Tag Archives: Homeschooling

So spoiled

I’ve written a few times about the epic pumpkin patch my mom’s cousin used to own just outside of Redlands, CA. We started going there when my now 8 year old was a month old. Being family we did all the activities for free and basically for the years before we moved here, I had all the fancy (and tasty) heirloom pumpkins I could stand for free. Well change comes to us all and we, um, moved across the country. Last year I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for a pumpkin patch, plus we were super busy so we just picked up jack’o’lantern pumpkins at Walmart and called it meh. This year a friend invited me to go with her and her son to a local Pumpkin Patch (one of about 87 in a 5 mile radius of our house…turns out when you can grow things like corn mazes, people do.) I finally got my spoiled self in gear and made peace with the fact that no it wouldn’t be the same, and yes it was going to cost me both my arm and my leg. Sigh. The munchkins were beyond thrilled with the experience so I’m thinking we may be back in the proverbial holiday tradition saddle once again.


People either love these things or hate them. I hate that I love them. And the disembodied cow/sheep heads? fuggetaboutit.

I’m not sure if I can adequately express the magnitude of my gratitude, that my kids are both easily entertained and easy to please. Tire and dirt? We’re set for hours, Mom!

Not pictured is the huge silo fort with air cannons. Not sure how I was so negligent in my picture taking that I have no pictures of it’s magnificence.


But the real star, the real icing on our fall extravaganza cake was this little barn thing filled with corn. We spent a solid hour in here and they probably would have stayed longer. True I had to fish corn out of pants and skivvies, but it was the best sensory exploration activity of the whole season for all the ages. All of the things we did just reminded me and threw into stark relief that 99.9% of the time, simple is the right answer (and not just for kids).

We rounded out the day with a haunted hay ride to a field of perfectly placed (if not exactly grown) pumpkins to find our Jack’o’lanterns. Corra had a huge (fake) spider almost land on her head and ghosts came out of the trees. It was pretty great.

So next on our tradition documenting docket: Halloween itself!



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Fall means tradition

And tradition means Ren Faire, a Pumpkin Patch, and Halloween. I’ll be breaking these classic Fall posts into three installments so that I can put more pictures into each one! Muahahaha! So without too much more initial babbling I’ll get to it…The Renaissance Faire. Better than last year because the kids were older although not without some good life lessons learned (like winning the best prize ever one year, does not really mean it will happen again, and Miss Layna Dawn hates noise. Oh wait, I totally already knew those. Right.)

Homeschooling wins everything, but we added another triumph to the list. Yes “Student Days” are sheer craziness with a capital CRAY CRAY, but this year we learned. We got there later (missing the opening rush) and stayed to close since we didn’t have to be back before any bell rang. When we meandered out it was all but deserted. It was so awesome.

(I’m really tempted to let my husband buy me a newer iPhone just so I can upgrade my camera. Sorry about the meh pictures.) Little Miss doesn’t do heat or noise. There was much to be had of both, I’m afraid. So we happily watched the jousting with me blowing on the back of her neck while firmly covering her ears. It’s mom-fu at it’s finest.


I’m so glad I married a man who gets that you can cheer really loud and make a complete idiot of yourself and it’s ok. It means that I’m in good company at all the cheesy events I drag our family too. I love jousting, and this year it was so cool to listen to my big ones talk about the horses (wondering what breeds they were and comparing notes) and commenting on the saddles (our knight had an Australian saddle). Score one for riding lessons! They are now knowledgeable horse people (or something).


Remember that thing about people not being afraid to really get into the cheesiness of an event? Another reason I love Ren Faire. Normal adults playing pretend for 2 whole months! This guy was great. He even let me video him wishing my sister a happy birthday so I could send it to her in Taiwan. How’s that for best random birthday text ever!?

Traditions are great because they get better with time. We saw so many of the same people from last year, including the Raptor rescue show with the same host. Neil chose a great seat and I took the coolest slow-motion video of an owl flying over our heads. If my tech savvy husband were here to make my computer behave I’d attempt to upload it. But alas he is working. You’ll have to settle for the hawk.


My girls got to watch a show on historical heroines and then attend hero/heroine training. They took it very seriously.

Back to life lessons…Naomi waited 365 days to play the dragon egg hatching game to win a $80 puppet like Garyn did last year. Brought her own money and everything. She ended up with two kind of cool dragon eye necklaces and a whole lot of disappointment. But she soldiered on and took our advice to focus on experiences rather than things for her parent funded activity/treat/thing. And now she can say that she has ridden a camel.

Role models.


By the end of the day this one announced that he wanted to spend all his time working with molten metal of any kind. When can kids start welding classes? Of course, molten glass was pretty captivating, too. I got another blown glass ornament for our Christmas tree and I figure by the time the kids all move out, I’ll have a pretty respectable collection to fill in all the gaps left by the ornaments they take with them.


This one wanted her picture taken with every fancy statue there was (and I’m graciously sparing you the other 13 pictures of exactly that) but this one…I mean, how often do you get to grab a pirate by the dreadlocks? Best. Day. Ever.





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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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Renaissance Faires are some of my favorite places ever to visit. Mostly its just great to have a time outside of Halloween to wear a fun costume and go see a ton of other geeky adults getting together to celebrate geekiness. (Quick aside: When did Halloween become “National dress like a hooker day”? It really bothers me. Oi.) Plus, I can call it school for the day, so winning all over the place. The Renaissance Faire in Las Vegas is a fairly respectable affair with all the jousting, turkey legs, and  craftiness one would expect. The one here in Charlotte is even better as it has a permanent location. That means buildings and a glass blowing kiln (I bought the coolest hand blown ornament for our Christmas tree!), and a set jousting arena. Open every weekend in October and November it also has the advantage of crowds spread over more than just 3 days. However, we choose to go on one of their “Education Days.” We went on a set Tuesday specifically geared towards elementary and middle school aged kids. Oh. My. Field Trips. Any crowd advantage was lost and next year we might just go on a weekend and maybe avoid some of the madness. But who knows? Maybe weekends are worse. We shall see next year, and in the mean time, even with hordes of munchkins running amok, it was still awesome.

He didn’t dress up but he happily came with us and that, as you know, makes every aspect of the outing infinitely better. Daddy is the favorite, after all.

Friends were made and pictures taken!

img_2394Low key Costume, but fun none the less. I made this bodice when I was in high school for my very first Ren Faire and I’m happy I can still sport it on occasion.

Lunch on the bleachers while we waited for jousting was simple: apples, cheese and meat, homemade bread and cookies (maybe I should call it “Authentic”) and it started to fill up with people right as we finished eating. Yelling and cheering and booing, it was cool to see the armor and horses and the competition…all my kids were fans of the whole thing.

The Falconry show was one of our favorite things that we watched. The birds were loose to fly to various perches around the audience and they mostly came back when called. Owls, falcons and Kookaburras, oh my! Before the birds, though, there was a super cool juggling show that we caught the tail end of.

This is definitely going to be new a fall tradition for our family. Especially since Garyn had the great fortune to win a Merkel. The girls are all hoping for one next year.


That, my friend, is a Merkel. His name is Devin.




Filed under life the universe and everything

The Beautiful Dance

Naomi has been wanting to write a post ever since her brother was invited to guest post a month ago. While she hasn’t earned her very own post featuring her photography, she would like to share her thoughts on our recent trip to our “School Picture” Park. I’ll be sharing my own thoughts at the end.

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I love the “Let it Go” pose (on the right) because I like Elsa. The normal “Me” pose is great because Mama loves it. My blue dress has two pockets and is my second favorite color, the color of a blueberry. What I like about my pink sandals, is that they are my most favorite color. Ever.

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I love dancing. It was really fun to dance with my little sisters and I love Corra more than anything else…Whoa! It was so fun to throw pebbles into the pond because I could practice my toss. At the park I loved playing with the toy animals and my friends. Bye! [end Naomi]

This tradition has become an interesting one I didn’t think I’d look forward to. When we joined our homeschool group it was brand new and so we have been there for all of its changes and growth spurts. I didn’t think we would get to the third such picture day…I wasn’t sure if the group would last or if we would last as a part of it. But we did, and to be with the same very cool group of families has been more rewarding than I expected. It’s really cool to watch the kids run around with a pack of similar kids who share the outlook of “Oh you’re new? Well, come on! You are part of the pack because you’re here and you’re you!” However, the big difference between this and any other park day are the gorgeous pictures of my kids that come a few weeks later. Having beautiful children is one of the most fun things ever, not going to lie. Granted, there is usually mud and little man ends up sweaty in his pictures and since Layna is Layna I worried about the lake way more than before.  Corra was toddling and flirting with everyone and Naomi came home with green duck poopy feet.

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Garyn informed me that we need to come back and stay for a few hours because he found the perfect reading spot. He was right, it is the perfect reading spot. And maybe we can also try non-arms folded poses.

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Pretty sure she is the most photogenic baby I’ve ever seen.


Corra’s photogenic-ness is probably to karmically off set this one’s current phase. The middle picture is her telling me “no” when I told her to smile. Meh. I’m just thrilled she is voicing the first consonant, finally. Yay for Down Syndrome and Speech Therapy teaching me the finer points of silver lining hunting! [note: that could be read as being sarcastic and a tad bitter. I’m totally serious. This little girl is teaching me all sorts of stuff about perspective and what is, in fact, worthy of freaking out (Not very much it turns out). These lessons are carrying over to parenting my other monkeys, being a better wife, and a better human being overall. So, Yay!]

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“All the world’s a stage” and my girls take that at face value. Naomi knows how to get her jig on.

I’m teaching a poetry class starting next week and it’s going to be epic. [Get it? Epic Poetry? what ever, it was an awesome pun.] In preparation I’ve been reading and sorting through amazing poetry and it’s changed my outlook a little bit. It’s hard to read “If –” by Rudyard Kipling or “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman and not live a bit better. More intensely sincere in your attempts. Sigh. I love poetry. Anyways. More on the class later and Fall is on the way so I need to go get my own happy jig on…

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Ok so it hasn’t been 4 years since our last Olympics, but we can be on a modern schedule right? Honestly this post probably won’t be much about the event itself (which was fun and laid back). I love our homeschool group and was glad to put on the Olympics. The kids probably would have been just fine with playing at the park, but meh, they liked winning olive branch crowns and drinking grape juice. This post actually might be more about how I’m doing with homeschooling over all.

It’s absolutely the best thing ever for my family, my kids are thriving and they are way beyond where they need to be (Garyn and Naomi both). I just feel like I’m floundering. The feeling is similar to trying to find the last piece to a jigsaw puzzle in a bag of random pieces, when you aren’t even sure what color it should be to fit your puzzle. I don’t know what is missing and I don’t know why I feel like something is missing, but the stuff I’ve been trying lately seems forced. Unnatural. Because its the wrong piece. This all probably stems from the fact that I have a lot of conflicts raging in my head all the time. Granola, energy workin’, mystic hippie meets capitalistic, pragmatic economist. Un-schooling, child led education meets structured, mean, one room school house Marm, where dang it! you need to work on your handwriting! But…um…only if you feel inspired? Little man is turning 8, he would be going into 3rd grade and Little girl would be starting Kindergarten in the fall. One side in my head says, “Sure he’s ahead, he’s super gifted. But how much further ahead would he be if you worked with him and really pushed him?” and the other side says, “Psshhh! If she pushes him he will hate learning. He is so far ahead because he has had the freedom to pursue what he loves.” And I’m standing there nodding to both of them, because they both are talkin’ pretty to me. Gah.

The one thing that saves me is the fact that I get help when I need it, either from God or good friends or moments of brilliant clarity (so I guess all my help comes from Him, and I’ll take it!). The other thing that saves me is my sweet husband who listens to me freak out, rubs my back while I cry and then totally agrees with me when I say I’m screwing up our children. He’s good at making me laugh. Also there are always the moments when Garyn busts out math problem solving based on stuff he had to put together on his own, or I look up a reading level on a book he sped through, or I see him taking care of his little sisters like a boss, and I relax. A little bit.

Wait! That’s three things! I’m horrible at math! My kids are DOOMED!!!

Epic Sigh.

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The athletes all performed well. However, Layna was not impressed with her goat-cheese-and-honey-cracker. Corra just approves of the world in general. Especially when there is food.

Thanks for letting me vent. Someday I’ll figure out academics and in the mean time at least I’m nailing hard work, kindness, and good people-ship. If I have to choose, I’ll take those.


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Genius = museums with lots of hands on, kid friendly displays. Genius = Leonardo da Vinci. Genius = combining the two. Once again the Springs Preserve delivered on the awesomeness front with their new exhibit: “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion.” We went today for the first time and I’m already planning two more trips (one to take good pictures, not crappy ones from my phone, to enter a contest; and the other to bring sketch books, because of course!) Oh and it’s pretty great when you are prepping your kids on the way to the place even though you should have done a whole unit study on said place and you quickly are informed by your 7 year old that the Magic Tree House book about said place already taught him all he needed to know. Well everything you wanted him to know at this point. Not sure how I feel about Magic Tree House books picking up my slack…

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You know, from one inventor to another. He was in heaven.

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Love that look. And she liked playing with the big wooden toys models as much as her brother. When he would let her and not steal every new one she found. Gosh.

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Drinking in the knowledge. The docents thought she was the greatest thing since sliced bread and there were several times I turned around to see where she was and they were holding her, helping her work a display or just talking to her about everything. It made my day, a lot.

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So in addition to the 40 or so models of his various machines that you could play with, they also had life sized models of his flying machines, his tank, and some other things. It was SOOOO COOOL!!!!

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Gratuitous fat baby pictures. We always have to play at the park and since she was on my hip in the exhibit (never again will I forget the stroller…Littlest girl is heavy!) this was my first chance to take a picture of her. Oh and yeah…she sits up now. I’ll be posting a 6-month update on all that soon.

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It is kind of rare that these two play very well together so it was photo worthy. And really the reason for the huge butterfly picture is because Naomi informed me that not only was its name “Redyellowpinkblacky” but her pet dog was riding on it. Never a dull moment at the park for us.

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