Eden’s Concerto

This year, Eden prepared and performed the first movement of Ravel’s Concerto en Sol for several contests and performances.  I  finally figured out how to show you her wonderful work.  She is accompanied by her excellent teacher, Juliet Preston.


Last Day of School 2013

Last Thursday was our last day of “school.”  I put it in quotation marks because we continue doing school during the summer, we just don’t call it school.  During the summer, we do a math lesson or two each week to keep our hand in, and reading never stops in our house.  Truly, I don’t know how parents whose  children don’t like to read survive the summer.  During the hottest days of the year, my kids end up hiding out in the basement reading book after book.  But since this is just the beginning of the summer, we had to celebrate by spending the last of our last day of school camping.

We made aircraft carriers out of bark and floated them in the stream running through our campsite.

max and boatLulu and Max made “houses” complete with broom cupboard.

lulu's houseWe picked the best place for the tent, with shade . . .

tentand a view.

benny creekEarly the next morning, we ran (Lulu and Max are in the middle of a couch to 5k program.)

lulu runningAnd then we hiked  . . .

nebo from loafer trail

and did a little  cow anatomy.

cow bonesWe sat in camp and read.  Eden brought along a little last minute school work.

brett reading eden working in campIt’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it.


Here’s hoping your summer is starting out just as challenging!  How did you wrap up school for the year?  Please leave me a comment below.






Brett’s First 5k Race

Running is really becoming a family addiction.  I ran my second marathon on May 4th, and last weekend, Brett ran his first 5k race.  He has been training hard, and he cooked down the road!

Brett after race Bretts timeNext race stop for us is a half marathon, with Brett and I doing the relay (he’ll run the bottom half, and I’ll stick with him,)  and Shandy and Eden probably leaving me in the dust!  Running is such a wonderful way to clear the mind and make your body healthy.  I am glad it’s becoming a family activity.

Do you run races?  Do you run with your family?  Leave me a comment below.

Another Great Family Hike near Escalante: The Box (Pine Creek)

On our family hiking trip to Escalante this year, we did 3 great hikes, but I can’t really recommend all of them to you.  We spent one very long day crossing the Boulder Mail Trail, including freezing in the chest deep water of Death Hollow.  I won’t recommend that one as a great family hike — it was HUGE!  But another hike, this one only about 10 miles up the Hells Backbone road outside of Escalante, I can recommend unreservedly for your family.  This easy hike up a beautiful drainage crosses a little creek through a Ponderosa forest, and could definitely done by any level of hiker.

sun coming up in the box the box -- looking upThere are two ways to hike “The Box,” which is what the Pine Creek drainage is called.  A really wonderful way to enjoy this whole trail would be to be dropped off at the top Upper Box Access point, about 19 miles from Escalante, where Pine Creek crosses the Hell’s Backbone road.  Follow the stream about 9 miles down and be picked up by a shuttle car at the Lower Box trailhead, only 10 miles up the Hell’s Backbone road.  We did not do this because after our monster hike on Thursday, we weren’t sure how much of a hike we wanted on Saturday.  Turns out, we could easily have done this as a through hike.  Instead, we hiked about 5 miles up from the Lower trailhead, then turned around and headed back to our  car.  It was a great hike, although we regretted not seeing the whole trail.

lulu crossing pine creek crossing at the boxStream crossings begin right away from the lower trailhead, and in the 5 miles we hiked, we crossed the stream 20 times. (And 20 more on the way back down.)  Many of the crossing were “rock hoppers,” and could be done without getting your feet wet (if you are coordinated–which I am not.)  There were trees across many spots as well, but all of us ended up with wet feet.  Eden grabbed a little tree to steady herself on her next-to-last stream crossing and it slowly lowered her into the stream, getting her whole side and back wet!  If only we had known in advance to turn on the video . . .

pine creekThere are many wonderful campsites along this trail, making it ideal for an easy, light (no need to carry water) overnight trip as well.

We completed our trip to The Box by driving the rest of the Hell’s Backbone road.  Of course, we had to take a picture at the Hell’s Backbone bridge, a narrow span between very steep drop-offs (Death Hollow and Sand Creek drainages.)

all of us at hells backbone

I highly recommend this trail to you and your family.  Have you started your hiking season yet?  How is spring progressing where you are?  Please leave me a comment below.

Navajo Knobs 2013

Early in March, we hiked Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef again.  Since I’ve told you about this great hike before, I won’t write all about it again.  Instead, we let Brett be in charge of the camera, and I want to share this great picture.

picture from top of Navajo Knobs

Just showing the forever you can see from the top!

Some more hiking posts soon to come, and a little about how we wind up our homeschool year.  Hope to see you again soon!

Choosing your “Cup of Tea” — Freedom for Homeschoolers


often say “it’s just not my cup of tea.”  When I make this statement, I am asserting my right to choose for myself what I consider fun and useful in my life.  So while a 20-mile training run is my cup of tea, going to a wedding shower is not.  Yes, the cup of tea I choose is different than that of most people of my age, sex and social position.

Do we allow the same freedom to our children?  Do we allow them to choose their own “cup of tea?”  Two books that have really reinforced that question for me lately are Guerilla Learning by Amy Silver and Grace Llewellyn and The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.  These two books that focus on kid-powered learning,  based on choice and interest by the child, are both change and guilt inspiring.  How can we as parents give our children power over their own learning, while still fulfilling our roles as parents?

  • Really listen to our children’s interests and desires.  By being alert to what makes them excited, we can direct them toward activities that expand their horizons and help them reach their goals.
  • Find opportunities in the community to expose them to new ideas.  Being on the constant lookout for new opportunities for your children is one of the best ways parents can help their children know what is interesting to them.  How can a person be interested in astronomy if he’s never looked at the stars?  How can a person follow a passion for music without hearing a wide variety of music?  Investigate opportunities for your children to try new ideas and activities in your community, at local museums, at the library or amongst adult interest groups.
  • Allow plenty of free time for exploration.  Don’t fill every moment of your children’s time.  Allow them the space to  find what really interests them.

One of the most difficult things advocated by these books is for the parent to support their children’s interest whether or not that is one of the parent’s interests or the parent feels that this interest is valuable.  For example, it is much easier for me to support an interest in classical or bluegrass music than rock music.  Although this is true, I need to allow my child to pursue his own interest.  (Easier said than done.)

I highly recommend reading these books — Guerilla Learning is directed to parents, while Teenage Liberation Handbook is directed entirely to teens.  Each of these will give you great ideas for expanding your child’s freedom as a homeschooler.

What have you read lately which has guided your schooling decisions?  Do you believe in letting your children choose completely, or do you try to strike a balance between child-led and parent-led schooling?  Please leave me a comment below.

Quiet Blog = Finished Quilt

Only two years in the making . . . but remember correlation does not equal causation.

finished quilt closeup finished quilt

It’s machine pieced, extensively hand quilted, and the first of its kind made exclusively for me . . . by me.  And now maybe I’ll be seeing a little bit more of YOU!

Living Books for Homeschool Science: Dissections

One of the pressures we put on ourselves as homeschool parents is trying to avoid textbooks for learning.  Whether you are of the Charlotte Mason group, the Thomas Jefferson education group, or an unschooler, much negativity resides on the word “textbook.”  Instead, we encourage ourselves to find “living books.”  A living  book is described as one with original, first-hand knowledge of a subject, not “dumbed down” for children but written in a way that broadens and challenges horizons.  Can a textbook be a living book?  Not in the minds of most people.  And yet, one of the main reasons Eden wanted to quit the online charter school she did last year and come back to “mom-school” was the Apologia Science Biology book.  While she was dissatisfied with the science she learned from an on-line textbook through the charter school, this biology book has encouraged her toward further research and led her in directions she would not originally have known about.

One of the reasons Eden wanted to use Apologia Biology was remembering the dissections that Brett did while he was using this book.  She was not convinced that online, virtual dissections matched the real thing.  While there might be discussion about whether dissections are appropriate, the only thing I have to remember to resolve this question for myself is that dissection of human corpses was banned for hundreds of year, and this led to lack of knowledge and more deaths for humans.  Since we already had the dissection kit, we only needed to purchase more specimens, and Eden was ready to go.

This week, she got to try her hand at her first dissection: an earthworm.

girls doing dissectionShandy had helped Brett with his dissections, but Eden needed help at a time when he was really busy.  Also, Brett had done his dissections outside (mostly to keep the smell of formaldehyde out of the house) but the weather has not been nice enough to do that kind of school work outside.  So we layered up the counter with newspaper and went to work.

The instructions in the science book were very detailed.  The most difficult part was slitting the epidermis, the outer layer of skin, without destroying any of the internal organs.  Worms are, after all, quite small.  There were clearly labeled step-by-step photos in the science book, I suppose to allow students who decided not to perform the dissections themselves a learning opportunity.  They were very helpful in identifying the different parts, although what our worm actually looked like varied from the photos.

All in all, Eden was very satisfied with her first dissection experience.  The little ones were eagerly looking over her shoulder the whole time, so I am sure they, too, will be looking forward to their opportunity to use this living? textbook. Although Eden’s future plans at the time do not include major scientific work, the experiences she has now can broaden her interests for her entire life.  I am glad she was able to perform this dissection.

In an upcoming post, I hope to list some of the other living books we have found useful for studying science.   How do you find living books for your children?  Do you believe textbooks can serve as these books?  Please leave me a comment below.

Quilting to teach Elementary History

lucy with doll blanket

For the younger kids, we are still using The Story of the World series as a basis for world history studies.  We own both the book and the accompanying activity guide, and enjoy finding additional reading suggestions and project ideas, as well as coloring pages and maps to study in the guide book.  This week, we read about abolitionists and slavery in our history chapter.  One of the ideas in the activity guide was to make a log cabin quilt block, because not only was quilting a very important part of pioneer life, it was a way houses on the Underground Railroad could carry messages to others who helped slaves to escape.  The pattern of the quilt hanging on the clothesline could convey a specific message.

While I am not aware of any specific message conveyed by the log cabin block, it is an easy and fun block for kids to make.  This was not Lucy’s first time quilting.  In fact, she completed an entire rail fence quilt last year.  I was hoping to involve Max in this project, but he decided he would rather build with Legos instead.  I decided to let him follow his interests as Lucy and I worked on this project together.

The Log Cabin block is traditionally built around a red or yellow square.  If the square is yellow, it means the light in the window of home, while red means the fire in the hearth.  We used a 2 1/2 inch square, pink, because we had strips of various colors which would match this square.  The strips were cut 2 1/2 inches wide, but of various lengths.  We did not cut the strips to length before we sewed.

Lucy sewed the strips to the square in order.  Remember — Log Cabining means going around the square in order adding strips, so that the strips are dependent on each other to make a square.  Afterwards, she ironed the seam to one side and trimmed the strip even with the edge of the square.

lucy using sewing machine lucy ironingUsing a sewing machine and iron are both important skills for kids to learn.  They can improve on these skills later by their own practice, but it’s good to have the first try under the watchful eye of an adult.

We continued adding strips until the block was finished.

lucy with blockWhen the block was complete, I explained to Lucy how to cut the batting (the filling inside the quilt), the back, and how to finish the block, and she was able to turn this block into the little doll blanket you see her holding at the top of the post with no further help.  It was an excellent project for a wintery afternoon.  Imagining making a whole quilt by hand, and usually with much tinier pieces than we used today, helped us to know what pioneer life was like.

As a side note, Eden’s English curriculum contained a page of information about quilting and log cabin quilts this week as well.  In a short story she will study this week, the woman was making log cabin quilt blocks and canning cherries when she was taken away on suspicion of murder.  The curriculum felt like they needed to explain what quilting was and why it was important to pioneer women, and how the canning process worked.  It made me smile to think that not only does Eden know what both of those things are, she has personally done both of those things!  We love canned cherries, and Eden is working on finishing her fourth quilt.

This was a great project for us, and I hope it gives you an idea you could use for your history curriculum.  Do you like to “experience” history?  What do you do for your historical studies?  Please leave me a comment below.

Why I Believe in Dessert

pecan pie

At a women’s conference recently, I listened to the Food Nanny explain how to have home cooked meals for your family most nights of the week.  While that is a situation I currently have well under control, I was interested in the things she said.  Even more so, I appreciated her statement that dessert was important because sweet smells coming out of the kitchen really build family bonds.  I personally am a firm believer in desserts.  Yes, I know we shouldn’t reward/punish/etc., ourselves or our children with food.  But if you divorce food from the pleasure of eating, what culture are you achieving?  After all, humans enjoy food.  Cars don’t savor gasoline — food is more than fuel.  Here are a few reasons I believe in dessert:

1.  Dessert is a great way to convince even reluctant teenagers to socialize with their family.  Even if they aren’t anxious to turn off their video game for an instant, it’s really hard to eat cake and ice cream and hold a game controller.  All members of the family come running to eat dessert, and this leads to (accidental) socialization.

2.  Desserts convince reluctant cooks to step into the kitchen.  Max wasn’t going to learn to cook — until he discovered that his “specialty” was going to be chocolate chip Cowboy Cookies.  Then he was eager to put on his apron.  Many desserts– cookies, cakes and quick breads — are easy ways with an instant reward to lure someone who is reluctant to learn cooking skills into the kitchen.

3.  Making someone’s favorite dessert can cheer them up like nothing else.  After a long, disappointing day at a concerto competition a few weeks ago, Eden and I came home and made homemade doughnuts.  We overdosed on sugar in a way we hadn’t done for a long time.  We felt better.  Our home was a warm, safe haven where we are capable, happy and appreciated.  A favorite dessert can celebrate an achievement or help mourn a loss, and either way, when it is homemade, it rarely leads to the kind of chronic overindulgence that typifies the American diet.  After all, who has time to make homemade doughnuts daily?  But as a splurge toward happiness, it really works.

Do you think dessert is an important part of your family life?  How often do you make dessert for your family?  Please leave me a comment below.