Sweet Summer Time

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

First of all, the summer solstice was on the weekend last year, so we picked that date for our camp day.  We set up a temporary awning in which to do crafts and the like because even though we are surrounded by woods, the backyard doesn’t have a whole lot of shade in the heat of the day. It turned out that we really, really needed it, so I’m glad I thought of it beforehand.  So the date was set, the yard was prepared, and we were ready to go!  Here’s what we did:


We had prepared “Sun Bread” the day before as a sweet breakfast treat.  It ended up lasting through the day, so we just munched on it whenever a sweet tooth moment hit.  I made it from monkey bread recipe, but rolled the dough to look like sun rays and, of course, made a ball on top for the sun’s nose.  Then I poked the eyes and mouth into the dough with a kabob stick before popping it into the oven.  I’m in love with the way it turned out.


Any ol’ monkey bread recipe will work for this.  I made up my own biscuit dough, but you could probably do it with canned biscuits.  Just maybe buy a couple of cans to make sure you have enough.  Also on the foods list were, of course, hot dogs (shudder) for lunch and s’mores for the campfire.  It was not a day to worry about healthy eating.  It was a day for fun!


Make a sun with colored pasta

Since we were celebrating the solstice, I thought it appropriate to do a sun craft.  Easy peasy, since I always have colored middle sun craftpasta on hand.  Just pick any type of pasta you want to use, put about a cup in a bowl or sealable bag, mix together 1/4 cup Littlest sun craftrubbng alcohol and 10 drops food coloring (or more if you want more vibrant colors).  Stir or shake, then leave in the bowl or bag for a few hours, stirring or shaking occasionally.  Lay the pasta out on wax paper or foil-lined cookie sheets and allow to dry overnight. Whammo!  Colored pasta.  I always make extra and keep them in their own jar in the classroom.

For the sun craft, I simply got out the colored pasta and Elmer’s glue, gave each boy a paper plate, and told them to make me a sun.

Make amulets from found things

082For this craft we simply walked through our woods gathering moss, seeds, grass, a snakeskin (great find!), flowers, etc.  I have a tub of wood shapes in the classroom, but any flat surface will do for an amulet.  We used stars because we didn’t have any suns, and the solstice includes the shortest night of the year, so why not celebrate that, too?!  We added the bells to attract fairies. 🙂  Simple and fun, making an amulet from nature requires only a short walk, a flat surface, some glue, and a string or ribbon.  I still have mine in a little box in my room.  Can you guess which one it is?

Make a birdhouse

086For this idea, I grabbed some of the empty breadcrumb cans I had saved for a rainy sunny day.  They’re shorter and squatter than Pringles cans, but Pringles cans would definitely work.  Other supplies included yellow, white, and black construction paper, pipe cleaners, Kabob sticks or dowel rods, and google eyes.  Oh, and scissors and glue, of course. We cut the construction paper into 1-inch strips and glued it around the body of the can.  Then we took the lid off and cut one bird-sized hole in the plastic and one hole for the kabob stick. We put the lid back on before we glued on the googly eyes and pipe-cleaner antenna.  Then cut some ovals out of the white construction paper for wings and glue them on.  Add a string to the top for hanging, and you’ve provided a new home for the birds.  Just make sure you hang it somewhere where it is protected from the weather.  The cans Are made of cardboard, after all.

Make a castle from outdoor things

085Seems pretty self-explanatory.  Have some fun with it.  Bring the Legos out if you must.  Let the littles use their imaginations.  Even if, at the end, you can’t really tell what they’ve made.

Make glow lights.

For this project, I simply picked up some cheap glow sticks at the dollar store and fished out some old jars.  Some sea salt or rock salt is the only other supply you need.  When dusk started to settle, we filled our jars about halfway with the salt, curled up the glow sticks in a circle and pushed them down into the salt.  The salt diffuses the light, making the whole jar look aglow.  We slept with them in the tent.  It was pretty neat.  You can also fill your jars with water and just drop the glow sticks in and cap them–it has a similar effect.  For some reason I didn’t take pictures of this awesome craft, but while searching for one online to show you, I found a braver type of glow light at The Gold Jelly Bean that involves actually cutting the sticks to get the liquid out.  It looks pretty amazing, too.


Scavenger hunt



Ring toss

Bean bag bowl toss

Going on a bear hunt

Blow bubbles

Flash tag

Tell scary stories

look at constellations


catch lightning bugs

soak thyme in olive oil and lightly anoint eyelids to see fairies

Nearly all of these activities can be done on the cheap.  For the bean bag toss I filled colorful buckets full of water and let them get splashed as they played.  I actually had them use the things they found in their scavenger hunt to make their amulets.  We waited till dusk–after we made the glow lights–to anoint our eyelids to see the fairies, then we made s’mores.  While Daddy took care of the fire so we could sleep safely, we lay on the trampoline outside the tent and picked out constellations until we were tired.  Then we took our glow lights in and went to bed.

Summer camp 2014 was truly one of the best experiences of my life.  I’ll never forget how great it was to spend a whole day just having fun with my littles, no pressure, no outside worries.  For it to work, we all had to stay completely unplugged.  I think this year we’ll do summer camp closer to autumn when we can make scarecrows and have pumpkin treats.  Or maybe we’ll do it this weekend.  Because, you know, the backyard is always there.

Love wins,



15 Ways to Cure the Summer Blahs

Want to know something that both frustrates me and amuses me mightily?  During the school year I have to wake my Littles up at 7:30 to get chores done and breakfast ate so we can be in class by 8.  And sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes it’s downright improbable.  Middle is about to turn 13, after all, and his body is doing that weird teenager thing where he wants to sleep F-O-R-E-V-E-R once he finally gets in bed.


During the summer?  I can’t even get my first cup of coffee down without those boys rolling out of bed and bounding into the living room sometime between 6 & 7.  Talking.  Immediately. Incessantly.  Ever seen me before my 1st cup of coffee?  It’s not pretty.  And you really don’t want to talk to me at all.  Because chances are my response will be something along the lines of, “Please stop talking.  For like half an hour.”

Not the best thing to say to your kids.  So I suck it up.  I let them talk, even though I would rather hit myself in the head with a rock.  I even try to respond.  Kindly, I swear.  I can’t help the way my tone sounds when I’m not fully awake!  But the one thing that gets me on a gorgeous summer morning when I’ve thrown the windows open to let in the smell of the woods and fields and the sunshine is just topping the trees and turning the yard golden and the birds are twittering happily outside and that is All I Want To Hear..:

“Mom, what can I do?  I don’t know what to do.  I’m bored.”

Um.  Can I finish my coffee before we have this conversation?  Pretty please???

Of course not.

It’s summer break.  You don’t have school.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do once your chores are done.  In fact, sometime today we will probably do something awesome.  But first… be very quiet and let me finish my coffee.

So I’ve come up with a list of responses to beat those summer blahs.  Because it is, actually, hard on a little to go from a structured day to one in which he has to fill the hours by himself.  And it’s not his fault daylight comes earlier and there’s no reason to try to steal an extra 15 minutes asleep.  (I mean, we won’t be skipping math or writing because of it during the summer.  Not that we do anyway, but I think they always hope.)

So here’s my list of things they can do on their own, without my input, so I can finish my coffee and they will (God willing) stop talking to me for half an hour.  Notice they are all unplugged things.  I live in the real world, but I just don’t feel right recommending they turn on a screen to combat boredom.  Especially not a 6 in the morning.  Where I might have to hear it.

1. Build a tent fort My Littles love nothing more than getting out the sheets and blankets and building a fort.  Especially if they can trap the dog in there with them.  I make them a deal that I will let them keep it up all day if they build it themselves.

2. Read your book When a kid is bored, this often sounds boring.  But if you can them started they will eventually get interested and forget they were ever bored to begin with.

3. Quiet time basket! I have extolled the virtues of the quiet time basket before, but it works as well for boredom as it quiet-time-basket.jpgdoes for diffusing tension.  If they are claiming boredom and I yell, “Quiet Time!” they obediently grab something from the basket and become absorbed.  I set the timer for half an hour.  And finish my coffee in peace.

4. Play a Bored (board) game We just picked up a like-new copy of the old game Scotland Yard for 50 cents at a yard sale.  The Littles Love It, which is awesome because I remember playing it with my family as a child and loving it as well.  But I usually mean Sorry or Checkers or Clue, something that works better with only 2 players

5. Finger paint Everybody loves to finger paint.  I keep a supply on hand, along with a roll of freezer paper for them to paint on.  Here’s a secret about freezer paper–it’s cheaper than butcher paper or any other roll you can buy that’s meant for school-age kids.  And it works just as well.  We use it for everything.  And it has that great waxed backing, so paints don’t soak through it.  Seriously, invest in some.

6. Get out the Mad Libs We love Mad Libs.  We use them to drive home grammar lessons during school, even have some that help with math, but mostly we just love getting them out and making funny stories.  Even that early in the morning, I’m down for a game of Mad Libs.  So I get to play, too.  Of course, most of the words end up being disgusting words and body parts, but They Are Boys.

7. Grab the Nature Walk bag, head outside, and see what you can discover.  For some reason, the clover is doing Very Well in our yard this year.  (Makes the deer and rabbits happy but somehow doesn’t keep them out of our garden.)  I tell the Littles to go find me a four-leaf clover, find a new flower in the garden, discover a bug, search out a skink.  Take the magnifying glass and look at one spot for several minutes.  Record what they see.

8. Go play basketball/baseball/football  Any sport they enjoy.  Sometimes just getting up and getting moving chases the boredom away and helps them figure out how they want to spend the rest of their day.

9. Tell me a story Sure, I need quiet first thing in the morning.  But if I can get them to tell me a story, they start using their imagination, practice their story-telling skills, and maybe suddenly say to each other, “Hey, this would make a great game!  Let’s go play.”

10. Pick an activity out of The Dangerous Book for Boys I love this book.  It’s full of fun, adventurous things for boys to do like making paper airplanes, tying knots, building a treehouse, juggling, building a workbench.  Sometimes they look through it for long enough that by the time they pick an activity I’m awake and ready to help them.

11. Draw/Do a craft Littlest likes to draw stories.  He will draw several hours’ worth of action on a single sheet of paper, then IMG_20150605_143011994come tell me what’s happening.  Both the Littles like to get out the gobs of craft paraphernalia and create.  Again, it often leads to a game they’ve made up together.

12. Build a Lego/block house for your action figures If you have boys and they’re anything like mine, your house is a haven for action figures of every sort–superheroes, Pokemon, Transformers, Walking Dead characters… I promise they can keep the house up all day if they build it themselves.  Suddenly they are entertained For Hours.  Because why build a house and not play with it?

13. Take your cars outside and create a race track/crash-up derby/monster truck rally The great thing about summer is you can take your toys outside, get to be out of the house, and have a whole new (and bigger) area to play in.  Make the most of it.  Take some water; make some mud.


14. Get out your water guns Sometimes, filling up a bucket with water and sending them outside with a water gun is the only way to get them clean.

15. Make my breakfast Hey, if you’re that bored, chances are I haven’t eaten even though I’ve been up for a while.  The Littles love to work in the kitchen, so cutting me up some fruit or heating up some leftover rice is going to go a long way to improving my morning mood.  Which serves everyone.

If nothing on this list works and I am out of spur-of-the-moment ideas, I tell them it’s up to them to come up with something to do.  One of the wonders of boredom is that it makes us Try to think of something to do.  Littles need to learn how to counter boredom on their own, and often Middle and Littlest come up with things on their own that I would never think of.  And then the Real Adventure begins.

Know any other ways to chase off the summer blahs?  Please post them in the comments.  My pre-coffee brain needs them!

Love wins,


7 Things I Love About the Beginning of Summer

As we begin  our first summer break, I am taking a bit of time to reflect.  The school year is so very busy for me and often weeks go by before I get a chance to stop and just breathe.  I enjoy that busy-ness, but I also look forward to the time when I can slow down a little and look at what we’ve accomplished, compare that with our overall goals as homeschoolers, and look ahead to how I want to proceed in achieving those goals.


In honor of this breather, I want to tell you why I love the onset of summer.  It’s not just a time of slowing down around here, since we have a small farm, it is also a time of speeding up.  Here are the things I most enjoy:

1. Getting outside from dawn till dusk.

This is the time of Great Unplugging for us as a farm family.  We spend most of our days outdoors from May through mid-October, caring for our animals, garden, and woods.  We refurbish pens and fences, plant, water, fertilize, repeat in the vegetable garden, keep our paths cleared in the woods, plant annuals in our flower gardens, make decisions about trees in the yard, and ensure we are providing homes, food, and the like for the wildlife.  We do not have time or inclination for television or screen time (I mean, besides the obvious work I have to do on the laptop).  My poor mama tried to reach me for a while by phone yesterday.  She had to give up and drive over to our house because I was outside and my phone was… not.  And I love that about summer.  I think people tend to be far too attached to their phones.

(Sorry, Mama.)

2. Baby animals

pheasant 4IMG_20150504_082559378IMG_20150504_082657032

We raise golden pheasants, doves, rabbits, ducks, and chickens.  We have years when we raise a pig and/or a cow, and we’ve had our share of goats, but right now we’re concentrating on birds and smaller things.  I can’t leave out the miniature donkey, but since he is a solitary guy, he doesn’t make babies.  Unfortunately.  I bet they’d be cute.  Because the baby rabbits in my barn right now are so cuddly I turn into Elmira from the Animaniacs cartoon.  I just want to grab them all up and squeeze them.  Hard to make money that way, so I resist.  The doves don’t stay little for very long and their mamas are super protective, so we don’t usually get a good look at them until they’re learning to fly, but it’s a precious thing to get to watch them learn.  We’ve not had baby pheasants yet, but who can resist a fluffy, yellow chick or duckling?  Not me.  I bet you can’t either.


3. Five weeks with no schedule

Although I sometimes miss the structure of the school year, it doesn’t take me long to appreciate the loose, easy days of summer.  My sister says our family moves through the day with a certain indescribable grace, accomplishing many tasks while seeming to have no hint of schedule.  It Is kind of organic, the way we think about the things we want to get done in the morning, then move from one thing to another without worrying about time or how much we’re getting done.  It’s so nice to sit on the front porch in the evening, look out across the pond, and realize how much we’ve accomplished.

4. Family camping trips

Even though we live surrounded by forest, it’s fun to load up the camper and go somewhere new.  Camping is a great way to take a vacation on the cheap, and finding a site near a historical venue gives us a chance to turn vacation into learning time and make up for any snow or sick days we might have taken over the winter.

5. Fishing

I’ve already posted about this, but I Love going fishing with my family.  Fishing gives us time to really relax and enjoy each other and we take advantage of it whenever we find a spare hour or two.

6. Hanging clothes on the line

This is a chore that soothes me like no other.  Getting to stand in the sunshine, letting my mind wander as I pin a load of laundry up, is a welcome chance to reflect every day.  Besides, there is something about the smell of clothes dried in sunshine that has no comparison.  It turns the chore of laundry from tedious to pleasant.

7. Getting to plan for next school year

You might hear me complain about this later, but I always love the novelty of doing new research and figuring out what I will teach the Littles about in the year to come.  Right now, I’m deciding about Chinese history.  There is A Lot of it.  So I’m taking my time, trying to figure out how to divide it up.  Do I pick a major event from each dynasty?  Do I focus on philosophy?  We’re doing art history and garden history next year on top of plain old regular history, so how do I incorporate those?  And should I do music history?  Call me crazy, but I love making these decisions.  Especially since I inevitably learn new things myself while I’m planning.

Because I’m so excited about the planning stage, I thought I’d offer you a freebie that is an old standby for me.  This book report form is what the Littles use to let me know they’re reading on their own and understanding what they read.  Let me know what you think of it.  I can always use input.  Here’s the link:


Book Report 2014

What do you do with your summer that you’re looking forward to?  I’d love to hear your plans.

Love wins,


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