Back to school: On the road

My husband and I have been talking about an extended RV trip for so very long that I can’t remember exactly when or how the idea struck us. I just know that we have been talking to each other about this for a long, long time. We have talked to everyone we have ever met who has either lived on the road or taken a big adventure and asked them many questions about how it works. We’ve read about it. We’ve thought about where we’d want to go and what we’d want to see. We’ve talked about how we’d pull it off. So much talking and researching and thinking and planning!

This summer, everything lined up just right. The opportunity to be away was there. With a little nudge from family to come visit up north, we began planning. My husband and I spent several weekends looking into all the things we could do in the area and made a 5 week plan: three weeks to explore Michigan with a week to visit family and friends on either end of our trip.

And what did I do then? Well, of course I bought books! I found some books related to the places we planned to visit and the things we planned to see and do while we were there. I put them all in a bag and made room for them in our teeny, tiny living space.

Then, as the temperature was getting to be over 100 degrees everyday in TX, we started driving north!

Michigan

Warren Dunes, Sawyer MI

When I was growing up, we went to Indiana to visit family every year. A favorite thing we often did while in the area was to visit Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan. A family tradition I wanted to share with my kids:

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the trek up the dunes,

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the waves,

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and building in the sand.

The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

My daughter who aspires to be a “building wife” when she grows up, loves to watch Innovation Nation. She wanted to see the Henry Ford Museum, especially the Rosa Parks bus and the Wright Flier. We got to see both and so much more! We spent half a day wandering around and could easily have spent several days to see it all.

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USS Edson, Bay City, MI

USS Edson, Bay City, MI

We stopped to visit the USS Edson. When my husband paid for the tickets, he was offered a tour guide. Who could pass that up? Our tour guide was an older gentleman who was retired Naval Reserve. He had so many stories to tell! He told the kids about living quarters, the little lockers for personal items, the timed showers, the food. His stories really helped us imagine life aboard a Navy ship.

Tawas Point State Park, MI

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This may have been my favorite stop for this trip. The little beach at this state park was a lovely, lovely place to pass a few days.

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It was never really warm enough that I would have wanted to get in and swim, but the kids were more than happy to swim, build sand castles and look for treasures on the beach.

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St. Ignace, MI

We stayed at St. Ignace several nights. There are a lot of historical sites to visit. We spent a day at Colonial Michilimackinac. They have people dressed in period clothing available to tell you about each part of the village. About every 15 minutes there was a different demonstration (shooting a cannon, firing a musket, a children’s tour, etc.) in addition to just walking around and seeing the various buildings and exhibits.

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We didn’t think we wanted to go over to Mackinac Island, but we were so impressed with Colonial Michilimackinac that we decided to go to the island to see the fort.

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There were exhibits in each of the buildings, as well as guided tours and demonstrations several times each hour. Also, they had a children’s room with dress up clothes and interactive exhibits. A big hit!

Each afternoon after sightseeing, we went to this little park in St. Ignace right by the water.

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The kids had hoped to swim, but the water was ice cold. Still, an incredible view and a great place for the kids to play (or draw).

Sault Ste. Marie, MI–The Soo Locks

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Well, we made it to the Canadian border! A long way from central Texas! We got to see a ship go through the locks and explore the little visitor center. We had burgers and fries at a little diner by the water.

JB Wells State Park

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We thought we were going to have a few more days on the beach, but the weather got pretty cool and rainy. So we ended up spending a couple days playing at the playground, reading, and drawing. I got to take some long walks with my big kids and hear all the things they are thinking about, while the little kids played at the playground. We could see and hear the water from our campsite. We had a cool breeze and some comfortable camp chairs. It was a relaxing way to end our time in Michigan.

All in all, 5 weeks, 9 states, 4,000 miles! I thought we might be tired of driving, of living in such a tiny space, but we hated to see it end. We are already thinking about a next adventure.

Reading goodies

For the kids:

Paddle to the Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling- a story of a journey through the Great Lakes region

Under Michigan: The Story of Michigan’s Rocks and Fossils, by Charles Ferguson Barker

From the Childhood of Famous Americans series: Henry Ford, Amelia Earhart, and Wilbur and Orville Wright

Once on This Island, by Gloria Whelan: historical fiction set on Michilimackinac during the war of 1812

And some favorites from my own reading:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrick Backman–Both books were wonderful! I would have a hard time picking a favorite.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

The Giver Quartet, by Lois Lowry

Reading goodies

  • Forgiveness continues to pop up in unexpected places. A friend lent me a book about an immigrant family from Norway. This excerpt from a sermon described in the book really grabbed me. To me, it means Let the hurt stop here. Let go of the story and cause no more harm to yourself or others by letting it live through your internal and external rehashing.

“When you forgive you must destroy the evidence and remember only to love.” (First We Have Coffee, Margaret Jensen)

  • For more on forgiveness, check out this and this, both sent to me by my dear friend.
  • Feeling lots of love this month for all the Waldorf inspired books on my shelf. Sharing saint stories with my third child, and by now all the stories feel like old friends to me. Reading fairy tales with my fourth child, and finally feeling like maybe I could actually tell these stories rather than read them. Trying some new stories with my second child for US History and Geography and have especially enjoyed Lois Lenski’s Strawberry Girl.
  • When I first made the trip to Taproot for a Waldorf home-educator’s conference, I never dreamed I would walk away with a circle of friends that I would keep up with for years, nor could I have imagined how much my children and I would benefit from the conversations I have with these women. Jean is a mother further along in the homeschooling journey than I, and my children and I benefit tremendously from her ideas. Reading her blog posts is the next best thing to being with her and Barbara at Taproot. I look forward to seeing her posts in my inbox. Always interesting and inspiring.

Reading goodies and the Renaissance

  • My 12 year old and I have been learning about the Renaissance together. We started out looking at what was happening in the world of science. A friend loaned me The Story of Science: Newton at the Center, by Joy Hakim. We liked this enough that I would like to order the study guide that goes along with it to see if we like it as well as we liked the book. We moved from science to art, reading both Michelangelo’s World, by Piero Ventura and Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer, by Robert Byrd. We have several Piero Ventura books in our library and have loved them all. I also happened to have several (what I call) coffee table books lying around that have Renaissance art as well. They turned out to be good resources for us.
  • My girls and I just finished Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George. This book really grabbed us. I read myself hoarse more than once.
  • We are revisiting the Inkheart series, by Cornelia Funke. Much as I love to read, there are not too many books I am willing to read more than once. This series is good enough to read repeatedly. So suspenseful!
  • I did not go so far as to take another book vacation, but I did very happily spend some time lost in Mitford through Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Such a sweet, inspirational story!
  • Two recent blog posts that are making the rounds in homeschooling circles that I thought were exceptional: How a homeschooling mindset changes everything and Homeschool This.
  • My mission lately is homemade gluten free bread. I made 7 different recipes last week. I tried recipes with yeast, recipes without yeast, various gluten free flours and flour mixes, and gluten free sourdough. Once, I got to gluten free sourdough, I didn’t feel the need to look any further. It is simple and easy, it rises every time, it’s delicious, it’s light, it has a wonderful flavor and texture, it makes wonderful toast…..the only downside really is that it disappears too quickly.
  • Also, crocheted baskets! I made a small one and a few bigger ones. A good afternoon project and a really cute and useful finished product.

Sunday shares

Can’t call this Reading Goodies because it’s not all reading. I do want to share some of the fun we’ve been having lately:

  • My oldest daughter has been having a blast with duct tape crafts. You can find a couple of her favorite projects here and here.
  • And she is still sewing up a storm. If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in line for more fabric. I love how each of my kids challenges me in new ways. This one not only likes to sew, she likes to sew without patterns. Kind of freaking me out. But I worked on this with her yesterday and it actually turned out pretty good. Meesha has many sewing tutorials on youtube and is one of my girl’s favorites to follow. So if you enjoy this project, there is a lot more where that came from!
  • I have been making water kefir. I used to be a yogurt maker, but I can’t have dairy so it was kind of a bummer to do all that work and not get to enjoy the end result. The water kefir it not difficult to make, does not require special equipment, and it is tasty!
  • If I were more tech savvy, I would make a recording of what my home sounds like these days. My son always has his beat box going. Always. I’ve taken to dancing every time I hear it. Then he tells me to stop dancing because it’s annoying. Ahem. Anyway. He shared this video with me, something he finds inspirational.

And now for some true Reading Goodies:

  • You may notice health and body image are on my mind. I enjoyed this funny and true blog post about mama bodies.
  • I am currently reading Health at Every Size, by Linda Bacon. Feeling like it could have saved me a lot of trouble if I had read it years ago.
  • Just finished Little Britches. It was a first time for all of us. Easy to see why this is a classic. What a sweet story!
  • Percy Jackson is making a comeback at our house. Around here, some books are like old friends, and this is one of those.
  • Reading this collection of stories with my littles, which led to an interest in Helen Keller’s life story. We have been taking in everything we can about Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. This is a great little history for kids with some pictures to go along with the text. Helen Keller was one of my very favorite people to learn about when I was growing up too, so it was fun to revisit this topic. I even watched The Miracle Worker again the other day. I am now loving Anne Bancroft and may have to watch more of her movies.

Reading goodies

  • I am tempted to take a quote from this article from Teacher Tom and put it great big on my wall. These words are beautiful:

We are, in fact, at our best when we manage to successfully override those urges to help, instruct, or otherwise guide a young person and instead give him the space and time to struggle, to practice, to come to his own conclusions. This, not our superior experience or intellect, is the great gift we have to give to children: to stop, to really see who they are right now, and be with them in appreciation and joy, loving them just as they are.

  • I also like to learn about nutrition and have spent a lot of time reading The Paleo Mom the past couple weeks. A lot of good stuff there!
  • Very long, but worth reading, this article gives parents a lot to think about.
  • Been having fun sewing with my oldest daughter and we got our latest project idea here. We’ve made four of them so far!
  • I am still dreaming of full-time RVing with my family. A nice little summary of the pros and cons of such a life.

Reading goodies

  • I know I said I wanted to read A Thomas Jefferson Education, and now I can say that I did read it. I love how simple this model is! Early in the book, the author describes different phases of education. I found the description of each of the phases to be completely in line with my experience with my own kids so far. The book gave me some good ideas about working with my 12 year old, as it is clear to me that he is entering a new phase of learning. I am excited about the long list of recommended classics for different age groups! There is also a “Getting Started” section at the very end which recommends that the grown up pick a classic, read it, take notes, write about it, etc. And so…….
  • I am currently reading Wuthering Heights. I got out my notebook to take notes as I went along. I found it completely distracting to try to take notes and read. I guess my mind needs a single focus. The experience reminds me once again that I can get a lot of great ideas from books, but I have to always take into account that we are all individuals and different things work for different people. So I will take what works for me and leave the rest!
  • Enjoyed this excerpt from another book I would like to read. More on learning–of course!
  • I am really lovin’ Zen Pencils! Check this one out!
  • And, wow, THIS! I have had very similar thoughts.

A vacation

Everyone knows there are no vacation days for the stay-at-home-mom. But every now and then I take some time off anyway. I don’t actually go anywhere. I don’t send my family away. I’m not off duty. However, I just put aside anything that can be put aside. I let the house go more than usual. I let the laundry pile up more than usual. I serve simpler meals. I pick up a good book and step into a different life for a little while.

Harry Potter had been calling my name for some time. I don’t typically read a book more than once. I had read this series twice already. However, I was seriously feeling a PULL to read those books again. I tried for a while to fight it, and then I decided to read the first book. When I set out, I didn’t really intend to completely check out for a week and read the whole series, but I’ll have to say, I have never been able to put those books down once I get started.

It was a perfectly delicious week for me. Absolute indulgence. To devour those books, to NOT put the book down when I just couldn’t put the book down, to stay up too late, to wake up too early, to live and breathe an incredible story for a week…….even though I didn’t physically go anywhere, it was a true escape, a real vacation.

Stepping into Harry Potter’s life for a week was a really intense experience. What real human life could compete with Harry’s? I am raising four kids and he is saving the world. It’s all important stuff, just very different. After my little reading vacation, I experienced a real re-entry (complete with turbulence) back to my life when it was over, just like the few times I have been physically away from my family for a few days. Re-entries are difficult partly because the house is messier than usual and the laundry pile is a bit higher than usual and partly because my mind is still a little bit on vacation, still processing the experience.

Now I am mostly back from my vacation. I have caught up with the laundry and chores. I’ve called my mother and reconnected with friends. I once again feel fully present when I am spending time with the people I love. Re-entry is now complete.

 

What we’ve been up to AND Reading goodies

We spent last week visiting family and friends in our home town. We enjoyed lots of good grandparent time and friend time. We arrived just in time to see everything in bloom. We got to experience true KS weather (dramatic temperature changes, 50 mph wind gusts). We got to celebrate my big kids’ birthdays (12 and 10 now–wow!). These weeks home are jam packed full of fun and love.

And this week we have been sick. Maybe no surprise there. We were anxious to catch up with our new friends, but instead we get a quiet week at home. I remember I wrote about a sick week last year. Such good memories! This week looked similar, though unfortunately no fort building. This week, from my couch, I coached my big kids on some household chores so that the household could continue running while I was down. A big advantage to having some big kid helpers! I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Peter and the Shadow Thieves for as long as my voice held out. I snuggled and helped kids with math practice. We watched documentaries on Netflix. I helped one of my littles write a book. I played games with my littles. And I coached my bigs through making homemade chocolate pudding. Sewing, drawing, sculpture, outdoor play, puzzles, extreme dot-to-dot, and other activities happened without my assistance. Again, a wonderful benefit of having kids who are growing up and no longer completely dependent on me!

Additionally, I did a bunch of reading, and I will share some of it with you:

  • This is a wonderful short article about parenting through connection rather than control. If you are interested in a whole book on this topic, this is a great one.
  • We always enjoy learning about artists and cartoonists at our house. Check out Mo Willems’ story here and consider this quote:

“You’ve said that part of the reason that you write these books is that there’s no such thing as a good childhood — what did you mean by that?” Braver asked.

“It’s a terrible time, a terrible time” Willems said. “We’re born into a world where none of the furniture matches you. You walk into a room and the room is saying, ‘You, you’re nobody,’ right?

“Let’s say we’re having a good time, right? Imagine if a giant hand came down, plucked you out of the room and said, ‘No, now we’re doing something else.’ And if you complained it was your fault for getting fussy, for being angry about the hand dragging you out of the room.”

  •  I spent some time cruising around Roger Schank’s blog, a blog about education reform. Lots here to think about, including this and this, but much, much more. I don’t know that I agree with him all the time, but he does make me think. I also suspect he does not worry about offending people or feel concerned about what people think of him (ahem, and I do ALL THE TIME). That in itself is a bit inspiring to me.
  • The book I am reading now is Quiet, by Susan Cain. I have wanted to read it since it came out. An important book for introverts, you will certainly walk away feeling validated and perhaps you will come to understand yourself better. Even if you are not an introvert, you are certainly either married to one, raising one, working with one…..something! For you, it will help you see the balance that introverts provide and help you learn how best to interact with the important people in your life.

Reading goodies

A good article about why kids should not sit still.

A lengthy, but well worth reading article full of thought-provoking ideas about playgrounds and why trying to keep kids safe all the time might actually be hurting them.

This book about leadership education has been on my “to read” list for some time, and this article gave me the push I needed to pick it up.

Because my son and I loved it so much several years ago, my girls and I are now enjoying the Peter and the Starcatchers series.

If you need a motivational book or a true kick in the pants, I just finished The War of Art. It was good enough that I am going to read it again. My favorite quote from the book: “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

 

Reading goodies

I feel EXACTLY this way about gift giving.

More Anne Lamott. Just have to. I thought this was lovely.

We continue to read about life on the prairie here. I brought My First Little House books home from the library for my girl to read to me. She especially enjoyed the cookbook, of course.

I am now reading Three Cups of Tea, another inspiring book.

And no, we’re not reading as much as I usually like us to. But we are thankful to have our house under contract and have begun a serious search for our new home. I intend to celebrate every little step along the way and have some fun with this.