Category Archives: homeschool

Legoland

Almost without fail my long term plans change. Gasp! I know that phenomena comes as a complete shock and that it is an extraordinary occurrence only ever happening to me! [end sarcasm]. Back in January I looked at my blank calendar for the year and was content, nay excited, that it would be a non-traveling year. No big trips or excursions, just hanging out on the farm doing farmy stuff. Maybe even use the husband’s time off for a stay-cation to do even more farmy stuff! But then my sister-in-law invited us to an incredible beach house and the price of admission was playing with cousins. And then my grandparents invited us to an incredible resort down in Orlando and the price of admission was a few home-cooked dinners with stuff from the garden and pantry. Needless to say we did indeed travel to the Sunshine State and it was totally worth it. Now, Orlando is the the mecca of all epic vacation plans. As my husband had to stay home (he does still have a job and we do still have a lactating bovine tenant) I wasn’t about to tackle Disney anything. But Legoland…that I could manage. Not to mention their promotion for 1 kid free per adult ticket purchased made it financially feasible (we’ll go ahead and start saving now for the eventual Disney trip…I’m looking into the going rate for kidneys. Hey, I only need one, right?) Plus the more I read, the more I realized that my kids are the perfect ages for Legoland. Soon they’ll be ready for more (they’ll always be die hard Lego-ers but young adults do need more than duplo stations at somepoint). However, right now? This was just right. Few thoughts and lessons learned: Naomi is a roller-coaster, thrill-seeking fiend. Garyn needs more robotics in his life. I get why people think my little girls are twins. Lunch in air-conditioning is divine. Trading mini-figures actually was really fun. And last but not least, if they say on every sign possible on the ride that you will get wet…you will probably leave the ride drenched. Here are some of my favorite pictures of the eleventy billion that I took.

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dragons, and ghosts, and pigs, and fairies…oh my!

oI love Halloween, don’t you? Being a mom is what actually inspired this love. I stopped trick-or-treating when I was about 12 and being a rather awkward teenager I never really had much to do on Halloween and felt like the biggest loser because of that. But then a husband and kids came and all that mess changed. Now I’m a veritable rock star when I pull off costumes that impress and delight my children and I get to orchestrate fun lunches (mummy hot dogs) and Day of the Dead parties (complete with sugar skull sugar cookies!) This year was something of a wild card. Because of hurricane Matthew and our church’s commitment to help with the clean up effort, our normal trunk-or-treat was canceled. We happen to live just far enough into the country that I was fairly certain trick- or-treating was not going to happen in our neighborhood (“what? done after 3 houses? I guess we have hiked three miles…”). Luckily my brother and Sis-in-law graciously offered to share their neighborhood and they even fed us dinner before hand to build up the energy reserves for a thorough candy acquisition operation. Helps that their neighborhood is one of those where people give out full-size candy bars and a few couples even had a tent and were serving up hot dogs and hot chocolate! We know where we will be next year!

Unfortunately, when we kicked off the festivities with pumpkin carving, Neil wasn’t here. He is traveling back to Vegas for one week every month. Small price to pay for having him home 100% the rest of the time, but I’m pretty certain if his boss makes him travel over my birthday again, I’m going to refuse to drive Neil to the airport. Ever. This year was the first that both big kids did their pumpkins completely solo. Babies…Growing up…Sniff. And as an aside, as soon as the pumpkins started to cave in and get soft, Mei (our dairy cow) yummed them up for dinner. No waste on this farm!

Little Man is a fairly steady customer when it comes to costume requests. He knows months in advance what he will be and he sticks to it. This year he knew he was going to be “Steve” from Minecraft. About a month out, that changed to “a red dragon.” That was fine by me and it led to one of my favorite costume triumphs to date. Hi. I’m Lindsey, and I work in felt.

A study in contrasts. Layna, kind of out of no where informed me that she wanted to be a ghost (“Boo!”) and stuck with that for 2 months. Naomi went through this process: vampire witch, Princess Leia (until I semi insisted on a turtle neck dress…authenticity people!), mermaid, Pocahontas, and at last…Zarina the pirate fairy. I had a ton of fun with her costume too and learned how to shir. This made for a super comfy bodice that actually looked right. Plus she had a costume for Ren Faire! Win!

True to three year old form, Corra changed her mind daily for about 3 months. We were reading a magazine in which some kids went as pigs, and I reminded her we had the pig beanie (a white elephant gift from the work Christmas party years ago). She was sold, and double sold when I told her we would use Naomi’s old dance stuff to complete the ensemble. Win again! Also the full dragon costume. Yay for internet tutorials that made wings much simpler than what I was envisioning. How did people do things before the internet?

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Candy was acquired, fun was had, and life was good.

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The next night we had a Dia de los Muertos party for school, and later some friends came to dinner to help with decorating the cookies and eating the sugar skulls. These cookie cutters are giving my Ninja-Bread-Men cutters some stiff competition for my favorite baking thing.

Amazon also came through with these skull candy molds. So cool.

This was one of our better years for Halloween. For school the next day we did candy graphing and pumpkin measuring for math, and Halloween MadLibs for writing. This month we read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (the real one, and it was awesome!) and a book called “Little Witch“. It’s going to be tough to top this one, but challenge accepted for next year!

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the pond

On our trip to the UK we flew over it. When I was a teenager and we took a family trip to Florida, I put my feet in it. But until we ventured forth with our munckins in tow, I had never actually swam in the Atlantic ocean. And I’m sold on the whole idea. We had so much fun on our first trip to a North Carolina beach I’ve already planned out at least 4 more this summer. We have to find a favorite one right?

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Something that can be a bummer about southern California beaches is the complexity of the excursion. I know that’s my total lack of experience (my cousin lived in San Diego for years and she is a beach professional) but choosing a beach then finding parking then lugging your stuff to the spot can be a bit much. This time we drove 2.5 hours through rural farm land, then crossed a bridge and were magically on the shore. We parked (for free) then walked up and down these stairs and set up less than 200 yards from the water.

In about 3.7 seconds after being slathered in sunscreen (not that it is acutally necessary for my bronze babies, but maternal paranoia) They were in their respective happy places. Kids and sand is a beautiful thing. Well not literally…sand in a mouth isn’t pretty at all and it’s worse when they don’t even notice!

Selfie, lest posterity think I missed my childrens’ complete childhoods. Also the little girls took turns going into the big waves with Daddy, and would have happily spent the next 17 hours jumping into waves and getting splashed full on in the face. They are 3/4 fish.

Picnics at the beach are something of a logistical nightmare for a mom. There is the actual menu (tasty and healthy, but easy to make, haul and eat), keeping sand out of the food (I gave up) and bringing enough, but not too much (no one wants to lug sandy, warm food back to the car, am I right?). Recently I’ve been on a crazy canning kick and I found a woman’s blog that I’ve been stalking for about a month now. This post of hers was gold.

Fudgesicle Frosties and Homemade Fudgesicles (Fruit or Agave Sweetened)

[wordpress is not cooperating with me and my wanting to add pretty embedded hyper links, sigh]

The frosties were a solid victory. Also seaweed adorned sand castles. And sandy babies sleeping all the way to get pizza on the way home. Mostly we all love that beach going will now become part of what we do. I can’t wait to be a professional.

 

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Milk Bucket List

I told the kids that they needed to start a check list of all the things they want to do and places they want to go before we move. Finally after nothing was done, I started the list on my phone. When they told Daddy about it, he said we should call it our milk bucket list. In preparation for this post, I asked him what he meant (as I had forgotten) and he couldn’t remember either. But it is the title of the to-do list in my phone list app so there you go.

Bucket lists are fine. I don’t generally keep one, and as a rule I think most people do it wrong. But done correctly I think they can be worth while. It’s when people put completely unattainable, truly impossible things on their lists that I get annoyed (ex. climb Mt. Everest – 37 year old dedicated couch potato who doesn’t actually like nature). If it is something that either is a life long dream that you are committed to accomplishing (learn new language) or an easy check-off-the-list, fun addition to your life experience (attend underwater hot yoga class) (<—does that exist??? if it does, I’d so do that)…you should add it to the list and then rock it hardcore.

We have started on our list. Our milk bucket list.

The Children’s Discovery Museum. Generally I’m not actually a fan. It is a great place for exploring little bodies but highly stressful for the adult tasked with keeping eyes on those bodies. Collectively, though, we all love the water room. Tables and fountains and Lego dams and machines and hundreds of plastic balls. Oh and the piece de résistance? Rain coats with ears.

My girls found their happy places. Not shown are their other happy places: Layna making me a smoothie and salad at a pretend Jamba Juice and Naomi working her magic in the pretend vet office. Since I’m short on picture space, I’ll just tell you about my little man. He loved everything, and that’s something that I love about his personality…he genuinely has fun doing anything, from the toddler room to the more complicated science floor. He is a life saver on outings like this and is my favorite nine year old, hands down. Baby girl was content to push all the buttons and wear all the hats:

Next we went to the Dinosaur Park. It is known throughout the land and is The dinosaur park. Here’s why…

A triceratops skull that is probably 30 feet tall! And the rest of the park (totally enclosed by a fence, by the way. The designer must have been a parent of munchkins) is themed accordingly.

Fun was had by all…Except when Little little girl went down the huge twisty slide and it turned her around so she came out head first and then landed on her head. But otherwise it was a lovely day and turns out weekday mornings around 9 are the perfect time to hit up parks if you want to be alone.

We have more to do before we move and I’ll be toting the camera everywhere (for another project we are working on). Now back to packing the kitchen.

 

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Duct Tape and Rubber Bands

There is a big, long story of how it came to be that me, my good friend Denise and our other good friends Ty and Kim found ourselves teaching physics to a squirrely bunch of 8-12 year olds.  That story is interesting but not nearly as interesting as this class has turned out to be. First off, a group of 22 high energy homeschool kids with varying backgrounds and experience levels, requires certain considerations. Team dynamics, project difficulty, etc. and I know I’ve learned a lot and should I ever teach a class like this it will be even better. And it’s super hard for me to accept that there are things I couldn’t foresee and that everything takes practice, especially when you are doing something that’s never been done before. Wait. You already knew that? Oh.

We wanted to do physics challenges where the kids would get some very hands on experience with different principles.  Also fun. We wanted them to have fun. So each class is a different challenge with a set objective, prefaced by a short, flashy demonstration that is usually chosen because there are some freaking awesome things you can do with physics! Our whole goal is to expose the kids to the joys of science so that hopefully they will leave more curious about the world around them.

The duct tape challenge was first on the list, as a good simple introduction to the whole idea of a physics challenge class. Kids were put into teams and each team was given a roll of duct tape. The objective was to see which teach could build the tallest freestanding structure.

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But first there were three demonstrations to show some important principles: Synergy, Friction, and Balance. After those they got to work. It was pretty cool to see them stretched a bit out of their comfort zones and have to figure out things like getting it off the roll in the first place (one person holding the tape and the other person running across the room with the roll was a very popular method), dealing with the inherent floppy-ness of duct tape, and the ever looming stickiness problem.

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Most of the teams ended up abandoning any plan they may have had in favor of the “stack of tape wads” method (see left), however, the winners (right) did not and their design ultimately was the tallest by a long shot.

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They did have some stiff competition from this tower in the center of the left picture, but it didn’t stand up for the requisite minute.. The kids seemed to have fun and my little girls were much happier supervising construction than they were playing with the other littles.

Next up was rubber band cars! These taught us, as teachers, probably the foremost rule that one should internalize about the modern class room: if it looks easy on YouTube it probably is stupid hard in real life. Also axles that don’t buckle is kind of vital for a vehicle of any sort.

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Denise started with examples of force and differences in air pressure.

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We watched some videos then turned them loose on a table full of stuff. Two of the teams (out of 8) ended up with cars that could go a few feet.

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Ultimately though, it was a lesson in how sometimes things just don’t work and that little details make all the difference. The kids were very good sports and most of them stuck with it even in the face of abject failure. As a side note, I really like all the kids in our group and hopefully there will be many more cool things in store for us with these families.

Next up is the Egg Drop and Popsicle Stick Bridges and my musings on kids and the need to play!

 

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Age of Chivalry

That’s the name of our local Renaissance Faire, which we recently attended. I’ve decided that for me, going to Ren Faire is the adult equivalent to “I want to run away and join the circus.” There is a part of me that wonders (with just a touch of wistfulness) what would it be like if that is what you did…traveled from one Ren Faire or historical reenactment to another doing cool stuff like  weaving trim on a inkle loom whilst wearing a gorgeous period costume and talking to everyone in a cool accent? Le Sigh. I wasn’t even planning on going, but when I finished the kids Halloween costumes ahead of schedule and a friend mentioned that they were going, I reconsidered. I’m all about a Halloween costume getting as much use as possible and going with a friend made the whole thing seem less overwhelming. Throw in a borrowed double stroller, free admission, the prospect of a meat pie and I couldn’t wait. [Warning: Ren Faires are highly photogenic events. Please excuse the ridiculous amounts of pictures in this post and just know that I pared down considerably.]

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Halloween costume preview. Also I’ve decided that the Faire was the most amazing place for my children. Not only are you encouraged to talk to anyone and everyone…most of the people who are dressed up, are at the Faire for the sole purpose of talking to inquisitive kids! It was such a nice change of pace…to be saying, “Go say hi! Ask the scary looking pirate where his ship is! Curtsy to the queen before launching into a 5 minute monologue about your fairy costume and how you are going to wear it on your upcoming trip to the Feywild!”

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Adventurers all. Plus a dragon.

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Ok. During the jousting, both of my little girls ’bout lost their minds. Corra was bouncing and giggling and pointing like mad at all the horses and she couldn’t get enough. Layna spent the whole time burying her head in my shoulder, screaming, and demanding that I keep my hands over her ears. That one doesn’t do loud noise. While we were standing well away from the arena a very nice Wild clan member with some very creative piercings tried to make her smile. Layna was distracted but didn’t quite know what to make of the wolf on the girls head or the white and black body paint. Huzzah for Ren Faire!

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It was so cool to bring the big kids as they are now old enough to care about the historical crafts and other stuff that people demonstrate. They came home and wanted me to print out more Celtic designs for them to paint. Now I just need to learn how to spin hair into yarn on an old fashioned spinning wheel! Oh, it will happen.

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Layna was digging the homemade crane and Naomi was in heaven being fussed over by a royal court.

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After a yummy (if not period accurate) lunch we were able to continue on. The meat pie was delicious.

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Friends were made everywhere (now I get to explain to Naomi why she can’t wear the green feather that her friend let her keep to church today). My little fairy and warrior monk (he’ll be a warrior monk mouse for Halloween) were very popular with everyone. I love the Renaissance Faire and it only is going to get easier to take the munchkins as the little girls get older. Who knows? Maybe someday Layna will be ok with “We Will Rock You” over a loud speaker? Maybe. Although next year I’m totally dressing up…better get on making a peasant shirt to go under the bodice I made in high school for my first Ren Faire.

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on “being in shape”

Health and fitness take up a fairly large percentage of my brain capacity, everything from menu plans for my family to stressing about my body and fitting into those jeans and that sweater this holiday season. I’m in fairly good shape…I eat really well, chase four monkeys around and run a farm. I even squeeze in yoga occasionally. I got this. [Queue tragic fall due to pride… now!] Last year we set up our schedule for our homeschool group field trips and this was one I was super excited about. We headed up to Red Rock Canyon to check out the visitor center that didn’t exist when I was a kid and hike a bit before a picnic lunch. The weather couldn’t have been nicer and the kids were eagerly awaiting lunch and rocks and dirt and friends. I’m still feeling this little outing 3 days later.

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The visitor center was super cool and we loved the outside exhibits that were divided into 4 areas: earth, air, fire, water. Red Rock also has a cute colony of desert tortoises in residence, which Layna enjoyed. Corra really loved sitting in the replica of the agave roasting pits [random trivia for the day: did you know that limestone, once heated, loses it’s ability to collect and store heat? crazy huh?]

I asked at the desk which would be the best trail/walk for a group with lots of littles. She pointed to the map and away we went. To be fair to her, it was a great hike…for solid walkers ages 4+. My three and one year old semi-solid walkers? Not so much.

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The hike was one mile round trip, but between a rotation of carrying one or the other or both little girls or dragging and lifting them by the arm because sometimes that’s the best way to get over a boulder, that mile almost killed me. Lunch was a welcome break indeed. Oh and I’m pretty sure I would have died had my friend not offered to carry Corra the last third of the way. [Thanks again Becky!] I don’t know what I was thinking…

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My whining aside…It was pretty groovy to see Layna so aware of when she walked on her own and when she managed to get herself from point A to point B, how proud she was of those victories. It’s nice to have reminders that she is much more “three year old” than she is “three year old with Down Syndrome.” She wanted to be carried most of the time, but when she walked on her own, she conquered those slippery rocks and stone steps like a pro. Lately has been interesting for me as her speech progress, while happening, is very slow. It’s odd having a non-verbal child after having two that will, literally, talk to you for 10 minutes straight without requiring a response from you. Ah, Life and it’s beautiful balancing acts.

Fall is happening, by the way. I can feel it. A few months ago I thought spring was making a solid play to capture the title of “Best Season Ever.” Psssh. Spring doesn’t have Pumpkin Muffins, and homemade applesauce, and hoodies, or a trip to the most magical place on the planet for Thanksgiving to look forward to.

 

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