Friday, June 29, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal ~ Summer Week 6

Have we just completed the 6th week of summer? That means we have less three weeks until we start our next school year and, um, I'm not ready ... not even close.

In my life this week ... We got back from vacation on Sunday night, and Brynne woke up first thing Monday morning with strep and a staph infection. After a trip to Urgent Care, a long nap, and some good antibiotics, she was back to her normal self on Tuesday. Dawson worked Tuesday and made $140 in 8 hours at his job at the car wash! It was 105* that day, so it was hard work! We logged a school day on Wednesday, and then had Keeper's Club and piano lessons yesterday. I have also been getting us unpacked and repacked so we can take off to Kansas City when we get the call from my sister that she is in labor. We have to be ready!

In our homeschool this week ... We did lots of reading on Tuesday. On Wednesday we learned about foods, food life, kitchens, family traditions, and restaurants of past versus present with a trip to the  Smithsonian Exhibit of Key Ingredients.

Yesterday, Brynne had Keeper's Club where they learned about flowers (annuals and perennials), and then Brynne had piano lessons.

And today we went and had some splash pad fun with some of our friends from Co-op.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share ... When you have a fun day where learning is taking place, COUNT IT AS A SCHOOL DAY! We will be doing that on the 4th of July. Stay tuned for our plans.

I am inspired by ... the ways of the past, especially a slower pace with more freedom in living.

Places we're going and people we're seeing ... hopefully to Missouri to see a new niece and to my parents' lake house for some fun! (As of now, that will be put off until next weekend, unless God decides my niece should come this weekend.)

My favorite thing this week was ... seeing Eli enjoy some books we were reading on kitchens and children of pioneer days. I see such growth in him in the area of reading. It was fun to discuss the books and pictures with both the kids after our day of learning about it at the Key Ingredients exhibit.

What's working/not working for us ... The heat! It makes us unmotivated, but we are trying to push through.

Questions/thoughts I have ... Is anybody else freaking out that school will be starting soon and they're not near ready??? I have to be ready in two weeks, because I am actually going to be out of state for the several days right before the first day of school. PANIC!

Things I'm working on ... my thoughts on how to incorporate nature, art, p.e., and music into our regular curriculum and make them more of a priority. If we can get into a p.e. program we have heard good things about, I will have my plan in place and a post to reveal it next week.

I'm reading ... Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach. (Still reading all of these. Want/need to read more!)

I'm cooking ... some yummies from my garden ... FINALLY! We had roasted garlic potatoes with zucchini and onion last night with our bbq pork ribs. Yummy! And my jalapenos were so hot Rick had to stop eating them!

I'm grateful for ... our public library system which allows me to easily plan a school day with their website.

I'm praying for ... my sister who will be delivering her baby soon.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share ...

This dude was needing some serious free play time at home yesterday. He stayed in his pj's all day and played "Ghost Hunter". He is always making up games. He scared the flour out of me when I opened the door to the pantry and he was in there in the dark with his flashlight!

I am also linking up at Weekly Wrap-up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Last Child in the Woods ~ Chapter 9, 10, and 11

We now embark on Part III of the book titled "The Best of Intentions: Why Johnnie and Jeannie Don't Play Outside Anymore".

Chapter 9. Time and Fear. I can honestly say that at times I feel selfish and lazy. I value my free time so much that I don't look for ways to schedule my kids' activities because I don't want to be scheduled. But in my heart I know that it's more than that. It angers me to see parents so hell-bent on their kids being sports stars or honor students or nationally-ranked band prodigies, or in other words, perfect at something. I often believe that it's the parents wanting themselves to look good and get attention at the expense of their kids. I have shocked parents when I say that I don't care if my kids go to college. I want my kids to do what they are passionate about and what makes them happy so that they won't dread getting out of bed in the mornings. If they can accomplish that without a college education, so be it. Instead, I try to help my kids dig deep to find what their interests are and find a way to work toward making that a career.

Okay, on to the chapter.

On Page 117 is says, "It takes time -- loose, unstructured dreamtime -- to experience nature in a meaningful way." Even Eli has it figured out at age 8. On Wednesday we had a scheduled school day because of a local traveling exhibit. At the end of the day he said, "It's summer! We aren't supposed to go anywhere!" What he meant was, "It's my time off, and I want to stay home and have some time to play."

Maybe my kids love unstructured, free time because Rick and I do not place an emphasis on scheduled activities. Page 118 supports this theory by stating, "A central concern [of students interviewed] is how parents model their own use of time -- their attitude about where time fits into their busy lives." The particular student being interviewed was talking about how a snow day bums out most adults with it's inconveniences, instead of exciting them as to the wonder and fun of a snow day. I happen to be one of those parents who LOVES snow days! In fact, a couple of winters ago we were POUNDED with snow and the kids missed two weeks of school. I was in heaven. We played and played and played and played some more. We will not waste such a fun opportunity!

Natural and free play has been so greatly diminished by the pressures of sports activities, various lessons, and school work. I can honestly say that there were several days this year when I would allow Eli to NOT do his homework (he was still in public school) and would send a note to his teacher telling her that Eli just needed an evening to play. I cannot deal with the requirements that a second grader, who has sat in school for 7 hours already, must come home and do up to an hour (or sometimes more) of homework.

I thought this statistic on Page 119 was interesting ... "Typical Americans spend 101 minutes in their car daily, five times the amount of time they spend exercising." Hmmmm .....

I know that I believe the theories that have been presented in the book thus far. I believe them deep down in my bones. But implementation has been difficult for me, at times. And I think the answer to the problem popped out on Page 121:
By taking nature experience out of the leisure column and placing it in the health column, we are more likely to take our children on that hike -- more likely to, well, have fun. Such a change in outlook is crucial. [emphasis added]
Wham! There it is for me! From a physical exercise standpoint, Brynne needs regular free play time in nature. From an emotional standpoint, Eli needs regular free play time in nature. I know I need it for my health, so why does it surprise me that they do, too.

Chapter 10. The Bogeyman Syndrome Redux. "Man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard: [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. ~ Luther Standing Bear (c. 1868-1939)

I don't have as much to say about this chapter, because I think it is all true. Fear strikes the heart of most parents. Although I freely allow my children to play on our one-acre lot, without supervision, for long periods of time, I wouldn't dream of allowing them to take their bikes up onto the road and ride it down the street without me watching or being present. I am more fearful of the idiodic teenagers speeding through our neighborhood than of any potential pedophiles, but fears are there none-the-less.

I do think that we have become "scared stupid" by the media. But I think that if we stop and really think about it, we know that the reason why it appears to be a more dangerous world is that it's being reported more as such. You only need to study American or World History to know that the world has been a MUCH scarier and dangerous place, in hundreds of eras, than it is now.

The quote on Page 128 caused me to pause ... "The most disturbing finding of [the Duke Well-Being Index] report is not violence or abductions, but 'that children's health has sunk to its lowest point in the 30-year history of the Index, driven largely by an alarming rise in the number of children who are obese and a smaller decline in child mortality rates than achieved in recent years.'" And fear causes us to keep our kids indoors away from the physical and emotional activity that they need most.

And to continue with that thought, on Page 129 it states that "Lynn Henderson, a clinical psychologist and visiting scholar at Stanford ... worries that, as more parents keep their children inside the house or under rigid control, youngsters will be deprived of chances to become self-confident and discerning, to interact with neighbors, or to learn how to build real community --- which is one defense against sociopaths." We will create a next generation that is more untrusting than we are. "[P]roven antidotes to crime [are]: an active community, more human eyes on the streets, and self-confident children.

I know in our neighborhood, there is no sense of community. In fact, neighbors are more pitted against each other than uniting to help protect each other. Everyone has eyes on themselves, instead of on what's going on outside their own yards. I see these things as huge problems in our protection of our homes and families.

Chapter 11. Don't Know Much About Natural History: Education as a Barrier to Nature. "To a person uninstructed in natural history, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall." ~ Thomas Huxley

This chapter caused me a slight bit of confusion, although I completely understood the concerns of children today having so much focus learning about all of the plights of nature instead of experiencing the beauties of it. Learning versus Experiencing.

I wasn't sure I understood the remedy being offered in the chapter, except for more of a study of "Natural History". At first I thought about the couple of resources I know of that would be helpful to me in my teaching, and are readily available: curriculum provided by Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School (referred to me by my brother who lives in Portland, Oregon) and the oodles of ideas provided monthly by Barb at Handbook of Nature Study.

But then, to me, I wondered about Learning vs. Experience. One of these studies is based on resources in Oregon. Barb's lessons don't always coincide with the natural resources and animals in Oklahoma, either. (Saying that, they are still excellent resources and much can be drawn from them.)

How do we EXPERIENCE nature in OUR area? How can I make nature a PRIORITY in our education?

The Tulsa Zoo has a program called Nature Exchange where you can bring any natural items you find and receive tokens to spend in their store. You get extra tokens if you have done some type of research about the product. Next to the zoo is Oxley Nature Center which includes miles of natural trails and information about the areas resources.

So, my general thought is to slowly spend the next few years utilizing all of the resources available at Oxley and have the kids take something new they learned, or have found, learn about it at home, then take it to present to Nature Exchange Center. We can utilize these free services so the kids can "earn" something for their work and focus their learning on things that are natural to OUR area. I figure this is a good place to start.

And, I have made a tentative decision to change up our weekly schedule in regard to outside physical education and music activities. It would free up our Fridays to focus on Nature and Art, two things that ALWAYS get pushed aside in our busy schedules.

A couple of other things I thought were interesting, that might be helpful:
  • Play classical music while the kids are doing math and science because studies of the arts, and particularly music, have statistically shown a dramatic increase in SAT scores in those areas.
  • Learn about some natural scientists, like John Muir, Rachel Carson, or Aldo Leopold. Focus on the scientists, not just the science.
What do you take away from this chapter? Do you have any other suggestions? How do you make nature study a priority in your school day? Do you focus on learning about your physical environments?

Leave me your comments on the chapters, or a link to your blog. Next week we'll read chapters 12, 13, and 14.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Key Ingredients

Yesterday we officially logged Day 2 of 180 for the 2012/2013 school year. I recently posted about our plans to make a day of learning about food and kitchens of past versus present in conjunction with the Smithsonian traveling exhibit Key Ingredients: America by Food. We took the day yesterday to go to the exhibit and do all of our activities.

Our first stop was at a local ice cream and coffee shop for a treat. While there we talked about the ingredients of ice cream and what it would take for the early settlers to make their own ice cream. We talked about where they would get the ingredients: from their cows, from sugar cane or maple sap, from cocoa beans or fruit for flavoring, and how long it would take to make it.

We used a provided Scavenger Hunt to help guide us through the exhibit at the library. The kids learned about what types of foods were famous in which states, restaurants then versus now, kitchens then versus now, the evolution of frozen foods, marketing, the family farm, and family traditions.

The first self-service supermarket was "Piggly Wiggly"

This is the current Piggly Wiggly in the town where the exhibit was.

After the exhibit we went home to do some related activities.

We did a picture walk through The Kitchen by Bobbie Kalman and Children of the Frontier by Sylvia Whitman.

Brynne and I finally finished her no-sew apron (I just used stitch witch instead of sewing it).

Then Eli, Brynne and I looked up the recipe for Oklahoma in "50 Favorite American Recipes by State" and made Oklahoma Cake. We used cooking tools that belonged to my Grandma Alice. I have such fond memories of them that whenever I bake, I try to use them. I even have a picture that I have shown the kids of me playing with the measuring cups and spoons when I was a baby.

Grandma's sifter.

Grandma's spring pan.

While the cake was baking, Eli and Brynne each chose a coloring page from our downloaded and printed ABC's of Oklahoma Agriculture coloring book (at THIS LINK, type in "Oklahoma agriculture coloring" and it will bring up the link to download it.) Brynne chose "H" for Horses and "B" for Beef. Eli chose "Z" for zucchini. (We are going to save the rest of the coloring book for the school year when we do our Oklahoma study. We will even be hosting a Land Run for our Homeschool Co-op.)

I took the kids outside to show them the new zucchini growing in my garden. And while there we dug up some potatoes.

We had lots of discussions about what their lives would be like if they were early settlers. They both agreed that their lives of rising when they want, laying around in pj's eating their breakfast while watching cartoons, and playing video games is much superior to rising before dawn, milking cows and fetching water, shaking cream to make butter, and washing clothes on a washing board.

Eli said, "That would have been the worst time of my life, EVER!" Brynne said, "I would NOT want to have been an early settler." I said, "I don't think you should complain when I ask you to do things, like, pick up the playroom. Because you could be doing that after you milked some cows, pitched some hay, and dug up potatoes in 105* weather." They agreed.

This was a great lesson that they (even Eli) enjoyed a lot. And, we had cake for dinner!

Grandma's cake pan.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

R is for "Recycling"

I don't know why we started Recycling, except that it was Brynne's idea. She was really excited about it, so I bought three rope-handled tubs to put in our garage for paper, plastic, and aluminum cans.

Our method is to put anything recyclable on our counter by the stove, and then a few times a day we take it out and put it in it's proper tub. Once the tubs are full (or overflowing, as is usually the case), we load them up in the back of the Suburban and take them to our Recycling Center in town. It's near the library, so we usually combine it with one of our many weekly library trips.

There, we distribute the items in their proper places.

It astounds me how much we recycle! This photo shows how much recycling we had in about a two-week time. (The aluminum cans had been being collected in Dawson's Nerd Cave for a few months. He recycles there, too. We don't have this many cans in a couple week period.)

The kids are able to help with distributing the recyclable materials once at the Center. They especially love dropping the cans down the chute.

Before we started recycling, our trash dumpster would be completely full every week. In fact, many weeks I would sneak up an extra bag or two for the trashmen to pick up. But, now we vary rarely have more than two bags of trash per week. And the one or two bags we have are usually not even completely full.

Sometimes I look at our recycling and imagine that amount times every house in our subdivision, then times every house in our city, then times every house in our state, and so on. What a difference we would make in our world if EACH family took the (very little) time to recycle. Really, what a difference.

We could do even more, I am sure. But I am happy with what we are doing. And the kids are very conscious of making sure all items go to recycling that need to. It has also made me more conscious about what I purchase, trying to make sure the packaging would be recyclable.

We are linking up at Blogging Through the Alphabet with Ben and Me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Q is for "Quarters"

And I'm not talking about that infamous college party game. I am talking about the one where you stack as many quarters on your elbow as you can, throw your hand forward and down, and try to catch the quarters. We used to play that game with pennies with my dad when I was a kid. I was pretty good at it.

The kids have been practicing catching quarters. It's difficult for children because it requires lots of hand-eye-coordination.

It gets me thinking about all of the children's games of days-gone-by, and how much I think kids are missing out on fun times, because they are usually playing video games indoors.

I am doing my best to encourage the kids to do outside activities whenever possible, including swinging on the swingset, riding their bikes or scooters and playing hopscotch. And I have been trying to bring out some of my favorite childhood games, like catching quarters, hand clap rhymes, and playing "cat in a cradle" with string. My mom was always so good at the string games, and in making paper airplanes. I desire to keep some of those nostalgic activities alive.

This post is part of Marcy's Blogging Through the Alphabet linky at Ben and Me. I didn't get it actually linked up, but I am determined to do ALL 26 letters of the alphabet, so I'm posting it now even though I missed the link

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers ~ Review

A couple of months ago I was contacted by Susan Kilbride, the author of Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers about writing a review for the book.

She had read my blog post on our The Secret Garden unit where I used her free Plant unit study downloaded from Funtastic Unit Studies.

I told her that I would be thrilled to review the entire book that the plants unit came from, because we enjoyed it so much!

Although we have not done any other full unit studies from the book yet, I have reviewed it extensively. I have even pulled out some relevant activities to do regarding delight-directed learning opportunities on which we had embarked. (Like our spontaneous Water Cycle unit. I just grabbed the book to see if there might be some activities on the Water Cycle, and voila! I found some great things in a snap!) I do, however, plan to use this book for many years to come.

That's what's great about the book! It has designated activities for Ages 4-7, and then Ages 8-13. They are age-appropriate and FUN! They are things that I haven't come across before, and drive home the points in a relevant and engaging way.

Another thing that I love is that Susan is so approachable! She and I have e-mailed several times back and forth. She is so open to suggestions and available to answer questions. I have truly enjoyed working with her.

Let's get to some specifics.

Table of Contents

The unit studies for Ages 4-7 are:
  • Our Senses
  • The Human Body
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
  • Animals
  • Insects and Their Kin
  • Fun with Magnets
  • Stars and Planets
  • Health
  • Beginning Plants
  • Animal Ecology
The unit studies for Ages 8-13 are:
  • Insects
  • Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Matter
  • Chemistry Fun
  • Weather
  • Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Light and Color
  • Plants II
Although the units are "designated" for certain age groups, they are not inclusive to those age groups. Eli and Brynne are 8 and almost 7, respectively. I am very interested in, initially, the unit studies on Stars and Planets, Health, and Fun with Magnets. They could both easily do the activities included in the units.

Dawson is almost 16, but we will definitely be using the units on Chemistry Fun, Microscopes and Invisible Creatures, and Atoms and Molecules.

All three kids can sit in on each other's units to observe the activities. They are easily adaptable to other age groups.

Materials Needed for this Unit

At the beginning of each Chapter/Unit, Susan gives a VERY specific and exhaustive list of ALL supplies and materials that will be needed for ALL of the activities. The majority of them are household items or easy to locate for purchase.


The lessons are broken up into "parts", and there are about 6-7 parts to each unit. Within each part is about 2-6 different activities that you can do. Susan starts with some easy narrative to introduce the material in each part, and then the activities are listed separately. It is SO EASY to read through the lessons while planning and star the activities you plan to do. This makes collection of the materials a breeze.

Something else I did with the Plant unit was to choose short living books and picture books to read with each part. I tried to choose a non-fiction book and a fiction book, because my teaching philosophy always includes literature as it's base. The parts are designated so clearly, and the narrative materials are so concise, that it's easy to pick the issue and/or topics to easily choose the books.

There are also pictures included when needed to reinforce the topics being taught, or to diagram how to conduct an activity. Easy, simple, and clear.


The units for Ages 8-13 include a multiple choice test at the end of each chapter/unit. These can be used if you are wanting to take a test grade, or to determine how well your student absorbed the material taught. There is also an answer key provided in the back of the book.


I don't have anything negative to say about this book. In fact, it might be my favorite science unit study resource I have come across. It fits my style perfectly. I only hope Susan will write a Volume 2 with more great unit studies soon!

If you would like to get your own copy of Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers by Susan Kilbride, it can be purchased at 30% off right now at Amazon for $11.55. As Amazon changes their prices frequently, I don't know how long the sale will last. But, even at the regular price of $16.95, that's still a bargain at about 85 cents a science unit.

** I received the book, Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers, free of charge in exchange for my honest review of the product. All opinions are my own. **

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last Child in the Woods ~ Chapter 8

Hi everybody! Sorry for the late post on this week's reading. We were on vacation this past week, got home last night, and woke up this morning to a sick husband and even sicker little one. But I really want to get the points up about Chapter 8, because it's a good one!

Chapter 8. Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Restorative Environment.

This chapter starts out discussing something that is near and dear to my heart, since I just pulled my last child out of public school. I have been disturbed for years about the programs that are pulled from the public school day in an attempt to make our kids "smarter" and to meet the requirements of the ridiculous "No Child Left Behind" act. Page 100 wonders if it could possibly be a coincidence that at the same time schools were taking PE out of the public school day that a drastic increase in childhood obesity started to occur. I think we all know the answer to that. But I didn't know that there are schools that actually allow for students to earn PE credits ONLINE? Are you kidding me?

And here's another "coincidence" found on Page 101 ... that at about the same time we moved from the Second Frontier of the 1950's family farm community to the Third Frontier of today, that there as been a drastic increase in ADHD diagnoses and the prescribing of Ritalin or its equivalents. At about the same time kids stopped living outdoors doing chores, playing, fishing, running around the neighborhood, kids started being diagnosed as hyperactive.

Is Ritalin over-prescribed? I believe it is. Here is my story. Starting in about the 3rd grade, teachers started telling me that I needed to have Dawson tested for ADHD, and I refused. My response was always that he could concentrate on anything he wanted to for hours, and I was not going to have him medicated so that he would be quiet in school. I told each teacher that they had full authority to discipline him in whatever way they thought was best to get him to behave. (And all the while I was thinking, "Well, if you were a good teacher, he'd probably be interested enough to pay attention.") Teachers didn't discipline. Teachers kept telling me he needed to be medicated. I became his teacher. And, he's a good student who is not hyper AT ALL.

90% of Ritalin prescriptions are written for boys. Boys need more activity. Give boys more activity and the numbers of prescriptions will likely decrease.

But there are cases were Ritalin is necessary. My niece is one of them. She is Dawson's age. Her ability to focus on ANYTHING was impaired. She was always like a bull in a china shop, racing from one thing to another. She was clumsy. She ate all the time to fill agitated feelings of boredom. Her grades suffered. She was struggling. The right ADHD medication made all the difference in the world to her.

Page 103 starts talking about the Restorative Environment. The author states, "too much directed attention leads to what [the Kaplans] call 'directed-attention fatigue', marked by impulsive behavior, agitation, irritation, and inability to concentrate ... If you can find an environment where the attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that's strong on fascination." What this says to me is that the answer always seems to be to direct kids' attention into something, usually sports. But the study by the Kaplans found that green space play allowed the brain to actually rest and attention was restored. Can't you just feel that in your bones? You've got a hyper, agitated kid. You do one of two things: put him in a structured, directed activity for hours at a time (like soccer), or you let him out to play in his backyard for those same hours. The latter seems more peaceful to me. How about you?

Page 106 discusses the benefits to concentration on making near-home nature visable. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking, "If I were a teacher I would do lessons outside, or by a window, or something." And then I remembered ... I am a teacher! And I have been wondering how Eli will adapt to homeschooling. And reading all of this made me re-think having Eli and Brynne do their schoolwork in the office. Maybe, instead, they should sit at the kitchen table where they can see the grass, trees, birds, birdhouses, flowers, hummingbirds, wind, rain, sunshine, etc. Eli has trouble concentrating. Maybe seeing nature will help with that. It's worth a shot!

Getting our kids in nature settings takes work by us, the parents. And there are days I don't feel like making that effort. But, the research is showing, and we all know from our own childhoods, what a difference it makes! Parents cannot be lazy in this area, but many are. To them it's just easier to pay the $4 generic Ritalin co-pay monthly than to make the efforts to help their children overcome their issues naturally.

"If, as a growing body of evidence recommends, 'contact with nature is as important to children as good nutrition and adequate sleep, then current trends in children's access to nature need to be addressed.' What do you think about that?

Leave me comment about how you felt about Chapter 8, with a link to your blog post if you have one. I intend to reply to all your comments and visit your blog posts this week. I am sorry I haven't done that, yet. I have been reading your comments, though. By Friday, let's read Chapters 9, 10, and 11.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Homeschool Mother's Journal ~ Summer Week 5

In my life this week ... Last weekend Rick and I celebrated our anniversary in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. And this week we are on a family vacation to St. Louis, Missouri. We took Kyndal and Dawson when they were 9 and 7 and Dawson wanted for us to come back so Brynne and Eli could experience all the fun, too. We also brought along Dawson's best friend, Antonio, and our dog, Crusoe.

In our homeschool this week ... Nothing in the form of school happened this week. We were determined to make our vacation one of FUN! (However, you can't go to the St. Louis Arch, Grant's Farm, the zoo, and other places without learning. Shhhh ... don't tell the kids.)

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share ... When you won't have the time or energy to enjoy a learning opportunity, put it off until another day, if possible.

I am inspired by ... things in the oddest places. On Monday I was in Dollar Tree looking for small gifts for the "vacation fairy" to leave the kids in their seats when we stop for potty breaks. In the book aisle were some U.S. Maps coloring books. They were so cool, and for only $1! I picked up one for Eli and Brynne to use over the next few years as we continue to do U.S. States studies. It was my Favorite Resource this week.

Places we're going and people we're seeing ... as many fun things in St. Louis as possible!

My favorite thing this week was ... experiencing Dawson passing his written driver's test to give him his Learner's Permit, and riding with him while he drove us all around for errands today. It was great to see his confidence improve with just a couple of driving sessions.

What's working/not working for us ... Hotel life! And we are staying in a Staybridge with a living room, full kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. It's like staying in an apartment, which is great with two 15 year old boys, an 8 year old, a 6 year old, and a Border Collie who thinks he's a 15 year old boy.

Questions/thoughts I have ... If Dawson is working at the car wash during school, can I count that as a Life Skills class elective? (or would you call it something else?) During the winter months, he will man the car wash. And during slow times he will just be in the office, where he can do his independent school work. I think the "working" could count as an elective.

Things I'm working on ... enjoying my family this week and not having any expectations.

I'm reading ... Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (THIS is a great book!)

I'm cooking ... well, actually, I am doing some cooking at the hotel. We are staying in a Staybridge with a full kitchen. We are saving money by eating free continental breakfast, having sandwiches for lunch, and making easy dinners. We will be going out to dinner tomorrow night, though.

I'm grateful for ... opportunities to get away and spend time with my family. I am having so many of those experiences this summer ... first with my sister for a weeend, then alone with my husband for a weekend, then my family this week. In July I will top it off with a trip to Portland to see my brother and sister-in-law.

I'm praying for ... a woman I admire very much who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share ...

**********This is what Crusoe is busy doing while we are out having fun in St. Louis.**********

I am also linking up at Weekly Wrap-up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.