Summer Fun

Ahhh!  Summer….


 time for hiking,


checking on vernal pools,


observing insects,



and visiting special places.

Hope you are having a wonderful summer full of exploration and relaxed learning!

What adventures are you on?

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Weekly Wrap-Up WUH

Happy Father’s Day!

Jumping waves Over the years my husband has received some unique birthday and Father’s Day presents.  One year E made a card in the form of a paper airplane and another year the neighbor girls helped the boys stage a birthday parade.

I wanted to share their projects from this year in case you’re looking for a low / no cost creative solution.

E used Scratch to make a personalized greeting card!  (Push the green flag after it loads)

C made a Rube Goldberg contraption – marble run to magnetic cannon to flying pig to spinning Father’s Day banner.

The Scratch creation took less than 30 minutes. (If you want an invisible sprite just select the sprite and unclick “show” – that’s how E made it look like the picture was talking)  The Rube Goldberg contraption took considerably longer to design, troubleshoot, film, and edit.  C put more than 2 hours into the project.  We also put together a short iMovie just for dad.

It was great to see how naturally they chose engineering, coding and technology to create special keepsakes.

We’re looking forward to spending time with dad this weekend creating more memories.

Hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day!

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Weekly Wrap-Up WUH

Living with Less – Family Style

Minimalist decor appeals to me.  I don’t actually live that way – the people in my life prefer cozy furniture and plenty of electronics.  They like print fabrics, warm throw blankets, and color.  We also have stuff – I’m sure it’s more stuff than some families and less stuff than others.  Like Goldilocks I’m trying to find the just right spot for our family.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot of de-cluttering.  I’ve donated some clothes and household things and I’ve contacted a place that takes building supplies and furniture to come get the leftovers from a few projects.  Unfortunately I’ve also had to throw away quite a bit of stuff.  I swear two trash bags worth of detritus exploded out of the kids’ drawer – old crayons, party favors, string.

All this cleaning and decluttering has me thinking about how living with less frees us to live life abundantly and feel good about the choices we make.  It has also impressed on me how hard it is to keep stuff from entering the house.  Even though I’m intentional about purchases, free stuff and kid presents still enter the house.  I have to accept that things will always enter our lives, but there are steps I can take to make keeping a clean and appealing home easier.

10 Tips

1. Buy less – skip the dollar aisle, don’t buy things just because they are on sale, buy only what you need.  I actually avoid certain stores because the visual overstimulation causes me to make purchases I regret.  Set space limits on certain items like nail polish, socks, and school supplies.  If you buy more than what fits in the space it’s time to weed out the old.

2. Avoid ads and tv shows that encourage consumption – HGTV  I’m talking about you.  Low key advertising only between shows is one of the reasons I love PBS Kids.  Most channels aimed at kids have very intense advertising.  Ads are created to make us buy things we wouldn’t otherwise.  Advertising tries to create discontent.  Throw away the catalogs.  DVR your favorite show and skip the ads.

3. Sign up to stop ads and credit card offers.  You can use opt out prescreen to stop credit card and insurance offers.  Catalog Choice and DMA Choice can help you reduce the amount of junk mail that comes to your house.  I signed up for these several years ago and it really helps.

4. Make it easy to recycle.  I stand by the recycle bin to sort the mail.  By eliminating credit card offers I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of mail that needs to be shredded and I’ve moved the shredder to a convenient location to avoid a backlog on items that need shredded.  We also keep a small recycle can in the kitchen.

5. Use a scanner to make a digital record of documents you think you MIGHT need or want again.  Paper clutter has always been an issue for me.  About a year ago I got a small Doxie Go scanner.  It’s slow but easy to use.  You can use a service like Evernote to store your documents in the cloud (free) and create a file cabinet of searchable ($) PDFs.

6. If an item isn’t working for you, don’t feel guilty about giving it away.  Get rid of things quickly while they are still useful to other people.  The bike your son outgrew last month is easier to find a good home for than the one he outgrew 3 or 5 or 10 years ago.

7. Think about the space you will gain by getting rid of items and how much easier it will be to find what you want and keep the house clean.   

8. Borrow before you buy.  Check out books from the library.  See if your friend has an extra cooler or folding table before you buy them just for a party.

9. Get rid of an item if you buy a replacement.  Whether it’s clothes or kitchen items,  there seems to be a temptation to hold on to old things after we replace them.  It’s fine to have one old pair of shoes for mowing the lawn, but you don’t need 4 old pairs of shoes for mowing the lawn.

10. Buy less, buy less, buy less – skip the dollar aisle, don’t buy things just because they are on sale, buy only what you need.   This was already on the list at number one,  however it is the most important step if you are serious about reducing clutter.

Have you taken steps to live with less?

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The Value of a Homeschool Parent

A few things happened recently that prompted me to consider the economic value of homeschool parents.   First, I was chatting with the private tutor of a “homeschool” kid.  She also has two kids of her own, who attend traditional school.  In the course of the conversation, we were discussing some of the pros of her current job and homeschool, as well as past jobs and benefits of being able to have time with your kids.

Then she asked, “Do you miss working?”  My response was an immediate no.  I find homeschooling the kids and maintaining a blog very rewarding.  I have the opportunity to research and learn things that are directly beneficial to my kids. I coach a FIRST Lego League team.  I’m investing not only in my own kids, but bringing science and robotics to their friends.  I have tons of flexibility and freedom in how we accomplish our goals.  Later, the irony of the question really sank in.  I don’t have any animosity about the way the question came across, it simply shows the mind set of our society.  The private tutor and I are doing nearly identical work, but she is performing the service for another family and receives a paycheck.  Therefore it is considered work with economic value – she isn’t a homeschool mom, but instead a private tutor.    On the other hand, homeschool parents don’t receive a paycheck, so many people don’t consider it work.  However, the value of the homeschool parent and the private tutor are roughly equivalent to the respective families.  The transfer of money from one account to another is not what gives value to work. 

I also came across the popular info graphic comparing the cost of educating each student at  $500 / year for homeschool students to $10,000 per student in a public district.  I’ve seen the graphic used numerous times, and it always bothers me because it isn’t comparing apples to apples.  That figure only considers the cost of materials and outside classes and completely ignores the contribution of the homeschooling parent. The homeschooling parent is dedicating at least 30 hours/wk to monitoring progress, making lesson plans, supervising field trips, reviewing curriculum and other activities related directly to the learning of the students.  Again, because there isn’t a transfer of money some people disregard the economic cost.

It’s hard to put a dollar value on the contributions of a homeschool or stay at home parent.  Maybe it should be compared to private school tuition times the number of children plus the additional cost of maid and laundry services and possibly aftercare. Maybe it should be considered the same as a classroom teacher – although the jobs are vastly different.   Maybe it should be compared to the amount the parent is giving up by either not participating in the work force or having a more limited schedule.  Whatever the amount is, it is not $0.  

I consider our homeschool choice the economic equivalent of choosing an expensive private school.  Given the choices on the market, I can’t find a private school that offers the level of customization our homeschool provides.  As a consumer,  I’m happy to pay the cost.  As “President of Student Affairs and Human Resources”,  I’m humbled and honored my services are so highly valued.

Maybe choosing a different job title would emphasize the fact the parent is doing work that has value for their family.  ” I’m the Individual Education Coordinator for a small private academy” or maybe “Director of Student Education.”  Imagine the Linked In profiles stating the job responsibilities –  “I ensure the integration of science, nature and technology into the daily life of students.”  “Using the latest research in project-based and experiential learning, I facilitate the semi-independent and independent learning process of students in a supportive atmosphere.” We could talk about the values of our respective schools – “The Core Values of the Academy include enabling students to become independent learners – self-motivated, self-confident, and prepared to contribute to the world both now and in the future.” “At the Academy we strive to develop the student as a whole person.  We value not only academic performance, but promote service to community and respect for self and others.”  It’s actually a good exercise to think through our goals and core values.  At the end of the day,  I still like the titles “homeschool mom” or “homeschool dad”, they imply a certain warmth and commitment.  My goal is not to impress others or elevate myself, rather my goal is to make contributions to my family and society that have lasting value.

We choose to homeschool because of the positive customized learning environment for our children.  For us homeschool also creates a more peaceful environment for the entire family by giving us more freedom to live our lives on our own schedule.  It isn’t the right choice for every family or in every season.  For some families the economic strain of having only one income would create stress. Perhaps schedules can be adapted so both parents are still working, but the stress of working and overseeing school might be too much.  Some kids may enjoy the social aspect of school so much they wouldn’t enjoy homeschool. These are all considerations for every family to make.

When a parent chooses to be a stay at home parent or a homeschool parent, that decision has value to the family and comes at a cost.  The parent’s time doesn’t suddenly become worth nothing just because there isn’t a paycheck.  The family has decided to do without $ x to obtain the benefit of having a stay at home parent.    Other families might decide they can’t afford or don’t want to give up $y  when they are reasonably satisfied with their current education choice and family situation.

So homeschool mom or dad:  Make sure you know the value of your work.  

The Great Outdoors


It’s been a great couple of weeks here.  We took a nice weekend trip to do a little cabin camping.  We went to a wonderful wildlife preserve,  “The Wilds”, near Columbus, OH.  It was a really incredible place.


The animals live in large pastures and they keep some endangered species in addition to the normal giraffes and zebras.

Sichuan Takin

I was particularly fascinated by the Sichuan Takins.  They are currently listed as vulnerable and share the same habitat as Giant Pandas. We first saw one from across a small lake and it looked like a bear.  They are actually relatives of goats and antelope.


We also had a chance to see Pe’re David’s Deer, which are now extinct in the wild.  In addition to the large pastures containing mixed herbivores, The Wilds also has a carnivore center where they keep African Painted Dogs, Cheetahs, and Dholes.   We really enjoyed the chance to see the animals in such a natural setting and look forward to visiting again when the boys weigh enough to do the zip line tour.


Across from the Wilds, Appalichia Outdoor Adventures has created a system of mountain bike trails that are fantastic for a family ride.  The trails are designed for a variety of riding skills, but frequently loop together.  I promise it gets easier after the initial two hills.  We also enjoyed riding trails at Dillion State Park.  I managed to catch a picture of my husband riding next to the lake at Dillion while the boys were playing at the playground.

We’ve set a goal to go camping at least once per month during the summer/fall.  During college and for a few years post, we enjoyed tent camping and mountain biking.  We used to have a well oiled tent camping routine.  Honestly I’ve never managed to adjust to tent camping with kids, so I’ve made plans for cottage camping and mountain biking this summer.

Hope you’re having a wonderful summer!




Let’s go Racing!



How cool is this LEGO Race Car?  It’s part of LEGO Travel Adventure exhibit now on display at Great Lakes Science Center.

Our public school friends finished school this week.  We were happy to get the chance to meet up with part of E’s FIRST LEGO League Team to visit the new LEGO exhibit.  If you have the chance to see this traveling exhibit by the Indianapolis Children’s Museum it is well worth the time.  There were several amazing mosaics including a lenticular of Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. I had no idea it was possible to make a lenticular completely out of LEGO. The models included the Taj Mahal, Titanic, the Palace of Naboo and many other fabulous creations.


The kids enjoyed looking at the displays and had a great time building with their friends.  I’d never seen so many pink and blue bricks.


While we were at the science center we also saw the film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.   I hadn’t realized lemurs were endemic to Madagascar.  Madagascar is such a wonderfully diverse ecosystem.  70% of the plants and animals there are found no place else on earth. It was very sad to learn about the deforestation of Madagascar.  I was reminded how the decisions we make ripple through the globe touching the lives of other people, animals, plants, and ecosystems.

It is a difficult balance at times – providing for our families and respecting the environment.  The picture seems so simple when we see people slashing the rainforest in order to advance agriculture.  It’s easy to forget just how much damage has been done to our own land or how our choices make an impact.  Certainly we can choose fuel efficient cars, limit our driving, and avoid products made with palm oil. We can also just buy less stuff.  I think we forget we can live with less.  I know I do sometimes.  Even though I try to think carefully about the items I bring into our home, an over-abundance creeps in.   Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing a lot of purging, decluttering, and re-organizing and I’m aghast at the amount of STUFF that accumulates.  It’s good sometimes to force ourselves to look at the excess that creeps in slowly and unnoticed.  I hope the experience of the all this cleaning will cause me to think carefully about each purchase I make during the next several months.


One last race car picture before we go!

Hope you are having a great summer!  Let me know if you have any great tips for avoiding the accumulation of clutter.

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