The last camping trip of the year

I wish every camping trip could be as perfect as the last one we took. We went to Tippecanoe River State Park in Indiana–about a 2.25 hour drive from home, so not unreasonable, and it was a wonderful state park. We rented canoes! And it was great! And the weather was wonderful and so was the company of friends and finding caterpillars was cool as was climbing to the top of the fire tower and watching horses ride by on the trails and oh man it was just perfect. We apple picked on the way home and are still working our way through our 15 lbs of delicious honeycrisps. Just perfect.




Preschool, fall 2013

So we’ve celebrated not going back to school. I’m feeling a bit inspired to organize the bit of stuff that we do though, so here it goes…

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Bob Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John Maslen – These were the first books Lily ever read (starting a year ago!), and she can get through most of the first set now. She’s still working on sight words. Well, I ought to be working on sight words more with her. Or then again I’ll probably just wait until she’s more ready for memorizing them since they don’t follow the short vowel rules she currently knows.

Now I’m Reading, Playful Pals by Nora Gaydos – Simple and similar to Bob Books, but they have color illustrations and prompts for parents at the end of each book to cover comprehension. I really like this level 1 set; I would totally buy more when she’s ready for moving beyond short vowels.

Hooked on Phonics old school Level 1 readers – I just picked up a hodge podge lot of these on Ebay, but they look like they’ll be a nice addition of books she can read with only short vowels under her belt. She’s really proud when she can read a book by herself 🙂

She’s just started with wanting me to read longer chapter books to her too, and that’s been very enjoyable. We finished Charlotte’s Web and have started The Wizard of Oz. I’m excited that she’s reached this point of listening to stories!


Handwriting Without Tears, Letters and Numbers for Me – We just started this, but I really like that it’s not the typical dashed/lined paper method of learning to write. The letters are formed on a starting dot within a grey rectangle, and visually it seems to make a lot more sense to Lily when she’s forming letters. They even acknowledged left-handed writers in the beginning of the book!


Math U See,  Primer – I loved the idea of the incorporated manipulative blocks, and they seem to be a hit so far. We’ve been doing this for a few weeks, usually at least once per week. While each chapter is meant to be broken up into a few smaller lessons, she likes doing the whole thing (and then some). Having a math curriculum has shown me how much she actually does know  now (like how high she can count, that she understands greater than and less then). I’m looking forward to continuing with Math U See.


I pull from the free resources at Green Kid Crafts sometimes. Pinterest helps out other times. I have some preschool science project books taking up space on our bookshelves; I ought to pull those out and see what’s fun in there (Simple Science and Science Arts). I should be better at doing more fun projects and experiments regularly. We do read science-y books though about our bodies, the solar system, animals, etc.


Lily has free access to all art supplies and makes her own projects multiple times a week. Sometimes I get an idea off of Pinterest, but not all that often. Our local HOUSE chapter is starting art classes twice monthly though this year too and we’ll be attempting those, so long as the projects can be made age appropriate for a 4 year old. They will be alternating using Meet the Masters and Atelier…Not sure which levels they have purchased or will be using.


We do nothing formal here other than talking about whatever comes up in normal living. I’m considering getting Usborne’s Encyclopedia of World History. I think it would be a bit more visually stimulating to read through than, say, The Story of the World (which I like the idea of for ages 7+). Edit: I just spent some time putting together a chronological list of history related read-alouds, borrowing a little from Story of the World’s suggested reading (from a friend) and just filling in the blanks otherwise from suggestions on the internet. Here’s my Kid History Goodread’s shelf. Since our library has most of the books I found available for checkout, I’ll just pick up a handful when we’re there anyway, starting with prehistory/evolution and working our way to modern times. I simply think it’d just be fun–a good way to introduce various topics in history in an age appropriate way. My list is by no means complete (she’s FOUR). This whole idea is mostly for my own sake 🙂


I feel guilty that this is lacking. She recently expressed interest in taking voice lessons (uh, what?) and I was able to spin that into joining a choir, but the only children’s choir for ages 4 and 5 conflicts with regular Thursday HOUSE activities (Culture Club and art classes). Their ages 6 and 7 choir meets at a much more convenient time, so I’m thinking if her interest stays she will participate in that down the road. For now she sings to the radio, can turn on Pandora to any station she chooses (which is usually No Doubt), and she has unlimited access to the musical instruments in the house.

Physical Education

For now? Being a normal kid 😛 Though she is doing an 8 week session of park district gymnastics because she asked for it. Otherwise it’s running around like a fool at the park, bike rides, etc.

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Now, having said all that, we sit down together for 10-20 minutes maybe one, two, rarely three times a week, and work on any one of the more formal lesson-type things together (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic). She’s FOUR. I’m trying not to go crazy with it all…just because she CAN do it doesn’t mean she should have to on a schedule every day of the week. Most of her days are spent in free play, and we go out pretty much every day in the afternoon to do something interesting or play with friends. Next year for kindergarten I might try to establish a daily routine that involves 10-20 minutes of working together. I suppose I’ll see how her attention span and ability has evolved.


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We pick up Five in a Row every now and again. There are monthly nature classes and Culture Club through our HOUSE group. We go to the library, museums, zoo, and nature sanctuaries. The HOUSE group also has monthly parties like bowling, miniature golf, and roller skating. She has access to maps and a globe and her Leapfrog Tag reader pen and her MobiGo with educational games and shelves and shelves of books she asks me to read all the time.

She’s four, and I think things are going pretty well 🙂

“Results, no excuses”

I’ve had a good handful of  inspirational people in my life, but looking at the big picture (in my less than 30 years I know the picture isn’t that big, but still) I’ve had two greatly inspirational people carry me through my teens: my junior high school band director and my high school choir director.

These two men were amazing. I’m sure a lot of people have had these types in their lives–the dry humor, the total brutal honesty, the exceptionally high expectations without accepting any less. I am incredibly lucky to have had both of them; I don’t know that I would have made it through junior high and high school even halfway sane had it not been for them and their passion for music.

I just received word that my junior high band director passed away. This news came as a total surprise as I didn’t know he was even ill. Our interactions since my middle school years have been minimal, and he retired shortly after I moved on to college, but we have been friends on Facebook in recent years and have chatted online a few times thanks to that.

This was a man who barked out “RESULTS, NO EXCUSES” while gesturing wildly with his baton at the hand written poster of those words that had been displayed for 20+ years in the band room. This was the man who would bang his ragged baton so hard against his music stand that it would shatter into pieces and send shrapnel flying into the flutes and clarinets at best, and all the way to the brass section at worst.

And this was a man who welcomed anyone to eat their lunches with him in his office. Every day. For three years. This was a man who was so inspiring that he got middle school kids to wake up early for before-school band practice, stay at school late for after-school band practice, and give up a big chunk of their summer breaks for summer band. He didn’t just encourage the best in us, he expected it. And he was amazing.

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” I happened across that quote in a completely unrelated place on Facebook yesterday, and it has stuck with me as so incredibly appropriate right now. He created a love of music, a desire to push past acceptable and to excellence, and I can only imagine the ripple effect of his passion beyond his students.

I am grateful for the time I got to spend studying and learning from him. I am grateful for all the memories. Thank you, Mr. J.


Organizing our homeschool stuff

So, I hesitate to even call what we do at age 4 “homeschool,” but it sort of is, and we have a lot of stuff that requires organizing lest it take over the house.


Starting in the big family bookcase there are a few spaces dedicated to things I’d consider homeschool-y (like books about homeschooling, haha!). So tucked in amongst the fabric and family photo albums and wedding knick knacks are shelves with chapter books we’ve either read or plan to read to Lily, early readers that she can read to herself, and other picture books that are just plain too tall for her bookcase in her room.


That brings me to the bookcase in her room. What started off with all board books has grown to lots of picture books now (and lots of hand-me-down Disney stuff which has taught her all about the characters and even though she’s never watched a Disney princess movie she’s all “I LOVE PRINCESSES” every time she sees their brands plastered on anything remotely related to children and do I ever despise marketing to children).


Back out to the main living area and we have my pretty “antique” yellow cabinet, a great Craigslist find. Behind the closed door I toss whatever toys she has dragged out from her room that I’m too lazy to bring back to her room. The drawer holds her “important papers” (like the letter I wrote to her on Camp Fire’s Absolutely Incredible Kid Day, the valentine that Art made for her, and birthday cards). The top is reserved for library books we’ve checked out and her Leapfrog Tag Pen Reader books.


In the dining room is her desk, which is where she does almost all of her independent projects. This picture is with it recently cleaned (by me, of course), so don’t think that a 4 year old doesn’t normally have bits of paper and fabric and feathers and who knows what “organized” everywhere.


And then there’s my most favorite Craigslist buy in the history of any of my Craigslist buys. It holds, uh, EVERYTHING. From art supplies to workbooks to all the computer and construction paper to Play-Doh to coloring books to EVERYTHING. Seriously.




And that’s it…for now. I’m thinking a small bookcase in the dining room might do well for when we start doing more curriculum-y things (technical term), but maybe the massive white china cabinet will continue to serve for that. We’ll see!