Tag Archives: Homeschooling


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.



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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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They have returned…

The Prince and Princess of Dirt have returned and that fortuitous omen can mean only one thing…more garden adventures at The Angry Dwarf Dairy!

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All children of the Royal Family.

And yes, that is a hand full of cookies in Layna’s hand, accepted as acceptable bribery for not running across the street when no one is looking. After the first time she escaped, I sacrificed my dignity as a mother and handed her the bag of cookies to hopefully keep her in place long enough that we could finish. She is both quick and stealthy. Oy.

Once upon a time the Queen of Dirt noticed some tires out by the dumpster of a tire repair place by her castle. She basked in her brilliance when she remembered that people plant gardens in tires all the time and she rushed home to her beloved internets, which make all things possible. [dropping third person story telling for everyone’s sake].

I did some research and found a family in Arizona that basically created a self watering garden with tires for the beds. We took their ideas, made a lot of mistakes (and learned from them), and came up with this:

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Rows of tires stacked on sawed off five gallon buckets that are fitted to a main PVC line which hooks into…

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a master bucket (to maintain a certain water level) with a float valve that is fed from one of our rescued IBC totes. Dirt is placed on the screen that is sandwiched in-between the two tires (see above above) and it sinks into the water just enough to wick the water up to the top soil level, and the roots of the future plants. I’ll also put straw around the base of the plants to help with evaporation and keeping the soil temperatures cooler. I also painted some of the tires white to help with temperature, but then I got lazy. I’m calling it an experiment to see if it really helps. I think lots of science happened from people being lazy.

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This is Naomi’s happy work face (she actually had a lot of fun, I just snapped the picture at a weird time…just saying so you don’t think I force my kids to do too much manual labor). Layna ended up eating more dirt than cookie but meh, she’s had worse.

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We filled them with awesome garden dirt and I’ll check on them in the morning to see how high up the water was wicked. Also every Prince and Princess needs a domain that is all their own…so Little Man and Little Girl get their own garden tires to tend.

It’s taking more self control than I would have thought to not rush out right now (in the dark) and plant seeds. I know it’s mid January and February is going to freeze my toes off. But it’s gorgeous and the last 20+ years of experience living here doesn’t necessarily mean it will get cold again (like every other winter), right? Perhaps it is a good thing that Layna got into all my seed trays (I should vacuum the dirt off my bedroom floor at some point) and made it so I have to buy transplants and they won’t show up anywhere until mid February. Dang self-control inflicted upon me!

Also, as a preview of sorts…the husband man has decided to do a for real aquaponics system again, but this time based on a proven system and not one of our own experimentation. We will be doing a straight raft system (to avoid our previous problem with growing media) and it will be around 128 sq. feet of growing space. It will be something of an investment but I am really excited to get started, and as he has ordered most of the complicated stuff online already, we are committed! I will be documenting all along the way.

And for anyone curious, here are the current animal counts: 3 cats, 27 chickens, 1 goat buck, 4 pregnant goat does, 1 milking doe, 1 four month old goat wether, 1 rabbit buck, 4 rabbit does, 40 rabbit kits of various ages (numbers to be reduced Saturday, stay tuned for that!), and 3000+ earth worms. The worms totally count.

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I was ripped off…

I grew up here. I spent my whole childhood here, but it wasn’t until I became a homeschooling mom of 4 did I discover this cool place. Gosh. All growing up I thought it was stupid to live in a city with fake history. Like the fact that all the buildings are made to look old because nothing here is older than 20 years. All growing up I was immature and narrow-minded. Las Vegas does in fact have a colorful and interesting history dating back much longer than 20 years and I’m glad someone found it important enough to preserve some of that. Also my friend (who also homeschools) is a major history buff and so museums are her favorite. That and she hates Halloween but since Nevada Day is also October 31st  it was the perfect excuse for checking out some of the local historical spots. We went to the Old Mormon Fort, which I’ve driven past a million times but had never actually stopped.

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Our tour guide was really nice and super tolerant of the occasional wayward child. He knew everything about everything and so I actually learned some new random trivia to add to my collection! (Did you know the mesquite tree can send its roots down up to 200 feet?)

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I haven’t developed a new interest in selfies, I swear. I just know that I’ll be sad if I look back on all of this and am not in any of these pictures. So this is me in my “my hair is greasy and nasty but if I wear this no one can tell” hat. My babies liked the trees and the nature and the older kids who thought pushing the stroller would be great fun.

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One reason this place is so cool, is that it is a very hands on museum. The kids all got to take turns hauling water from the creek to mix in the “mud” (it was mostly cement) and then they got to take shovels of it and put it in a replica of a brick mold. And the cool part is that they are actually using these demonstration bricks to rebuild one of the inner walls of the fort. Naomi couldn’t stop smiling as she carried (slowly) a part of a brick and put it on the wall…she was helping with real work and couldn’t have been happier.

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She also got to sign her name on one of the bricks and that was groovey too. Corra looks good in an Indiana Jones hat. Maybe next Halloween she can be Indiana Jones and Layna can be a boulder…YES!!!

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