And The Winner Is…..

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Daisy picked a name out of the basket!

Tiffany Meyers, you are going to Convention!

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Have Circus Will Travel (all the way to Virginia for the HEAV Convention ) Family Pass Giveaway

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wpid-20160203_174147.jpgThese days the circus looks something like this!

Three year olds can be talked into pretty much anything… especially if it’s mom doing the persuading! I am SO saving this picture for his wedding rehearsal dinner!

This guy is nearly four  (just three more weeks) and he REALLY, REALLY wants to learn how to read. I have promised him that I will buy his books for learning to read at Convention this year. He is so excited!


Last year he did a lot of this during the convention, which was a good thing since I had a newborn and was spending most of my time at the Special Needs Table in the lobby.  I’m not quite sure what he’ll be like this year….and that newborn has turned into a super active toddler.

I’ll still be at the Special Needs Table and I have a few plans to help everyone be happy!

1. Pack plenty of special snacks etc. for both of them- having plenty to nibble on during the day really helps and special things that “we only eat at Convention” make the whole thing feel like a celebration!

2. Bring some familiar toys along-  there’s a little space behind the Special Needs Table where they can play so bringing some things from home will make it feel familiar.

3. Plan to buy hands on stuff for school and let them play with some of it at convention.

4. Take regular breaks to run in the upstairs hallway (there are a couple of good spots near the “Mom’s Room”) or go into the exhibit hall to play in the Lego pit.

5. Babywear whichever child that needs it! Both the preschooler and the toddler love to ride on my back and with a good carrier that’s a totally feasible thing.

6. Plenty of time in local parks, running and playing in the summer evenings.


More ideas on taking little children to the HEAV Convention


Remember it’s GIVEAWAY TIME!!

As I always do I’m giving away a Family Pass to the HEAV Convention in June. Enter by commenting on this post, and other posts throughout the week. You can enter each day and on Friday, April  22,  Jack or Daisy will draw a name out of a hat and reveal the winner!

Today’s Comment Topic is: Are you bringing your little children to convention with you? How do you plan to give them a happy weekend?

Good Luck!





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It’s Spring! Time for Yard Work, and Planning My Trip to Virginia and the HEAV Convention (with a Giveaway)

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It’s April and time for me to plan my annual trip to Virginia!

I’m so excited to be spending a bit more than two weeks visiting friends and family (including a visit to my sister at Poplar Spring Farm) and finishing with the HEAV Convention!

This fall will be our sixth year of homeschooling (I think… I’m never quite sure how to count the years when Buggle was a toddler/preschooler…we did do formal lessons but not in a daily schedule) and I’ll be teaching sixth, fifth, second and preschool as well as wrangling the very active Daisy!

So cute, and such a monkey! Walking and climbing at ten months!

So cute, and such a monkey! Walking and climbing at ten months!

I feel like this past year we finally found a schedule and approach that works most of the time (actually I suspect it’s mostly that the children are slightly older and more mature). I want to build on that schedule and approach in the 2016-2017 school year, and will be looking for curricula that is either and continuation of subjects started in 2015-2016 or that compliment what we used in some way.

The children are excited too- seeing their cousins and friends in Virginia, plus two days of the Convention Children’s Program is quite a lot of fun to anticipate!


In other news I’ve been working on the yard. A friend came and put up a stretch of fence for me last week and now I’m working on sorting out the backyard as a playspace ( a tree house and obstacle course are in the works) as well as starting some garden beds (outside the fenced back yard where they are less likely to be trampled!).

Yesterday the children and I spent the morning working the yard and the afternoon was SO quiet and peaceful! Everyone napped or read quietly and I even managed a short nap myself!

As I always do I’m giving away a Family Pass to the HEAV Convention in June. Enter by commenting on this post, and other posts throughout the week. You can enter each day and on Friday, April  22,  Jack or Daisy will draw a name out of a hat and reveal the winner!

Today’s Comment Topic is: What are you doing to finish the school year and enjoy the beautiful spring weather?

Good Luck!






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Kitchen Kids: The Three Year Old

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He’s three and he loves to “be the kitchen helper” but what can he usefully do?


Quite a bit actually. He saves me a lot of steps!


Fetches things- most cans have pictures so he can tell the difference between black and red beans and bring them up from the “food room” downstairs. Onions, potatoes, cooking oils of various kinds are all in low cupboards or bins where he can easily get them. We get a lot of math practice in that way too, ” bring me one potato for each person in the family” teaches one-to-one correspondence, and counting the potatoes after he fetches them is great too,

Brings me spices- most of them are in jars with colored labels. He knows his letters well enough now that I can say “I need the Oregano, it has a yellow lid and starts with an “O”” and he can generally find it. (Phonics practice, and sometimes observation as I might say “I need the Cumin, not the Coriander, they both start with C but the Cumin is ground and the Coriander is a round seed.”),

Selects pots and mixing bowls of the right size for the job and matches them to lids if needed. This way he is learning size designations both relative (small, medium, large) and specific (2 quart, 3 quart etc.),

Greases pans- This is a great sensory activity as well as teaching attention to detail. I hardly ever grease pans anymore myself!

Helps with clearing the tables and dishwasher- his particular job is the silverware as I find the sorting of utensils by type and size to be a wonderful pre-reading activity.

Bags or puts into the pot things I have cut or chopped,

Scrubs vegetables and is learning to peel them,

Tears lettuce for salad, and sometimes cuts up cucumbers etc.

Basically he can do any of the simple prep jobs in the kitchen. He knows quite a bit about what is used in various dishes, and can often anticipate what I’m going to need if he knows what I’m making.

He uses his knowledge in preparing various exotic foods in his toy kitchen (The Snack Stand) and will frequently ask “What would you like from the Snack Stand?”.

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Using Homework to Encourage Hard Work (Or Why I Have No Reason to Fuss At My Dawdlers)

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This past fall we started participating in a small co-op. It meets once per week and I teach Science and Latin. The three school age children take classes and Jack and Daisy hang out with friends (although Daisy usually ends up on my back by late morning).

I have really been enjoying teaching in a classroom again. I love the energy of the kids and the ways that they push each other to learn.

I also love the opportunity to see what my children need to work on.

The classes are all multi-level, usually with a two- four grade spread, but I don’t find that keeping up with the academics is the hard part. The children struggle with not being the focus of my attention and with having to listen while I give instructions to the group rather than getting their own explanation!

In some ways this doesn’t really surprise me. It’s one of the places where “socialization” makes a difference and listening without being distracted by the other people in the room can be a real difficulty for homeschooled students. I expected to have to do some training on this with all of the students and that has been the case.

What does surprise me is the way that the older children expect that I will be there to “save” them if they forget to write down a homework assignment or do the assigned work. They seem to think that they can stare around the room while everyone else copies off of the board and then do the work while everyone sits around waiting for them!

It got me thinking.

One of the hardest things for any parent is to let their children fail and that is exacerbated for homeschool moms who really want to do a good job of homeschooling and who provide their children’s only standard.

You see, it’s easy for me to say to someone else’s kid, ” You didn’t do the assignment. I can’t give you credit.”  If he or she gets upset I probably won’t have to deal with the attitude and I can fall back on “The assignment was written on the board etc.”

When it’s my own kid, I have to deal with the attitude. I have to decide on consequences for work not completed and I have to do the training in responsibility!

So what to do?

The biggest thing has been to really firm up my requirements on the days that we aren’t at co-op. The big two are in fifth and fourth grades and while we have been moving towards them taking more responsibility for their own work I hadn’t taken the final steps of  insisting that they be finished with schoolwork before doing anything recreational. I had been having them finish incomplete work in the evenings on a kind of ad hoc basis but I had been allowing them to read or play during the little children’s naptime.

Not any more.

Since we resumed school after Christmas I have told them that they must finish incomplete work (anything not done by noon) during naptime and without help from me!  I make sure that they have clear desks to work at in their rooms and have them work until they are finished. On some days they  have nothing they need to finish and on others (like today ) they will be doing the bulk of their lessons on their own.

They start their work in their rooms while I work with the little boys. Spelling, Latin and Handwriting are all things they are capable of doing on their own and are the usual places for dawdling.  Each assignment should take 10-20 minutes and most days they are able to start their days off with accomplishment. Getting three subjects completed before they even come into the schoolroom makes them feel like they are getting something done and when we then sit down to do math they are in a mood to work.

Some days though….

One dawdles or pesters the other during morning jobs and they come to school ready to fuss and take their time.

It’s OK. I offer support in not dawdling by setting timers or suggesting a change of subject to help get their minds working.  Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t and we move into their “teaching time” (Math, Science, Economics for Buggle and English for Mouse) with the first three subjects incomplete.

From 9:30 (when I am done teaching Reading and Phonics) until 11:30 I am available to teach new concepts and answer questions.  Usually that’s all the time that is needed, but if not they can work at the kitchen table while I make lunch and then continue their work during quiet-time.

Only rarely does the work carry past quiet-time. The prospect of the other children going out to play while you are stuck doing Spelling tends to encourage diligence!

The hardest thing has really been for me to calmly enforce “no playing until the work is done” and let the children reap the consequences of staring at the page instead of working. I really hate to see them sad and upset, but self-discipline is something that they have to develop and that I will actually hinder if I fuss and harry them through their work.

SO HARD! I’m the kind of person who likes to pour words on a problem and shutting my mouth except to say “responsibilities before privileges” takes self-discipline too!

SO WORTH IT! I started writing this post in January and now at the end of March I can say that I have seen diligence increase. Not perfectly by any means but definitely better, both in school and in household chores.

So, no fussing here! The dawdles are self punishing and the children seem to have figured that out!


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Invitations to Play and Learn: Exploring the Circle

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Several years ago someone gave me several dozen semi-rigid plastic circles. I’ve hung onto them through moves and downsizing because they were odd and seemed like I could surely do something with them!

Today I am happy to say I’ve found at least one use!

Circle exploration!

Such a simple thing- just trace a circle or circles onto a piece of paper and color as you please.

The way you color the circles determines the effect they have. Progress from dark to light as you go in and you get one effect.

Go the other way and it looks quite different.

The plastic is stiff enough and thick enough it is easy for even a young child to trace. Other materials that would work similarly would be the thick cardboard from a stiff backed legal pad, or other heavy weight cardstock.

For these explorations I typically provide a sample and then make the materials available.

So sample:



And Bull’s version



The dots and dashes in the middle are intended to be snowflakes.


The making went on for several days, primarily by the little boys and Mouse.






Then interests shifted from art to building and the project table became a construction site!

But that’s ok too. I like having that space as a place to use for a variety of pursuits. Sometime soon I’ll clear the bulletin board and put up a different provocation.

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Invitations to Play and Learn: Kandinsky Circles

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In the annals of “sometimes homeschool moms have great ideas which they plan for and then forget about” …..


I recently found a picture which I had printed out several years ago so the children could do some art in the style of Wassily Kandinsky.



Since there’s no time like the present I went ahead and set up a provocation at the project table.

Tree trunks and circles and ovals in various colors in the loose parts tray. A neutral paper as background and a couple of glue sticks.


At first the children didn’t really notice the layered effect in the original work and their pieces looked like this



Later ( I usually leave a provocation available for about a week) they looked more closely and pieces came out more like this



Bull did this one. He said it was “a tree with leaves that look like peacock eyes”

This was a very successful provocation. It engaged the children so that I had to refill the loose parts tray a couple of times. It led them more deeply into the art so their own works became more complex and helped them to incorporate things they had seen into a particular artistic endeavor.

I’m not sure that they would remember the inspiring artist’s name but I do think they would recognize his work.


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A Little Update (pretty, happy, funny, real)

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Tomorrow it will probably be chilly again but today is sunny and warm and Daisy thought the yard was wonderful!

It’s all sawdusty right now since we had most of the big maple back there taken down. It was both rotten and growing into the main sewer line, definitely time for it to go!

I now have a nice three part stump back there which will hopefully become a treehouse sometime this summer. Plus a good bit more sun in the backyard which should enable me to have a nice garden in a few years.




We finally got the inspection of the electrical work that was done this fall, so I’ve been putting the basement back together as a guest space/study/project space with room for romping in the winter! Hopefully S will get a chance to wire me up some lights above my sewing space soon as Mouse has grown out of everything just in time for spring. She’s tall for her age and very slim so finding things that are long enough but not cut for a larger or more mature child is a real trick!



Bull continues to be THE CLOWN of the house! His latest trick involves pretending to fall asleep when asked to do something! He’s remarkably good at sitting or lying with his eyes closed even when being tickled etc.

Between that and randomly deciding that he only speaks/understands “opposite” he keeps things lively (and somewhat frustrating ) for the rest of us.




One of these years I might be able to write straight across a blackboard!

School and co-op have been chugging along. We have about 50 days of school left and I’m already starting to think about convention and next year. In fact I ordered our core scheduling stuff the other day so I can start figuring out what supplemental texts and materials I need to look for.

Linking up with Like Mother Like Daughter for { pretty, happy, funny, real}

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Indoor Playground! (A Winter DIY)

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One of the wonderful things about this house is its (mostly) finished basement! When we first moved in, we used it for a schoolroom, but ended up moving that upstairs to the largest, sunniest bedroom. The basement became a storage place, then was empty while we had repair work done and is now in the process of becoming a project and play space.

One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is put some equipment down there for active play on the days when it’s too cold to go out in the snow. I’ve looked at a lot of things and so much is just far beyond my budget. I decided to see what I could make myself.



One thing I really wanted was a swing of some kind. I looked up several different ways of making them (thank you Pinterest!) and realized that I could easily hang one from one of the floor joists.

This was very simple:

I bought a 150-300 lb rated carabiner at Home Depot which was about $3.

Drilled a hole through the joist (selecting one with a fairly short span between supports to minimize bounciness in the floor above) and ran a piece of 1/2 inch rope through the hole. The rope is temporary as it will quickly wear through and it rubs on the joist more than I like.

I plan to replace it with a clevis and pin from Tractor Supply.

As you can see there is a fair bit of wear on the rope after just a couple of hours of use. This gave me the chance to see how the rest of the design worked before by a $15 piece of hardware.

As you can see there is a fair bit of wear on the rope after just a couple of hours of use. This gave me the chance to see how the rest of the design worked before by a $15 piece of hardware.

The seat is a long (3 yards or so) piece of cotton fabric out of my stash. Standard 45 inch width folded in half lengthwise and stitched.

I threaded one end through the carabiner and tied it around by basically making a half hitch with the fabric. Then threaded the other end through and tied it in a half hitch around the first side. The loose ends were tied together.

The fabric in the knots compressed quite a bit more than I expected so the swing is several inches lower than I wanted. I plan to retie it and start a couple of inches higher than I want the swing to hang to compensate.

The fabric in the knots compressed quite a bit more than I expected so the swing is several inches lower than I wanted. I plan to retie it and start a couple of inches higher than I want the swing to hang to compensate.


Rope Ladders

I wanted to have some kind of climbing equipment as well as the swing and decided that a rope ladder of some kind would probably give the most variety of use in the space available.

I bought a set of swing gambles at Home Depot (about $4) as well as an eight foot long piece of thick dowel for the rungs.  I already had a coil of rope at home.

The swing gambels screw into the joists. The ladder then hangs from a loop of rope hanging from the gambel.

The swing gambels screw into the joists. The ladder then hangs from a loop of rope hanging from the gambel.

Since the ceiling is 7 feet high I used to nine foot lengths of rope for each ladder. The rungs are 14 inches long with each ladder having three rungs.

I didn’t worry a whole lot about making the rungs an even distance apart.

Figuring out the knots for the rungs was tricky. The first couple of knots I tried allowed the rungs to slide up and down, which wasn’t the effect I was going for at all!

Finally I came up with a sort of double half hitch that seems to hold fairly well.



These ladders swing and sway really well and require both strength and attention to climb.

I finished the project just before dinner last night. It probably only took an hour and a half or so but we worked on it in spurts throughout the day instead of start to finish.

First thing this morning, children were down in the basement playing so I think it’s a success!

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Kitchen Kids: Mouse Makes Meatloaf

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One of the things I’ve been working on this fall and winter is having the big kids prepare a complete meal every week or so. They can both read and have been helpers in the kitchen long enough that they have a pretty good grasp of basic kitchen safety and techniques.

As long as the menu is simple I can write the directions on the kitchen white board and be available for advice but not have to be all that involved (I can go in the living room and fold laundry or nurse the baby without a disaster occurring!).

This week I neglected to make a menu (complete lack of ideas on Sunday and then I got busy) but on Thursday while I was digging in the chest freezer for something else I found a bag of ground beef and I knew what Mouse could make!

Meatloaf! Always popular and a good choice for ground beef that had been in the freezer for several months as my recipe is fairly strongly flavored (advantage of being a medieval history buff- I consider it perfectly reasonable to use spices to hide slightly undesirable flavors! (and this meat was on the edge of being freezer burned, not bad tasting really, just needing improvement.))

On the whiteboard then:



Ajvar is a kind of roasted pepper puree that we get at the local international grocery.  It adds a slight amount of heat and a nice rounded sweetness and I use it frequently.



Mouse looked at the recipe and decided how to begin.

First step was to grind the spices. She decided to measure everything in with the peppercorns and grind it together.

I carried the mortar over to the meat and dumped it for her as it is a bit heavy for her to manage.



Next she added the rest of the ingredients before touching the meat. I snapped a picture and went off to feed Daisy (who was trying to grab the phone, making for a blurry shot!).

Mouse called me to look and we added a bit more tomato. She pressed the meatloaf into the pan and put it in the oven.

Jack had been watching, so she got him to come downstairs and pick the vegetables out of the freezer. I try to serve two vegetables every night, so they picked green beans and corn and put them into two saucepans with water ready to cook. They also scrubbed the potatoes and poked holes in them with a fork, so I could put them into the oven.

I really love the way that she involves a younger sibling when she has cooking or cleaning to do!

About fifteen minutes before supper she turned on the vegetables and mixed up the meatloaf sauce (ketchup, brown sugar and Worcester Sauce), then set the table.

I checked the potatoes and discovered that they were baking really slowly due to their size. Nothing a quick five minutes in the microwave couldn’t fix!

Meatloaf is always popular around here and the boys were very complimentary of her cooking skills!

I think Bull had four servings! He said “I ate so much I need to sleep before I can get up from the table.”`



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