A Visit to Chicago

taken from a window in the Field Museum
taken from a window in the Field Museum

I’m learning that, no matter how much you love home, you need to get away sometimes too. We spent the first two weeks of September in Chicago visiting relatives. Despite being sick for half the trip, and my poor husband was sick pretty much the whole time (and working too!), it was still nice to get away. We didn’t do everything we set out to do, but we still did a lot thanks to some reciprocal membership programs that we’re part of.

The Field Museum. “Sue” is the largest and best preserved T-Rex specimen ever found. This time we visited her with the knowledge of how she was found and the controversy surrounding her after watching the documentary Dinosaur 13. Fascinating stuff.

We went to the Field Museum, which we’ve been to several times now. It’s my favorite place in Chicago, I think, and I never get tired of it.

Museum of Science and Industry. This museum is also home to the U-505 Submarine, a German sub that was captured on June 4, 1944. It also has a great exhibit on the weather with a large, simulated tornado, and my personal fav exhibit is on the human body.

We also went to the Museum of Science and Industry. That was our second time there. It’s a great museum, if you haven’t seen it, and especially if you like airplanes.

Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden. Ahhhhh….

My other favorite place is the Chicago Botanic Garden. I wish I could spend a whole day there by myself, but I love going with my family too.

My boys spent some time with their Polish relatives, which is an education in itself! I sometimes feel like I’m going to a foreign country when we visit family in Chicago. I love the flowers in my in-laws yard and all the home-cooked Polish food.

It was an odd time of year for us to go away, but that’s the nice thing about homeschooling. You can be flexible and go when you want to go.

Since we went away, I had to put off our homeschooling plans for a while longer, and now that we’re back, the boys caught yet another illness (when will it end?!), but I’m slowly inching myself toward normality again. Very soon I will write about my plans for this year.

I have also written more extensively about the places we’ve visited before in Chicago in past blog posts. You can access those by clicking on the Chicago tag.

I hope you are doing well. Have you started a new homeschooling year, or are you continuing forward with your everyday life?

Right Along Here

When I was young and traveling somewhere by car with my dad — and I think my Aunt Carolyn said this once too — I would ask, “Where are we?” and he would answer, “Right along here.”

When I thought about writing something today this seemed like the perfect title for this post because quite frankly, I don’t have any focus for this blog post. We have finished up our homeschool year, and we’ll be getting to the new one in due time. We just had birthday week, but we all got sick, so it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting (and that’s okay), but it has driven me off the course I was expecting to go. I am not ready for anything. I have nothing checked off my to do list. And now I need to get ready for an upcoming adventure that I will tell you about another day, but none of that has anything to do with planning lessons, keeping house or getting work done. But that’s okay.

We’re right along here.

When I think about our daily life as homeschoolers, I realize that Life can interrupt us quite a bit. We get sick once or twice a year, or if we’re unlucky, more times than that. Some major house repair or a cleaning spree suddenly needs to happen. I realize we need to go shopping for clothes because everything is getting too small!  (Did I mention I have a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old now?! Wow. Just wow.) Or, I get tired, and I need to take a few days off. I need to watch Poldark on Amazon Prime. Life can toss you a wrench in many ways.

In short, Life is our routine with a series of bumps and interruptions that we navigate around and climb over constantly. And while sometimes that can be a little frustrating, it’s also good. It’s Life. Those bumps and interruptions make it more interesting, and we must embrace them.

We’re right along here.

So despite being sick, the boys had pretty good birthdays. My seven-year-old decided to first come down with the virus on his birthday and then give his brother and me the gift of illness. But he wasn’t that sick yet on his birthday, so he enjoyed a day of visitors and spending his birthday money, homemade cake and going out to dinner, etc.

My 10-year-old, however, was just about as sick as he could be on the morning of his birthday, so I did hear him said, “This is the worst birthday ever,” which I had to agree with, but by the evening, things improved. Now we are all recuperating and slowly getting back to normal.

Luckily I wasn’t as sick as I was in June. (Yes, this was my second summer cold. Hmfp.) You know, there are illnesses that make you go flat on your back, and then there are illnesses where you can walk around and do simple things, but please no thinking involved. This is how I felt. So on the first day when I just had a bad sore throat, I was able to at least walk around the yard, and I visited the praying mantis that lives on my son’s carnivorous plants (he’s a smart praying mantis, I think), and I found those beautiful little mushrooms, and I sketched a Carolina Chickadee. I haven’t been very good about sketching every week, but I do try to get the sketchbook out now and then. These down days are perfect for that.

Before we ever got sick and before the birthday week, I happily helped my son begin a new building project. He hasn’t wanted to build anything in a long time, and I think that’s because he’s so focused on piano. But I’m glad to see that when he has time, that urge creeps back up. Unfortunately, he never went back to finish this project, and I doubt he will. But, still, yay for the creative morning.

As I mentioned before, this summer didn’t quite feel like a summer. It was so hot that we didn’t get to venture into nature as much as I would have liked. But we did make it one day to Zoo Atlanta when we were pining to get out of the house. It was deadly hot, but the zoo has a lot of shade, and we were delighted to see that the flamingoes had babies!

It’s time for me to think about some posts describing plans for our 4th grade year and 1st grade year, and I’m sure somewhere on my to do list I have plans for other posts, but like I said…

We’re right along here.

Where are you?

Birthday Week

20160818_092049I’m writing this post on the morning of my youngest’s 7th birthday. He’s still sleeping, and his brother is at a piano lesson, and I just finished mopping the kitchen floor. I’m waiting for it to dry so that I can go start making yeast rolls, which is one of things he requested I make for him. Yesterday, we made a chocolate cake together, and I made tomato soup which I’m going to serve for lunch when my dad and step-mother come over to help celebrate his birthday.

We aren’t doing big parties this year. I had a party for this little guy last year, and it was a big success, but he’s a happy little fellow whether or not I have a party for him. As are most kids, he’s pretty excited about getting presents as well as the simple fact that he’s turning seven.

Exactly one week from today, my eldest son will turn 10, and I’m marveling at that two-digit number. I remember the year I turned 10, my mother had a slumber party for me. I invited a bunch of girls from school. At least one of them I didn’t know as well as the others, but I guess I thought she was cool. I have very few memories of the party now, but I do remember all us girls sleeping on my basement floor, and I let every girl pick out one of my stuffed animals to sleep with. It was a fun party, but I ate too many sweets, and I got sick after it was over. I also remember some kind of squabble between two of the girls. My mom said she’d never give me a slumber party again after that, and I don’t blame her. I’m sure it was a lot of work.

I never planned for my boys’ birthdays to be one week apart in August, but it’s been convenient and fun. We have “birthday week,” and it’s at the perfect time of year right after I finish up our homeschool year and before we start the new one. Both boys are equally excited since they both get to have birthdays. We always do separate celebrations for them, so they don’t feel like they have to share a birthday. However, they do share the decorations. It’s a tradition to decorate our house for the birthdays a day before my youngest’s birthday and take them down after my eldest’s birthday. They love having a whole week to savor the decorations!

I finally finished our end-of-year slideshow. We watched it last weekend, and I gave the boys a certificate of completion for the 3rd grade and Kindergarten. So now I have a 4th grader and 1st grader! How exciting! We will begin our “new” school year in September, and when I have time, I’ll write about what curriculum we’ll be using, etc.

I have already written about how I wrap up the end-of-year and do our record-keeping on this blog, but you can also read about My End of the Year Record-Keeping on the home/schoo/life blog, if you’re interested in that.

If you have a minute, tell me what’s happening in your world this week.🙂

Update On My Bread Baking Project

I’m long overdue to tell you how my bread baking project is going. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that after watching the documentary Cooked, I decided to try capturing my own wild yeast and learning how to bake bread with it. (See my column Capturing Wild Yeast.) Actually, I had been wanting to learn how to bake bread for a long time before that, but this was the motivation I needed to get me started.

How did it go?! Well, I captured the yeast, and I did learn how to bake bread with it. Over a matter of months, I made a lot of mistakes, but I got better at it. I finally figured out how I often and how much I needed to feed the yeast to make it really active and capable of making bread rise.

Opps. There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to baking bread, especially with a sourdough culture.

Some of it was quite tasty too. My husband enjoyed every loaf I made, but unfortunately, my boys didn’t care for the bread that was made with the sourdough culture (i.e., the wild yeast). And to be honest, I didn’t always love the bread either. After awhile, I started to wonder if it was the sourdough flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

My first really good loaf with the sourdough culture: Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. It was delicious!

I experimented quite a bit. When I had a hard time getting the bread to rise, I tried using part sourdough culture and part store-bought yeast (dry active yeast). That worked well. I also tried just using store-bought yeast so that I could compare the results.

Oh boy. The bread with the store-bought yeast was sooooooo delicious. And it was sooooooo easy to make. AND, my boys loved it!

Even though it might not have as many health benefits, it was a no brainer for me to ditch the sourdough culture and keep using the store-bought yeast for now. Using the wild yeast was a lot of fun, but it’s very time consuming, and it was very hard to plan when I was going to bake bread. We get very busy, and I don’t always know what we’re going to be doing on any given day, so having to prepare the culture two days in advance is not practical for me right now. It’s much nicer to wake up and think, “I feel like baking bread today” and have the whole process done in half a day.

One of my experiments. Using store-bought yeast, I made two loaves. One of them had a single rise (left), and the other a second rise (right). Conclusion: It’s worth it to do a second rise.

I may attempt using a sourdough culture in the future because it was fun. I’d be curious to see if a new culture (one that I’d know exactly how to care for from the get-go) would taste different, and/or I wouldn’t mind buying a kit with the San Francisco sourdough culture, which is so famous for its taste. But that will be far in the future when I’m not so busy homeschooling.

Ultimately, I feel my project was a huge success! The bottom line is that I wanted to learn how to bake homemade bread, and I have learned how to do that. Now I’m teaching my boys how to bake bread, and that makes me very happy too.

And even better, we have wonderful bread to eat!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (at the nine-year-old’s request) and a regular loaf. Yum Yum.

Nature Watch: Oakworm Moth

One morning I went out to water our garden, and I found this beauty on the green bean leaves. Curiously, I had also seen this moth on our porch one evening, but the colors were much more muted. I don’t know if this is a slightly different species or the sunlight was making it shine, but I couldn’t get over the colors in it. And it wasn’t until I viewed my photos later that I noticed the wings are translucent!

This is an oakworm moth, and I think it’s the pink-striped oakworm moth, but it’s very hard to tell it apart from the orange-tipped oakworm moth, so I’m not sure. (If you know, please tell me.)

My son became fascinated with moths a while back, and while it’s not what I’d call an active project (that is, he’s not researching information about them or creating any representations anymore), we still get quite excited when we find a moth we’ve never seen before in the yard. We have been lucky enough to find the Polyphemus Moth, Luna Moth, and the Tulip-tree Silkmoth, and I think we’ve seen the Imperial Moth too, but I don’t have a photo of one. We still haven’t seen a Cecropia Moth in the wild, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed!

As a little bonus, I want to share this photograph I took on one of my summer morning walks. It was a wet and foggy morning because it had stormed the previous day, and the dew made hundreds, maybe thousands, of spider webs visible in the trees. I marveled at how many there were, and luckily I had my phone with me, so I took a photo of this one, which hung on a branch by the road. Spider webs are amazing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed making some nature discoveries lately too, and I hope you’re staying cool throughout this brutal summer!

 

What the Summer is Boiling Down to

Photo taken from Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. You can see all the way to the Smoky Mountains.

I am sitting here wondering where the summer is going. It’s already late July, and here in my county, children will start back to school on August 1st. Luckily, we’re homeschoolers, so I can start our new “school year” any time I want. On the official paperwork, I pick September 1st. But in reality it’ll be sometime in the beginning half of September.

Both my boys were born in late August, exactly one week apart. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s turned out to be convenient. It’s at the end of our school year, so we take time off, and when the celebrations are over, it’s time to start a new year. There is a catch, however. Since the local schools start school August 1st, some of our outside appointments begin again in August. So we will be getting busier just as I’m planning birthdays, winding down one year and thinking about a new one. Oi.

This summer has not turned out to be exactly as I imagined it would, but that’s not all bad. I always think of summertime as a time to be outdoors, but we’ve been having the hottest summer that I ever remember living through in Georgia. (I’ve lived here for twenty years.) Starting in early June, temperatures soared to the high 90s and it’s stayed there. Most afternoons it’s between 95-99 degrees F. That’s way too hot for the boys to play outside. So we’ve been inside almost everyday, all day long.

Except for one day last week. We drove up to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. It was very cool on top of the mountain! Hopefully we’ll take some other day trips soon too.

It’s a very steep .6 mile climb from the parking lot to the top of Brasstown Bald.

I have tried getting the boys outside to play early in the morning, but 1) they like to sleep late, and 2) if they have to do lessons, they want to get them over with in the morning. Sometimes I just skip lessons and make them go outside, but would you believe it, my six-year-old is going through a phase where he really doesn’t want to be outside. So he’ll pout on the porch for a long time and then finally start playing just as it’s time to come back inside.:/

Despite being inside most days, I am actually enjoying the summer. (At least, after I finished the terrible cold I had in June and the heart-breaking task of euthanizing my cat.) I get up early in the mornings before the boys, and I either take a walk (nice and cool then!) or I do some yoga and write.

I water the garden by myself on most mornings and evenings. There was a time my boys fought over who got to water the garden, and it makes me sad they aren’t interested anymore, but it’s also quite peaceful standing outside watering all by myself. We’ve been having some good rain this year too, which has made growing flowers and vegetables much easier.

I feel good when I can keep my early morning schedule up. I am finally digging my heels into a medium-long writing project, but I will tell you about that another time.

I’m also enjoying the light lessons. We either do some science or practice multiplication tables, or the boys work in their apps. I have some workbooks I do some days with the six-year-old, but I’ve been lenient on this. It’s nice to not worry about accomplishing anything and just move along through our lessons like a meandering river.

I’m reading Old Yeller to my nine-year-old, and the six-year-old sometimes listens too. We also read about the great composers, and this week, my boys have been wanting to paint and draw again! I had noticed their enthusiasm for my “Art Fridays” was waning (to say the least), but one episode of Bob Ross on Netflix and I have little artists again! **Yay! Thanks, Bob Ross!**

One day this week we all drew/painted while listening to classical music. Another day, I read Old Yeller while the boys drew. I would love for every homeschool day to be just like that!

The nine-year-old is pushing ahead in his piano lessons as well. He is doing solid intermediate work now, so our days are filled with music. I can’t express how good it feels to walk around doing chores as I listen to my own son play so beautifully on the piano! His dedication awes me.

This summer we had the opportunity to try a new piano teacher because our current teacher received a scholarship to study in Europe for a few weeks. (Yay, him!) The summer teacher came highly recommended, and her experience and expertise were impressive. She was very impressed with the nine-year-old, saying it was remarkable how far he’s come in such a short time. We liked her so much that we seriously considered switching to her permanently. But ultimately, the nine-year-old said he wanted to stick with our current teacher. We are not sure whether this is the right decision, but we felt it was important to honor his request, especially when we haven’t been with the current teacher that long. After all, piano is his thing. We want him to own it.

So summer is boiling down to art and music and literature. How can I complain about that?

We’ve also had a couple of great play dates with friends, and the six-year-old and I are playing Uno and Yahtzee together a lot when my nine-year-old practices piano. We also baked chocolate chip cookies one day, and I’m still trying my hand at baking bread from scratch. (More about that soon.)

As I move into fall, I hope I can somehow retain this feeling of easy days. I know our appointments will build up, and I’ll get harried and worried about making progress, so when that happens, please, Someone, whisper in my ear, “Be a meandering river. You are a meandering river.”

May your homeschool days be like a meandering river too.

 

find me elsewhere

We’ve been doing a lot of painting & drawing this week! I’ll write about that soon.

I have neglected to update you on my posts over on the home/school/life blog these last few months, so I’ve got a lot here for you to read over the weekend. (If you want to!)😉

Citizen Science Project #2: The Great Backyard Bird Count

Citizen Science Project #3: Budburst

Citizen Science Projects #4 & #5: Project Noah & iNaturalist

Citizen Science Project #6: Citizen Science Soil Collection Program

Stuff We Like: 4.15.16

Stuff We Like: 7.15.16

At Home With the Editors: Shelli’s Kindergarten

At Home With the Editors: Shelli’s 3rd Grade

Don’t Cut the Screen Time — Just Make Sure It Counts

Getting the Education I Didn’t Know I Craved

The Music Gap That Filled Itself

Summer Has a Mind of Its Own

If you haven’t been to the home/school/life website in awhile, I urge you to take some time there. The Summer 2016 issue is out, and it’s full of great stuff! Besides a blog that Amy is updating every weekday, there is a store with some free stuff (and some stuff for sell and more stuff will be coming!), a podcast that I’m having a lot of fun listening to (it’s perfect for geeky homeschool moms!), and some online classes! That’s right. Amy has lined up some spectacular folks to teach some really interesting classes to homeschool students, and there will be more where that comes from. So please check it out!