly they are the gift that keeps giving.

Preschool: Pairs

We had a fun day of preschool earlier this week.  Our letters for the week are Q and U (because you know Q and U stick together like glue).  My 3 yo is such a girly girl so we had to make a Queen and a Unicorn for the QU pair.  Love it.

She practiced recognizing Q by finding Q and q written on sticky notes that I had hidden around the room.  That was super fun for her!

We read lots of stories about special friends who make great pairs.  Frog and Toad anyone?

And we had a fun sensory bin activity looking for pairs of things.  I put one set of items in foil bin and covered them all in rice.  Then I put a duplicate set of identical items in a clear Tupperware so she would know what she was looking for in the rice bin.  When she found an item in the rice, she paired it up with the item in the Tupperware and made a pair! (Yes, lots of rice to clean up afterwards. Totally worth it).

We also talked about things that go together like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, forks and spoons, and a hammer and nail.

Then we practiced "hammering".  I gave her toothpicks and she hammered them into a piece of florist foam using a meat tenderizer from the kitchen!


These activities kept her busy for a really long time and she had a lot of fun learning about pairs.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Field Trip: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

One of my homeschool resolutions for the new year was to implement more field trips into our routine.  I feel like I got out of the field trip habit in the last year after having our 7th baby.  She's a little older now. She's down to one nap a day.  It feels a little easier to get out of the house so I'm ready to start working on a few additional field trips.

Here's a few photos from our most recent trip to Nasher Museum of Art earlier this month.


I wish I could say that it was an amazing field trip.  On a scale of 1-10 I think I'd rate this trip at maybe a 4.  It was not great. It was a cold drizzly day.  It took about 40 minutes to get there.  Once inside I quickly realized that one of the main exhibits was at odds with our family values so I quickly escorted our kids out of that and moved on to other exhibit halls.  The worst part was that the "art cops" were constantly hovering over us, breathing down our necks, just WAITING for my kids to do something out of line so they could exercise what ever authority had been vested in them by virtue of their "art cop" status.  At one point my preschooler did lightly lay her left pointer fingernail on the frame of a piece that was hanging at just her height.  Like a sudden storm cloud, the art cop appeared out of nowhere and pounced on my preschooler.  He then pointed his attention at me, professing loudly that "You are not doing a good job watching your kids.  THEY CANNOT TOUCH ANYTHING."
I was working hard to keep my words in check at that point, as I could feel my blood pressure rising.  We ended our tour early and let ourselves out the door.  We didn't even dare stop to eat our snack in the cafe for fear of being chased out.

Hey Nasher Museum, here's a quick tip:  You're probably not going to have any better-behaved children come through the museum than this set of kids that you just chased out.  So if you really don't want to have children in the museum at all, I suggest you NOT offer free admission once a month.  Keep charging ridiculous admission prices to wander the glaringly vacant halls of your exhibits.  I promise you that kids will stop coming, and your art cops can go back to texting their friends.

The only redeeming thing about the entire experience is that some of our art club friends met up with us there and my preschooler very much enjoyed their company.  She had fun showing off her treasure box and its contents.

Before leaving Duke, we thought it might be worth a try to stop by the chapel and sneak a peak inside.  Unfortunately, the parking permit situation was so thoroughly frustrating (we didn't have one and thus could not park ANYWHERE) that we decided to just go home.  Ah well.  You win some and you lose some.

Despite the bad taste in my mouth, I do have plans to go back in nicer weather (after scouting out public parking options) to visit the gardens and tour the chapel with friends.  I really DO want to have more fun and educational field trips with the kids.

If you're also homeschooling in NC and need some ideas for fun field trips, try taking a look at these resources for new ideas:  (you can look up field trips for any state at this site)

I'm really excited to check out United Skates of America and see what I can set up there!

Happy Field Tripping.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Bucky Ball!

I've always said that one of my favorite things about homeschooling is the fact that I get to learn alongside my kids in SO many ways.  We just started a new science unit (chemistry) and the lesson covered something I had never even heard of before: Bucky Balls!

It was so exciting to learning about a recent scientific discovery that happened when I was a child. It made me feel less old.  Perhaps it made my childhood feel less distant for the kids too? I can hope.  :)

The lesson suggested that we follow the instructions from THIS BOOK to make a bucky ball out of gumdrops and toothpicks.  Well, the science kit comes with toothpicks, but not gumdrops. And since I didn't read the lesson until the night before class, I wasn't ready with gumdrops. 

I searched online for alternative ways to make our model and found this excellent resource.  I actually think it turned out better than the suggested activity and the bonus is that I didn't have to introduce sugar into our lesson and all the wonderful consequences that come with such a risky move.

The kids were showing off their bucky balls and spouting off their new carbon allotrope facts at the dinner table with no prompting from me = Win for the team.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Middle School Math Game: Greatest Common Factor

It's early! I'm working on implementing one of my homeschool new year resolutions: Going to bed earlier and getting up before the kids so I can prep, study, read, exercise, etc...all before the kids rise.

So here I am! This night owl is making progress. I got up at  6:30 today, thank you. :) My goal is 5:30 but I'm okay with baby steps toward that goal.

Anyway, I've prepared a fun game for the kids today. I have two in middle school so I try to gear a lot of our activities to them. I'll team up with younger players to make sure they have a fair shot too.  The game today is GCF Jeopardy!  Get ready to have some fun with Greatest Common Factors.

The player simply chooses a point value from the board and receives that many points if they can name the GCF for the pair of numbers underneath.  If it is answered incorrectly the point value is subtracted. So it's also practice with negative numbers (but hopefully not?)

Hope it's fun and doesn't start any fights.  Cause you know...sometimes that happens when the points matter a little too much.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Family Hike: Ravens Rock

Family Hikes.  They are still one of my favorite things to do on a nice Saturday.  Sometimes it's crazy trying to pick a location that is suitable for our family, pack up the kids, prepare the water and snacks, and finally get on our way. There's always some confusion and often a few squabbles.  But once we get outside and we are enjoying the beauty of God's great earth, it's always worth it.

I've learned not to hike in the summer, here in NC.  We tried to hike Pilot Mnt. when I was 4 months pregnant in 90 degree weather with a toddler in a stroller.  That was not fun!  But hiking here in the "off season" is pretty nice.  I'll admit that I miss the tall green cedars and the rushing of cool clear water over mossy green boulders; the crowded fiddle heads, spongy mosses and dappled sunshine.  Hiking in the Pacific Northwest has totally spoiled me.  Nothing here will ever compare with it.

Still...we are always impressed with the beauty of this area when we come upon it.  I give you: Our December '18 Raven Rock hike.



Can this boy leap, or what?




Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Every Day Homeschool is now On Youtube!

One of my homeschool joys is being able to learn from the other strong, intelligent, creative, powerful, grounded, selfless parents who share my passion for home education.  And somewhere along the way, others started coming to me and asking lots of questions about homeschooling, thinking that maybe I'd have an answer.  I'm always honored when I can encourage someone on their journey, even if it's just to explore the possibility.

After several years of answering many of the same types of questions for others, I've decided to make a collection of videos about our homeschool, what makes it work, what I've learned and how we incorporate home education into our busy family of eight.

I hope that it will be useful to someone, somewhere.  Maybe even for lots of someones. :)  I'd love to have you join our family via youtube and share in the incredible experience of home educating precious children.

I'm VERY new at this and it feels a bit scary. I'd love to hear any comments, suggestions, or questions.  Please join us!  Here's the trailer I put together for the channel.  I'm hoping I'll get better at this as I go along.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Biomes Unit Study

The kids and I have been learning lots of fun things as we explored the biomes science unit from Moving Beyond The Page.

We learned lots about grasslands, deserts, forests, tundra and wetlands.  I learned something new about the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, niches and ecosystems.  It also gave a good chance to discuss the issues and political hype around climate change and global warming. 

My favorite project from this unit was making a wetland model.  We used homemade playdough for the land and a slice of florists foam for the spongy wetland.  I don't think our model accurately reflected how wetlands filter and clean water for us, but it was really fun to do anyway. My husband had the day off and was able to join us in this project.  It's always fun to have his artistic abilities around when these projects come up. I am no artist, that's for sure.'s our wetland model.  Yikes

The sticks and pine needles gave it a bit more of an authentic feel.  We did our best to include lily pads, frogs, fish, snakes, salamanders, beavers and a beaver dam, spider, spider web, and birds.  See if you can pick out all those elements.  :)

We took the test orally together as a way to summarize the knowledge we had gained.  And today we finished up the unit by going to the NC museum of natural history where they have some amazing displays of local NC biomes.  We also took a look at some other neat displays, like the dinosaurs.  Roar.
Good way to spend a gray, drizzly December day over the holiday break.