Non-violence and civil rights.

I've been trying to write this post for over a year, but each time I get started we get swept into it again. I have had people ask how I got Jack started in studying this topic and how I introduced it. Honestly I didn't do a thing. He got this started all on his own. Once he was going I tried to answer his questions and provide materials for his consumption. How I think it got started?  

From a very young age Jack was obsessed with Albert Einstein. He wanted to read books about Einstein but at 5 years old we had a hard time finding a book he could read on his own, with enough information to satisfy his interest. I ran across the manga biography series Great Figures in History. We bought the Einstein and he wanted more. So I bought the Gandhi book, followed by the Mandela book, then Mother Theresa. He couldn't get enough of them. I think these are what planted the seed. It took years for the seed to start growing but eventually he was asking more and more questions.  

When he was nine he wanted to learn more about Gandhi and I tried to find more for his age, which was hard. They were either to simple or too adult.  Eventually we let him watch the movie, with us of course.  He had so many questions. We tried to answer them as best we could and researched what we couldn't.  During our conversation we brought up Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.  He had read the Mandela book and wanted to know more about him. So we research more. This was about the time that the movie, A Long Walk to Freedom came out. My husband and I watched it first, and decided to let him watch it. It really fanned the flame. I remember he watched it on a Friday before our homeschool group park day. We were over an hour late, because he had so many questions and the questions didn't stop for days. 

Through our research we also learned of the documentary, A Force More Powerful.  I would highly recommend this to anyone. It is a wonderful look at non violent protests throughout history and their effect. I also liked that it looked at some of the well known protest through the lives of participants who were not as well known as say Mandela or MLK jr. 

During our research, it was mentioned more than once that Gandhi was a big influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and our civil rights movement in America.  We started watching and reading what was available. There is a great episode of American Experience about the Montgomery Bus boycott. 

Last year on Martin Luther King Jr. day I took him to see Selma. It was an amazing experience to be in the theater that day.  As we were standing in line to get tickets, an older couple started sharing their experiences of living through the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and what she remembered.  

Just recently we were able to attend an event at our local university and the main speaker had interviewed Martin Luther King Jr., marched at Selma and attended his speech at the March on Washington. 



This has been one of my favorite rabbit trails in our homeschooling experience and a perfect example of how I want all of our homeschool experience to be.  I can't wait to see what else we will explore on this subject and where it takes us and especially where is takes Jack. 

Handmade market day

This past week, our homeschool group held a handmade market day for the kids. There was some miscommunication in the group and the planning was left until the last minute. There was a lot of debate over how to handle the market, payment, etc. We have held one in the past in which some of the items were priced incredibly high and wanted to avoid that scenario.  A few days before the market we got some details on how we could run it, but in the end the kids decided that they just wanted to trade items anyways. 

Jack made perler bead items and also did origami by request.



Here are some of the items other children brought:


tic-tac-toe bag games.


Homemade cookies and custom lego sets.


Popsicle stick and q-tip bow and arrow set.


Pool noodle nunchucks.



Fabric belts, popsicle stick boxes and bent popsicle stick bracelets.


foam stamps.


handmade greeting cards.

Looking forward to doing this again!

The Hobbit book club meeting

This past week we had our book club get together to discuss The Hobbit. The general plan was to have the kids dress up if they wanted, have each child prepare a project based on their favorite part of the book, have each child tell everyone their favorite quote, and then move on to a Hobbit tea and discussion of the literary elements of the book.


First we had to set the stage. A quick quote on the chalkboard by the front door, excuse the sloppy writing, and The Hobbit soundtrack on Pandora.


Jack did some perler bead projects.  Bilbo's sword, the dragon's eye, Smaug, and a hobbit door. He also made a hobbit sign which I didn't get a picture of.


Here is sampling of projects from a few of the other kids.


A sample of the food for tea.  There was a lot more than this and like true hobbits they ate it all.


For our last book club, we introduced a simple plot map, for this one we introduced the hero's journey and talked about how it correlated with the plot map.  I know, why would we introduce the hero's journey to kids so young?  Because it's awesome and we think they can understand it if it is explained and we take the time to make sure they understand it.  And I think they all did learn something from it, even if it was only "without the trials and tests the book would have been boring and Bilbo wouldn't have changed" which was what they said when I asked them about taking out the middle part of the hero's journey.

After the discussion, the boy who made dragon's head also brought a bow and arrow to shoot it with, so they all took turns with that.


As everyone left, I gave them a small little treat bag with a ring pop, gold coins and a blue glow stick.


The outside of the treat bags.  The kids all loved the treats.

We also took a vote to decide our next book. The Black Stallion won.  I wonder what activities we will think up for that one.


We had a wonderful time with our homeschool group today visiting the dinosaur tracks and hunting for fossils. The weather ended up being perfect for a day in the desert.


We found this little guy right on the trail to the dinosaur tracks.


One of the tracks.


One of the best fossils we found. We found a lot of partial negative fossils.

It was a great day with great friends.  The kids easily spent an hour sliding down a sand hill. Then all the boys young and old set up rock targets and then tried to throw rocks and knock them over. We look forward to doing it again soon!



Morning meeting

A few weeks ago we added morning time to our homeschool routine. We are still tweaking it and making it ours, but here is what we have right now.


I like having a checklist to keep in our basket and mark off.  Right now this all takes us about an hour. The top rows of books have chapters that stand alone, which is why we rotate through them. I find on chapter books we do better if we read them daily instead of rotating through them. We both have a hard time if the story continues and we take too many days off between readings.

We usually start by reading from our astronomy book, 365 Starry Nights, then I continue to read while he adds a drawing to his astronomy notebook. After he is finished with that he works on a geography project- pin it map, coloring book or map puzzle. If I am still reading after he gets finished with his geography then he has a coloring book that he can color in either botany or Pixel Power.


Don't worry, Moby Dick was put aside for now and replaced with Peter Pan.

He also has the option to work on a handicraft while I read. I expect that will be used more as we approach the holidays. 

For memorization right now he is working on learning the poem Invictus.

Overall, we are loving our morning meeting. It has given our read aloud time priority and we are really enjoying all of our books. I love how much we learn in such a short period. It really packs a punch.


Mini maker fair

Saturday we went to our local Barnes and Noble for their mini maker fair.


First up were the bristlebots.  This was a quick, fun easy activity. In fact they were so easy I was wondering why we hadn't made one before or made them for a homeschool group activity.


Next up we made paper flashlights. These were easy and very cool. You squeeze the box and the led lights up.


Most of our time was spent at the Ozobot table. He really enjoyed this activity. Ozobot is a robot that you can code using different colored markers.  He follows the black marker line you make, and then you can make him turn, speed up or slow down by adding in different colored marker patterns. I think this might make the Christmas wish list. I think it would be fun to play with!


We were also able to see some 3-d printers in action, watch some robots, use some virtual technology, use and learn about Little Bits, and use a 3-d scribbler pen.

It was a lot of fun seeing new technology, making some fun projects and being able to see some of his wish list items in action.


Week 14 wrap up


Some highlights of our last week.


  • memorized and recited The Man in the Arena excerpt by Teddy Roosevelt.


  • The Hobbit
  • Moby Dick (morning time)
  • Peter Pan (morning time)
  • Farmer Boy (morning time)


  • hiking with nature group
  • Barnes and Noble Maker Fair



  • Robert Louis Stevenson



  • basketball
  • pickleball
  • park time teaching the dog to go down the slide
  • riding bikes
  • fruit ninja on the kinect
  • origami



Weekend hike


We've been trying to get out on a good hike as a family at least once a week. This time we went to a trail that we haven't been on in years. It was nice to be back there and visit some of our favorite places again.



We were able to collect quite a few items for the latest nature pal exchange. We also saw many Native American pottery pieces and chips from flintknapping.


Just a sample of what we found.

Wild explorers club


If you haven't already heard of Wild Explorers Club, you are missing out. This new program has been the answer to some of our prayers. We don't have a scout program that we feel comfortable being a part of in our town, yet we always wanted a similar program for our kids to participate in. Luckily this came along at just the right time for Jack.


He eagerly awaits the assignment each week and it has given us yet another excuse to spend more time out in nature doing what we love.


It's great to see him thoughtfully  go above and beyond for each assignment.



Miss Cairo got her own Wild Explorer badge for her backpack since she accompanies us on all of our adventures.



For his birthday I gave him a special present with more items for his explorer pack and a little note telling him how much I have enjoyed our adventures together.


He has recently completed the first badge, wolf. I will post how we celebrated next week.


California trip part two


The next day was Jack's 10th birthday!  We had to get a few supplies in Reno before we headed out. The boys were a little cold the first night so we bought two extra sleeping bags so they could double up if needed.


You could tell as soon as we hit California. The sagebrush scenery was replaced with trees, lots of them.


We made it to Lassen Volcanic park in time for a late lunch.  It was really neat learning about the different types of volcanoes and geologic features of the park. We did one hike, Bumpass Hell, while we were in the park.




We made it down to the mud pots and vents. It was very stinky!


We decided not to stay at the top of Lassen that night as it was already windy and cold.  We drove down the other side of the park and found a campground. 


We had to have some cupcakes to celebrate the big birthday. I was glad I threw a few candles in my backpack.  We sang happy birthday around the fire and enjoyed our cupcakes.


Jack was amazed how big the cones were.


Before leaving the campground the next day we did some laundry and took showers. Nice perk.


We stopped at Whiskey Creek lake for lunch that day.


And by that night we made it to Humboldt Redwoods state park.


This was our first view of the trees since we arrived after dark.


The boys explored after camp was set up. We also saw a fox run through the edge of our camp, but he was too quick for pictures.


Greeting the redwoods the next morning. I'll cover more of the redwoods in my next post.


California trip part one.

A couple of weeks ago all the boys and I headed out on a camping trip to California. This was my first camping trip in 11 years. Yikes. I was a bit nervous about going. My boys are all tough and like to primitive camp. 


The first day we left Utah and started through Nevada.  One of our first stops was also one of our favorite swimming holes.


We ate lunch and the boys jumped in for a swim break. IMG_6187

The boys also went on a bullfrog hunt.


And finally caught a small one.




We drove the extra-terrestrial highway.







We made it most of the way through Nevada and stopped at some hot springs the first night.


It was nice to soak before bed and to warm up in the morning before leaving.


Our next stop was Virginia City, Nevada.  It was a cute little town.


Our main reason for stopping was to visit the mine that my great-great grandpa owned and sold to Comstock.  Jack learned about it last year and loved  seeing the actual mine in person.



We didn't make it as far as we had hoped the second day and ended up staying in Reno that night. Our oldest son had a friend there that he really wanted to spend time with so we decided to get a hotel.



stitching update

Jack has moved on from embroidery for the time being. I wanted to find a way to present his work and honor it.  I rearranged our entry wall so that we now have a place to hang our stitch work.


I started working on some quick stitch projects so that we could stitch together. I ordered some already stamped linens to work on. These are great for me because they don't require a lot of planning and I can literally pick them up and go.


So far, I have finished a fall bread cloth. It has this cute little pumpkin design in each corner. It turned out really cute and I can't wait to use it!


Scenes from the weekend 5/25


Our quail eggs have arrived. Here's  hoping we can hatch them.  We made an incubator out of a 10 gallon aquarium. We are having a hard time with temperature regulation. SIGH.


I have started working on some fall projects. I am hoping to get a jump on holiday projects this year and actually have some homemade gifts to share with those we love.


The hummingbird chicks have flown away. We put up a feeder in hopes of seeing them around.  I love this pic of them together after the first one had climbed out of the nest. It's almost as if he is reassuring his sibling.


This morning we woke to the sad news that the raccoon had killed the pea hen. We are heartbroken. Our neighbors, who owned the pea hen and were wonderful with letting her stay her after making her nest, have taken the babies to their house.  So we lost them all.  Like I said earlier, I really hope we can get those eggs to hatch.


We had my son and his girlfriend over for dinner and a movie tonight. Dinner was great. Jack made cupcakes for dessert, which he promises are the best ever. We watched Pompeii. Two hours of my life I will never get back. It was made bearable since we all have the same sense of humor and started narrating it.

It seems like it was a LONG weekend. We had fun though. The hubby and I were able to get out.  Alex and I started to shop and plan for a big party we are throwing in a few weeks. And the weather was wonderful.  We truly are blessed.

a starfish and a clam.

The past two weeks in science we have studied mollusks and echinoderms. 


We borrowed a snail from a friend and put it in a small plastic tank to observe and use for our labs.  He's been really fun to watch. We also bought a mystery snail to keep in with our aquatic frog.

For the mollusk unit we dissected a clam, or tried to dissect one.


This wasn't an easy one- the shell was hard to crack and the foot was hard to cut. Frustrating for the boy and really not much to see.

This week we have been studying echinoderms and dissected a starfish.


I just noticed he is wearing the same shirt in both pics. Guess it's his lab uniform.  Our starfish was fairly big and tough.  Even I had a hard time cutting through the skin. I tried scissors, broke two scalpel blades and still couldn't make the cuts needed and see what we were supposed to see.  Again, anticlimactic. I never thought I would look forward to the frog dissection but at this point I am because I think it will be somewhat easier to cut. Jack didn't do well with either of these, his frustration level was high. I can't see us repeating either of these in the future and at the moment I am not looking forward to the next two dissections- grasshopper and crayfish.  

a wedding

This weekend our son's best friend was married and our son was the best man. 


So weird to have kids old enough to be married.


My son pinning the grooms boutonniere on and one of my favorite pics of the night.


They have known each other for about 10 years and given their parents a fair share of gray hair.  They are good kids though. Very thoughtful and kind.


We were so happy to be there for their special day.


Steve then had to give the best man toast. He did well, especially since he has never given a toast and none of them really have the life experience for a toast.


It also gave the rest of us an opportunity to dress up.








Our project learning group has been studying owls the past couple of weeks.  Everyone watched this documentary:

Then last week we did art projects based on owl anatomy.

First we had owl skulls:


Alex made this demo out of model magic, small pastic cups and ping pong balls.  This was to demonstrate the owls head and eye movement.

We made wing models out of paper and brads:

We also made feathers our of paper and coffee straws.

This week we dissected owl pellets:





We bought our owl pellets here and would highly recommend them.  We have done this once before and our pellets didn't have near the bones that these did. We also had a wide variety of bones from different animals. I will post pics once we get the bones all clean and mounted.