Soldiers at the Neighbor's House

This is what I heard this afternoon.

"Mo-o-om! There are soldiers at the neighbor’s house!"

You see my kids were outside playing during school hours. After all, even homeschoolers deserve recess (and I needed to get the refrigerator cleaned out.)  My kids have already discovered that sometimes people notice them during school hours and make comments to the point that my kids have become a bit shy about being seen during school hours. Our house is fairly private, but you can see it from that neighbor’s house and now there were soldiers over there.

Next, all three of the kids came running in and they were talking at once, so I hope I got it deciphered right.

"Mom, they drove by real slow and looked straight at us!" (Let me translate that comment. That means, "Mom, they noticed that we’re not in school. Now what?") "Mom, they WERE soldiers." "Then they turned in at the neighbor’s house." "I bet they have guns." Can you hear the fear?

I didn’t see the soldiers, so I have no idea who they were. (Maybe they thought it was Halloween a day early.) I was slightly amused though, but especially when I heard the solution to the problem from JD Boy. Only a six-year-old would come up with this.

"Mom, I know what to do. If I see them out there again, I’m going to quick put on my long jeans." (He’s wearing shorts. Don’t ask me why, maybe I should send a note to his mom to dress him better for this weather…) "I’ll grab my fireman rain boots and my fireman raincoat and paint my jeans really fast to look like fireman pants. Then I’ll run out and grab a hose and start spraying and they won’t want to mess with us, because those fire hoses are really powerful, you know." (Yeah, but we don’t have a fire hose connected to our house, we have a garden hose. Oh, well, maybe they wouldn’t notice the difference.)


"If that doesn’t work…" (What do you mean? It sounded like there was no doubt that that would work.) "I’ll grab a stick and start pretending like I’m shooting at the bear." (We think that a bear got into our trash again this week, so the kids are a bit nervous when they’re playing outside right now. I am too.) "Then when they see me shooting at the bear, they’ll know that I know how to shoot and they’ll be afraid to start shooting at me." (What ever made you think that those soldiers were there to shoot YOU?)

I think everybody is calmed down now. We’ve already talked about the fact that we are legal homeschoolers. Someday maybe laws will change, who knows. But for now, it’s legal. Police and soldiers aren’t on their track. (Maybe they just came to get that bear. Now, they would be my heroes if that’s what they’re driving around for.) Why are my kids afraid that they’re going to be snatched away if they’re not busily doing their schoolwork during school hours?

For some reason, this reminds of my little brother (meaning younger, not smaller). So I just have to tell you one more funny story. (I hope you’re reading this Bro, if not, you’re supposed to be. You’re supposed to be one of my blog fans.)

He was homeschooled too. One day, he was working in Grandpa’s garden during school hours. He was probably right around six or seven and spent as much time as possible with Grandpa in the garden. Anyway, according to my brother, the UPS man came driving up and looked right at him. (Scary!) So my brother knew what to do immediately. He started jabbering about driving his tractor. (Yes, he did have pedal tractor.) After the UPS man drove away, he came running in to tell  Grandma all about it. Then he said, "Don’t worry though, Grandma. He thought I was a farmer. He just thought I was a midget." (Well, I’m sure he wouldn’t think that now, if you’d try the same method again! Oh, but you’re old enough that you don’t have to worry about truancy laws anymore.)

Even before I had children, I knew that I wanted to homeschool. I spent some time thinking about that I would not be shy about our homeschooling. We would be proud of it. That way my kids would never feel afraid that somebody was seeking them out for not being in school. I was sure it would be easier for me, because time has passed since my little brother was being homeschooled. Nearly every state (definitely mine) has laws for homeschoolers. There are a bazillion homeschoolers. I would make sure that my kids would never be afraid of people wanting to just reach out and snatch them away for being homeschoolers, but I guess I didn’t pull it off. My kids have the same fears that my brother had, just have different solutions….well, not really, but anyway.

Am I the only one with this problem? Are your kids afraid that someday they’ll get snatched away just for being homeschoolers? Or have you successfully suppressed all of their fears? If so, how?


I’m sitting here in the middle of suitcases, sorting laundry and feeling a bit disenchanted by the whole concept of traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the last three weeks, (Did I mention that we have been traveling for three weeks?) but three weeks is a long time to be away. We’ve visited three states in three weeks, one week for each state. Plus we’ve had a layover in a fourth state. We’ve spent some lovely time with family, including cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, second cousins and great-aunts and uncles. The kids got to ride in a real John Deere combine. (Remember, my oldest son calls himself John Deere Boy… He was a happy little man.) We picked cotton (just a handful). We visited a museum. Went out to eat more times than I’d like to pay for. We drove by two houses that I grew up in. Saw the school that I went to for elementary and high school. (I was in a small rural school.) Met up with my highschool biology teacher. (That was a treat!) Stayed with grandparents in the house that my husband grew up in. Saw the school he went to. (Well, he was homeschooled, so I guess we saw the room where he went to school!! He did take a few science classes at the local high school, and we saw that too.) Drove through the campus of the university that my husband and I graduated from. We visited two cemeteries and found the markers of six loved ones.  We visited parks. We learned some geography. We played with cousins until we could drop. We flew on four airplanes and drove around 1400 miles.  And last but not least, we did some schoolwork.

Now we’re to what has me wondering about traveling. I don’t know if you travel so much that on some of those travels, you need to keep working on school work. Well, we do. For this trip, I packed a whole suitcase full of books. Now I’m unpacking and realizing how many of these books never got touched. We did work on the 3 R’s, nearly every day. For math, one of the interesting things we did, was weigh suitcases and get them to exactly 50 lbs. Actually my daughter finished up her first math lapbook too. She did spelling a few days. They both read to me nearly everyday. We did do a little nature study, but I had grand plans for that. Maybe I should be thankful for the nature study that I didn’t plan though. My kids got to feed, chase and hold chickens over and over and that’s something we don’t have at our house. They got to harvest soy beans and learn how weather affects the harvest. They picked field corn and learned that each cob always has an even number of rows. They picked cotton and found out where cotton comes from. They learned that there’s a big difference between Kansas mud and Nebraska mud. Maybe they learned more from that nature study than what I had planned. I also had great plans for reading some biographies while we travelled. We read part of one. I had three along. That was for history. Maybe I should be glad that my kids had the opportunity to visit so many places that have shaped and formed their dad’s and my life. Maybe that’s history they’ll remember and that is important to them. I took along a book on drawing. We thought we’d have fun doing some drawing. Never opened it. They did draw and draw and color and color with the cousins though, so maybe that was better, especially since they don’t get to spend enough time together. One thing, I’m not concerned about is whether they got exercise while we were gone. There were six kids between three and nine and they played and played and played some more.

So now I’m trying to figure out if I should feel guilty that we didn’t get more schoolwork done or if I should feel thrilled that we got any schoolwork done. What do you think? What’s your philosophy about taking books along with you when you travel? Or do you travel that often?

I did learn a lesson, I hope. No matter what I plan, when we’re traveling, it needs to be less. I shouldn’t pack quite so much in the way of schoolwork. Then maybe I won’t have to mess with weighing my suitcase!!

P.S. Sad to say, my camera broke. So this is a pictureless post.

End of Gardening Season

We have really enjoyed having a garden this year. This is really our first year to successfully have a garden. To a large extent this was my husband’s project, but I sure enjoyed the fruit of his labors. The kids were very involved in the whole process. They helped plant. They helped water. They helped weed. And they helped pick. Every day at lunch, I could just say, do we have any such and such in the garden, and they would race up there to see who could find what I needed the fastest. What a blessing gardens are, not just to the stomach, but also to the soul.

Here are a few pictures taken over the summer of our garden.

Showing Off Some Produce

Our very own radishes. (They were a bit hot though. So we’re going to have to work on those a bit.)


Our first peppers! Woohoo! Maybe next year we’ll grow enough to can some salsa.

We've got Food!

Three of our umpteen and some zucchini and yellow squash that we harvested. We ate either zucchini or yellow squash nearly every single day for a few  weeks, then we just had to have a break. But I’ve found a couple ways of fixing them that I think are absolutely delicious.

Swallowed By the Garden Jungle

Our squash jungle about ready to swallow G’tums!

Eggplant Flower Under Close Inspection

We even did some nature study in the garden. Since we were studying about garden flowers, we decided that this eggplant flower could qualify as a garden flower.

Here is our last picture from the garden season. My daughter took this picture when we were in the garden doing some nature study.

We're in the Garden...They're in the Bus

They’re in the bus and we’re in the garden. And now you know why we are–drum roll–homeschoolers!!!

Autumn Tree Study

We did another nature study from the Handbook of Nature Study blog. For this challenge we were to choose a tree that we are to study through the seasons for  a year. We’ve studied about some trees around our house during the last year or so, but this will be our start to studying one tree for a year. My kids spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which tree they wanted to study. (We have a lot of trees to choose from.) They finally decided that they would each do their own tree.

Besides reading from the Handbook of Nature Study , we also enjoyed looking at our trees in a few really neat books: My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America and More Fun with Nature. These are both really great books for younger kids. They have really nice illustrations and good, but simple information.

JD Boy chose to study a Ponderosa Pine.

Ponderosa Pine

Our Western Ponderosa Pine (Pinus benthamiana). The tallest Western Ponderosa that has been measured was 275 feet tall. Ours is quite a long ways from that.

Ponderosa Pine

A close-up of the needles. Ponderosa needles grow in clumps of three and 6-12 inches in length.

My Little Tree Hugger with his Ponderosa Pine

My little tree-hugger with his tree.

Zippy chose to study a cedar behind our house.


Our Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata). I don’t know if you can tell from this picture that this tree gets brown patches in it during the autumn.

Western Red Cedar Bark

A close-up of the bark.

Zippy in her Cedar

Zippy climbing her tree. It makes me nervous when the kids climb this tree. If they come down, they’ll land on our fence. This is definitely their favorite climbing tree though, so I’ll try to keep being brave and watch them climb.

"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit." Proverbs 15:4.

High Desert Museum Again!

We’ve been doing some traveling again and we got to spend a very enjoyable afternoon at the High Desert Museum again. (See my post about our previous visit to see several pictures from the museum.) We discovered two sections that we weren’t able to visit before because they were closed off. One was on science and one was on Indians in the Pacific Northwest. We only had two problems this time: we forgot the camera in the car and we didn’t have enough time to look at things as long as we wanted.

The science room was really great. They had all different microscopes set up with prepared slides to look at. The kids were very intrigued with this. But the thing that they were the most intrigued with was the ferrofluid display. I was amazed too. I’d never even heard about it before. Now JD Boy and I are doing some research to learn about this stuff. You should too! It’s really amazing. It is magnetic liquid. It was invented by NASA for space travel, but is used in all kinds of things from X-Rays to DVD players.

The other area that we hadn’t been able to visit before was the Native American section. We saw the most amazing bead work, you can believe. I wished I could buy some of their baskets and bags. They were so pretty, but they weren’t for sale. That’s where we really wished we could have spent more time. I guess, we’ll have to go back some time. Maybe, we will. We seem to be able to visit Bend, Oregon once or twice a year, due to my husband’s work.

We also enjoyed the wildlife exhibits again! This time we especially enjoyed learning about porcupines and meeting and watching two of them. We were able to visit with the keeper about them, so learned all kinds of things. Did you know that their gestation is 7 months? Poor little things, whenever I’m pregnant, I’m ready to be done by 7 months! Hah! And the female that was there was 12 lbs. and gave birth to a 1+ lb baby. Kudos to her! That means even though I’m not a very large person, I should be birthing nearly 10 pound babies. No thanks!

Well since, we didn’t get any pictures of the neat things that we saw, here is a picture of my kiddoes proudly showing off their High Desert Museum t-shirts.

High Desert Museum T-shirts

Outdoor Challenge — Cattails

We decided that we definitely wanted to join in the Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenges, but we’ve been a bit behind in actually accomplishing this, so here is our first Autumn study from the challenges–cattails. Partly why we’re behind is that our first attempt to find cattails turned out to be in vain, but we did eventually find some. Actually, we found lots of them along roads that didn’t have a good shoulder to pull off on, but now that we’ve found some, we’ve found bunches. I guess, we just didn’t really pay attention to them before.


However, the ones that we took pictures of are a bit sentimental. A few days ago, I was able to take my kids back to the town I lived in when I was their age and there was a bunch of cattails that I always loved to look at when I was a kid. So I drove right to that spot to see if there were still cattails. Were there! They have definitely been very successful there and had multiplied considerably. So while I’m sure that these won’t be the same cattails that we’ll study throughout the year, it was fun to have my kids study cattails from the same place that I used be intrigued by them when I was a kid myself.


We read about cattails from two books: Handbook of Nature Study and Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. I can’t remember which one taught us what, but we learned some interesting things about cattails. The part that seemed to be the most intriguing to the kids was that somebody somewhere found a hundred cattails all part of the same organism. Even though cattails produce seeds and can multiply by spreading their seeds, they also spread out rhizomes and send up new shoots from the bottom (like strawberries do).

We all enjoyed looking closely at the cattails and pulling them apart: looking at the seeds, the cross sections of the leaf and stem of the cattail. I remember when I was a kid, breaking apart the leaves just because they were so interesting on the inside; so different from any other leaves that I was familiar with. We even saved a piece to take home and look at under our microscope.

Here are our nature journal entries. (Even I did one this time. One of the things that I love about the Outdooor Hour Challenges is that I get to participate. It’s not just an assignment that I give my kids, but it’s something that we all do together and we all learn.  I have started to really enjoy keeping my own nature journal too.)

Cattail Nature Journal (By Zippy Age 9)

By Zippy (age 9)

Cattail Nature Journal (By JD Boy age 6)

By JD Boy (age 6)

Cattail Nature Journal (By Me)

By Me (age…you thought I would tell, didn’t you!!)

Kindergarten/1st Grade Math Lapbook

We have been having way too much fun with math around here. That’s a good sign, because math is supposed to be the most boring subject of all. My kids have had so much fun learning math without a textbook. I wish I would have done this sooner.

Let me tell you why I didn’t. I was afraid. Even though I’ve had plenty of exposure to homeschooling in my life–my husband was homeschooled, I have siblings that were homeschooled–still doing it on my own was scarier than I thought. So if you’re thinking that your too scared to try this approach to math, I don’t blame you, but keep it in the back of your mind if you have a child that hates math.

Every day I like Math on the Level more and more. The whole idea of not having a textbook for the kids is actually liberating. I have come to realize that Math on the Level will always require lots of parent time, but it’s fun time. I enjoy putting together the lesson plans and playing math with my kids. Best of all my kids are loving math, the same two kids who last year would whine and whine when I told them to get their math done. And my three-year-old loves it when the older two are doing things for math, because he can get his hands in on the action often too.

Okay, now to the lapbook since that’s my heading! Lapbooks are not part of the Math on the Level program, but as you might already know, they’ve become a fun part of our homeschooling experience and since Math on the Level is about teaching concepts, not about doing pages of math, I am free to teach the concepts multiple ways. So this week, I had my son review several of the things he had covered last year by making a lapbook. This lapbook evolved a little bit, because my original idea was to make what some call a mini-office so we started out making a few of the mini books on the computer. Then I thought better of the situation. I thought, "What is the sense of my making this lapbook for him to look at? This should be his project and then making it will be reinforcing it in his mind." So a few of the components were from the original concept and then the rest are his creation. (Some with my assistance.)

Here are the pictures.

Math Lapbook Cover

The cover.

Math Lapbook Open

The lapbook opened up.

Left panel is a slider to practice counting backwards from twenty. The top middle is his handwritten hundreds chart. The bottom is a seven-inch ruler. The hands on the clock rotate and so he (or I) can set the time on the clock and then read it. I uploaded the template for the clock and you can download for free at hslaunch by clicking here. I’ve also uploaded the template for the Counting Backwards slider.

Here are close-ups of the other two mini-books in the above picture.

Place Value Open

A close-up of the inside of the Place Value Layered Book.

Denominations of US Dollars

A close up of the Bills Book. I downloaded the artwork for most of the bills from a US Treasury website. I got the $1 bill from Wikipedia.

Math Lapbook Fully Open

The lapbook opened up further.

Math Lapbook Top Flap

The top flap.

The hands are quite obviously about learning left and right. Yes, they were traced from his hands. The "Numbers about Me" are interesting numbers that he had to figure out such as weight, height, clothing size, birthday, his age, etc. Inside the house is his address and phone number. I’m not going to show the insides of these two for what I think is an obvious reason.

Math Lapbook Inside

The inside of the inside of the lapbook. Close-ups following.

Spelling Numbers

Learning to spell the number names.

Coins Tabbed Book Open

Inside of the Coins tabbed book. (I got the artwork for the coins from the US Mint. It’s really nice artwork. Some of the coins on the front were stickers though.)

Shapes Layered Book Open

Some 2-D shapes.

You can probably tell which mini books he made and which ones I made. I just happen to think that his are way neater than mine. (You’re on your own now for making your own lapbooks, my boy!)