Every Kid in a Park!

I just wanted to drop in here to make sure everyone knows about this AWESOME program – Every Kid in a Park!

Starting September 1, 2015 all 4th-grade age children are eligible to visit ANY NATIONAL park, refuge, forest, etc – FOR FREE! And the best part: they get their family* in for free, too! (*All children under 16, and up to three adults.  Check out all the rules here). Homeschoolers are totally eligible, too!

We just recently did a blitz trip with my parents to Yellowstone (two day visit, one overnighter) and we tried the program out.  Before we left we printed out our pass (you have your kid kind of fake plan a trip here and print out the pass at the end – it’s like 3 multiple choice questions).  At the park entrance, the park ranger asked to speak to Silas who told her that he is indeed 9 years old and in 4th grade.  She took our printed paper pass and traded it in for a cool badge that he signed. And now we get to use it all year, until August 31, 2016!  Our whole car-load of people got to visit the park for free.  Silas felt EXTRA SPECIAL, because he was the reason we got to do this trip.  It was really cool!

Some of the highlights of our Yellowstone trip – we can’t wait to go back!


Bison on the road – amazing!!!


Wrangling the bear cubs


All the geothermal activity really brings alive the fact that you are on top of a volcano!!!


Old Faithful, of course

And it’s not just big national parks – we visited the really cool Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center today in Great Falls, MT – which is run by the US Forest Service.  When we got to the ticket counter, it turned out that since they are a national/federally run center, his pass applied there as well!  We were the first visitors to utilize it there, and they were pretty excited about it.  So were we! 🙂


I tried on a cradleboard like Sacajawea used – I think I prefer the Ergo!


The boys completed their booklets and earned their Junior Explorer badges! Great program and center, I definitely recommend it!

So PLEASE – if your kid is the right age, take advantage of this really cool program!  It’s perfect for homeschoolers and couldn’t be easier to do!

I Dare You


I’ve picked a guiding word of the year for the past three and a half years. They usually appear to me without too much work. But this year, geez, this year I sat patiently waiting for my word to show up – and it was reallllly dragging its heels.

My word for 2013 was SACRED; it was a lot about making room for quiet and space and exploring and accepting my spirituality. It helped me commit to a daily meditation practice which has been fantastic. I can enthusiastically say that I am very proud of myself for sticking to it. Is that weird? Are meditators allowed to be proud? I think mostly the proud comes from making a daily commitment to a practice, and one that was solely focussed on ME. It fed and continues to feed me. SACRED also led me to exploring Nature as Church, something I’d like to focus more specifically on in 2014. SACRED helped me to really get inside my body more, to allow my emotions to be felt instead of pushing them away with distractions and “It’s fine” denials.

So I loved the guiding word SACRED and I had half a mind to keep it for 2014.

Using Unravelling the Year Ahead and looking back over my 2013, I realized that it was a quiet year. Quiet is okay, and sometimes desirable, but it was also kind of…boring. A little anemic. A teensy bit rudderless. Looking back over 2013, I feel like I sort of let life happen to me rather than being the author of my own experience. SACRED was nourishing in a lot of ways, but it was a bit short on action. And though it’s okay to have a fallow year, I’m ready for action in 2014.

I’ve been trying to wrestle several notions into a guiding word for 2014 for over a week – several words were auditioned. RISK was in the lead for a few days, but I was uneasy about the negative associations of it (I wanted action and chance-taking, but not risk-for-the-sake-of-risk or danger). Wild, Brave, and Awake were each considered, but discarded for not being *quite* what I was looking for. But in reading the description of this month’s Mama Scout Wellness Challenge, I stumbled upon my word: DARE. Yes!!! This is it. Everything I’ve been trying to articulate, encapsulated into one word for the year. Yay!

I want to take some chances, try some new things. I want to say yes to challenges, things that are a little scary to me, things that push me outside of my comfort zone. I want to take some deep breaths and hit the go button on things that I might deem a little bit selfish – but in the soul-feeding realm of self-care and growth.

Specifically, I’m thinking of daring to say yes to retreats with girlfriends, a wilderness survival class for women, international travel with my husband, a residential meditation retreat. And writing more. Definitely writing more.

I’m scared. I’m such a perfectionist, with tendencies to maximize and over-research; I’m very risk averse and tortured by decision making at times. I over-think and under-do. I’m very good at talking myself out of things.

But I’m excited. I’m looking forward to DARING myself in the coming year, coming to terms with the inevitable pruning of life’s potential paths by saying yes to one thing and no to others. I do so hate to lose opportunities, but prolonged indecision is basically saying no to all of life. And I’m just not going to say no to life. What a horrible waste.

I will fuck things up. I will make mistakes and maybe embarrass myself and feel awkward and unsure. But you know what else I’ll feel? Alive. I think it’s a good trade.

Do you choose a guiding word for the year? I’d love to hear your words and the stories attached to them!

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Scholastic Book Club: Available to Homeschoolers!

Who else used to loooooove when the Scholastic Book Club flyers made their way through the class room?  I loved it as a student, and I loved it (briefly) as a parent when we participated in a co-op preschool with Silas.  I thought my days of poring over brightly colored pages and receiving a magic package of discounted books were over when we became homeschoolers.

But no!  You, too, can participate in Scholastic Book Club (now called Scholastic Reading Club – don’t ask me why), even as homeschoolers!

It’s not the most straightforward thing on earth, but it’s easy enough to do.

Step 1: Head over to the page and create a TEACHER account (don’t do a parent account).

Step 2: Now, believe me, I know this is painful, but is HAS to be done; pick up your phone and dial 1-800-497-8291 to speak to one of Scholastic’s verification agents, so that they can verify you and your homeschool are actually real.  I really, really, really hate talking on the phone, and I cringed BIG time when I realized it was required.  But!  It took me 5 minutes, tops, and the agent was VERY nice. BONUS: You get to make up a name for your “school.”  You’ve been warned, so make it count!

That’s it! Now you have access to all the discounted Scholastic Books!  You can view their flyers online or order print fliers to be mailed to you (or if you don’t love the nostalgia of the fliers like I do, you can just search for books like you would at Amazon.  You can also browse by grade level or reading level).

Do your friends and family like to give books as gifts to your kids? You can send an email invitation, which includes your magic Class Activation Code, to anyone to join your class. I emailed my mom and grandmother invitations, because they love to buy books for the boys.  Even better, you can create wishlists for your class, too, which streamlines the whole “What do they like/do you need?” question.

Happy Reading!

Do you participate in any discount programs as homeschoolers? What do you recommend?

A lovely, unscheduled day

In the past few months we’ve gotten into the groove of having something scheduled almost every day of the week. Some days it’s just a playdate with friend, some days it’s outdoor “school”, some days it’s our day at the community center for homeschool classes, sometimes it’s a park day. I’ve never been so attached to my calendar! And it’s really brought home the funny notion that I used to boggle over when my kids were younger, “Why is it called ‘homeschooling’ if we are never home?” I understand that sentiment now.

One of the things I used to worry about when Silas was a toddler and we were contemplating homeschooling was being bored. Not having enough to do. Because, really, I think we were bored a little when he was that age. We had just moved to Seattle when he was two, and no matter how proactive one is, it still takes time to build community and make those connections.

The point is: we aren’t bored much now.

But it was so lovely to have this day appear yesterday where we had NOTHING planned (except gymnastics in the late afternoon, but I’m not even counting it!). No playdates, parks, or classes. Free to do as we pleased.

After a semi-disastrous trip to the YMCA where the kids got to play in the gym and I go to dance (there was some disagreement about leaving and deals were struck and broken, and well, you know how that goes), we got to come home and figure out what to do with ourselves.
It started with a snack picnic in the backyard. And some books were read, too.


Then we tried our hands at writing our names in hieroglyphs, inspired by Pepi and the Secret Names.

And after that, a dance party was in order!

Which evolved into some awesome free box play. Empty boxes FTW!



And then we decided it was time to head to the beach. I am SO incredibly grateful to live 3 minutes from the beach. I love it.

There were *three* driftwood shelters! Silas designated each for a special thing (sleeping, cooking, slaughtering animals [??!!])

A dead crab to study

And just take a deep breath. Exhale. Life is good.

FM Victory!

I just had to pop in here and share this victorious photo. Silas and his friend H. like to make things with Snap Circuits when they play sometimes. If you haven’t heard of or played with snap circuits, you are in for a TREAT. They have lots of smaller, affordable kits to check them out and see if you like them, and then they have the big kahuna kits which have LOTS of pieces and LOTS of projects to try. We have the really big one, the 750 piece one (I couldn’t find a link to the exact one, ours came with a great hard plastic carrying case that organizes all the pieces, too).

So the boys have been interested in building an FM Radio for a while. They tried it a couple of weeks ago, and somehow it didn’t work (though a really cool solar-powered fan did!). They decided to give it another try yesterday.

I should mention: these kids are just starting to read. They relied on the photos in the project booklet to build the radio themselves. I checked it over at the very end and found one tiny piece that needed to be added, but other than that they did the whole thing themselves.

And it worked. We danced to Kesha in celebration!


DPP Day 13: Waffles

Our advent calendar activity of the day was to have waffles for dinner. Truth be told, this is not the most unusual activity for us; we probably do it at least once a month. We are all waffle fiends. They are one of the very, very few things August will eat (and I cant sneak orange vegetables into them easily and with no ill effects!)

I wanted to make it a little more special than regular old waffle night – so I decided to try Carrot Cake Waffles. It was much more fussy recipe than my normal (fabulous) sourdough one, but it was a fun change, and they were delicious. And plus? I made fresh maple whipped cream to go on top. So, yeah. It kind of kicked ass.

And there was bacon.
What’s your family’s favorite breakfast-for-dinner meal? I’m always in the market for new ideas!

DPP Day 12: Playing School

I was asked to be on a panel representing homeschooling for parents that have kids that will be entering Kindergarten in the fall of 2013 at the groovy preschool that Silas attending for a year (age 4-5). The other folks on the panel were all schooling parents in some form, representing different schools and different ways of doing kindy (half-day, etc).


Sometimes I forget how amazing homeschooling is. Just listening to all of the ins and outs of navigating public school, the way that “the man” will come after you with scary letters if you miss more than three days of school, the way that the kids are just beyond exhausted for the first three months…I started to get so overwhelmed with how many concessions people make in order to make school work. Don’t get me wrong – these parents all by and large loved their schools and were there representing them in a positive light.

But still I sat there thinking, man we won the prize though. My husband agreed. He attended for moral support (and because our kids wanted to come and play in the school in the childcare while we were occupied) and he agreed – it was bewildering to hear about “the real world.” How very little control you have, how much you give up of your freedom, of your child’s freedom, in order to make school work.

Some useful things that came out of it for me, though. Several parents and one of the kindergarten teachers talked about how some kids really thrive on the predictability of structure, and it made me wonder about how fluid our days are and if that’s a good thing or not. I like it, but it’s making me examine if it works well for Silas or not. It might! But it might be interesting to explore other ways of being, too. In a cooperative way, of course.

A few times over the past couple months, I’ve become aware that Silas and various friends would play school. Some of these kids attend school, some don’t. But today, I got inspired to ask him if he wanted to play school with me. He did, enthusiastically! So I printed out some fun-looking worksheets and experiments from Pinterest, and away we went.

He really does know so much, and I so take it for granted. His reading is really improving (not that we’re in a hurry, but he has been working on it and it shows) and I’m thrilled that he knows how to add quarters because of playing Plants vs. Zombies (each quarter is worth 1 sun!) You can learn things from video games. Duh.

We had a lot of fun playing school, and I even made him a “hot lunch” like his school friend is always so happy about (chicken nuggets and homemade french fries, apples and a cut up cheese stick).
And then we played video games together. And had dance parties. And all was good.

DPP Day 6: Gingerbread House

Something that Silas has wanted to do for a long time that we’ve never managed to make happen is making his own gingerbread house. So this morning, when I walked into Trader Joe’s and was greeted by a self-contained kit for $7.99, I knew we had a winner! We made a last minute substitution to the advent calendar line-up, and away we went.

The kit is really cute, requiring only an egg white and a few drops of vinegar to mix up the frosting (and it even comes with its own pastry bag thing to pipe the frosting!)

Needless to say, much fun was had, many candies were sampled, and all in all, it was a big hit.