Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

gardening

May Flowers – Spring 2017

I can’t believe it’s May already! When I was a kid, May meant ‘summer’ in full force, but it seems like over the last few years, it’s been cool well into May. This year has been no exception to that; the daytime, though warm, has been lovely. Mornings and evenings are darn near perfect. If I could bottle this weather and keep it forever, I would. I keep trying to convince Loverly Husband that we could move to some place where the weather’s like this all year round, but so far no dice. Ah, well… maybe some day!

In the mean time, we’re making the most of spring! We’ve been eating dinner on the patio – well, I call it the patio. That’s a generous term, I know. We once had a covered carport, but hurricane Rita carried it away and we never replaced it, so now it’s just a concrete slab where we usually park my car. Loverly Husband has a giant work truck, so he doesn’t park on the slab, leaving the whole right side of the slab open… for my table, chairs and plants (now). It’s turning into a lovely little space that is shaded well in the afternoon due to the trees that are on the fence line between us and the neighboring house (which was once my grandmother’s, before she moved to Longview). In any case, it’s nice to have an outdoor seating area, and dining area, whatever you want to call it.

 

In between our outings, the kids have been doing more in the kitchen. Cooking is not my ‘thing’, so they have had to learn to experiment with foods and cooking to figure out what they like. They’re pretty intuitive though, and even offer to cook dinner for the family on occasion. PeaGreen’s favorite things to make are Corn Casserole, and (Easy) Chicken Alfredo. LBB is more of a ‘fix something to eat’ over a ‘prepare a meal’ kinda guy. Hopefully he’ll either learn to cook more things or find a partner who loves to cook!

As always of late, music practice dominates our days and week. We have a seat test for orchestra once a month, and this time around, we only had the music for a single week. Not only that, but some of the songs required notes or position shifts that were totally new, that we also had to figure out for ourselves. It’s the kind of move that, as a teacher, I wholeheartedly approve of. But as a student, it was harrowing. I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked; I still got an A, but I feel like I could have done better. The boys also were disappointed with their performances, both receiving B’s, but in context (first year students with no prior music experience; new notes; brand new music; a long piece; with only one week of practice), I think they did well.

We played The Sound of Music for our test. Oh! That was the other thing; we were given THREE pieces of music; The Sound of Music, Fireflies, and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, and told that the test would come from one of those pieces, so practice all three.  We didn’t know which piece we’d be playing until the day-of, about 15 minutes before the test. So yes, adding that factor in, I’m overall fine with everyone’s grades.

In our homeschool co-op, the kids are taking a class on Teen Mental Health. They’ve had a semester-long project to work on that is coming to a close, and each week has been focused on a distinct method of awareness or coping with life and self-care and maintaining good mental health or managing mental health issues. To help focus on living things and the slowness of thought that comes with managing plants (and relaxation that many people find), the kids made succulent and cactus terrariums. In addition to the little plants and moss and rocks common to this style of container, the kids brought a variety of little trinkets to put into their containers.

LBB’s echevarria variant with moss and glass beads

PeaGreen’s cactus and succulent with Zelda

In our art class, we started art journaling to explore mixed media art.

And just because this was such an enjoyable little evening, here are some pictures we took when my dad joined us for dinner on our little patio (and more pictures of my plants, because they’re making me super happy these days). He said that this was the first actual ‘dinner’ he’s had since my mom died. Apparently he’s also more of a ‘fix something to eat’ type. That’s kinda sad, because he used to cook dinner fairly often, but Sunday Breakfast was his specialty throughout my childhood. He even had a special Tupperware container that lived on top of the refrigerator with his secret, proprietary mix for making homemade buttermilk biscuits. He and my grandfather and brother used to deer hunt every fall and winter as well, so homemade deer sausage was always on the menu… with eggs of some kind and coffee. I miss those days.

We went to McFaddin Ward for ‘Manners Mater’, a social etiquette class for one of our homeschool group’s Teen Socials. We’ve been having two each month lately, and the kids are enjoying it. The kids dressed in a variety of styles of clothing, from ultra casual to business casual (we couldn’t get them into formal wear, lol) and performed skits to help identify polite behaviours and impolite behaviours. We actually went to the museum first, because I wasn’t sure where our class was going to be at, so I got a couple of pictures of the boys on the porch while we waited. We’ve been homeschooling for almost 7 years now, and haven’t been to the museum yet. We’ve been all around it, at the carriage house, in the visitor’s center and on the grounds, but never actually inside. ‘Gotta do that, H.I.’.

Afterwards, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with lunch at Elena’s Mexican Restaurant. *so yummy*.

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Afterwards, we had music lessons (because Friday). PeaGreen worked on his piano solo, and LBB practiced violin. He was going to add guitar, but opted to stick with one instrument for now. I don’t blame him; finding time to practice two isn’t easy. Our homeschool group’s ‘end of the year talent show and recital’ is coming up the first week of June, so we’re all in preparation/practice mode. PeaGreen is planning a performance with two of his friends in addition to his solo and playing with the orchestra. He’s working hard!

Here are the books we’re using for our piano class, in case you were wondering.

Overall, a busy and productive few weeks, as always. Stay tuned for another update soon!

Warmly,
~h

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April Showers: Late Spring 2017

I hate starting off a post with ‘we’ve been really busy’. If you know me IRL, then you know I’m always busy; that doesn’t change. Everything else may, but that’s a constant in my life. I don’t mean that to sound like a complaint, truly. I like it. I thrive on being ‘busy’. When I say, ‘We’ve been busy!’, it’s more of an acknowledgement that it’s been a while since I slowed down to take stock of what we’ve accomplished – me, individually, and each of the boys, and all of us together (including Loverly Husband) together for school or general family wellness. That’s one of the reasons I like blogging, particularly about our homeschool journey, because it does force/give me the opportunity to record and reflect on what we’ve been doing with our time.

That said, April’s been a busy month, for sure. I brought last month’s update through the first 6 weeks back to school after my mom died. Our break week was pretty chill; we spent most of the week at home, barring a couple of outings. The most glaringly obvious event was the kids’ first formal dance! Honestly, I wish they’d been as excited about it as I was for them. I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances, so this was a big deal. Yes, I recognize that I am living vicariously through my children; go away with your criticism. I want them to have opportunities I was denied; what parent doesn’t want that for their kids? It was super weird though; we had a pre-prom party a friend’s house, then dropped all the kids off to be tended by event chaperones. I trust my kids, and their friends are trustworthy. I wasn’t concerned about anything untoward going on – it was just the strangeness of ‘dropping them off at an event’. I’ve really never done that before! This is new territory, but appropriate for their age and maturity, I think, and something I have to get used to as they become independent young men. It makes me want to fold them up and put them in my pocket…. but also let them bloom and grow into the fine young people they are proving themselves to be. It’s a dilemma.

Before prom festivities could commence, we went with our homeschool group to a tour of the Lower Neches Valley Authority, better known around here as the LNVA, saltwater barrier, which is the system of testing and regulating and prevention of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico creeping up too far into the Neches River. The Neches is where we get most (all?) of our water from; everything from the city water supply to rice and crawfish farming and petrochemical processing plant use. The saltwater barrier is a big deal, and the dam/lock system they have to keep the river salt-free (or at least within acceptable levels) is pretty neat. We got to go up on the barrier itself, and walk across the top, as well as into the lab where they do all the water testing.

That’s the barrier system in the background. There’s a shot of the kids, looking down from the top of the barrier, and a shot of our group at the top railing.

The theme for the homeschool prom this year was Masquerade, so we went to a local party shop to look for masks. We lucked out – they had a whole section with Venetian style masks. The kids both found masks that suit their styles; PeaGreen’s colorful, ostentatiously feathered Columbina mask in all its sequinned glory; and a smirking, judgy, full-faced Bauta for LBB. At least, from the definition of masks and their meanings, that’s the closest to ‘types of mask‘ I could find for them. Reading through the meanings was interesting; I think they chose well as far as coincidentally aligning personality with choice of mask.

I also found Joker and Harley Quinn mask/sunglasses, which I am tempted to purchase. I didn’t though; all my money right now is being spent on herbs and plants!

Prom day rolled around and we spent the early evening at our friends’ house. She decorated and we all brought food – finger foods so no one accidentally spilled and spoiled their outfits! We’re sometimes smart when we put our heads together to plan things like this. It worked out perfectly; the kids had enough time to get together and relax, eat, and we got pictures just in case they slipped by the photo booths at the event.

‘boy band’ pose

I was really glad that whoever set up the prom didn’t let anyone sneak by without getting a picture! LBB is a pro at disappearing when it’s time to take pictures, so I am really glad they got him. Photography by someone who is not me… they’re in the SETXHomeschool Prom albums.

I got to spend some kid-free time with my friend Kandi; we went to dinner and then to a lecture at the McFaddin Ward House Visitor’s Center featuring Anita Davis of the ESSE Purse Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. I wasn’t sure what to expect; the way the event was advertised, I thought the lecture was going to be about some of the ‘famous purses’ they have on display, or about purses in general and what women carry in them. It was more about the woman, herself, and how she got started and she touched on some of the other bits; I was a little disappointed, but it was still very cool to see a woman over the age of 40 reinvent herself and do this awesome thing. Her talk was great for what it was; if I’m ever in Little Rock, I am going to do my best to actually visit the museum.

Although it looks like we were super active, those were really our only two ‘out of the house’ things during our off week. Loverly Husband has a new schedule at work, so he’s off occasionally during the week now. This time, his ‘off’ days and ours happened to coincide, so we spent a lot of time just hanging out at home with Dad.

Easter isn’t a big thing in our house; Loverly Husband stayed home and worked on the yard while the kids and I went to my brother’s for a BBQ. My dad went, too. Before my mom died, we planned a big family dinner for every couple of months. We hadn’t had one in a while, because my mom wasn’t feeling up to it, and then her illness and death took the spotlight. This was the first thing we’ve done as a family since her death that wasn’t because of her illness or arrangements following her death. It was surreal. We didn’t talk about her much, but it was so odd and different without her there to do the things and contribute to the flow of conversation. I miss her.

We started our second 6 weeks on April 17th, and it’s been full-speed ahead since then. I dropped the kids off at their music lesson Monday in favor of a fancy ladies’ luncheon at the incredible Monica’s with my friend Bridey who recently moved out of town, then Wednesday, the kids and I hooked up with another family in our group and went to the Health Museum in Houston to see Body Worlds Rx exhibit. I missed out on it the last time it was in Houston; the kids were really little and I remember being iffy on whether or not they could handle the idea of actual bodies being displayed like that. My parents went to see it last time and said it was really nifty; having seen it for myself, I’ll have to agree. They don’t look ‘real’ though; the plastination process makes them look like mannequins.

We spent all day at the museum; the kids got to go through the Body Worlds Rx displays, we watched about 30 minutes of an hour-long film about the process that von Hagens uses to make the displays, and the kids did an hour-long lab and ran experiments on (???). The film was dated and dry, but the process itself is so neat/eerie/cool/gross/fascinating/disconcerting/incredible. This is the actual film, though the version we watched was narrated in English. There are snippets of it in English on YouTube as well.

 

Our homeschool co-op resumed this past week for the last 6 weeks of the 2016-2017 school year. I cannot believe that we’re almost a year into co-op, or that we’re almost DONE with a full year of co-op! The kids are taking art (practical), in which they’re working for 3 weeks on mixed-media and art journaling, then they will have 3 weeks to work on their final project (they can use any of the techniques we’ve learned throughout this semester); the last 6 weeks of teen mental health class, which focuses on physical health and their final project (each student has been working on an ‘awareness board’ for a particular mental illness); art (history), which is new this 6 weeks; and the final 6 weeks of orchestra. They’ll be seat-testing this coming week, with music that they’ll have only had 6 days to prepare for.

We have music lessons every week; LBB uses the time to further his violin skills, and PeaGreen chose to start piano lessons. We have a talent show coming up in our homeschool group, our ‘end of the year’ orchestra concert *and* a recital for our music teacher coming up at the end of summer. That’s a lot to practice for!

We’re still playing our Dungeons & Dragons campaign that we started last year. We try to play every other week, and most weeks that works out, but it’s been a while, so it was nice to get back to it. They both have looks of concentration on their faces – that’s misleading! It’s a lot of fun and silliness.

This evening, Loverly Husband and I ditched the kids for dinner at a local gourmet burger joint, browsed Home Depot for plants and a part to repair the light in our ceiling fan, Office Depot for a new desk chair, and a 45 minute, extra-long wait in the Starbuck’s drive-thru. Despite the extended wait time in the car, it was a lovely evening out!

 

Warmly,
~h


Summertime 2014

If all summers have a theme, then this summer’s theme is probably ‘All Work and No Play’. Sure, we’ve managed to have some fun, but we’ve been even more busy than usual, and it’s been taking a toll. So July is pretty much our ‘sit back and relax’ month. We’re taking a break from all things ‘school-ish’ to focus on connectivity and communication.

That may seem like an odd thing to focus on, but I have found that as my children get older, there have been a few times where things have gotten imbalanced and we’ve had to bring things back to center. Right now, it’s a matter of some martyr-mothering, pre-teen angst and hormones, and a lack of structure.

I started working with our local produce co-op a few months ago, which cuts significantly into our work-week. Between that, our normal summertime endeavors and distractions, and the other things I involve myself in, I’ve allowed our school schedule to slip onto the back burner. So I am giving us a few weeks to sort of relax, then we’ll start back on a daily schedule in a few weeks. I actually planned for us to take a break this summer, which I haven’t done in the past, but we were slacking a bit before our scheduled break, so we’re still ‘off’.

I know, I know… there’s no such thing as ‘off’ in homeschooling. Progress is still being made, even if it’s not quantifiable and all that jazz – but there’s still part of me that has a schedule and it bugs me to get off of it. Not enough to complain about it more than this, but there you have it.

I thought I’d share some of what we’ve been up to lately. The kids are getting so big, and our homeschooling world has changed a lot since those first few months. They were so young when we started, and now they’re both in middle school! August is ‘not back to school’ month, so I am planning on linking up with iHomeschool Network’s NBTS Blog Hop and updating with their calendar again – we’ll have picture week, curriculum week, school space week and ‘day in the life’.

I last posted in April, so it’s definitely been a while. Our state fair falls in April now, thanks to hurricane season – it used to fall in October, which was nice because the weather (sometimes) was slightly cooler, but April isn’t so bad. The boys ran their first 5K; our first as a family, at the Mud Run (hence, the matching tee shirts). My time this year was 90:51:00 (or 1:30:51). Last year it was 1:19:56; but that’s okay because Loverly Husband and I hung back with LBB (who was more interested in it being a stroll through the mud than ‘racing’). In any case, I am super proud of my boys for doing it! The Mud Run fell between my birthday and my sister’s, so we’ve run for the last 2 years as kind of a birthday thing. One of the kids’ friends shares my birthday, so we had an all-out birthday bash team. It was fun!

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One of the trips our homeschool takes each year is through Neches Riverboat Adventures, which is an outdoor lab that studies the water. The drinking water in our city comes from the Neches River, so the students get to work with other departments (Coastal & Marine, TX Parks & Wildlife, Fish & Game, and others) to do experiments on the boat.

 

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We had the opportunity to work with the Texas General Land Office for Adopt-A-Beach again this year. We went to the same location we’ve been to in years past and it’s great to see the progress they’re making on bringing the park back to where it was before the hurricanes took their toll. People think that Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike were so long ago, and they were, but there are so many places in our area that still haven’t fully recovered from the damage they wrought. Sea Rim State Park was completely destroyed. It used to have boardwalks through the marshland, a 3-story visitor’s center with showers and an observation deck, and a lovely pier across the marsh from the center to the beach. They have restored (rebuilt) the main pier, and have poured some concrete for the parking areas, but there’s still a long way to go.

Even though the park is a shadow of the grandeur it once held, it’s still a hot-spot for visitors, and the state of the beach proved that. In addition to what visitors left behind, there was a ton of trash and debris washed up on the shores. We cleaned over a mile of beachfront with our team!

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The mysterious, deeply embedded rope. No one was able to pull it out!

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The boys with their dad, fencing with the pick-up sticks.

Another really cool field trip that we got to go on was to the Ocean Star Offshore Platform Museum in Galveston. It’s a retired ‘jack-up’ platform oil rig that’s been converted into a teaching facility. They have a really in-depth look at the oil industry, and of the different types of careers that are associated with it. There were a ton of model ships and oil rig platforms of all kinds for the kids to get up close to see. The actual drill and drill tower are still in tact on the deck, and we got to go right up to them to see how truly massive the pipes and bits are. It was really interesting! Of course, listening to a couple of hours of touting the amazingness of the oil industry got a little bit old, and prompted many discussions over the next few weeks about laternative energy sources and clean energy, but to truly make changes, you have to know what’s in place. Also, we live in Southeast Texas. Our economy is based on the oil industry, so if my kids follow their chosen career tracks, chances are they will end up working in it anyway.

CAM00411We go to Moody Gardens every year with our homeschool group, and this year’s trip was no exception to the fun! We spent our day in Palm Beach, which is the water park at MG.

This picture was on the upper deck of the ferry back across the bay. It was dark, and the only light around us was coming from the ferry lights. It was pretty creepy, so PeaGreen and I were telling scary/creepy stories to each other on the way back. There was a clown in costume on the ferry with us (which was really not funny), so that featured into

My favorite was about a group of people who boarded the ferry and got underway, but the trip just kept going and going, never getting any closer to land. It was pretty spooky; I was really glad when we got into position to drive off!

It was fun listening to the things my kiddo came up with.

 

Our community service partner this year is The Giving Field, which is a charity garden in our community. It is all organic, and sends all its produce to 2 soup kitchens in our area. So far this year, they’ve sent over 9,000lbs of produce to feed the hungry. It has been a lot of fun working with them. The kids are learning a lot about how to garden, and harvest. It’s been really nice seeing the beds that we’ve worked in flourish. We go every month, and it’s been a good thing.

Last month, our city held it’s first ever PRIDE event, and it was amazing! Beaumont PRIDE was such a great coming together of our community – we were there to support our friends and fellow homeschooling families! In addition to the festivities,  $1,650.00 was raised and donated to the Southeast Texas Food Bank. After spending the morning at Pride, we went back to our friend’s house for grilled outdoor goodness and a surprise engagement. It was a lovely and amazing day!
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Last but not least… some crafting has been going on around here – I wanted a TARDIS suitcase, and since I couldn’t find one I liked anywhere, I made one. It’s painted on all four sides, and the front is topped with blue glitter paint (to give it some sparkle). I’m quite happy with it:

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I also got to attend a WFTDA Officiating Clinic with a couple of my fellow officials from SRG. We learned a lot, and got to make some great connections in the derby world.

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I also had the privilege of speaking at a local homeschool conference put on by HomeBased Learning. I talked about the ‘typical’ homeschooling day, and about socialization. I will probably make another post with more on that; there were some awesome things that some of the other speakers presented that I want to explore. It was a fun experience, and I look forward to doing something similar in the future.

Hope your summer is going well!

Warmly,
~h


NSYP Day (Part 2) & Lesson Updates

I am generally not a spontaneous person by nature, but when one of the moms in my homeschool group sent through the link to GranolaMom4God’s National Sharpen Your Pencil Day, the idea struck me as completely charming. That was one on the very first things I saw when I sat down at my desk to get started on school today, so I thought, ‘why not?’ and printed out the robot pencil toppers and the activity pack.

<—This is supposed to be me, as a robot, colored by PeaGreen. Notice the ‘ponytails’. And I don’t wear purple. Just sayin’. LOL

The pack was a bit young for my kids; I think they were targeting more pre-school/ younger elementary age so we did what all snazzy homeschooling moms do – we adapted the lesson plan. I started off by bundling up some pencils and placing them on top of their worksheets on their desks. I had them gather up and count their pencils – not only the ones on their desks, but also the ones they have in their rooms. Our total pencil count for today was 215  (112 for mom; 58 for PeaGreen, and 45 for LBB). We also kept a tally of how many pencils we each sharpened throughout the day: total 52   (7 for Mom, 25 for PeaGreen & 20 for LBB).

There were four handwriting sheets, and since we still do handwriting, I just had the boys do those pages as-is. If I’d thought about it before hand, I’d have given them a few fun facts about pencils to write on the lines, following the wave patters or slant pattern. However, they did enjoy the idea of doing such a ‘simple’ assignment, so it was fun which is one of the goals, so I am content.

The spelling assignment was a word that the boys have had before, so we did a scavenger hunt instead, finding one item that began with each letter in ‘pencils’. Below is LBB’s treasure:

P= pencil

E= electronics

N= nothing    (Clever or lazy? You decide.)

C= cents (or change – he said both)

I= Insanity (The Joker)

L= list of items

S= shoe

The boys did the pattern cards and created patters, then made designs and pasted them into their packet, and also cut out the pencils ordering puzzle. They also measured the pencils on the ‘longest to shortest’ page, and colored and cut out their robot pencil toppers – a throw back to easier grades, but fun, nonetheless.

In other news, we’ve been busy little bees around here lately, which accounts for the lack of blogging. We’re finishing the last few mini-books in our Black History Month Lapbook up today and tomorrow, and I have a Titanic Lapbook (with 23 minibook templates & links) ready to start in a couple of weeks to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. And hey – an honest to goodness excuse to watch Titanic again? Even yesser.

I also ordered The Number Devil from Amazon and found More of a Mom’s Number Devil Lesson Plans. I printed out her worksheets and lesson plans and we’re planning on starting that next week. We’re still in the midst of multiplication and division, but it’s getting kind of stale, so I thought we’d work on something new and different for a bit. I’m not planning on going through TND all at once; we’ll focus on that next week and just doing a few basic math drills, then go back to our regularly scheduled math curriculum when we come back from our break. I just wanted something to break up the monotony – repetition and patterns and foundations are good, but after a while, I find them so boring. The Number Devil was recommended on something I was reading a while back that was talking about kids with ADHD – the concepts, especially with More of a Mom’s lesson plans – are a little more ‘whole learning’ based instead of dry textbook stuff. There are even notebooking pages incorporated into her lesson plans.

We’ve also been hard at work planning and getting ready for our group’s second annual Science Fair. One of the local state parks that we frequent has agreed to host for us, and we’re doing a ‘Moms vs. Kids’ contest to help everyone get involved. We’re all very excited about it! I am doing a blood spatter experiment, PeaGreen is building a hovercraft model and LBB has been quite secretive about his project – I think he’s planning on getting his dad involved.

On a sad note, LBB’s lizard, Lizzy, died yesterday. She wasn’t a pet in the traditional sense; we frequently get green anole lizards stuck in the house. They’re escaping the heat or cold or damp – I’m not really sure, but they love it here. In any case, LBB found one in his room a few weeks ago and created a ‘habitat’ for it on a shelf (but open, so that the lizard could come and go and be free) and he developed an attachment to it. In any case, he has been quite sad about her loss, so we made some commemorative art today to remember her by. This was my contribution to Lizzy’s memory.

This week is also Texas Independence Day – we reviewed our Texas Lapbooks (TX Independence and Texas Symbols) and went over our plans to visit the San Jacinto Monument in a few weeks. We’re also gearing up for some more home improvement stuff (I finally have a new dishwasher – installed!!) and yard work, including planning our (biggest yet) garden for this spring. I’ve been Pinteresting ideas for a while now; it is going to be so much fun laying them out and seeing everything come to fruition.

Hope your week is going well!
Warmly,

~h


Three Weeks Down Already?

Oh, Dwight… you do have such a way with words.

I was going to make a comment about time flying by, but then I found that picture and got distracted by fun stuff from The Office. ‘Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica.‘ There’s even a tee shirt.*So* funny.

Anywhoo…

We’re three weeks into our new school year. How did that happen? Didn’t we just get done with Christmas? I am shocked and amazed – we’re only four days out from our first break this year and everyone is alive and well. As stressed out as our last few weeks of school were last year, I am exceedingly happy to report that this year is off to a very nice start. I’ve also lost 12 lbs. of 128 lbs. since Christmas, so I’m a pretty happy camper all around.



We’re still doing our crazy schedule – the kids have karate 2 evenings per week and on Saturdays, and I am training to be an NSO with our local roller derby team. My sister is a rollergirl; she’s been after me to come play but seeing as how I am an utter disaster on skates, I think it’s best that I keep my involvement firmly planted on the ground. Being a non-skating official lets me participate without risking my tailbone. In any case, practice is one night per week. If we weren’t enjoying it so much, I’d complain about being over-scheduled, but so far it’s working well.

Plans for this week include attending a performance by our local symphony, attending a half-day full of JASON presentations at our local college, learning about Groundhog’s Day and the history of (which are Candlemas and Imboc), and various crafting and lapbooking associated with, and working on solidifying those pesky multiplication facts. I found a video that uses your hands for quickly figuring out 6×6 – 10×10 facts, and a way to do ‘short’ division (because long division is absolutely killing LBB). I started arrays with PeaGreen, but he’s not so keen on them, so I will be looking for other ways to help him with his times tables (maybe Mr. Numbers?).

We’ll be winding up the week, and the first four weeks of school on Friday with a review of what all we’ve covered so far and a look at what we may want to change. I like my new lesson planner layout; the boxes for individual subjects are smaller, but they look *super* full when I write in them now, so it’s quite visually appealing. I’m still kinda disorganized off of paper, but on paper, I’m the bomb-diggety. We’re still using workbox plans, but I haven’t been packing the boxes like I was. We’ve been using a file box with hanging folders instead of actual boxes, but the boys say that they like the boxes better so we may work on going back to that here in the next few weeks. I’ll have to work on space though; the school room is crazy cluttered right now (we’re working at the kitchen table as I type). Luckily, tax season is right around the corner, so we’ll be doing some home improvement inside and out in the very near future. That means storage shelves, new paint and planning our garden for this year. Loverly Husband is even talking about building a greenhouse. I can’t wait!!

Now that school’s over for today, I’m going to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and my Nook while the children are otherwise occupied in another room.
Warmly,
~h


Living Playhouse

Sunday morning I went over to my BFF’s house for coffee and brunch (she made this and cooked up some deer link sausage – so tasty. She’s an amazing portrait photographer; here’s her Facebook page – tell her I sent you!). During the course of the afternoon, she mentioned that they were about to plant sunflowers for a living playhouse.

Naturally, being the curious and sometimes copycat crafter that I am, this piqued my interest. I’d never heard of such a thing, so we got online and started looking them up. They’re so nifty! When I was little, we used to make play-spaces underneath bushes and in low to the ground trees, but I’d never thought of actually creating a frame and then planting or encouraging vines to cover it to make a playhouse.

Loverly Husband and I have seen the websites that ‘grow’ furniture and art pieces many times. We have a couple of mimosa trees in the backyard that he intertwined to make an archway, and the kids have adopted that space as a fort-making spot. It’s had several different versions of a base (of operations, I presume), but they recently vacated it for another corner of the yard (leaving a huge hole in their wake…) so I thought that this would be the perfect spot to try to make a playhouse since we already had the arched mimosas.

Now, we wait… and hope that in a yard that is positively teeming with vine growth, the frame will not be the only vine-free spot. Actually, I guess ours is more of an arbor of sorts. We’ll not have sides per-se – more just a lovely shady spot once the flowers and vines grow up.

Once you have the basic idea in place, there are infinite ways in which to accomplish this project. I hardly think you’d need a step by step process, but here’s what we did: We have box hedges that have just grown wild. They make lovely straight and flexible stalks, so I cut a bunch of them to make the corners. PeaGreen and I dug holes and planted the stalks, two in each hole. We also used several mimosa branches that were out of place (we have a bunch of those, too), then bent the stalks together to create the arches. I used a few plastic zip ties to hold some of the more stubborn/sturdy branches in place, then added more cut branches on top of the structure. I used cotton string to create the framework for the vines to follow and to secure the rest of the branches in place.

We planted two types of sunflowers (American Giant Hybrid & Summer Evening Mix from Burpee) and climbing sweet peas (Early Multiflora Mixed Colors) around the legs of the arbor, and we have a ton of fast-growing vines all over our yard, so I dug up a few and replanted at the base of the vines as well. Since they grow so fast, we should have a fully shaded arbor in a few weeks while we wait for the flowers to grown and bloom. We also have several wisteria vines around; I may see if I can relocate a couple onto our frame. They smell so good this time of year and have such pretty purple flowers; that will make a fragrant and shady little hideaway when summer really hits.

Total cost: $6 (for the seeds). I could not believe that this was so inexpensive. We had everything already here. That, plus a little bit of work (we still have to fill in the hole in the ground) and add a blanket and a few pillows and we’ll have a great little spot to read or just relax in. All in all, this is one of our faster projects – the whole thing was up and planted in a few hours (over the course of 2 days). You could take as long as you want with it, but I’m a fan of instant gratification.

Here are some links if you’re interested in seeing how else they can be made:

BecomingDomestic: How to build a living willow dome playhouse for under $40

NatureMom’s Blog:  Gardening Inspiration for Children

Sunzilla Sunflowers They were bred to grow 12-16 feet tall – imagine how cool that would be for the kids to play under!

Kiddie Gardens Bean_Teepee I’m intrigued by the idea of a completely enclosed space, and the beanpole teepees are super cute – we may make one out of bamboo stalks in the near future. I could see the need/delight in each of the boys having their own creative and created space. There’s another example at Artful Parent: Beanpole Teepee.

The willow playhouses are neat too, unfortunately, I don’t know anyone with willow trees that we could help trim… AcornPies’ Willow Playhouse is really cute.

Anyone else making a living playhouse this summer?

Warmly,

~h


Vermicomposting: Our Worm Bin

Last summer, we ate fresh cherries like they were candy. I kept a bunch of the seeds, and the seeds from several other fruits that we eat frequently with the intention of planting them to see if they’ll grow. Some seeds from store-bought fruit, I’ve heard, are bred so as not to grow from those seeds. I guess we’ll see if that’s true or not in these cases. I planted cherries, oranges and grapefruit. I really need to get some lemon seeds.

I’ve also been using peat pockets to start seeds in, but that can get expensive. I remember seeing seed cup makers last year and decided to try improvising one since I’m cheap and don’t want to fork over cash for something I can do with materials on-hand. I used half-sheets of paper (old bank statements, damp) and a medicine bottle. I wrapped the paper around the tube, then crushed the bottom down on the kitchen counter to make the cup. Mine are not as ‘neat’ or as uniform as the ones made with the tool, but it worked quite well. You could also use egg shells or a cardboard egg container, toilet paper rollers (or any cardboard rollers) in a tray, or use origami techniques to make a biodegradable cup from a sheet of newspaper. I like these because they can be planted as-is – no need for de-potting and disrupting the roots (helpful with kids, since the transplantation process is stressful for the plants, and kids can be stressful for baby plats, too).

When we went out to fill my new little seed cups, I started noticing all these baby earthworms in my bag of soil. So I grabbed a small plastic bin, popped some holes in the bottom and added some bedding (damp, shredded paper), a couple of cups of soil and then started picking through the soil and putting the baby wigglers into the bin. I counted over a hundred babies and I’m sure there are more. I covered the bin with a bigger plastic basket (to let air through) and set the whole container in a crate. I’m excited to see if my little worm bin will flourish!

I’ve been wanting a worm bin for a while; if this one works out, then I may make a multi-level wooden bin system with screens to help with the harvesting process. SFK has a great system (cough*that she should totally blog about *cough) that I am rather envious of. I’ll probably still end up getting a pound or so of red wigglers; I have a sneaking suspicion that these babies are European nightcrawlers (which are the ‘regular’ earthworms that we have in TX). I found a website called Texas Red Worms that has quite a bit of info on vermicomposting and he uses both red wigglers and E. nightcrawlers. Whatever kind they are, I’m sure that they’ll produce lovely, rich castings and possibly some nice worm tea that will be perfect for helping our little seedlings flourish.

Speaking of gardens, have you seen the living wall system for vertical gardening? I’ve never heard of this, but it looks really interesting. I found a slideshow at Environmental Graffiti that showcases some awesome living buildings and indoor farm concepts. I also was quite impressed by jeremusic’s vertical garden tutorial series. He shows the progress his vertical flower garden on his balcony makes from inception to flourishing – it’s really inspirational! Here are some other super cool green wall projects: India: Vertical Garden and hiphophagy’s DIY Patrick Blanc style green wall video and blog. I don’t know if we’ll make one, but I love how the walls look!

Have a great weekend!

Warmly,

~h