Sunday, December 29, 2013

Co-sleeping: What If They Sleep With You FOREVER?!

I've written a few things about sleep over the years, but as I'm looking through the archives, I seem to have written mostly about what we do instead of bedtimes and not much on co-sleeping. 

We have always coslept with the kids.  From the day E was born, her bassinet became a clothes basket and she slept on my chest.  When she was two and I was pregnant with L, we wanted to prepare her for the baby's birth by getting her out of our bed before L was born.  So we started doing a routine before bed, and I would lay down with her in her bed and nurse her to sleep.  Sometimes this took an hour!  Then I'd sneak away and she'd wake up not long after.  It became a source of frustration for all of us, and we decided that she was clearly telling us that she was not ready to be in her own bed.  So she came back to our bed, and when L was born we slept with both of them. 

After a while, we put both beds in our room.  We had a king and a twin pushed up against each other, so we all had enough room.  Then Z was born.  Right after Z was born, we moved and got new beds.  We have had a double and a bunk bed pushed together for the last few years. 

Technically, the top bunk has been E's and the bottom bunk has been L's.  In reality, we've had all combinations of sleeping arrangements depending on the night.  D has often taken the couch, both because he finds it more comfortable than our bed, because he likes falling asleep to the noise of the tv, and because the kids want to sleep with me.  Four people in a double bed is not comfortable though, so I often move one or two of them to the bottom bunk after they fall asleep.   Or one of them falls asleep with D on the couch.  Or I move to the couch with D after they are asleep.  Or D and I sleep on the bottom bunk until Z wakes up wanting to nurse.  In other words, we get creative!

Then for the last few months, E has started wanting to sleep in her own bed.  I can't say exactly when this happened, but somewhere around 7.5 years old.  Yes, that's right, she bedshared that long. Shocking in western cultures, but completely normal in many, if not most, parts of the world, for most of history.  All of a sudden, she was just ready to have her own space.  She would still fall asleep with me sometimes, but instead of moving her to the bottom bunk, I was able to start just nudging her awake and telling her to climb up into her own bed. 

We are waiting on the possibility of being able to move into a new house.  This will give us more bedrooms and allow E and L to have their own rooms.  E has been really excited about this and wanting to prepare herself for sleeping in her own room.  So she started sleeping in their room (which is used as a play room) on their couch.  She told us she was ready to have her own bed in there.  After a few successful nights, we agreed to move it and we did that today. 

She's so excited!  I tucked her in tonight with her night light and some books.  L laid with her for a while, but then came back to bed with me.  It remains to be seen if this is truly a permanent move for E, but I'm pretty sure it is.  She's getting older and needs her own space. 

So if you're cosleeping and getting flack from people about it, just tell them that you're 100% sure the kid won't be sleeping with you by the time they go off to college.  If you're feeling cheeky.  Otherwise, tell them to mind their own damn business.  Parenting doesn't stop at 8pm.  Kids still need us at night and sometimes all they need is to be able to reach their hand out and know that we are there.  That doesn't last forever.  They grow and change and THEY recognize their own needs for space without being pushed into it. 

Oh and the big question that seems to concern amusing numbers of people..... "Where do you have sex if the kids are in your bed?"  Seriously?  If you can't imagine other places in the house to have sex, you really need to spice up your sex life.  If it's a surface you can sit on or lay on, you can have sex on it.  It's not complicated, people. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Z!

Z turned 3 today!  She is such a fun kid!  She is always saying or doing something that cracks us up, and she loves getting that reaction.  When she's not passionately being funny, she's passionately expressing urgency over whatever it is she is trying to say. Which she says very well!  She has a huge vocabulary, and it's so fun to see what 2/3 year olds think about, expressed so articulately.

She spends most of her days tagging along with her sisters playing whatever they are playing.  They both play really well with her, including her in their games and helping her.  Some of her favorite things to do are painting, drawing and playing with clay and playdough.  She recently started drawing people with actual arms, legs, eyes, and mouths, instead of scribbles.  She's trying to write some letters like "Z" for her name.  She always asks us how to spell things, and then pretends to write down what we tell her.

She loves taking baths and helping me with dishes and laundry.  She's totally figured out Netflix and is getting the hang of a few video games and computer games.  She loves swinging at the park and playing in the dirt.  My mom commented the other day that rock collecting must be genetic, because we all do it, and Z has started too!

Some favorite movies/shows are Tangled, Peep, and Strawberry Shortcake.  Some favorite books are Llama Llama Mad at Mama, I Am Hercules and Let's Get a Pup.      

Happy Birthday Baby Z!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Not Always Perfect

I wrestled my 8 year old into her clothes today, and carried her kicking and crying into a public building.  
That's right.  It's not always perfect.  Our ideals don't always match reality.  
So was it a colossal parenting failure or just one of those unavoidable things?  Well, that's what I'm working on figuring out. 
I always try to work with the kids, finding solutions when there are conflicts, taking their needs/wants into consideration. When we need go somewhere, if one kid wants to stay home, we try to find a way to make that happen- can we do it another day, one parent stay home, etc? If not, I try to make it as easy as possible to leave- quick trip, maybe stop for icecream or something else fun on the way home, bring activities to do, etc. and we find a way to make it work for everyone.

A few days ago, however, my husband and I needed to go somewhere. There was no way to change the day, and both of us needed to be there together. I gave E a heads up the day before that we would need to go today, after she said that she wanted to stay home all day because she hasn't been feeling well. I explained that I was sorry, that we had to do this one thing, that there was not a way to change it. I said that we would not go to the library, even though her sisters wanted to, so that the only thing she would need to leave the house for was this one thing.  I offered to do whatever I could to make it easier. She refused to get dressed or brush her hair.  I said she could put her hair in a pony tail and hat instead, but she didn't like that.  If it was something like the grocery store, I would have let her go in pjs and with messy hair if that had made it easier, but it was important to look presentable at this location.

In the end, I ended up wrestling her into her clothes and into the car. After waiting for about half an hour in the car for her to calm down so we could go into the building, I carried her inside kicking and crying. I hate that I physically made her do that, but on further reflection, I'm still not sure what we could have done differently. Maybe threats or bribes instead of physically dressing her, but that still would have gone against everything we do and believe in.

While waiting in the car, I offered to take them all to get an ice cream to make the trip easier on everyone, but she didn't want to do that because she just wanted to be HOME. Of course, then her sisters wanted to get ice cream, so we did go do that afterwards. She decided she wanted a hamburger on the way through the drive through, so we got her one.  
When she calmed down at home, we did lots of snuggling and a bit of trying to figure out why she's been feeling awful for days and how to help. She apologized to dh unprompted for kicking him. 
So was it a colossal parenting failure or just one of those unavoidable things?
 Well, it definitely went against all of my ideals.  But was it unavoidable?  Usually when I mess up I can do a post game play review and see where I could improve next time.  This time?  When I told my mom what happened, she did say that I could have dropped E off at her house.  E could have just snuggled on my mom's couch, and she wouldn't have had to get dressed.  That might have worked, but never crossed my mind.    
I know one thing for sure.  There was no punishing or shaming for the way she acted.  Whether I figure out what we could have done differently next time or not, I'm not blaming her for having needs that didn't conveniently fit into our day's schedule and for possessing only immature ways of expressing them.  I know that for days she was feeling awful, overwhelmed, and needed to be home to recover.  I wish I could have provided that. 
So, I'm being honest here, because I hate blogs that make it all look picture perfect all the time.  It's not.  Life's messy.  We're all imperfect, so there's no sense in wallowing in guilt and anxiety when we did our best, but let's not settle either.  Keep learning more, doing better, being better.  Our kids are worth it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Would You Let Her Quit? Part 2

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote a post called Would You Let Her Quit?  I thought at the time, and I've thought a few times since then, that undoubtably a few people read that and thought, "Well, yah, that's easy to say you'd let her quit when in the end she didn't quit.  What if she really had quit?"

So I wanted to share some of the quitting and near quitting that has happened in the last 2 years.

L did gymnastics for a little while right around the same time as that post.  After a few months, she decided that she liked it, but didn't want to do it anymore.  The class was really awfully long and structured for such young kids.  So she stopped doing gymnastics.

Earlier this year, L did Taekwondo.  She chose it after trying out two classes and also trying out ballet.  She liked the taekwondo because the classes were only half an hour instead of an hour, and I also think the activity is more fitting to her personality than ballet.  I signed her up for 8 weeks rather than doing a 6 month contract, so it would be easier on us financially if she quit.  She lasted the whole 8 weeks, but she did skip a few classes just because she didn't feel like going, and then made them up later in the week.  When the 8 weeks was over, she didn't want to continue, even though overall she said she'd enjoyed the classes.

Then in November, both girls performed in the Nutcracker ballet with professional dancers from another city doing an outreach program.  The dance company was strict about no parents being in the rehearsals or backstage.  So they did the rehearsals with me in the building, but not in the room, and they had lots of fun.  When it came time to do the show, however, L was nervous.  I packed her a bag with things to do, made sure she knew the adult in the room she could ask to call me if she needed me, and dropped her off at the last possible minute.

They called me after half an hour or so during the first show because she was crying.  So I picked her up and took her home.  Before the next show, I told her it was ok if she didn't want to do the show at all.  At first she said that she didn't, and that was ok.  Then as I got E ready to go, L decided she did want to do it after all.  So I spent the half an hour doing her hair and make up again, knowing she might not really do it, but wanting to support her either way.

They called me again after not too long, saying that she had hid under a table and cried that she wanted to go home.  So I picked her up and took her home again.

Before the last show, I told her that this was the last chance to do this show, but that if she didn't want to it was ok.  There would be other shows when she was older.  When we were getting ready to go, we realized her tights had a hole in them.  I dropped E off and told the dance company volunteers that I had to run to the store to get L tights.  I took her with me and got her back just in time for her part of the performance.  I think that helped a lot, that she didn't have to wait in a strange, noisy place with strange people until it was time for her to go on stage.  And she did it!

But if she hadn't done it, that would be ok too!

It's great that E seems to have found her niche at such a young age.  She loves performing and dancing. She's now done Best of Broadway for 2 years and auditioned again for the show in March.  She's done a pop concert and the Nutcracker ballet, and she is in her second year of ballet classes with several performances a year.  She loves it and says she wants to dance for a professional dance company when she is older.  If she stops dancing tomorrow and never dances again, that will be ok too, but for now, she seems to have found her thing.

L hasn't found her niche yet, and that's ok.  I'm happy to let her try out a dozen or two dozen things until one sticks. Or maybe she'll be a woman of many talents and never pick one thing. That's ok too.  She's talked about doing gymnastics and taekwondo again, so we'll see.  She's going to do Best of Broadway this year, but it remains to be seen if she loves it as much as E does.  She's doing entomology and cooking projects in 4H.  Maybe one of those will spark a life long interest or maybe not.  Maybe she'll try out some sports.  Whatever she chooses to do, I will support her in trying, practicing, struggling, deciding, sticking with it or quitting. 

UPDATE: Well, it's true that everything changes!  Just a few days after writing this, E decided to stop ballet classes.  She hadn't been as interested in practicing for the recital as she was last year.  The class after the recital came up and she didn't want to go.  We discussed her switching to jazz or hip hop, but ultimately she decided to just take the spring off and maybe go back in the fall.  So we shall see...

Why We Don't Teach Stranger Danger

I took the kids to a new doctor the other day, and one of the questions she asked is if we teach Stranger Danger. She was shocked when I said no, I don't agree with the whole concept. Why?

 1. Kids learn best by example and we model talking to strangers all the time. Every time we talk to the cashier at the grocery store or have a random conversation with someone we're standing behind in line at the bank or welcome a new neighbor to the neighborhood or stop at a gas station and ask for directions. Our kids see us breaking this rule (if you have in fact made it a rule) every single day.

2. At some point, we're going to want them to be confident talking to people. At some point, you'll have to give up the Stranger Danger and start the "talking to strangers using common sense." Why not just give them the tools to do the later in the first place? In some families they'll be simultaneously taught Stranger Danger and then shamed for being "shy" when they don't talk to the people their parents want them to talk to. What a confusing message!

 3. Statistically, kids are FAR less likely to be abducted or abused by a stranger. It's the creepy uncle, the basketball coach who wants to "mentor" them, the youth pastor who gets a bit too chummy who are the real dangers. Friends and family who can get close enough to groom them. So the much better approach is to is to have them be on the lookout for "tricky people." Those are people, either strangers or people who are well known, who act like they are safe, but then try to get kids to do things that make them uncomfortable, feel unsafe or do things that are inappropriate. I've talked to my kids about specific examples of this, like if a neighbor tries to get them to go into their house or anyone tries to get them into their car, if anyone asks them to help them do something like find their lost dog, if anyone tries to touch them inappropriately, or in any way that makes them uncomfortable or does not stop doing something when they say stop.

 4. Little kids figure that once someone introduces themselves they are no longer a stranger because they know their name. Not the criteria you want them relying on for whether or not a person is safe!

5. Kids have a natural instinct about people. They have gut feelings that if we don't ignore, shove down, and punish them for, they can learn to listen to. They don't want to hug that pushy family member? Don't make them. They said "stop tickling me," STOP! Help them learn that their body is theirs and theirs alone, that they don't have to do things just because an adult or authority figure says so, warning signs to watch out for with creepy people, and listen to them if they aren't comfortable being around someone. Far more effective than Stranger Danger. For more info on all of that, the book Protecting The Gift by Gavin DeBecker is excellent.

So, here's the really ironic thing. After being shocked that I don't teach Stranger Danger and asking other standard questions like if I've taught them about "good touches and bad touches," the doctor proceeds to do the following.... She was pressing on one of the kid's stomachs and unbuttoned her pants. At first I thought that was just to get a little lower on her tummy. Then she says, "I just need to check your bottom," WHILE pulling down my daughter's pants! I grabbed the doctor's hand and said, "We had not discussed that being part of the check up. She was not prepared for that!" The doctor immediately put her hands up and said, "Oh!" She explained that she was going to check for a fused labia and said I could just do it in the bath at home. I told my kids that it is ok for the doctor to look at our vaginas and labias because she helps take care of our whole bodies, BUT that since we had not discussed that we would wait until the next visit and ask if they were comfortable with that first. At the end of the visit, I told the doctor that she needs to ask permission to touch them next time. After we left, I told my daughter that it was completely inappropriate for the doctor to pull down her pants without asking first, and that it was her choice if she wanted to see that doctor again or see a different one next time.

That experience just makes my whole point about Stranger Danger for me. Strangers don't normally run up to a kid and pull down their pants. And it's not that I think the doctor intended anything at all inappropriate by what she did. But if I had let that go unchecked, it would have sent the message to my kids that it is ok for a an authority figure (as doctors tend to be, unfortunately) to pull down their pants. That's it's ok for an adult to not respect their body and autonomy. That is not a message that I ever, ever want to send.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Acorn Flour

A few days ago, D took the girls on a hike and they gathered acorns. He hasn't had a chance to prepare them yet, so the girls and I did it today. We shelled them, ground them into flour, rinsed it to get all of the tannic acid off, and now the flour is drying. We're going to use it in our pancakes tomorrow. We are all really glad we don't have to prepare them like the Native Americans used to. It's a lot easier with a food processor than it would be with a mortar and pestle! 

Picture from
This led to discussing a lot of different things while we shelled the acorns.  We talked about where our ancestors came from (England, France, Italy, Ireland and many other places), and I showed them on the globe.  We talked about how there were already people living here when our ancestors came.  While discussing how they wouldn't be able to just go to the store to buy food, but that grinding acorns like this would be a matter of either having food or not, we talked about other things they ate, like fish and deer.  E mentioned that sometimes hunting deer is illegal, which led to talking about government, and how there was no government then to say that hunting was illegal.  We talked about what the Native Americans wore, and looked up pictures of their clothes.  Then I told them that we see Native Americans every time we leave the house (there is a Rancheria in our town), and that they don't wear the traditional clothes very often anymore, but dress and look just like us.  

Monday, October 21, 2013


E, L and I have been playing a lot of chess lately on a windows app.  Then today, this story popped up on facebook, about a teenager in Uganda who has become known as the Queen of Chess.  She started out at 9 years old, walking 2 miles to learn to play chess and get a bowl of porridge.  She became so good that she represented all of Africa in 2010 at an international competition.

It's so cool how something as simple as playing a board game with the kids can lead to finding something inspirational, learning about a different culture, a new place on the map, hearing another language, seeing that not everyone is as privileged as we are.

Plus the learning in the game itself!  This girl says that as she played chess she learned to think ahead, plan her moves in life, and overcome challenges. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pencil Sketching

E and L learned some pencil sketching techniques from their great grandma who is visiting my parents this week.  L was especially interested, and they sat together for at least an hour just drawing and talking. They drew lakes, mountains and trees, and they made paper dolls.  L has continued to make more paper dolls at home.

E's waiting for me to get her more paper, not drawing on a book! lol

Their great grandma is an excellent artist, and my parents have several of her paintings hanging up in their living room. She showed us how just recently, she was showing another grandchild how draw rocks in a lake, and when she made a mistake and erased it, a new way to draw rocks dawned on her. She's been drawing for 70 years and she's still learning, not afraid to admit it, and she showed the girls her new technique. That was cool!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Late Nights

E and L could have stayed up all night tonight.  They choose to go to bed at 9:30.

We have never had set bedtimes in our home.  When they are babies, they usually nurse to sleep.  Z still does at nearly 3.  Sometimes in bed, but often on the couch while I watch tv or read or use the computer.  As they have gotten older, we've done a variety of things to encourage sleep.

We've had routines of taking a bath, reading a book and laying down in bed together.
We've let them each pick a tv show, they watch it, and then we lay in bed together.
We've all camped on the living room floor with a movie and slept there for the night.
They've fallen asleep in the living room many times, and we've carried them to bed.
Sometimes we watch a show on the computer in bed, and they fall asleep.
Recently, we've had audio books on the computer in bed.
We've sang them to sleep, rocked them to sleep, scratched and massaged their backs, rubbed their heads or feet, played a relaxing game, and gone on late night drives.
We play all kinds of musical beds with our bed, their bunk bed and the couch.  You never know who's going to be sleeping in which one, with whom, and for how much of the night.

It might sound chaotic, but it works.  It accomplishes the things I believe to be the most important things about sleep.

1) that everyone sleeps as much as their body needs when it needs it.
2) that no one else is kept awake by someone else's lack of sleep late at night.
3) that they kids learn to associate sleep with good and peaceful things.
4) that they learn to recognize their own body's signals that it is tired.

Even though we've never had a set bedtime, we start heading in that direction at a reasonable time.  Reasonable being defined as a time when they are tired, depending on if someone had a nap, depending on what is going on the next day, how much in need of alone time we are, etc.  Heading in that direction being defined as lights off, sound down, snuggling in bed or on the couch, and otherwise creating a sleepy environment.  Usually, they are asleep between 8 and 10.There have been plenty of times where one of the kids has told us they were ready for sleep. 

Recently, E and L have started wanting to stay up "all night until the sun comes up."  They stayed up until midnight or one for about 3 nights, and then D and I said we really needed some alone time.  So we agreed that they could stay up as late as they wanted every Friday night.  That worked until last Saturday, when E started getting really upset that she couldn't stay up late that night too.  I admit I did not handle it so well the first few nights.  I thought our Friday night deal was THE deal and I value the time I get alone with D.  She did go to sleep, but it was not peacefully.

It was Sunday or Monday when she was having a tough time getting to sleep again, and I took a deep breath, reminded myself of my principles and told her we could figure out a solution.  I had no idea what!  All I could think of was that she would stay up late every night, and D and I would NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN.  But I knew that kind of fearful thinking never leads to peace or working together, and we had to think of something.

So I asked her why staying up late was so important to her.  She said that she never gets any time alone.  I said she could go in her room or my room and be alone any time.  She said it's not QUIET.  She liked the peace and quiet and stillness of being up when everyone else was asleep.  

What we came up with was a bit complicated, but she was thrilled.  We decided to trade off every other night.  One night she would go to bed like normal.  The next night, she could stay up and have the living room all to herself for half an hour, while D and I hung out in the bedroom, quietly.  And on Fridays, they could both still stay up as late as they wanted.  To make this happen though, we all needed L and Z to be asleep.  So we agreed that she wouldn't mention it to them, and would pretend to go to bed like normal on her staying up night.  Then once they fell asleep, she could get up.

So we did that for a few nights, and it worked great!  She loved it, and happily came to bed after her half hour and happily went to bed on the nights that D and I stayed up.  Tonight is Friday, so E and L were excited to stay up.  They asked me to play some video games with them, which I did.  Then I said I was going to hang out in the bedroom.  They wanted to come, first just to snuggle.  But on the way down the hall, L said she knew she needed to go to the bathroom before bed.  She wasn't planning on staying up.  As soon as E laid down, she said said she was ready for bed, because she had "stayed up as late as [she] wanted."

That was at 9:30.

It's so true that when they get their needs met, whether it's a need for trying out something new, experimenting with how something makes them feel, or just for peace and quiet, they figure out what works for them, and it all balances out.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"That's just what boys do when they like you."

A few days ago I talked to the parents (it turned out that they live with their aunt and uncle) of some boys who were being rude and disrespectful to E for the second time this summer. The aunt leans down and says to E in a real syrupy voice, "You know, that's just what boys do when they like you."

I said, "No. My daughter will NOT be learning that it is ok for boys to be disrespectful. If they like her, they should be extra respectful and extra polite."

She says, "Well, she'll just need to learn to have thicker skin if she's going to hang around boys."

My response, "Or you could teach your kids to be more polite."

And people wonder, gee, why on earth do teenager girls stay with boyfriends who are mean to them? Why on earth would a woman stay with a husband who hits her?  Because they've been told since they were little girls that it's OK FOR BOYS WHO LIKE THEM to be rude and disrespectful and put them down and call them names! It's not rocket science, people!  And it's not a huge leap to go from thinking it's ok to be verbally treated like trash, to justifying being physically treated like trash. 

What I didn't even get a chance to talk to this woman about is that the first incident this summer was boys physically blocking E's path and not letting her get home. But she didn't know where any of them lived, so I couldn't do anything (except to give her full permission to deck them in the face or between the legs if they tried that again and let her practice on my hand).

If a grown woman was walking down the street and a group of men was harassing her that way, she could call the cops. But with kids it's ok, because "they must LIKE her."  That mentality is so frustrating!

It is also ironic that the woman said that E just needed thicker skin to play with boys, because two of her favorite play mates all summer have been boys. Even THOSE TWO BOYS won't play with these other boys, because of the way they act.  The two boys who E has been playing with have been kind and polite, and they have spent hours together catching bugs and riding scooters.

My kids fight as siblings will do, verbally and physically, and I totally understand that there are going to be some bumps in the road as kids learn these things with other kids as well. I expect to have to go talk to other parents now and then, and I expect that other parents might have to talk to me occasionally. I just also expect them to use it as an opportunity to dialogue with their kids about what is appropriate and what's not.  I expect them to encourage an apology.

Another weird thing is that first the uncle came to the door, and he sincerely apologized for the way the boys acted.  Then he went inside to get them and the aunt came to the door and said all that, without really having heard what happened. So these kids have an uncle who could be teaching them to be respectful, and an aunt who is undermining that. 

Despite the frustrating outcome of talking to them, it's good that E is seeing how to confront someone who has wronged her.  We were able to talk about setting boundaries with people who have proven themselves to be unsafe.  We talked about how people make mistakes and no one is perfect, but what shows their character is how they react when they are told they have hurt someone.  I asked her later how she felt about me going to talk to them, and she said, "I feel safer because you did that." 

Friday, August 30, 2013

History, Logging, Box Factory

We went to the office for the local Rails to Trails program today to register the kids for the Fun Run they are having tomorrow. I had forgotten that they have a small, local history museum there. The kids had fun looking at everything. Pictures of our town 100 or more years ago and seeing how the people dressed, looking at the old lanterns (E was asking about the difference between lanterns and the torches in minecraft the other day, so now she knows what a lantern looks like), the wagon, the luggage, and the trunks and hope chests ("Mom, a treasure box!") There were also ancient things like typewriters and phones with cords. Lol

We saw pictures of the old saw mill and trains carrying lumber from the forest to the mill. On the way home, I took us the route that goes by the mill and we went slow and talked about why the mill closed and why it looks the way it does now. I also connected it to D's old job for them. Two summers ago, he worked as a fire watchman for a lumber company, and he lived in a trailer onsite. E still remembers visiting him there and seeing all the logging equipment and trucks loaded down with logs and we just happened to have been looking at old pictures of that yesterday, so that was a cool connection.

Then we went for a walk on the trail, and we saw horses, picked more pine needles for tea, and saw lots of pollen in the air. E saw some flowers and knew they were bluebells and I have no idea how she knew that. I hardly know the names of any flowers, and she said her grandma didn't tell her either. I wasn't sure what they were until we got home and I looked up bluebells and sure enough, that's what we saw!  *wrote on May 17

So, you know how a few days ago, I posted about how the kids and I learned stuff about logging from that museum and drove by our town's old mill? Well, without knowing any of that, my mom emailed me a link to this documentary on a Steam Sawmill Box Factory just because she thought we might like it.  The girls and I had just revisited what creates steam a few days ago AND some of the boxes that they make are for Louis L'Amour book collections and D has a huge set.

This is what I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about unschooling! The way everything connects to everything else is all around us! It's just a matter of being open to it.   *wrote on May 21

A Day at the Lake

We spent a few hours at the lake today with some new friends. On the drive to the lake, E saw some trees that had been cut down. She started talking about how cutting down the trees hurts the animals and destroys their homes. We had a great conversation about logging, ecosystems, forest fires, and sustainability. We talked about how even if cutting down the trees doesn't directly ruin an animal's home, it can still affect it. I used the example of ground squirrels eating nuts from the trees. Cutting down the trees doesn't ruin the ground squirrel's home, but it does reduce it's food source. Then when the squirrels have to go somewhere else to find food, the snakes have less food, and so on.

I reminded the girls that we have lots of things in our house made from wood, so it's a good thing there is some logging. I told them that some loggers do clear cutting, but other loggers only cut some of the trees and plant new ones in their place, and that the practice is called sustainability. They thought that was a pretty good idea.

Then we drove by an area that had been destroyed by a fire years ago. Some of the grass and bushes have grown back, but the trees are still blackened skeletons.

Then E asked me if there was a job that a person could do where they helped animals that were hurt by fires or logging. I told her about wildlife rescues. She said she might like to do that when she grows up rather than be a dancer. I reminded her about Smokey the Bear, since we were driving right through that area burned by fire, and how the firefighters had taken him to a wild life rescue. I also reminded her about our visit to the horse rescue last summer (or the summer before?). I told her that the lady who owns it helps horses when their owners can't care for them anymore or if their owners are hurting them and the police take the horses away.

On the way back home, E asked me about the area burned by the fire again and how long ago the fire was. I said I didn't know what year it had happened, but that if I was remembering correctly that when she was one year old, we had driven that road and we saw that fire damage. So she figured out that since she is seven now and we saw it like that when she was one, that it had been at least six years since that fire.

While we were at the lake, the girls caught a couple of half dead, tiny fish.  We brought them home and they disected them, as much as is possible with something the size of my thumbnail.  They looked at their gills, fins, eyes, and tried to find the heart, stomach and intestines.  That led to talking about human bladders, gallbladders, intestines and colons.    

They also pulled up a few different varieties of sea (lake?) weed.  By the time we got it home, it was dried out and I couldn't figure out what it is, but we had fun for a few minutes looking at different types of fresh water submerged plants online.  

E wanted to catch some birds at the lake, so she put out some watermelon rinds to see if they would eat them. Ten or so birds immediately flocked to the rinds. It was a great treat for them! I was trying to remember the name of the birds, which are very common around here.  My friend said they were black birds, which sounded right, but I thought they had another/a longer name.  It turns out they are Brewer's Black Birds.  They have iridescent feathers that the girls love to collect.  We spent some time this evening learning about their nests and what they eat. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homemade paints and a thank you note

L saw a picture of a painted hand on one of my books this morning and said she wanted to paint. So we made some homemade paints, and L and Z painted pictures. L made a thank you note for her Grandma and Pop for the birthday gift they gave her.

Z's painting

L's painting

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mine Craft Statue

So today, E and I started making a statue of a person on minecraft that has an anatomically correct skeleton inside it's skin. Well, as correct as you can get with everything being square blocks.  We started with a foot and used an anatomy book to look at the bones- phalanges, tarsals, metatarsals, tibia, fibula, patella and femur- and worked our way up. The skin is glass, so we can see through to the bones.

Then we discovered that we were going to end up making it taller than minecraft will allow, so dh suggested that we build it in pieces scattered around and place TNT near it so it looks like we blew the person up. I think he's been playing too many first person shooters. 

So we started building a heart near the leg.  Using lava for blood. *

*wrote on message board May 6

Goal Setting

I discussed goal setting with my 7 year old the other day, because she has several things that she is involved in that she needs to practice.

She's doing 3 songs in this concert that she's doing. The rehearsals are twice a week, and the show is in 3 weeks, and her dancing is still pretty rough.

Then she has a performance with her ballet class coming up and that class is only once a week and they spend half the class doing barre work.

And she does dog club with 4-H once a month and they are doing a demonstration of their skills at the fair grounds soon.

Also, last year she did this one mile kids' fun run that is part of the larger 5k and 10k for adults. She said that this year she wanted to win, but since it is for kids 12 and under, I told her that might be pretty hard to compete against the 12 year olds, BUT that she could "beat herself." Last year she ran a little, then stopped, ran a little, then stopped. This year she wants to run the whole mile without stopping.

So, I suggested to her that we work on each of these things for a just a few minutes each day. Do each of the concert songs and the ballet songs once, walk the dog up and down the street once and have her sit/stay a few times, and run progressively further each day, starting with one time down the street and back, then two, then three and so on.

She liked that idea, so we've been doing all of those things every day for the last few days.*

*wrote on message board April 19

Reading the Bible

 My 7 year old got out her Bible this morning and said, "When I'm older I'll be able to read this." I reminded her that she CAN read (it's just still slow going at this point) and she said she can read some books, but not the Bible. So I suggested just reading ONE word. We flipped it open and she she read "the," and I closed it and said "See, you can read the Bible!"

"MOM!" she exclaimed.

Then she wanted to read more so she read about 5 words and then asked me to keep reading and I read both girls almost a chapter.

Yesterday and today, they've both been rhyming a lot of words, which leads to them making up some words to get them to rhyme and also stumbling on words they didn't know before and end up asking me the definition. Yesterday it was "par" like when two things are "on par," and this morning they learned "might" and "bask."*

*wrote on message board April 24

Building a Dollhouse

This is a project that is going very slowly.  We did a blue print on graph paper, went to the lumber store and bought the wood, measured and cut out most of the pieces and painted some of it, over the course of the last year or so.  I'm going to try to help them finish it before winter! 

"Hardly doing anything."

I keep seeing phrases similar to these tossed around:

"We're not doing much for preschool since we're unschooling for now."
"I hardly did anything with him till he was 7.  We unschool during the younger years."

I know what these people mean.  They mean they didn't do any formal curriculum, and they didn't structure their child's day around "preschool learning activities."

But they usually go on to say that they read books, played games, played outside, let their kid help with things around the house, went for walks, talked about the world around them...

In other words, they WERE doing things with their child.  To say "we hardly did anything because we unschool" implies that unschooling isn't doing anything.  I remember saying something similar with E was 2 or 3.  I was trying to explain my excitement about what I was reading about unschooling and I said I was looking forward to "sitting back and watching her learn."

Sometimes it happens that way.  Sometimes I can just sit and watch while my kids play a game or discover something new and see that they are learning.  But "hardly doing anything" or "sitting back and watching," doesn't convey the importance of parents being involved and active.  I love this graph about how much time you should spend with your kids. 

It seems like people don't know how to do something with kids unless they are doing something that looks like school.  Or they don't *count* the MANY things they are doing as "doing something" because it doesn't look like school.

Spend time with your "preschool" age child.  Read books, play games, watch movies, look up cool stuff, go for walks, cook and sing and dance together, go fun places, eat fun food, dig in the dirt, pay attention to what they are interested in and do more of it.  Then if you're still doing that when they are 5 or 6 or 7 and they still aren't in school or school-at-home, call it unschooling.

Or call it unschooling now!  I did, since I intended to continue doing those same things and not send my child to school and not start school at home, and I was using ideas and philosophies from parents unschooling with older kids and seeing how well they work.

Just please don't tell the world that unschooling is "hardly doing anything."

UPDATE:  Today I was told that I was actually schooling, not unschooling my kids, because I said we were going to go home and look up more info about the plants we found at the lake.  These moms were under the impression unschooling was "doing nothing and hoping the kids learn."  While I do wish that people would at least read a little John Holt (the guy who coined the term unschooling) before they decide they know what unschooling is, I do understand that with a quick internet search they could come to that conclusion since there are so many people out there claiming to be unschooling, and doing nothing or saying they are doing nothing because they haven't deschooled enough to know they are doing something.    

"What makes people smart, curious, alert, observant, competent, confident, resourceful, persistent - in the broadest and best sense, intelligent- is not having access to more and more learning places, resources, and specialists, but being able in their lives to do a wide variety of interesting things that matter, things that challenge their ingenuity, skill, and judgement, and that make an obvious difference in their lives and the lives of people around them."
~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Typical Day

I woke up at 7 and took a bath (shower head broke!). L woke up a few minutes later, and she told me that last night she found a great recipe (maybe she dreamed it?) for strawberry muffins. So we made strawberry muffins for breakfast. I wanted something raw for me, but the cinnamon strussel on the muffins was good, so I made banana "icecream" with strawberries in it, and an oatmeal strussel on top.

We are trying a 30 day free trial of ABC Mouse (online game that E saw on a tv commercial and asked for), and L played that in the kitchen with me while I made breakfast, and we talked and hung out.

Then E and Z woke up. E played ABC Mouse for a while, and L and Z watched Barbie and The Magic Shoes off and on while playing and going outside. Meanwhile, I did yoga, called the insurance company, added the muffin recipe to my recipe collection, took a call from one of the other board members of the non-profit we are starting, and checked facebook and GCM.

E ate a peach and broke open the pit to find a smaller, almond looking part inside. She had discovered the pits have that inside part before, but this time she wanted to find out more about it. So we looked it up and found out it is the part with the embryo and endosperm. We couldn't find quite what we were looking for before it was time to get ready to go, so I posted on the "My Unschooler is Interested In..." facebook page to see if we could get some resources.

E found a frog in the yard, and we put it in a bowl with some water and a rock for it to sit on. It hung out with us while we got dressed and teeth/hair brushed. Then she released it.

E fed the dog, we left the house, and we went to the car wash to vacuum out the car. Then we went to the library's preschool story time. We picked out some books on flowers (for L who wanted to know about roses) and dinosaurs (for E who gets dinosaur books often) and a board book (for Z who liked the picture of the puppy on it), and we had to put some back because our library has a limit of 15 and we already had 8 out.

E had asked me in the car as we were going into the library why her schooled friend had asked me what day we were starting home school. I had told the friend that we home school all year. As E reflected on that, she said, "I'm glad we home school all year. I'm always learning something! I would get bored in the summer if I wasn't learning!" Then the story time was a school theme, with books about going to school. It didn't seem to faze the girls at all though, and the mom who read the stories at least said, "I know there are some home schooled kids here too!"

After the library, we went home and had lunch. L and E played while I sat in the bathroom with Z while she took a bath and I played on the computer. Then L played more ABC Mouse, while I read to E from an American Girl book about Josephina (it's the first chapter book series she has gotten in to). Then E played ABC Mouse, while L and I brushed each other's hair and I read her and Z a book about how trees grow.

A neighbor girl came over and they all played while I did dishes, picked up dog poop, filled out some paperwork to mail, and made half a dozen phone calls for the non-profit. Then it started to rain and the girls all wanted to come in and watch a movie. So I put on Cars, and that lasted about 15 minutes before they were outside playing in the rain. I played in the rain with them for a few minutes, then started making dinner.

L was full of meal ideas today. She had asked for pizza for lunch, but I said I'd make it for dinner. I made the dough and then realized that I was out of cheese. So I told girls we needed to run to the store and we got dressed again and headed out. We picked up a few things and sang "It's raining, it's pouring..." on the way through the parking lot. L cracks me up with her infectious laugh about that kind of stuff!

We came home and I got the chicken cooking. The girls all took a bath and then we ate dinner. I wrote most of this while eating dinner and right after. Which looked like writing, helping kids, writing, putting another pizza in the over, writing, calling my mom back, helping kids, writing, pulling the pizza out of the oven, writing, dressing the baby to go outside, writing, posting about today on facebook, writing, turning the piano on for Z, writing, turning music on for Z, writing, and so on.

At some point in there, the girls were getting snippy with each other and I tried to distract with a fun race of "Let's see who can pick up stuff in your room the fastest!" That one often works, but it floated like a lead balloon tonight.

E and L played outside for a long time, while Z alternated between playing outside, nursing and dancing to worship music. I cleared the counter, put food away, put away the clothes (dress up and regular) in the girls room, put away a load of laundry and started another load.

I found a spider in a jar that they asked me to catch earlier and they set it free outside. A few minutes later I heard squeals that were somewhere between being grossed out and fascinated. The spider lost a leg and the leg was still twitching. They asked me why and I told them it was reflexes/the nervous system. We'll have to look that one up later, because I have no idea how to explain it beyond that!

I sat in the bathroom with Z, reading my Bible while she took a bath. Then E and L came in from playing and took a bath too (Yes another one!), while I posted an interesting verse on GCM. They brushed their teeth and I put on a movie for them. They watched about half of it, Z nursed to sleep, and then I put my tv show on, and E and L fell asleep.

Was the day perfect? No! Most moments were good ones, but there were some bumps along the way. Z, who has been using the toilet since 17 months, peed on a chair at dinner and on the bed right before we laid down. I ended up apologizing to L for being cranky about her being slow getting dressed when we went to the store. After trying to problem solve with E and L (who were hungry right before dinner) over the space they were fighting over in the bath, I ended up pulling them both out so no one got hurt. I probably growled at the grabby handed 2 year old to "stop touching me!" when she was needing my boobs while nursing for the 3 thousandth time today.

 Overall, though, it was a wonderful day!

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day of School (aka Catching Lizards)

Kids all across the country are starting school today (does that seem early to you?!  Yah, me too!), but we went about doing what we do every day.  Living and learning.  

On Saturday, the girls' cousins were visiting and we went for a swim at the river.  E caught a little, tiny blue belly lizard, about an inch long.  She really wanted to keep it, but I was afraid it was going to get squished.  We had 6 kids ages 8 and under all clammoring to hold it and pet it.  On top of that, I was thinking how sad it would be if it died, as wild animals are likely to do in captivity.  Also, we were headed back to her grandma's house and had nothing in which to transport it.  So I said no, but she was really sad. 

Later that day, I realized we could have kept it and just let it go the next day so it wouldn't die on us.  I told her that we'd make a special trip back to the river to find another lizard.  So today, while millions of kids started school, we packed a picnic lunch and walked along the trail to the river very slowly, looking for lizards.  We saw about half a dozen on the way there, then we hung out at the river for a while and nearly caught a crawdad.  L and I watched some little tiny fish that looked like they were feeding on something on a rock.   On the way back, E almost caught 2 more adult lizards, but they got away.   

As we were getting in the car, L saw another baby lizard, and she and I tried to get it.  It scurried under a log, and E jumped out of the car and went after it.  After several minutes of chasing it back and forth, E finally just yanked the log up, shoved her hand under it, grabbed a handful of dirt and got the lizard in the process. She scratched up her arm, but she had her lizard!

My camera is broken and E's doesn't take good pictures, so the lizard is hard to see, but the picture at least shows how tiny it is.  That's a nickel behind it in the first picture and to the left in the second picture.   

We watched some videos of lizards laying eggs, and we found out how to tell if it is a boy or a girl.  This one was a girl.  We also found out that lizards help keep Lyme disease from spreading.  Apparently, when a tick feeds on the blood of a lizard, it becomes inoculated against Lyme disease.  Then it doesn't spread Lyme disease to other animals or people when it bites them. 

Unfortunately, even on day in captivity was too much for Lizzie/Rose (depending on which kid you asked about her name).  She died this evening. Next time, we'll do a much quicker catch and release. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Moons, Full Moons, Biblical Months, Meteor Showers

Every month, we look for the new moon and make note of the new Biblical month. We've compared that to the Gregorian calendar. We also frequently step outside just to check out the sky. We look at the full moon or find Orion's belt or Cygnus. We've also watched three meteor showers, which always spark curiosity about the stars for weeks afterwards.

Fire Trucks

The girls saw fire trucks at the Children's Fair in May, and they got to learn about the hoses and ladders. We compared the big red fire engines with the Forest Service type trucks that D drives/rides in at work.


We've gone bowling 2 or 3 times this year.  The computer does their scores for them, but they still pay attention and do some math too, noticing how the computer got the score it got by adding the number they just knocked down to the previous total. 

Pop Concert

Both girls had their first rehearsal for a local pop concert they will be in. The oldest has done a musical theater production with Broadway songs for the last two years, so this will be different for her. It's the first thing my 4 year old has been old enough for. The rehearsal was 3 hours long!  I wasn't sure how my 4 year old would do, having never done anything like this before, but she did great.   *wrote March 24

 E and L had their first pop concert performance tonight! They did an amazing job!
I can't even believe my 4 year old! She is SO little and the rehearsals were so long sometimes and she'd get tired. I told her a bunch of times that it's ok if she doesn't want to do it, she could always do it when she's bigger if she wants to or not at all. I thought maybe she was just doing it because her sister was and that it might be too much for her, so I made sure to let her know that she didn't have to do it. But she did it! And she can be really reserved around people until she warms up and gets to know them, but she had NO fear in front of that audience tonight.

My 7 year old worked so hard on her dancing and she nailed it!  This is the third performance like this that she has been in (the other two were shows with Broadway show tunes) and she's getting better every time.   *wrote on message board on May 11

The sound isn't great because the performance was a in a gym and my videography leaves a lot to be desired.  They are next to each other in pink and black.  L is the littlest one in the hoodie and E is next to her.  

I was so busy trying to get good shots of my girls (nearly impossible in the semi dark) on this one that the video totally misses what everyone is cheering about.  They were throwing a teenager girl in the air cheerleader style and she was doing all kinds of flips and stunts.  This is the song Diamonds by Rhianna.

Here's another one of that song.

They were in another song too and the finale, but I don't have videos of those.

Caterpillar to Moth

We caught a woolly bear caterpillar the other day and now it is cocooning! I guess I don't need to buy a kit after all (though the butterfly kits might still be more cool than a moth). We are looking forward to seeing which kind of moth it will be. Apparently, there are about 6 different species of wooly bear caterpillars/tiger moths and we couldn't tell from the caterpillar's looks, but the moths are more diverse looking.*

*wrote on message board on May 16


Christmas Spectacular Performance

I can't seem to find the pictures/videos of the actual performance.

Here's the year end performance that was in May.  She is on the left (of the screen), sitting down in the front in the beginning.  There is a boy and an older girl to the left, then E, then another girl sitting to the right.  She LOVES ballet and will probably do it again next year.  She dances every day!

What L does during E's ballet class
L dancing

Welcome Home D!

We threw a little party for D last fall to welcome him home from his firefighting season.

This is the sign the girls and I made.  We were all so happy to see him!  The summers get long without him. 

Art in a Box

Yummy Canoli!

We made canoli back in November.  We ended up talking about other Italian foods and we looked up Italy on the globe.  I told the girls how their great great grandparents had come to America from Italy.  I told them that their great grandmother grew up speaking Italian in her home, and we learned a few words.  
They helped with every part of making these, from watching instructional videos and helping me look up recipes to shopping for the ingredients and actually making them. 

These are a lot of work, but so good! 

Letter to Restaurant

E wrote her first activism letter today. We used to have a restaurant here that E really liked until it burned down. For months, we drove by it every day, watching the repairs come together, and wondering if it was going to reopen. Finally, there was an article in the paper saying they aren't reopening, and now there is an sign for a different restaurant there.

She mentions how bummed she is about this restaurant being gone at least once a week, so I suggested that she write them and tell them she wants them to come back. She mailed her letter today.*

ETA: since we were talking about writing earlier in the thread... she usually writes in capital letters. For this letter, I suggested that she do it the proper way, with caps/lower case in the right places. She had a hard time forming some of the lower case letters, because even though she's used them before, she doesn't use them as often. So I helped her with the ones she couldn't remember, but by the end of the letter, she was already remembering how to form the ones she had done in the beginning of the letter.*

*wrote on message board on May 8

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Loomed their own hats, won first prize at the fair!

The girls finished making hats for themselves on their round looms today!*

Then they entered the hats in the County Fair and won first place in Fiber Arts.  Unfortunately, the fair messed up and put L's name on both hats, but we know which was which.   

*wrote on message board April 5

E's First Official Not-School Year

I have posted one thing in the entire 8 months of 2013.  One!  I keep thinking that I want to get back to blogging, but then catching up seems like such a BIG JOB that I put it off.  And the months tick by.  And I think of something I'd love to write about, but it will seem so weird coming on the heels of nothing.  So, I put it off.

But here I am!  I'm going to do a summary of E's first official not-school year, then get back to regular writing.


In order to comply with state regulations (and just because I like to remember these things) I write down the things we do every day that are educational.  More accurately, I write down the things that I show state acceptable proof of education, and many, many things that the kids learn that I can't quantify or qualify or see exactly how their gears are turning figuring that thing out or saving that bit of information for later, don't get written down.  So this is the bare minimum facts and timeline, yet missing lots of intricate details, stories, pictures, and conversations.  I do have some of those, but I'll post them separately.  This is from the middle of October until now.  These are all things that came up in the course of real life, no curriculum, no guide of what she "should" be learning.  Just living life, following interests, doing things, going places, bringing the world to them and them to the world, having conversations, asking questions, observing, playing, thinking, being. 

I think around 80% of what is here, L was doing with us.  She was either just observing/listening or actively participating.  Some of it she understood just as well as E and some of it I did with her more on her level.  I don't have to officially register her with the state until next year, but I am going to writing down more of what she does this year anyway just for my own records. 

E's First Grade Year:

Eyewitness Explorer's Bird Book
Discovery Channel Prehistoric Oceans
Looked up info on mustangs
Discovery Channel Tiny Creatures
Discovery Channel monitor lizards
Looked up info on beta fish and cat fish
Dogs don't see in color
Looked up spiders we found
Rabbit's babies are called kittens
LIFE documentary on flying fish
Looked up info on dolphins, sharks and horses and piranhas
Discovery Channel Deep Sea Creatures
Looked up Asian vs. African elephants- videos, pictures
Dinosaurs- apatosaur, t-rex, tricerotops
Read article on wolf with GPS- lone wolf wandering around CA
National Geographic Flying Snakes
Other snake videos
Videos of whale sharks
Videos of great white sharks
Dinosaurs book
Saw tarantula, cockroaches, stick bugs, rabbits, turtle, frogs, porcupine and more at Discovery Museum
Looked up sheep herding dogs- videos, info
Videos of trick riding and dressage
Hike- saw/discussed gopher holes which led to discussing rattle snakes
Book and videos on baboons
4-H presentation on bees, bee hives, life cycle of bees, drones, workers, benefits of honey, pollination, saw bee hive up close. 
Hike- saw/discussed beaver dam, trees cut by beavers, size of beavers, tails, how they swim
Found rollie pollie, made habitat, looked up food and how to care for it, fed it, kept it for days
Dinosaur book
Fed rollie pollie, looked up more info, extoskeletons
Turtles- indoskeleton, saw pictures of skeleton
Discovery documentary on anacondas- tortoise, vipers vs. constrictors, kaiman, baby anacondas, tree snakes,
Discovery documentary on rattle snakes
Gilah monsters- venomous,eat eggs and small animals
Komodo dragon vs King Cobra book
Looked up wolf spiders
National Geographic documentary on tarantulas and other spiders
Found false black widow, looked up black widows- nat geo short videos
Took online spider quiz
National Geographic video on bird eating spiders
Meerkat Manor
Looked up lady bugs- different colors, eat aphids
Books on fossils, dinosaurs
Saw horse behind mechanics shop- talked with owner about gender, foal, chestnuts, horse's eyesight, what they eat
Austin Stevens show King Cobras
Austin Stevens show Snake that killed Cleopatra
Austin Stevens show Komodo Dragons
Caught small bull snake, discussed vipers vs constrictors, tongue sensing heat
Caught wooly bear caterpillar, looked up what they eat, cacooning, life cycle, difference between moths and butterflies.
Watched part of monarch butterfly documentary
Crossword puzzle on endangered species- discussed why they are endangered, where they live- wolf, blue whale, komodo dragon, tiger, polar bear, gorilla, black rhinoceeros, dolphin, crocodile, giant panda
Word search on animals that are extinct, discussed extinction
Hike- saw horses, discussed pony vs. foal
Development of chicken egg- pictures of real eggs and video animation
Queensland Heelers- how they got name, why they were bred, genetics of mixed breeds, what dogs teach their puppies
Anatomy of owl's necks- can turn heads 270 degrees
Lion prides- videos of lion's hunting, females hunt
Saw chicks and turkeys at feed store
Grandma gave booklet to identify reptiles and amphibians in North America- she wondered why there were no cobras in book, Grandma showed her North America, South America, Africa, India on map.
Wooly Bear caterpillar emerged from cacoon, released tiger moth into yard
Books on great white sharks
Noticed dog shedding winter coat
Frequently play with frogs in yard
Saw shells at library, got book on shells, identified different ones, discussed pearls/oysters
Saw goats at library summer reading program on farm animals
Video on snakes
Found neighbor's pet hedgehog in the yard- looked up what they eat, pictures, domestic vs. wild, protection from predators, nocturnal
Found eggs in dirt- looked them up, determined probably earthworm eggs
Looked up rollie pollies, what they eat, hermaphrodites, keep eggs in pouch
Looked up earthworms- body in segments, band near head, hermaphrodites
Looked up slugs- hermaphrodites, create slime
Video of sea slug that eats man-o-war tentacles
Wild Krats show on butterflies
Wild Krats show on earthworms
Wild Krats show on lizards

Discussed blood clotting to make scabs
Discussed dental fillings, infections
Human Body book- blood cells, immune system, bones, breaks, being paralyzed, nervous system, spinal cord, heart chambers, microscopes to see cells
Pretending to use anti venom for snake bite
Poser in doctor's office- identified galbladder, liver, stomach, small/large intestine, rectum.  Discussed job of gallbladder, red/white blood cells, oxygen, immune system, iron in blood, foods with iron, cast iron pan transferring iron to foods,
Discussed ear infection- causes, white blood cells, how ear works, looked at pictures/videos of anatomy of ear, watched ear drum repair surgery and cochlea replacement surgery, learned about euschin tube and how blockage causes ear infection.  Connected diamond mining on minecraft to diamond tipped tools used in surgery.
Played surgery squad- dental surgery, lasik eye surgery
Asked about layer of skin peeling off- explained/showed with paper, layers of skin dermis and epidermis
Looked up pictures of bones/cartilage in nose
Looked up difference between male and female pelvises
Made mine craft statue of skeleton inside skin 
Asked what happens to roots of baby teeth when they fall out- looked it up and learned about resorption, watched video of wisdom teeth being extracted
Read human anatomy books- bones, muscles, cells, genetics, reproduction
Ed Heads game- knee replacement surgery, femur, tibia, patella, sterilization, anesthetic, cauterize, pictures of real knee surgery
Saw L get tooth filled, saw model of tooth with roots, veins, gums with gum disease
Played online game about x-rays, CT scans, MRIs
Magic Schoolhouse book- bus goes into Ralphie's body, blood, job of white blood cells, bacteria
Nobel Prize blood typing game- which blood types can give to and receive from other types

Looked up solar system, nasa, rocket launch videos
Meteor Showers- watched it and identified north star, big dipper, north, south, east and west, big dipper, little dipper, Orion's belt, Cygnus, watched Swan Lake barbie movie which talks about constellation in special features.
Black holes- looked up what causes them, mass, gravity, played online Nasa game showing black holes, what would happen if caught in one.  Cygnus constellation next to blak hole, feeds off star's gas creating disk, time changes in black holes

Made Welcome Home sign
Wrote note "Welcome Home Dad from Ezabella, to Dad.  I love you."
Wrote note "From Ezabella to Mom."
Thank you notes
Reading workbook- long e, long o
Dino game- typed name, entered b-day
Wrote in diary
Reading workbook-beginning sounds
Wrote grandparents names
Wrote "Incredibles"
Read "Incredibles movie, book, wallet"
Typed in website address, username, password
Read Foot Book
Read B Book
Read 1/2 easy reader book in doctor's waiting room
Wrote phone number
Read Foot Book
Read part of Big Sister Little Sister
Wrote recipe for salad she created
Typed email to cousin- sounded out most words alone
Looked for brussel sprouts in cookbook index- alphabetical order
Birthday card for Grandma- wrote "Happy Birthday Grandma. I love you. Love E...." 
Dictated 2 pages for me to write in her diary then read it back to herself
Dictated a page for me to write in her diary
Read 3 sentence note I wrote to her
Read cake recipe
Wrote a letter to a restaurant
Read rhyming words I wrote- tooth, booth, loose, moose, goose, sing, wing, swing, bring
Wrote 6 words in notebook
Read list of things to do to get ready for day
Read Green Eggs and Ham
Verbally spelled words rhyming with stop after seeing stop sign- mop, cop, shop, top
Verbally spelled words rhyming with slow after seeing slow sign- mow, row, bow, arrow, tow
Read a few words in Bible
Read 1/2 of Llama Llama Mad at Mama
Read 1/2 of Say What?
Read Foot Book to kids at library story time
Read Go Dog Go

Math in Real Life:
Multiplication with chocolate chips
Math workbook- adding
Weighing/measuring baby doll- 16oz in a pound, measuring with ruler, inches
Fractions with burritos
Sorted Uno cards by number
Math flash cards
Days to BoB show- 20-2=18
Counted to 213 by 2s odd numbers
Odd numbers vs. even numbers
Boiled eggs 2x4=8
If we have 4 cups and 1 breaks=3, then figured out 3-1, 2-1, 1-1
Recited various addition facts
Considered looming hat to sell for $10- figured out 2 would be $20, 3=$30, 4=$40, 10=$100, 20=$200, 30=$300
Figured out 2+2+2=6, then I asked what 2x4 and 2x5 are and she figured those out
E helped L make signs on minecraft from 1 to 39- told her which numbers were next and how to write them
Used illustrations on paper to figure out $10=40 quarters
Workbook on counting money- used real coins and abacus to count/add
Adding with popscile sticks- 10+10, 20+20, 40+40, ways to add group of 5, 2+3, 4+1, 5+0, ways to add group of 16, 10+6, 8+8, 7+9
Math on paper 20+20, 40+40, 80+80
Used abacus to solve 10*10, 2*5, 2+5, 2*3, 2*1
Used abacus to solve 86+14, 100-14, 100-86
Math on paper while driving home from trip- added two digit numbers, added numbers requiring carrying
Verbal math problems while rolling ball back and forth on floor
Math on paper 14+13, 18+23, 27+45 had to carry numbers

Made/canned apple sauce
Used lemon juice to preserve pears apples after cutting
Made canoli- watched instructional videos, found recipe, shopped for ingredients
Wrote recipe for salad she created- Debbie salad
Steak/beef from cow
Made pine needle tea from pine needles picked on hike- good source of calcium/vitamin C, grandma discussed scurvy in sailors from lack of vitamin C
Used nutrition data website to look up nutrition information on olives, apples, bananas, tortillas. Discussed calories, carbs, protein, vitamins, minerals.
Agave syrup- watched video on how it's made
Maple syrup- watched video on how it's made
Used nutrition data website to looke up nutrition information on beans, avacado and lettuce
Made cookies shaped like fossils
Sugar- watched video of how it is processed from sugar cane
Wanted to create own cookie recipe- discussed purpose of each ingredient and possible substitutions.  Ended up with Chocolate Chip Cookies with Strawberry Jam.  Used fractions/measurements while cooking.
Baked cake
Monstanto- discussion on GMO's, genetics, DNA, watched part of Monstanto documentary
Made apple pie- fractions, had 27 apples, needed 16, she wanted to know how many would be left over to eat, she solved
Discussed liquid vs. solid vs. steam
Library summer program- different kinds of seeds, how seeds grow, spouts,watched wheat ground into flour, planted own seeds
Library reading program- nutrition, skit on healthy eating, made slime
Directly helped several times with meal planning and grocery shopping, always involved in both
Cooked chicken in crockpot
Made pancakes with no hand on help- I was giving directions/measurements verbally from other room
Makes food herself- french toast, pb&j, fruit salad, quesadilla,
Saves recipes she finds on Stumble Upon

Plains vs. deserts
Def. host, guest
Policy vs. law
Def. aristocrat, influential
Def. orchestra, composer, conductor, torch
Def. bay (3 different meanings)
Def. prize, awards, competition, judging
Def. rows, collumns
Contest vs. concert
Def. on par- she used in multiple sentences right away
Def. might, bask
Borrowing vs. buying, borrowing and paying interest
Def. revolutions (turns per minute)
Def. fertilizer
Desert vs. tundra
Low desert vs. high desert
E used the word "diagonal" correctly in a sentence when I couldn't think of it.  Learned it from D while playing minecraft.
Def. tunic, cavalry
Def. martial arts
Def. nature
Def. repelent
Def. historical fiction
fiction vs. non-fiction
Def. courtyard, caravan
mule vs. horse vs. donkey
monologue vs. conversation
Def. invincible

Gregorian vs. Hebrew calendar
Monthly observance of new moon and full moon- what makes moon wax and wane, names of Biblical months
First day of fall, winter, spring, summer- noticed, discussed season changes
Many instances over year of reading clock- when to leave, when activity is happening, when to come home from playing.  Can read digital clock, is close to reading analog clock
Many instances of looking at calendar- days to birthday, what day is today, days till event, days until trip, days until holiday.
GPS- watched in car on trip- map, hours, minutes, seconds, counting down time/miles.  
Daylight Savings
Microwave- minutes, seconds, seconds as fractions
Map of town at head of hike- where we were, where we were hiking, where our house is

Counting change- many times during year, went from not knowing names of coins to knowing names/values.  Used abacus to add.
Saving money- saved for beta fish, saved for hair chalk, saved for baby doll, saved for rides at county fair.  Many discussions/choices made about saving vs. spending now.
Purchasing- used own money to buy many things throughout year, added costs of items, saw value of cheaper things vs. more expensive things.
Trading game with Monopoly money- counting, adding, making change

Home made bird feeders
4-H Favorite Foods Day practice presentation and actual presentation- made french toast, presented to judge how to make it, ingredients used, choice of toppings
4-H practice presentation and actual presentation- Debbie Salad.  Made salad in front of audience, explained steps, ingredients and answered questions
Used loom to make hat, entered in County Fair and won 1st place
Mixed cornstarch and water- polymer
Recorded radio spot for non-profit- memorized lines, saw radio station and saw how voice editing equipment works.
Gravity experiment- cup of water covered by piece of cardboard turned upside down.  Cardboard defies gravity due to air pressure
Used Movie Maker software together to make video of her doing "magic"
Camping trip with 4-H- lit fire with flint and steel, canoeing/kayaking, saw pioneer cabin- discussed building with logs by hand,cattle ranching, churning butter.  Made survival bracelet from paracord- discussed uses such as fishing, making shelter and stitching wound.  
Wrote secret codes with lemon juice- inspired by section on real female spies in Daring Girls book
Did fundraisers for 4-H and Best of Broadway- knocked on neighbors doors, took orders, took money, delivered products
Best of Broadway auditions, rehearsals and 6 shows.  Performed 3 song/dance routines plus finale.
Pop Concert auditions, rehearsals and 2 shows.  Performed 3 song/dance routines plus finale.
Geology experiment- made sugar glass, searched for various types of minerals in household items
Beading-art, patterns
Breaking rocks to see insides- geology
Message in a bottle-reading, writing
Body Trace- traced shape of body on butcher paper, made body parts out of construction paper, yarn, etc. skull, intestines, radius, heart done so far
4-H Box Social- bidding, counting quarters
Made home made play dough- used food coloring, mixed colors to make new colors
Made pretend boat from basket, broom handle for mast, cloth for sail, toys for anchor- vocab. mast, sail,anchor
Mock trial with family playing parts- vocab. witness, jury, judge, prosecutor, defense, misdemeanor, trial
Made home made bird feeders
Oragami- made butterflies and wallets- halves, diagonal, measuring, inches, folding
Began building doll house-  made blue print on graph paper, bought wood, measured, watched me cut it, painted some pieces, still more work to do before finished. 
Helped with bake sale for non-profit- community service, customer service
Made "Welcome Home" sign
Memorized 4-H pledge
Microscope- looked at fabric, bug, blood, dog intestine, finger, pine leaf wrapper, pen, Popsicle stick, milk, avacado, pepper

Purim- story of Esther- character, doing the right thing in difficult situation
Thanksgiving- history of day
Hannukah- story, audio book, books, Bible verses
New Year's- calendar
Passover- Biblical history, spiritual significance
Counting Omer- def. omer, spiritual significance, counting/writing numbers to 50

Places Visited In Person:
Discovery Museum- animals (above), planetarium, constellations, Jupiter, Orion's belt (can still find it in sky), Orion meteors, recent meteors hit earth, spiders sent to space, earth's diameter, space suits/helmets, mixing primary colors to make others, light spectrum- fragmenting light to see colors, planets
Sacramento- on drive saw train bridges, discussed.  Discussed pressure in ears during elevation changes, five senses.
Veteran's Day Parade- sparked conversation on voting, soldiers, liberty, President/Congress vs. King/Queen
Hotsprings- where water comes from, what causes it to be hot, minerals
Hikes-  edible plants, plantain for bug bite, rails to trails, old train caboose, pollen, 
River- increased flow during spring, discussed melting snow
Bowling alley- adding scores
Movie Theater
Silver Legacy casino- saw old mining equipment- tied into mining knowledge from Minecraft 
Radio Station
City where D's firefighting company is located
National Day of Dance performance in park
Home Town- navigated map of town to get to grandma's
DMV- telling time (what time is it, when do they close), worked on writing cursive and lower case letters while waiting
Fishing Derby- fishing, sunrise, worms, bait
Local history museum- saw wagon, lanterns (compared to minecraft torches, showed how wick/kerosene work), railroad tracks, history of logging in our town (connected to D's old job where they saw logging equipment/trucks), old mill (saw pictures at museum, drove by it on the way home) telegraph, volcanic rocks, hope chest, typewriter, pictures of how people dressed in earl 1900's, map of rails to trails
Grandma's garden- worms, compost, planting, harvesting, weeding

Places/Times Visited Through Books/Videos/Maps/Globe/Stories:
Colored map of Australia, looked up on globe
Looked up Peru info/on map
Mt. St. Helens/Mt. Lassen- learned about volcanoes, lava
China- Great Wall, vidoes of people/places, how they celebrate birthdays, location on globe, red eggs, Chinese dance, Year of the Rooster, movie Mulan
California- looked at map
Grand Canyon- how it was formed, pictures, location on map
Thailand- books and videos- farming, Budism, elephants, where on map, Bankok, villages.  Friend visited there so she heard stories, saw pictures and saw friend's scrapbook.
Italy- where on globe, story of great great grandparents coming to America from Italy Italian foods-canoli, lasagna, spaghetti.
France, Eiffel tower- saw in movie and mom pointed out

Various states/cities in US- looked at map to see where she and sisters were born, where we have lived, where we have visited, where D has gone for work
Spun globe and asked names of random countries several different times- Russia, China, Africa, Thailand, US, Canada, Mexico, Greenland, France, Congo, Egypt, England.  Connected to other knowledge about these places.
Looked at geography book- learned facts about Russia, Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, looked up all on map.  Also looked on map to find Asia, Europe and Africa
Found England on globe- discussed ancestors coming from England to America, church run government, religious freedom
Asked what is on the other side of the mountains- looked on google earth to see other side of mountains in all directions, zoomed in on local lakes, our house, D's job, nearby towns
Book of historical American art- slavery, civil war, George Washington, Abe Lincoln, sparked discussion of Barak Obama, def of President.  Also in book- days before cars, trains across county, farming, oxen, carriages, wagons, harvesting, baling hay, fire engines pulled by horses.

Zoodles- strategy, puzzles, problem solving, math, reading/phonics, Spanish, matching, spelling, counting by 10s
Brain Quest trivia
Hopscotch- turned into adding game
Spy Game- problem solving, reading
Blue's Clues Scavenger Hunt
Hide and Seek- counting
Action word flash cards- read word, do action
Clue-strategy, problem solving, process of elimination, adding dice, reading
Kids' Scrabble- spelling, reading
Mine craft- def. of mining, craft, gold, iron, pick axe.  Creative building, architecture, mined for iron ore/diamond to make pickaxes, planted wheat seeds, grew wheat, harvested, made bread, planted other foods, harvested, flint and steel, 
Go Fish
Typing games and typing on word document
Rummy- strategy, counting/adding score
Online geography game
Monopoly- adding money, making change,
Big Farm game- points, reading numbers over 100, planting, harvesting, sowing, selling produce/eggs, mill, silo, compost, how much things cost, smart business practices, fertilizer
Degrees game- circle on paper marked with 0, 90, 180 and 360 degrees and numbers in between, call numbers for them to turn to face.
Crossword puzzles- writing, problem solving, critical thinking
Word Search

Weekly ballet classes and two performances
Monthly 4-H meetings and other activities
Monthly 4-H dog club meetings and year end dog show
Best of Broadway rehearsals and shows
Pop Concert rehearsals and shows
Summer baseball 1-2 times per week
Library story time nearly weekly
MOPS a few times

Learned to do splits
Learned to do hand spring (can almost stick landing)
Learned to do backbend
Yoga often with mom/stretches for ballet
Watched Tai Chi video to learn beginner moves
Videos of tango/waltz/foxtrot/belly dance- imitated steps
Videos of gymnastics and ice skating- imitated

Hebrew- aleph bet, avinu, abba, tanach, Torah, Adonai, 1/2 of Shema, blessings over bread/wine
Spanish- movie Barbie Mariposa in Spanish with subtitles, Dora and Deigo episodes.  From my knowledge or looked up online, counting to 10, dog, cat, cow, horse, other animals, mom, dad, sister, grandparents, other family words, various foods, rooms, clothes, basic phrases like I love you, hello, goodbye, I'm hungry, etc. Another mom at library store times speaks Spanish, did story time in Spanish, E remembered how to count to 6.  American Girl book Josephina- gracias, sala, fandango, pueblo, tia, abuelito
Thai- counting to 10, thank you
Sign Language- The Joy of Signing book and online videos- alphabet, dog, cat, cow, horse, other animals, mom, dad, sister, grandparents, other family words, various foods, rooms, clothes, basic phrases like I love you, hello, goodbye, I'm hungry, etc.

Piano- practices occasionally (Mary had a Little Lamb, Jingle Bells, Ode to Joy), knows home keys for key of C, can do simple finger exercises, composed one song that I wrote down for her and choreographed ballet to go with it. 
Nutcracker story/music/movie, recognized music on Sponge Bob episode, put on a living room play of Nutcracker
Cd of music by Bach
Listens to me play Fur Elise by Bethoveen memorized from childhood and re-learning to play other piano music
Lots of other classical and modern music of all types on cds, radio, pandora and youtube

Too many to list and I didn't write down most because they wouldn't qualify as "educational" for the state.  However, many of the interests, activities and conversations are sparked from them as well as things learned directly from them.  Some that I made note of are:
Monk- watched a few episodes because of interest in mystery solving
Martha Speaks- lots of new vocab and lots picked up from other shows that aren't designed for that purpose
Avatar- sparked discussions/further learning on meditation, tai chi, kung fu, elements, blindness 

Too many to list.  Most animal and anatomy books are listed in those sections.  This year I'm going to set up a Goodreads account for them so we can keep better track.  E has not found a chapter book that she really enjoys.  She regularly enjoys non-fiction books that are for older kids or adults, but not much fiction.
A few that she did like were the American Girl books about Josephina and one about frog ninjas, the name of which is escaping me.
A few others of which I made note:
Book on Annie Oakley, then looked up pictures/info about her.  Learned more about her at summer reading program.
Book on Medevil times- parts on what they wore and becoming a knight, discussed gender discrimination, later connected minecraft flaming arrows to combat portrayed in book
Almanac- US holidays, Martin Luther King Jr., money, units of measurement, shapes, odd/even numbers

Other Discussions/Interests/Things we looked up:
Importance of wearing seatbelt
Trucks shipping food to stores after seeing bread truck in store parking lot
Frequently rhyming words for fun and saying opposites
Videos of airplanes/jets- aerodynamics, lift
Drinking and driving
Visit from Smokey Bear at Library- fire safety, not to play with matches/lighters, stop, drop and roll
Intro to my book The Slight Edge- sparked interest in setting goals, set goals for ballet performance, Hollywood Vibe show, dog show
Cookies called biscuits in the UK
Intro to Robert's Rules of Order at 4-H
D showed her how to tie bowman's knot
Looked up female ship captians
Memorized address, mostly from going into internet company and city hall to pay bills for me
Discussed finger prints, detectives
Dh showed them his fire fighting gear- turn out, breathing mask, gloves, demonstrated turn out's fire resistance
Documentary on box mills- steam,gears, branding plates, connected to lumber mill, boxes with Louis Lamour stamped on them connected to D's collection of same books
Adult's conversation about Native American's sparked E's questions- led to discussing Pow Wow we went to last year, what a pow wow is, looked up video of one
Workbook with myster story and questions to help solve mystery- critical thinking, problem solving, clues, evidence
Verbs/nouns- ing on verb means doing in the present, action vs. thing
Where to find fiction/non-fiction in library
Discussed living like Josephina in American Girl book- no running water or electricity, had never seen a piano, getting water from river, not knowing how to read
Watched Happy People documentary in Russian
Video on how sand is formed from granite- wind and rain erosion take sand to beach, quartz, iron, feldspar, micah, saw minerals up close in microscope, compared to her own quartz rock
Read about several female spies, Girl Guides codes/history