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. googlea80a8aea0f84f2cb.html

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.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

It's been a wonderful year full of many blessings.  This message helps me remember that Christ has always been there for me both in good years, and not-so-good years.  May your Christmas be merry and bright.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Squirrels in the Attic No MORE!

If you've ever had the queasy feeling of knowing that you share your house a little too closely with nature and wildlife, then you know how desperate you feel to make it STOP.  Since moving to NC we've had run-ins with snakes, bats, ants, wasps, and now squirrels in the house!!  ICK.  Luckily I found a solution to be rid of them.  Watch how we did it:

Christmas Art Club:Ginger Bread Houses

We took a break from our regular art club happenings to do a little Christmas celebrating.  Decorating gingerbread ornaments and then making "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers which we decorated with leftover Halloween candy that I've had stashed away the last couple moths.  It's always so fun to see the kids' creativity!




Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Finding Ways to Volunteer as a Family

During the holiday season more of us are aware of the need for volunteer work and we feel that special desire to get out and do some good!  It must be that Christmas spirit!  I especially look forward to teaching my children about the value of service this time of year.  Learning to love and serve are an important part of any moral education.

The difficulty for our family has always been that most places do not allow children to volunteer.  This year we have been especially fortunate to find two local service opportunities that welcome and accommodate children.

1)  Helping Hands.  Earlier this year my husband and older children were very much involved with hurricane crisis cleanup after Hurricanes Florence and Michael came through our area. They traveled to other cities where the storms hit especially hard.   I did not go, sadly.  I was the backup crew holding down the fort with the younger children behind the scenes so that others could go out and serve.  But we all play a part in making it happen, right?  Helping Hands snaps into action in these situations.  We sent crews for many consecutive weekends to help those affected by the storms.  Here are a few pics of these guys doing their thang.  Way to go fam!

2) Meals on Wheels.  In partnership with another local charity, Meals on Wheels asked for volunteer drivers to deliver hot meals to housebound or elderly residents on Thanksgiving Day.  What a great way to show gratitude (and get out of the kitchen)!  We drove by the pickup point to gather our 14 meals and our driving route before setting off for our first destination.   At each stop our entire family exited the car  (party of eight, sir) and knocked on the door together to make the deliveries.  Some of the residents were not interested in welcoming in eight strangers on Thanksgiving Day.  They simply took the meal and said goodbye.  That's fine.  But there were a few residents who really were glad to see all of us and let us come in to chat.  This was a great way for our family to connect with the wisdom and love of an older generation.  It did tend to go long for the kids by the end of our 8th stop.  But it was worth it.  I WISH I had pictures.

3) Brown Bag Ministries.  This place is so fantastic.  Just show up and serve! It's local. So unless you're in the Raleigh NC area this won't help you much.  But I'm sure there are other charities out there just like it if you do some digging.  They do a number of things but on the Saturday morning we attended, they were preparing hundreds and hundreds of sack lunches for homeless individuals, as well as a hot meal.  Our family helped assemble and bag the sandwiches.  We also helped count out socks, scarves, and toiletries for the Christmas bags that would find their way into the hands of men at a homeless shelter.
It was great to feel part of something important and useful that would have a direct positive impact on our local community.  And it was fun! We even saw some of our friends from church there in the crowd of volunteers.  :)

If none of these ideas seem to be a good fit for you or your family, you can check out these other resources to find just the right volunteer opportunity:  Just Serve  and United Way.

It's so much fun to serve as a family.  Even if you don't join up with a formal organization as part of a project, your own family can find a way to serve together.  For example, we always like to put together a Christmas gift box with food and presents for a less fortunate family in our area.  We dress up in ski masks late at night and deliver the box as secretly and stealthily as we can! We never reveal the family's identity to our children.  So many fun Christmas Eve memories doing this with our young kids!  

And here's another random thing: Our neighbor's tree feel down just a couple weekends ago when we got a few inches of snow.  Weird.  But it happened.  This neighbor is elderly and is not often in her home, as she spends most of her time with family in VA.  I loved getting out there during nap time to saw off branches and sweep up leaves.  My husband did the heavy work with the chainsaw, and another neighbor took care of burning up the many branches. My daughter used some of the boughs (it was a beautiful cedar tree) to make a Christmas wreath for her as well.  She returned the favor by letting us use the trunk to make benches for our fire pit.  Win-win!

There are always things we can do together to serve those around us, and in the process we create many wonderful family memories.  

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Making Apple Cider Vinegar

More experimenting!  It's so fun. I love that I'm finding time to try these simple projects. It gives me just a little sense of self indulgence.

So, I tried another one of Christa's great videos on how to make apple cider vinegar.  Here's what mine looked like when I first put it together.  Pretty, right?

My problem was that I didn't have a weight that would reach through the neck of the jar and keep all the apples submerged. I put a smaller glass jar down inside the neck of the large jar.  This is how it turned out.  I still had a few apples popping up.   Not sure how that will affect final product.

Eventually, I figured out that I could do was take two different lids off of yogurt and cottage cheese containers and bend them until they fit down inside the jar, then put the small jar on top of those and push down a bit. That helped but didn't totally solve my problem.

Update, this is how it looks after about 10 days.

It's definitely bubbly and smells exactly like cider vinegar.  And it's way easier to keep the apples submerged now.