If there was ever a time for salty language in these posts, I think we’re there.

Providence

2018: We move 1000 miles, acquire an old, neglected farm with a house in terribly ugly condition (from a distance it looks quaint, doesn’t it?)

have a fourth baby

and are deep in to homeschool life, which finally has a rhythm and sometimes feels downright successful.

The house is in pieces right now.

It’s too much to explain, so let’s start simply, with the kitchen sink. I wrote a letter to the current owner of a former house, asking if she would like to part with the ancient cast iron sink. She replied with an offensive note, replete with nasty things. A quick Google search turned up a few nutty letters she wrote to the local newspaper, the kind where I wonder if l should stop reading in order to preserve the writer’s remaining scrap of dignity or indulge in reading the rest of the nonsensical ranting. (I indulged, at least in the first letter.) Anyhow, her note ended with a terse “Get your own damn sink”. I guess she won’t be passing along the cheerful greeting for our former neighbors as requested in the postscript.

I decided to do as she requested. A lone similar sink showed up on craigslist, in a shed just a few blocks from our rental. It belonged to a very kind older man who salvaged it from a house on 3rd and Grant, and was in great shape, so of course we bought it. On the walk home, I remembered that I lived near that corner long ago, and there was a long, old sink…sure enough, it is the same sink. (This is the house where I moved in to find two of my bedroom walls–well, really, the entire back of the house–open to the outdoors, as the then-owner decided to do a little remodeling without telling us. I think Bloomington tenant rights have improved quite a bit since.)

Happy ending: This hefty sink is going to last forever. We bought it from someone who wanted it to have a sweet home, and we avoided supporting Home depot-like places. It is 6′ long, so that saves a few feet of countertop space and cabinets (did I mention the kitchen budget is essentially zero?). As with all overwhelming situations, everything always works itself out. I must remember this when I am in our torn-apart house, or when the acres of poison ivy begin to green up next month.

And I literally did get my own damn sink.

Homeschool Year 2: The curriculum

No beautiful pictures here, though oh, do I have many! So, I obviously have little interest or time for blogs and computers. This online record of mine may or may not pick up again in the near future. I hope it does…though life is full, and screens are not a priority or as enjoyable as everything else that is going on. But in the meantime, here is our curriculum for our second year. I’m quite happy with it, and I don’t see it evolving much during the year.

Keep in mind that my children are often self-taught, or need minimal instruction from me. They also do not have television, video games, cell phones, I-whatevers, and other gadgets, so they do not need the entertaining texts that many homeschool and regular school curricula offer. They are 6 and 8, and would be in grades 2 and 3.

Math: Study Time series, grades 3 and 4. They each do one lesson per day, four times per week. We generally skip the weekly checkups, unless I feel like it’s moving quickly. Glory was doing Spunky, Grade 2, but it was rather repetitive (too much drill). Study Time definitely covers a lot, but they re-visit subjects extensively, which keeps the lessons from being too monotonous. A workbook plus test booklet cost about $16 per student (I didn’t get the teacher’s manual). This is not a scripted book, and is well-suited for the student who prefers to teach himself with minimal “teacher” intervention. There are no characters or entertainment (though I did make the apple pie recipe given as a word problem, which is my sort of entertainment).

Spelling: Practical Spelling, Grade 3 for Glory. This is a simple book of, well, practical words. She spends about 5-10 minutes per lesson three days per week, with a test once per week. (I also assign points for neat handwriting). Emmett does Vocabulary in Action by Loyola Press. This book has much more challenging, yet still useful, words. There are only perhaps 6 chapters, so we’re spending a month or so on each, and will finish early. Apparently there are online resources for students (such as crossword puzzles) but we haven’t investigated these. There are no tests (these come with the teacher’s manual?) so I have to make those up.  Again, these books are very inexpensive.

GrammarClimbing to Good English series, Grades 3 and 4. These books are great if you want your child to learn grammar well, and without fluff. There is also plenty of opportunity for practicing handwriting in the exercises. It is not heavily religious. It is not scripted, and is, again, well-suited for the self-taught who learn quickly. And yes, they are inexpensive!

Cursive: We use a 1980s textbook of the Palmer method. It is a basic book of worksheets, similar to what most of us probably did in school. They love practicing cursive! I got this book from the library, as it is way out of print, so it was free.

ScienceHandbook of Nature Study by Comstock .ISBN: 978-0801493843 Make sure you don’t get the print-on-demand version, which looks terrible and is incomplete. You can also download this book for free! As this is not a book one would read front to back, we use Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon to guide us with what to do each week. You could use one of these resources without the other. You could also revisit the same lessons in Exploring for several years, easily adapting it as necessary for your child’s level. We are aiming to study science two or three times per week, though we’re having a bit of a time starting up.

Art: This is informal. Being an artist, I’d like to structure it a bit more, having an organized art lesson once a week or so, but that is unrealistic right now. I have an art cabinet accessible at all times, and they make things literally every day.

Extracurricular: Piano lessons and Cub Scouts for Emmett, and a once-weekly art/craft/outdoor school that both attend. That is plenty for us! And, of course, we spend lots of time outdoors, at home, in nature, and at the park.

Make Yogurt! (and a challenging week)

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I didn’t post an update last week, due to a rather difficult week, mostly with, ahem, a certain seven year old. But then I opened the front door, and saw the following, which I found rather amusing, and perfect for one’s blog, in which everything looks so delightful all the time

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Yes, they were reading to Sulien, AND not fighting over who reads which page, sits to the east or west of him, or the correct pronunciation of “interesting”.

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We visited the Agricultural Heritage Center, which is free and a lovely way to spend the afternoon. E and G brought home the Nature Detectives paper for that site, as part of their quest to visit all the open space sites in that program. After a visit at Carrie’s Honey (recommended!), we came home for an always too-brief visit from my aunt and uncle on one of their cross-country trips. Ruthie suggested a post on how to make yogurt, so here you go!

Yogurt
milk (I use very rich, raw milk, but pasteurized will work)
plain yogurt (with active cultures, which most yogurt has): 1/2 to 1 t. for each cup of milk
jars (I like 2 cup, wide-mouth glass jars)
a cooler large enough to fit the jars

Heat the milk to about 180 F (almost boiling), whisking frequently to avoid scorching the bottom. This changes the protein in the milk so that you don’t get goopy yogurt. Cool it down to about 110 F (cool enough that you can put your finger in it without burning it, but so that it is still a little warmer than you are). Add it to jars with about 1 t of yogurt for each 2 c of milk. Put the lids on, give it a little shake to distribute the yogurt, and set in a cooler of hot water (I use the hottest tap water from my sink). After several hours (usually 6-8) the yogurt will be set and ready to refrigerate and eat.

Much like the above-mentioned soap, this is a natural product, so quirky things can happen. Sometimes it isn’t set enough after 8 or even 10 hours. I usually replace the hot water, and sometimes add a little more yogurt, and give it several more hours. If you get a thinner consistency than you like, either embrace it, or add a thickener like powdered milk, or strain it (but use the whey-like part!)

Resist the temptation to use lots of yogurt. For some reason, more bacteria doesn’t equal better yogurt, and will actually make a worse product. The other quirk of yogurt making is to leave the yogurt still while it is setting, or it will not set as firmly. Ask the bacteria why; i have no idea.

You can use a previous batch to start a new one, but I have read that after time, it will not work well anymore. I like to switch up the bacteria, to make sure our systems are getting a good variety, so I usually use store-bought yogurt as a starter. Experiment with different brands; I love Straus yogurt, and the final product usually resembles the type you used.

And some photos from the week, in which we had rain(!) and continued to appreciate this never-ending autumn:

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Autumn days are finally here (sort of)

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Check out those boots!

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We spent so much time outdoors this week. Above is the seasonal classroom…is there really reason to whine about having to do math when it looks like that?

There was a much-awaited trip to the Sunflower Farm. This is a fabulous place for kids to play (really anyone…I had a nice time on the zipline). There are farm animals roaming, trees and old tractors on which to climb, a bonfire, long rope swings…and hardly anyone there on a brisk weekday morning.

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We also went to Osborn Farm in Loveland for squash and pumpkins. It’s a pumpkin farm…no corn mazes, bouncy castles, or other autumn tackiness, just pretty squash. First on the menu is squash soup and a pumpkin pie!

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One of our art projects was to draw large contour drawings of leaves, and then color them in with chalk pastel.

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The Longmont Museum has a free day the second Saturday of each month, so the kids went to see the robot exhibition. It was a little overstimulating with lights and sound, but very fun and interactive. It is open through the beginning of January, so for you locals, go see it! The annual Day of the Dead exhibition opened that day too, which is always exciting (recommended: the festivities later in the month at the museum).

We got a pie cherry tree that will fit in our little yard with the removal of a lackluster tree; Matt is digging the hole right now, and I’d rather dig than be on a computer, so off I go!

Baked Oatmeal

This is our Saturday breakfast, and is evolving a bit week to week, but the current version is so good.

2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. yogurt
2 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. chopped nuts (e.g., pecans)
2 T. butter, melted
1 c. milk
2 eggs
maple syrup
large pinch of salt
cinnamon, vanilla, or other flavors
2 apples, sliced

Soak the oats, yogurt, water, and nuts overnight. Mix in the rest of the ingredients except apples. Butter an 8″ square pan and layer the apples in, then pour the rest on top. Bake at 425F for about 45 minutes, or until it is set. Let it cool a bit. Serves 4-6

The soaking helps break up enzyme inhibitors, making the grains and nuts more nutritious. In a pinch, you could eliminate this step.

Make it yours! The apples are optional (or you could add a different fruit, dried or otherwise). You could switch out the grains, nuts, or spices, or eliminate the syrup and use dried fruit instead.