Schiele Museum of Natural History

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Recently, a good friend and I did a day trip to the Schiele Museum and Planetarium in Gastonia, NC, which is a couple hours drive from us.  It was a field trip I had been looking forward to all school year.  For our science work, we have been focusing on earth science, rocks + fossils, dinosaurs, and outer space.  I visited this museum as a college student either for an ecology class or field natural history, and it left an impression on me!  I thought it would be so neat to share this with the kids, to let them see the constellations in such a neat way in the planetarium, the life size dinosaurs, and all the other exhibits.  Of course, the kids thought it was a blast to skip our regular school day and do a day trip.  They absolutely loved it, especially because we shared the experience with friends we love.  My only regret was that it felt pretty rushed and the kids were flying through and not taking much time to read and learn as they went, more so just taking it all in.  We can always make another trip!

The outdoor exhibits weren’t open but we had fun running through the woods and exploring it all, reading the placards when we could.  It would definitely be neat to go back when these outdoor exhibits are open!  Wren eventually lost steam and by the time we were due for the planetarium show at 12pm, she was pretty much done.  Needless to say,  I stepped out with the screaming baby while the others enjoyed the show.  We ate a picnic lunch that was hurried/interrupted by the rain and then we scooted off to nearby Ikea.  It was a bit of a feat taking 8 children into Ikea between my friend and I, and we were hurrying because it was a Friday and we wanted to do our best to avoid weekend traffic in the rain.  We ended up taking longer than expected, and the bed frame I was looking for for Philippa was out of stock 😦 but I would say it was still a success and really, really fun.  We returned home tired but also energized.  It was a fun way to culminate our science work for the year and a reminder of some of the best parts of homeschooling–experiential, hands-on learning together as a family + with friends.

a visit to Bovidae Farm

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You guys.  I am so excited to share a little about this beautiful local sheep farm we visited a couple of weeks ago.  The last weekend of October is the big Southeastern Animal and Fiber Festival (SAFF) in our town, and literally I was planning on going to spend my yarn dollars at one booth only, the Bovidae Farm booth.  My friends and I were all super bummed when we realized they weren’t at the festival and made plans to visit the farm instead (because you can only otherwise purchase their yarn at their farm).

My friend Jennifer and I planned a visit together, Jennifer having been there before and also introducing me to their wool through her designs with Appalachian knits where she worked to highlight the fiber of the Appalachian region.  We drove out (about a 45 minute drive from our home) one frosty Friday morning, a light dusting of snow was on the ground at the farm.  We had packed a picnic lunch and I told the children this would be a homeschool field trip and to ask as many questions of the owners as they could think of.  Rose and Jim were so generous and kind, having opened their little yarn store (which is the downstairs of their home) just for us, setting out some blocks for the children and a few sheepy toys.  It was an absolute delight to meet them.  They have been shepherds for 30 years, with a flock now of 70 Dorset sheep on 100 acres.  They care for them entirely on their own, but mostly the work is done by Jim, as Rose’s health has limited her.  Phoebe told Jim he reminded her of Peter from Heidi, and she also told him her “where do sheep go to get a hair cut?” joke (answer: the Baa-baa shop).  I think that warmed them up to us pretty quickly. 🙂  It was incredible to see their many spinning wheels and learn about their different functions and uses.  I regret that I didn’t get to try spinning because I mostly had Wren in my arms, but I hope to maybe give it a try the next time we visit.  Rose mostly uses fiber for weaving and had a couple of large looms, while Jim mostly spins.  He spent time letting each of the children try out all of his wheels and teaching them as much as they were interested in learning.  He let them run around and explore on their property, invited them to help him move the fencing, and let them pet and feed a couple of the rams.  He also let them sit on his tractor, which made Noah’s day for sure.

We hope to go back in the spring/early summer for shearing, to watch the whole process and spend some more time there.  Jim told us that they usually send their fleeces to a mill in Maine to be cleaned, dyed and spun.  I have been so eager to get my hands on their wool, and so happy to support a local sheep farm.  I bought a few skeins of their worsted weight yarn for some Hyak socks for myself and Brandon, and maybe some mitts for the children.  I couldn’t resist some of their pink worsted weight yarn for a wooly cropped flax sweater for Phoebe.  I cast on already but it seems the neck is really wide and I might knit it with a larger needle as it has been hurting my hands a bit to work on it at such a tight gauge.  It is the sheepy-ist and most rustic yarn I’ve used, quite squishy, dry, and full of lanolin.  I love it so much, and love knowing that knitting with it supports Jim and Rose’s work and care for the sheep.  Oh, I also bought a couple balls of their sport weight wool with plans to knit the Isle of Purbeck shawl.  Cannot wait!

It was so life-giving to spend time there, and I couldn’t stop talking about it with Brandon for the next few days.  What a wealth of knowledge those folks have and what a gift it was to be allowed onto their farm, to explore, learn, and get our hands into wool and take some home with us.  If any of you are interested in visiting their farm and yarn store, please know you are more than welcome, simply contact them via email or phone to plan your visit.

We are all looking forward to our visit in the spring and to spending some more time with these lovely folks + sheep.

making progress

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I mentioned a couple of posts back that we’ve been doing some work on our little “school room” which is a room right off of our kitchen, where my laundry room and also our little sunroom adjoin.  Since moving into our home over a year ago it was my plan to make some changes in this area of the home and make it more suited to study.  I think creating an environment that is beautiful, simple, clean and inspiring is important to foster learning.  Last year we mostly did schoolwork in the living room, but it became a difficulty for phoebe to focus, and for me always lugging all of our supplies and books from the school room over to the living room.  Thus far, keeping our schoolwork in the school and sun room area has really made a difference in helping us all to focus and I love having all of our supplies within reach.  It was essential to me to make a “bigger kid” space for Phoebe that was clean, minimal and well-lighted.  Brandon does such a great job taking my ideas and making them happen.  He built for me a simple floating desk in a little nook that was in the school room, and I think it’s been fun for Phoebe to have a more grown-up feeling area to work.  He also finished the chalkboard I dreamed up and I love everything about it.  I was just telling him last night what a huge difference it makes in our school room and in our teaching/learning to be able to write things out and keep work up on it that we aren’t finished with yet.  There is still, of course, a lot I would like to do in this space, but as with most projects we take on in this season of life we have to take small steps at a time because of both time and cost.  Instead of feeling like I want it all to be perfectly “done” all at once, I’m happy to make it a goal to improve, add to, and tweak it every new school year.  It grows as our little home school grows.  Anyway, I promised to share finished photos with you, so here they are, messy desk area and all.  I think a nice big rug would make this space a bit more cozy, a really great overhead light to replace that old fan (because this room is the least well-lit room in our home, unfortunately), and I will probably work on replacing chairs in this room as well.  We may add some book shelves in somewhere (the wall where the map is now?) because our school book collection is growing steadily.  Brandon would love to vault the ceilings in this room and create a nook up in the attic area above it, but those are lofty dreams.

I feel like I have a lot of creative projects on the go and in my mind.  I would really like to (and sort of need to) update and overhaul this blog space.  I mentioned that I have a few homemade items that we would like to sell in a little family etsy shop space.  I need to get that up and running, hopefully in October!  I have a litany of knitting projects and of course, Christmas and birthdays are approaching and I have a few birthday sweater ideas for the kids.  So there is a lot to work on and really so little time in the nooks and crannies that are leftover in a day.

I spent most of a recent Saturday working in the garden, pulling out the zucchini and squash and peas that were dead (everything got powdery mildew a few weeks ago) and tying up the tomatoes, tilling the soil to prep for planting a fall garden.  It felt so very good to get in there and clean everything up after some weeks of neglect.  Our tomatoes, green peppers, herbs, asparagus, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and zinnias are still going strong, although with hurricane florence expected to arrive here Thursday evening, I wonder if we will have much that survives.  Maybe it’s good I haven’t planted any fall things yet?  I’ve never done a fall garden and don’t really know if I’m too late anyway, so if you have any tips on that, do comment below and share your wisdom!  I was hoping to do a lot of greens like spinach, arugula, kale, and try again at beets (the groundhog destroyed what I had planted earlier in the summer).  Is it too late to plant some butternut squash?

Our marigolds are abundant, and although I’ve sworn up and down to Brandon that I’d never have an interest in dyeing yarn, something has suddenly switched and I’m curious to use some of the plants we have in abundance on our little property to try a little natural dyeing.  (Because I really need to add another project to my plate!)  I’m really only planning to try dying a few skeins for sweaters for my girls, but we’ll see.  Both girls wandered into the garden with me to harvest the marigold blooms and all of the children want to help me dye.  I think it could be a fun little science-y experiment for us all.  You see your whole yard and surroundings differently when you know how many plants give such vibrant color!

Also, about the hurricane.  We are in the western part of NC in the mountains, but are still slated to see quite a bit of wind and rain.  Typically with any big storm our neighborhood looses power and has some flooding (our unfinished basement almost always floods), so that’s probably the worst that we will see.  Maybe some downed trees.  We do have some family on the coast who stand to suffer quite a bit more, so our thoughts and prayers are with them and with everyone bracing for a fairly big hurricane.  If things are quiet here on the blog it may be because we are out of power.  I went through the garden yesterday gathering as much as I could, and then made the most simple and amazing roasted tomato soup with all of our big heirloom tomatoes.  Hoping everyone stays safe, warm, and cozy this week/weekend.

our first week

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So many firsts this week I hardly know where to begin.  Even though our homeschool co-op began a couple of weeks ago, we had our official first week of school this week and it went surprisingly better than I had thought it would.  I spent a lot of time this summer dreading, moaning, and complaining to my husband about school starting up and all the new things I would be juggling this year versus last year, all my fears and worries and things I wasn’t sure how to approach.

The reality is that it is always better to just get going and work out the kinks as they come.  I always feel a big sense of relief once we just get started.  I’ve made some changes in my expectations and my managing of household duties that I think will really help our school year.  For instance, instead of trying to quickly get school done in the mornings so we have time before lunch to run to the store, library or park, I’m devoting all of our mornings to being home until lunch time.  If we finish earlier, great, but at least I need to remove that pressure from all of us.  Errands will have to be run in the afternoons after the little one’s naps (which is not my preference), and some errands just devoted to weekends or evenings.  Already I can tell that one little shift has made a big difference in my stress level with school–we have all morning to be home and to work.

This year, I feel like I jumped from homeschooling one child to homeschooling three.  Since Noah is now busy for a bit in the mornings with school, Philippa also wants to have “work” to do until her brother/compatriot is free to play.  (I’m a big fan of letting children be children for as long as possible and not beginning any formal educating until 5 or 6 at minimum, but this little precocious 3 year old just won’t be left out.)  I also know that if we don’t get started right away and I don’t capture their attention early in the day, they lose focus and motivation pretty quickly.  It just so happens that this week Wren has been unusually fussy and skipping naps like crazy, and I realized she was cutting her first two teeth.  Of course that would need to happen this week!  So on top of trying to figure out how to jump between two kids asking questions and Phoebe’s adjusting to not having mom’s full and undivided attention, a 3 year old who wants to be in on the game, there’s been a lot of time shushing a hysterical overtired baby.  However, with all that said, it really went pretty well.  I feel more calm and relaxed, I have a better understanding of how to approach teaching phoebe (with some insights that we received from the state-required testing she did over the summer), and I’m learning that we have more space and time to experiment, stretch, and savor than I think we do.  It’s funny, teaching kindergarten to another child, chanting the “five vowels” poem with another little one and remembering how far we’ve come, Phoebe and I, since then.  So I’m telling myself to slow down, to enjoy these precious days because they will never come again.

The work, the planning, the weight of knowing their education is on my shoulders–it is the part of homeschooling that I like the least, but in reality, I so treasure and love this work.  I can’t believe we get to do this, and I’m so thankful.  So very thankful.  We may barely be able to pay the bills, but it is worth it to have this time with them during these fleeting years.  And God is faithful!  He always provides.

We are continuing to make some changes to our little school room, some improvements.  I am working to keep us more settled in that room as we work versus spreading out all over the house (as we used to last year).  It is helping as well!  Brandon has been building me a nice big chalkboard because I simply can’t do without it any more, as well as a “floating” sort of desk for Phoebe.  I’ll share some photos of them once we’re done.  Weekends are everything–so much that has to be packed into those two precious days!  Slowly we are getting little house projects done.

In other news, Wren has moved into her big-girl crib in Noah’s room and also started her first solids this week.  She isn’t terribly productive or interested in eating yet, but she is curious and feels very grown up to be eating like the big kids do.  She is really changing and growing so quickly and I did cry a little when I saw those two bottom teeth poking through her little gums.  I remember how it felt like it took FOREVER for Phoebe to turn six months old, eat solids, begin teething.  I couldn’t wait for her to move onto the next thing!  Now, I just want to slow it all down.  It seriously feels like we just brought Wren home from the hospital and already she is beginning the first real stages of growing up and growing independent.  Of course, it’s all good but you parents know what I mean–these are bittersweet changes.

Crunchy leaves are beginning to accumulate in our yard bringing the earliest feeling of fall, even though September in our neck of the woods can be quite humid and sweltering so I keep telling myself the worst of summer’s heat isn’t behind us yet.  Those fall winds are almost here and then with all the busy activities of October (my favorite month!) and the birthdays and holidays of November/December, it will be New Year before we know it.

wild blueberries

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Come August, the blueberries ripen up in the cool mountain air. I had planned to officially begin our school year this week, but decided instead to get a few more things ready before jumping in.  It would be better for me to begin peacefully rather than frenetically, although there’s a measure of feeling unprepared that will likely always accompany homeschooling (for me at least).  Instead of beginning our usual school day, we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where the berries are abundant this time of year.  I still called it our first day of school, and it was a happy way to begin for us all, though Noah keeps asking to begin the work of letters and numbers.

Of course, as we got going it began to drizzle and the parkway was foggy most of the drive but everyone wanted to keep going so we did.  (I had planned to bring my regular camera along but because of the rain I just used my phone, so pardon the different quality of photo.)  Wren doesn’t sleep well if we aren’t home, rarely sleeping in the car and too curious about what is going on around her if we are out and about.  She was up way past her usual morning nap time and was very fussy when we began hiking and picking.  She also doesn’t love the ergo, but we carried on.  Finally, she fell asleep in the ergo and I was able to get a little more picking accomplished.  The kids did a good job picking but of course they didn’t gather very much, phoebe spilling most of her basket of berries after stumbling at some point.  Still we came home with about a half gallon and I would love to go back just with Brandon and pick as much as we can to freeze for the winter.  There isn’t a better spot to get organic, wild fresh blueberries and best of all, they are free!  It just requires time and work. 🙂

While we all kept our eyes and ears open for bears which definitely frequent that area, we only saw a brown snake which was sizable but didn’t look venomous.  I’m guessing it was some sort of water moccasin but we steered clear of it just the same.  It was a great teaching opportunity with the kids, though.

The children requested blueberry pancakes the next morning, and we read Blueberries for Sal, one of my favorite books from childhood.  The rest of the berries I’ve tucked into the freezer for a crisp or muffins, or to have over homemade ice cream.  Phoebe kept exclaiming how she felt like Laura Ingalls, and I felt a bit like Sal’s mother trying to preserve a bit of summer’s glory for cold winter days sure to come soon.

yarn along

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My husband and I were away this past weekend on a small trip to a cabin nearby to celebrate our anniversary (I hope to share more about it in a post later this week).  I took along a few projects, but worked only on my timber cardigan.  Sadly, I really didn’t knit as much as I planned to, with a baby in arms often and just spending time talking with Brandon and resting, too.  I did basically knit one sleeve of the cardigan and hope to finish the second one up this week maybe.  Then it’s just knitting the pockets and it’s done!  I know its nearly summer and we have already had a good bit of hot, humid days.  We often go up on the blue ridge parkway in the warmer months for hikes and picnics and usually its a lot chillier up there, so I plan to wear it as soon as I need a warm layer!  It fits a little snug considering I began it before I was pregnant and so it will fit better after I get back to my normal size, but it still fits.  I put my arm in the finished sleeve last night and it’s the first time I’ve been wrapped up in Brooklyn Tweed yarn.  I’m sold for life.  It is so incredibly cozy.  How can it be so rustic and so comfortable at the same time?  I love it.

I’ve been reading Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie (affiliate link) and enjoying it so far.  Her writing style is engaging, and after hitting some real walls with Phoebe in school this year I feel like I need some helps and was drawn to this book being its about a mother and daughter relationship.  Being that God has seen fit to entrust me with three girls, I find I’m drawn often to things about the mother/daughter relationship, really hoping to do this well and feeling often like I’m not.  Goodness, parenting is hard.  Homeschooling is hard!  Thank goodness for knitting and the bright spot it is–a productive distraction.  Here’s a better picture of the cardigan so far.

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Linking up with Nicole of Frontier Dreams.  

yarn along

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I finished Mere Motherhood a few days ago and just so so enjoyed it.  I highly recommend it for any mom who is at least a year or so into homeschooling.  I think if I had read it before homeschooling I might not have quite commiserated with the author or found it so humorous.  Maybe it would have freaked me out.  I rarely laugh out loud at a book, but I was stifling fits of laughter in bed when reading this one on multiple occasions.  The author has 9 children, 8 boys and 1 girl, and she chronicles her homeschooling journey from the very beginning up to present.  I resonated with so much of what she shared, her struggle to find her philosophy of education, her parenting and housekeeping woes in the midst of schooling and pregnancy and new babies and life’s constant change.  It was truly a joy to read, a help in so many ways encouraging me toward the things that truly matter as a mother and homeschooler.  Reading the final chapters where she shares about the teen years reminded to me to really enjoy and engage in this present seasons with little ones!  I found her book to be gritty, honest, humorous, helpful, and I couldn’t put it down.  Will definitely be reading it again and passing it on to some friends!

I found A Charlotte Mason Companion at a recent local homeschooler’s curriculum sale and was so ecstatic.  It was on my summer reading list and finding it for $6 was a steal!  I’m even more eager to read it after reading Mere Motherhood and find myself continually drawn to and resonating with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy.

I’m on the last four rows of the Antarktis shawl for my mom.  Actually I technically finished the pattern a few days ago but I continued to add repeats of the garter and lace sections because I have so much yarn leftover!  I’m sure it will grow quite a bit once I block it and be a good size, which I hope is what my mom is looking for.  I can’t believe how quickly this knit up and I’m excited to gift it!  The yarn has been so very lovely to work with and I want to knit with all of Fibre Co.’s yarn!

What are you reading and making this week?

Joining with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On.
Affiliate links included.