Category Archives: homeschooling

Lightening the Load

This woman's work is beautiful! Man I love art so much.

This woman’s work is beautiful! Man I love art so much.

We had a wonderful little homeschool class today where 2 college seniors came to explain to us their different study-abroad experiences. One had gone to Uganda and the other to Beijing, China.

The student that went to Uganda helped with a project that makes clay water filters to purify drinking water. He kept mentioning how the people have much less than Americans had but he noticed they just seemed happier. He said it multiple times; you could tell it had stuck with him.

It seemed timely to hear this. Just this morning I got home from working out and cleared out both bookcases. I have quite a lot of books to donate and some very tidy shelves at the moment.

The process didn’t take long, it wasn’t difficult, and now not only do I know exactly what I have, I don’t have shelves cluttered with books I’ll probably never read again. But I didn’t get rid of absolutely everything. Some stuff I keep for sentimental value, although I may not read it again. I suppose someday if we ever move into an itty bitty house I will part with them. In the meantime I’ll try to keep getting ebooks and books from the library to not add to the clutter.

I know none of this is earth shattering information. A strive for simplicity is nothing new. Only people with more than they could ever need get the privelege of talking about reducing the amount of stuff they own. This doesn’t mean I don’t think it isn’t something good to do.

Some people say it’s a good idea for kids to have fewer toys. It doesn’t overwhelm them as much. I think this is pretty decent advice for grown-ups too.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with possessions. I don’t think they make us bad people. I just think sometimes they feel heavy. Shuffling things to and fro and avoiding dusty bookshelves for months because you have more important things to do than worry about them.

I want to spend my time on other things. Put my energies where they should go instead of into more chores. The last thing I need in my life is more stuff to tidy up.

I’ve still got more spaces in this house to lighten, but I’m a lot further along than I was 3 days ago!

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A Political Week

We have had back-to-back evenings filled with government and history this week, and it’s only Thursday.

Monday we went to our friends’ farm for Guy Fawke’s Night (also called Bonfire Night). Our friend is English and so is one of our neighbors. I rode up with our neighbors and there was another English couple at the party too.

The other couple and my neighbors both made parkin, which was really good, and we also got to try treacle toffee. Since I love molasses both were a winner for me.

Jack and I talked about effigies earlier in the day and made some of our own. We talked about who Guy Fawkes was and about plotting against a government. Then we talked about what it means to be drawn and quartered and that when a person was quartered their body parts were brought to the four corners of the country. Pretty gruesome but interesting nonetheless.

Jack and his devil.

Tuesday was the election and we discussed how only white men could vote originally. He was confused and asked why I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I told him that among other things, they thought women weren’t smart enough to be able to have that responsibility.

Then he looked at me and said, “People used to be mean.” I asked what he was talking about and he said, “Well they used to cut people up and not let people vote.” I informed him that in many places people are still very mean, and that many people still can’t vote in other countries. Pretty mean indeed.

Then I stayed up until quarter after two to hear all the speeches after the election. The results of this election gave me hope that we are all becoming less mean. There are more women in elected office now, people who had said horrific things about women were voted down, an openly gay Senator was elected, and several states let voters choose if homosexuals had the same rights to get married as heterosexuals…and those voters said, “yes.”

There is a long, long road before us, but I feel like progress is being made.

I’m just glad I have a kid who knows when it’s a proper time of year to eat tomatoes, that homemade bread tastes better than store bought, and that being mean isn’t right. Yep, I call that progress.

In a Jam & I Painted a Chicken

Spooning in the jam.

Today I get to mention my friend Jillian twice. For starters, she also recently made the toaster pastries I’ll be talking about, and her combos not only look delicious but they are allergy safe.

At the April Food Swap I got to meet Alana Chernila and snagged myself a copy of her book The Homemade Pantry. Pretty much anyone who ever cooks food for themselves should own this book. The very next day I made the toaster pastries that are pictured on the cover, and knew it wouldn’t be long before I made them again.

Several half-used jars of homemade jam were piling up in my fridge. I wanted a way to use them all up before they went bad, plus I was overdue for some bulk snack making. I promptly made up a double batch of Alana’s crust and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Ready to bake!

When I woke up I got to rolling. I really love her crust. It’s so easy to use because it’s never crumbly and it isn’t prone to ripping apart from itself. If you fear homemade crust, get the book and use this recipe.

In the end I made 18 toaster pastries. The flavors are blueberry cherry balsamic, raspberry balsamic, and strawberry/raspberry/rhubarb. I left 6 out and packaged the rest to be put into the freezer.

The finished product.

Later in the day Jack decided he wanted to paint. I’ve wanted to paint for some time as well so we headed out to get a few supplies. When we got home we set everything up and then just painted whatever felt right at the time. His is a chaotic scene of animals and fictitious creatures, and mine is a chicken.

creative genius

We are now officially participating in Jillian’s Artful Summer! I will continue to post about our journey with art during this season.

Trees, Worms & Other Cool Stuff

This week was pretty hectic, but in a good way. We got to do a lot of fun things.

Lake Moreau, frozen

Monday we watched Dianna boil down maple syrup in her front yard. Jillian posted about it here. It was cool to see the sap coming out into the buckets and we got to taste it before it was done. It only tasted like lightly-sweetened water, so it’s hard to imagine that at the end of the day it’s super tasty syrup.

Tuesday we went up to Lake Moreau to take the Hug-a-Tree class with our friend who works at the park. I’m glad we went since we often go hiking in the summer. After the class we walked on the frozen lake. It was sort of scary but it was fun hearing the ice “sing” as it was expanding.

rainbow trout

Wednesday we took a walk into town and stopped by the candy store. Jack told me I’m the “best mom ever” for letting him get candy.

Thursday I took Jack to a 4H class on insects. They talked about compost, worms, pollinators, and all sorts of “buggy” things.

tie dye worm

If it isn’t too snowy, Friday we are going to Albany for a science fair.

Weeks like this are great but I’m just glad every week isn’t as busy as this! I appreciate some good downtime too.

Farkle, the perfect after-dinner family fun game, especially when I win. 🙂

And Sometimes It All Goes to Hell

I love this corny sign at the place where we go roller skating.

Most days are pretty awesome around here. Even if there isn’t anything interesting enough to talk about, things go pretty well. Not today.

We woke up to one of our dogs not feeling well. She didn’t want to eat, which is weird for her. I didn’t have time to take her to the vet (it’s 30 minutes away) because I had to take Jack to a class. This meant Chris ended up getting only about 5 hours of sleep (he’s on swings now) and had to take her up there.

At Jack’s class I was exhausted (I woke up with a headache that I went to sleep with) and the coffee wasn’t working fast enough. I wasn’t being very helpful when he was trying to figure out our origami project because I could barely focus myself. I was being impatient and snippy.

I didn’t get much done in the afternoon. I should’ve gone to the grocery store, put the laundry away, cooked some food. Instead I did some work on my computer, fed us sandwiches and watched Mighty B with Jack.

I should say that not everything was horrible today though. Our dog seems fine (although it wasn’t cheap to figure that out), some books came from Amazon, Jack told me that he likes math and origami, and we might make a pumpkin pie on Sunday just for the heck of it.

I’m glad these days don’t come often. There isn’t enough wine in the world….

A Very Lego Weekend

Chris and Jack with the house. Jack always has a silly smile. (The house also had a functional mailbox with a letter in front, and a flower garden.)

This weekend we went to a Lego building competition at the Albany Institute of History and Art. It was free and I’m so very thankful I found out about it early and had us preregistered. It was crowded and some people waited around hoping for no-shows so they could participate.

The theme was Albany Architecture and we were more than happy to take on the challenge. You weren’t required to stick to the theme but we thought it would be fun. We decided to make a Dutch-style home, with a jail inside. The jail was all Jack’s idea.

The cop is holding a gun on the robot in case he tries anything tricky. The stolen jewel is to the right of the cop, as is his desk with laptop.

Jack and Chris figured out the basic design structure while I picked through the bin of Legos on our table in order to sort out the bricks we needed. We left the very top of the roof open so you could see in to the cop and the prisoner. The prisoner was a robot who stole a jewel, in case you were wondering.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

We won “Most Historically Accurate” building, which we view as essentially winning the entire thing, since that was the main theme of the event. 🙂 We are a very humble family.

There was a man there who does Lego building for fun and he had a display of Albany row houses, and he was building his model of the Trinity Church, which was torn down this past summer. It was pretty amazing.

Minifigures fight on the side of what looks like a crazy temple of doom.

Sunday was Jack’s birthday party complete with Lego decorated cake and cupcakes. For the cupcakes I just put a few bricks on each but I let Jack create the whole topper for the cake on his own. It was pretty incredible.

***Right now there is a cool George Washington exhibit at the Albany Institute as well. We saw that and a few others including one on mummies. Jack loves mummies and could hardly fathom we were really looking at a dead person.

A Good Balance

Fog rolling in on the farm.

I’m currently sitting here not knitting or building a recipe binder (2 things I ought to be doing) so I figure I could do something else productive and tell you about our first few weeks of homeschooling.

It honestly hasn’t been that odd or scary or stressful. I think that starting some school related stuff over the summer really helped. There was no real first day of school around here. I think this took the pressure off of us a bit.

Jack finished up his Explode the Code (online version) a couple weeks ago. Then we switched over to Time 4 Learning for his basic language arts curriculum. He absolutely loves it which makes me happy. Sometimes he will even do extra work just because he thinks it’s fun. AWESOME!

I wanted to fill the weeks with fun stuff but not too much where we were running around like maniacs all the time; especially since I will still be working every Wednesday afternoon at the market and once a week on the farm through October. Basically we have art class each Tuesday, science club and 4H every other Thursday, and swim lessons on Fridays.

Jack actually went to his first lesson tonight and did really well. He goes to the Y for his class and the instructors are incredible. He was having so much fun and kept smiling at me as he was swimming past. He even jumped from the side of the pool into the water for the first time ever, and didn’t freak out. YAY!

Farm cat Chet looks through the toy box after killing a mouse.

For this fall we are working on a Revolutionary War project. We will be reading various books on the topic and then revisiting the Saratoga Battle Monument (where we got married), the Saratoga Battlefield, and Fort Ticonderoga. The hope is that after learning the history we can all appreciate these places better.

Yesterday Jack and I started a project of making bats for Halloween decor and earlier in the week we built stuff from polymer clay. We squeeze math into the nooks and crannies of our days.

So, there you have it so far. It actually seems more normal than anything. I was way more stressed out getting him off to school 5 days a week before and I think he was too.