Happy for the Holidays

Snow baby at the cabin

Trying out the Newton scale

Birds seed ornaments

Cabin sledding opener

Temperatures in the mid 20’s and barely any wind made for great sledding this weekend! We heard an eagle and pileated woodpecker and saw lots of chickadees.



Homeschool is in session!

On our way to Rocky Mountain National Park

On our way to Rocky Mountain National Park

Getting in some bouldering at a lunch rest area

Getting in some bouldering at a lunch rest area

Picking carrots after a freeze

Picking carrots after a freeze

Like everyone else, our school year has set off at a galloping  pace!  Here are some pics to recap.  Some of our adventures include a possible job relocation and trip to Colorado, harvesting veggies at the land garden, family swim nights, and continued piano lessons.  Thanks for checking in!

Week Thirty-Nine

Quick Picture Catch-Up

Last week we traveled out west to Jeffers Petroglyphs, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park.  We returned just in time for the boys’ baseball game and piano lessons.


The potty-chair mobile was on the roll last week, covering over 1200 miles!


Very windy and chilly at our first stop, Jeffers Petroglyphs


Trying a stick and ball game during the Travois Naturalist Program


Preparing to throw the atlatl at the bison (the bison on the skateboard, as R put it)


The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Checking out a display on the keelboat replica


One of the displays at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center along HWY 90


Pre-thunderstorm hike in Badlands National Park


Brrrr, a quick chilly morning dip in the pool


Writing postcards before leaving for Custer State Park


Playing at the campground’s lake


Hopping across this shallow stream


Working on junior ranger booklets at the Peter Norbeck Visitor’s Center


Mount Rushmore



This convinced us that we should buy some of his ice cream


It WAS good!


Yes, it is light out yet and we’re making s’mores. What can we say, we’re bedtime light-weights.


The grass is really getting long down at our land. We checked on our veggies, only to find the left-overs from a bunny feast! Check out more pics at Our Bluff and Valley page.

More Bluff and Valley pics from this weekend.

And now we’re transitioning into our summer flow, which includes short, mid-day school sessions, field trips with buddies, a Silverwood class on owls with our homeschool group, regular library runs, soccer, and piano lessons (R will begin lessons with our teacher).  We’re still compiling our summer bucket list.  Thanks for checking in and see you soon with summer updates!

Week Thirty-Eight

Health and Wellness


P’s new skills this session: underwater somersaults and swimming

Last swimming night for the spring season.

Ride Right:  Bicycle Safety by Jill Urban Donahue good review.

Adding Popcorn recipe to the kids’ cookbook, with emphasis on putting the top back onto the hot air popper before plugging it in.



Using the iPad camera feature (self-portrait mode) as a mirror for pop style self-portraits

Roy Lichtenstein’s ABC by Bob Adelman and learning about pop art.  Drawing self-portraits and using Lichtenstein’s style to colorize with primaries.  National Gallery of Art’s site for more about Lichtenstein and a language art activity.


M working on Melody (Robert Schumann), Hanon exercises, and sight reading pieces.  P reviews book one songs with both hands (previously only played in right hand).  Continue listening daily to Suzuki songs from books one through three.

Math and Logic


Playing a game in Using Numbers Book 1 by Ann Montague-Smith

IXL Math online practice.  Clock bingo.  Using Numbers Book 1 by Ann Montague-Smith for games and practice using numbers 0-20.


Pattern snake to tie into learning about reptiles and snakes this week

Language Arts


It’s nearly the end of the ‘school year’ and I finally have a system to keep reading logs and reading time books at the ready. Good thing we’re carrying on into the summer…

Continue with spelling practice and creative writing and language arts work books


P is learning about compound words, so we are making cupcakes. He measured the ingredients. R is scooping the batter into the tin.


Frosting cupcakes

Our easy, nearly vegan cupcake recipe for 10 cupcakes:  Whisk together 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon each baking soda and salt, 1/4 cup cocoa.  In a glass measuring cup mix 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, 1/3 cup coconut (or veggie) oil, and 1 cup milk.  Mix with the dry ingredients and divide into cupcake pan.  Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

Played with Rory’s Story Cubes, which involves rolling the six dice and making up a story based on those pictures.



A thin, gray-brown snake slides over this piece of wood.

Looking into what type of snake we saw this weekend at the land.  More pictures at Our Bluff and Valley page (top menu bar at website).

Ant by John Woodward and being surprised at the upclose picture of their jaws.


Planting veggies transplants and fruits. Watering plants and seeds.

Turtles and Tortoises by Renee C. Rebman.  Illustrate and write key characteristics about these reptiles (and recall other reptiles).  Frogs by Nic Bishop and Snakes by Jeff Corwin and listing other amphibians.  Looking for other amphibians (The Salamander) in Greece! Rome! Monsters! by John Harris.


Creating with the snap circuit set

Social Studies



Greece! Rome! Monsters! by John Harris and illustrating and writing about ancient monsters.  Recalling where we’ve heard of monsters such as Cyclops, Griffin, and Basilisk in books and movies.

Peggy Rathmann’s Officer Buckle and Gloria:  community helpers and how animals help them do their jobs.

Geography continent and ocean review.  Yankee Doodle Riddles:  American History Fun by Joan Holub for review.

And finally, in preparation for our trip out west next week, Smoke Jumpers One to Ten by Chris L. Demarest and John Perritano’s The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Week Thirty-Seven



Pitcher plant in the kids’ section at Great River Road Learning Center


A bit more about the carnivorous plants on display


Many orioles and gold finches at the park


Checking for eagles and boats fishing

Great River Road Visitor Center in Prescott, WI


Learning more about ticks at EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids) and pitcher plants from National Geographic and Wisconsin DNR sites.

Math and Logic

Continue IXL practice, workbooks, and review games.

Health and Wellness

Family swim continues to have the kids diving into their suits after dinner.


P excited to join the team

Coach pitch practice and game.  Now we have two players on the team!


Working on water flow project


Building sand structures, rivers, and dams…and washing them away


The final purchases for fruit and veggie garden at the land

Began putting up deer fence at the land.  More pictures at Our Bluff and Valley (or at website, click on link at top of page.).

M visits dentist for well-check, review dental hygiene.


P cutting pepper swords. Then he colored the food pyramid’s veggie section on the recipe print out.

Adding Pepper Swords to the kid’s cookbook and reviewing Yellow Rice (yellow from tumeric) and Sunrise Smoothies.


The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel and A Jungle Expedition:  Henri Rousseau by Susanne Pfieger.  Practice illustrating jungle animals using colored chalk and cray-pas.


Play home made music ‘baseball’ and composer review (Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart) games (from a couple months ago).  Players answer a question and then move to the next base (piece of furniture).

Listening to Suzuki discs one through three in the morning.  All work on their practice songs throughout the day and at the pre-lunch designated time.  Having a regular practice time right before lunch seems to help make sure that we get to all the songs to work on, not just the easy and fun ones (that get played all day).

Social Studies


3rd Precinct Open House


Sheriff boat


SWAT’s armored truck was a favorite.

Explored all the exhibits at the 3rd Precinct’s Open House and community helpers review.  R loved the horses from the mounted patrol exhibit.

Yankee Doodle Riddles:  American History Fun by Joan Holub.  Work on Junior Ranger Activity Booklets for Mississippi River Visitor Center and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Language Arts


Practicing spelling list on the sidewalk (a bit tricky with chalk)

Shel Silverstein’s A Giraffe and a Half, a clever story-poem for practicing rhyming words.  Continue workbooks, creative writing, and spelling practice.

Week Twenty-Eight

Health and Wellness


Snow day!

Family swim night…good, splashy fun.  Enjoying the huge snow piles and buddies at the play park.


The sights and sounds we see before and after piano lessons make being at MacPhail even more enjoyable.  Before some lessons, we are greeted by music of a choir practice or studio recital (sometimes harp or piano) as we enter the building.  Last week we were drawn to the entry way (which is also a performance space) after lesson by the booming voices of a ensemble singing a Cabaret (Wikipedia link) tune.  We also enjoy guessing what instruments other students are carrying or wheeling (yes, some huge cases have wheels!) to their lessons.

A couple thoughtful Suzuki quotes from last week’s Gavotte Newsletter:  “If you have the spirit of a young child, you never age.”and  “Music is the language of the heart, without words.”.


Chant Arab with hands crossed!

The boys enjoyed Bach’s Big Adventure by Sallie Ketcham, a story of Bach’s childhood in Germany and how he meets Johann Adam Reincken.


Listening to Lola’s Fandango by Anna Witte.  Enjoyed seeing Susana di Palma and Zorongo Flamenco perform and tell us about flamenco dancing at The Cowles Center.  We got to practice palmas (two different ways to clap), arm and wrist movements, and say ‘Ole!’ and ‘Guapo’ when we saw something that we enjoyed.  Musicians and singers played guitar, cajon (Wikipedia link), and castanets.


Wood from the land

The above project is from Susan Schwake’s Art Lab for Kids.  We learned about Amy Rice, a Minneapolis artist, and looked at her mixed-media ‘Zinnias’, which is a painting on a piece of wood.



Clay dough desert scenes: barrel and seguaro cacti and gila monster on sand paper squares

Desert ecosystems and some of the mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates that live there and food webs of the desert.  ‘Desert Monster’ by Gerry Bishop from Ranger Rick for details about gila monsters.  Desert by Sean Callery, Cactus in the Desert by Phyllis S. Busch and Show Me Reptiles by Megan Cooley Peterson.


Our plant “pink splash’ before clipping


After clipping

The scientific method and hypothesis about what will happen to the plant after clipping .  Discussing basic needs of plants.

Math and Logic

Introduce division and basic terms (divisor, dividend, quotient) and three ways to write equations.  Review adding, subtracting, and multiplying facts.  Continue Singapore math workbooks.

Language Arts

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep by Moira Kemp and looking at wool products in our home (blanket, socks, yarn).  Measure and cut yarn to make a cat’s cradle (wikiHow link).

Using Audubon Guides to the National Wildlife Refuges and Field Guide to the Southwestern States for book skills such as using the index and table of contents.

Miles has been enjoying a Star Wars paperback and Reading Rainbow Readers’ Silly Stories to Tickle Your Funny Bone.  Both boys are nearing completion of their Explode the Code and phonics books.

Social Studies


Peach tree with tissue paper blossoms

Learning about Hina Matsuri in Celebrations! by Anabel Kindersley.

Ancient Sonoran desert people of Arizona and Casa Grande from the Nation Park Service.

DK’s A Life Like Mine:   How Children Live Around the World’s Home section.  Discussing types of homes, where people live, and how homes differ in the world.  Marveling at different types of places to live in Homes Around the World ABC by Amanda Doering.

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