Learning Online

There are many tools in the world to help us learn, and we who are immersed in the world for our learning adventures can really take full advantage of them.  I try to discover new sites for learning all the time.  Digital media is a wonderfully engaging and interactive method for helping anyone to learn.

I was introduced to an online tool to assist in learning Math, Earth Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities and other subjects. The HippoCampus site fully uses digital media to not only offer presentations of their creation, but link to existing sites who already offer great ways to understand subject matter and who teach it well.  One such site, Khan Academy, is one of our family’s favorites for math, history and countless other courses. Another is NROC, The National Repository of Online Courses.   Why reinvent the wheel, right?

The presentation videos are colorful, exciting and easily understood.   Also, there are fun puzzles that interactively help students work through the topics in more of a video game fashion. “Bermuda Triangle”, “Fraction Matchin’ “,  ”Out of Proportion”, “What’s Heavier?” and “Which Came First?” are some examples. They have several levels for varying abilities. Additionally (pun intended of course!) there are Tutor Simulations to work on real life problems using the topic of your choosing. All your efforts can be tabulated and logged to show your progress.

We see digital media as the future of education. Provide one teacher, site or method of helping others understand a subject, and everyone for generations can learn at their own pace, on their own schedule, as often as they wish. We are making it our family mission to discover other such sites like Khan and HippoCampus to help our girls and ourselves learn the most from the best. There is so much out there online, so I hope I have pointed you in a clear direction for these subjects. You can sign up for your free account and get learning today in the digital media way!  

Posted in Education, Math, Science | Leave a comment

Geologists for a Day

Have you ever wanted to explore a deep, dark mine, climb through tunnels, pound against the sides of mountains while listening to water drop in a shallow pool, or find wondrous gem or crystal treasures right from the earth?

Our family and our homeschool co-op friends seized one such opportunity by traveling one hour north of our location in Concord, NH to Ruggles Mine in Grafton, NH.

Walking through the entrance to the mine you get a real feel for what miners in the 1800′s lived daily, without the perils. Headlamps were a must as several areas were pitch black. Good hiking boots, eye protection, plenty of water, picks and hammers, and bags for your choice selections are all essential materials to bring. Whatever you find, you get to keep!


The girls were enthralled with picking for tourmaline crystals and I actually found some garnet- my birthstone!- that I could polish and have set into jewelry.  We found bunches of mica, beryl, rose and smoky quartz, garnet, amethyst, and tourmaline crystals. I was actually amazed that this activity kept the kids happily busy for almost 5 hours! Our guide, Wendel, even helped us locate some uranium which we split and viewed with a blacklight to see the rock glow! Boy, the kids thought that was awesome.

Over the years many of the miners and eventually guest visitors have found huge pieces of various minerals and rocks that are on display. There is a gift shop and video station to learn more about the history of the mine.  It is one day’s learning adventure that takes you back to another time and seemingly into a different world, all starting at the top of a mountain.

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Homemade Watercolor Paints

Making your own watercolor paints at home is very easy and uses just a few ingredients that are generally found in most pantries. Once you mix together some common household staples, you add the food coloring and viola! You have your own long-lasting watercolor palettes!

Our home school co-op group did this craft as a two part endeavor, as drying time is days long.  We made the paints for a practical life exercise, then a week later used them with oil pastels for a unique painting experience.

Here is the general recipe:

4 Tbsp. baking soda

2 Tbsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. light corn syrup (such as Karo Syrup)

2 Tbsp. corn starch

Gel food coloring (I’m sure you could use liquid as well, just add a little bit more corn starch to compensate for the extra liquid)

Container to keep your paints in- I used a mini muffin tin but you could use anything plastic. An ice cube tray, thread box or plastic egg carton would work great.

(We doubled this recipe and it filled all 12 of my compartments about halfway).

Mix the vinegar and baking soda. This is where the fizzy reaction happens so having the kids involved was awesome! When the fizzing stops, add the rest of the ingredients except the food coloring. Pour white mixture carefully into each well. Add the food coloring drop by drop- you can always add more, but once you have too much, well, it sure takes longer to dry and is sometimes too dark to be useful.

Once they dried, using them was exciting since the kids had made it themselves. Due to the ingredients, the watercolors when used dried with a grainy feel. This added a wonderful texture to the art work. I advise using multi-media paper for best results.

Go ahead and make your own watercolors and let the creativity begin!



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Our first Duck Egg!

Hooray! Hello readers. We just had to share our excitement today of finding our first ever duck egg!

Our ducks are not even 5 months old yet, (they will be on the 21st) which is right about the time to start laying. However, with having TWO drakes, mating season has begun. This can slow egg-laying. Also, here in New Hampshire, fall has set in and winter is on its way, which also can slow the egg-laying process.

But, we have our first egg today, and are looking forward to collecting more each day. If estimates are correct, for Khaki Campbells, we should have roughly 4 eggs daily, from our 4 ducks.  We have added additional lighting for a total of 16 hours, increasing their exposure which enhances egg production.


We keep them in their duck hut overnight until around 9:00 am so the eggs (laid mostly during those hours) are not lost in the woods or tall grasses that they like to explore. We have nesting boxes with wooden “fake eggs” in them to train the ducks to lay there, however this egg was just found in the middle of the hut on the floor. I suppose the duck books and websites are correct- Khaki Campbells will lay just about anywhere, even in water!

More duck updates will follow, but for now-on to making breakfast! The yolk was wonderfully golden-orange and it scrambled up nicely. Everyone had a bite and called it delicious!


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Most Inspiring Man

Some days we just need to see something inspiring. Well, this video is utterly incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. And yes, inspiring beyond belief.

This man, Nick Vujicic, was born with a debilitating defect that he has turned into a method to encourage and inspire troubled youth and everyone else who meets him, into people willing to do the best they are able. Perhaps even more than they ever thought they could.

Watch and enjoy (especially the foreign subtitles) this heart-warming and inspiring video and see how you can do something amazing today!

Posted in Life Lessons, Videos | Leave a comment

Fresh Pasta and Homemade Sauce!

The girls and I decided to make fresh pasta when I harvested tomatoes and made homemade sauce. Homegrown tomatoes (and some from a local market), fresh homegrown basil and oregano, and some wonderful-smelling time in the kitchen is one recipe for a wholesome, homemade dinner that night!

Making fresh pasta is pretty simple and the girls had a blast doing it! First, you mix three eggs (can’t wait for those ducks to start laying!), 1/4 tsp. salt and 3 cups of flour. (We didn’t use our hand crank wheat grinder to make the flour this time, but we will next chance!)

Next you mix the ingredients right on the table or large cutting board with a bench knife. Well, I had never heard of one and we certainly didn’t have one, so my inventive girls just said “Let’s use that Pampered Chef tool that makes wiggly vegetables!” Oh yes, the Crinkle Cutter. Why not? Well, it worked just fine.


After all the ingredients were incorporated, we kneaded the dough. One great thing about so many cooks by the kitchen is that a labor-intensive chore like 7-10 minutes of kneading can be broken down into a few minutes each set of hands!  Once kneaded plenty, we rolled the dough into four little balls (one per girl) and let them sit for 15 minutes.

We don’t have a fancy pasta maker or press, let alone one with attachments that makes all the various shapes of pasta, (oooh, holiday gift idea!) so we just used our good old rolling pin and fists a-pounding! Look at the concentration on Molly’s face! She knows that the thinner she can roll her sheet, the better the pasta shapes will be!


Lex learned that by applying an egg wash to parts of the pasta shapes, it can act like a ‘glue’ to keep the pasta together. Putting the egg wash in a little mug allows you to keep a handle on it better. See how she cut small rectangles and then squished them to become bow ties? A little dab of the egg wash kept the ziti in place too!




Once everyone made their shapes of choice, and the sauce was nearly ready, Tessa and I cooked the pasta. Immediately we realized how much the FRESH pasta expands when placed in the boiling water! WOW, our bow ties were three times the size of store-bought ones. Note to selves: make smaller and thinner pasta shapes next time! But they still cooked up in only a couple minutes and tasted wonderful! You can add your own additional ingredients, like spinach or sun-dried tomatoes, if you want something extra special.

Tah – dah! Fresh pasta really made this meal, with homemade sauce and freshly harvested veggies and lettuce from the garden! The ground beef had been canned earlier, so it was ready to add to the sauce in the last few minutes.  Add some homemade bread , hand made butter and fresh raw milk and it is a perfect meal for this family!


Posted in Baking, Cooking | Leave a comment

Welcome Back!

Hello blog followers!

Thank you for being patient while our family took a break from blogging this summer. Our older girls were busy with jobs and starting their own blogs (more on that later!) and I was nanny for a wee tot for one month. We have also been busy raising our ducks, which are now huge! It has been a great learning experience for all of us and I look forward to the day I can report that we have garnered our first duck egg! (Should be in a month or so…).

We also realized that we have not ONE, but TWO drakes, with the gold and silver bills, so we have had to readjust our expectations for egg-laying. Mr. Bubbles and Señor Gio had best keep their ladies happy and laying!

We also went on some family vacations, camping and to beaches. It is a real chance for this busy family to unwind and relax together, play games, go exploring, learn new things about each other.

As our girls get older, we want to continue to foster this feeling of togetherness as they strike out on their own.





Now that we are back to our homeschooling schedule, which has altered again from any other year prior, we may have more lesson and study time and various activities (fencing, archery, dance and horseback riding) that take us in different directions, but we still reserve Wednesday nights for Family Game Night and Sundays for Together Time, as well as three days weekly for Family Fun and Fitness during the lunch hour. 

So, our family welcomes you back to our blog and we look forward to sharing more learning adventures with you!

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Girls + Tools = Confidence!

Molly helps drill holes that will bolt together her new bed loft

Even today, it is still more natural for boys to be helping Dad in the workshop, garage or outdoors than girls.  In our family, our girls are right in the mix of construction, repairs, and renovations. Even if we had some boys, they would ALL be involved, since our family believes that everyone can wield a tool, fix a broken item, or create with their hands something made of wood or plastic (remember our post on creating with PVC?).

Lex and Dad step back to take a look at their progress on the duck run after staple gunning the hardware cloth on the frames

In this age of the Internet, and being able to “Google” everything you could possibly want to know within seconds, life’s little instruction book has become an iPod linked in to the world’s knowledge!

Tessa puts new blades on our lawn mower with Dad

It is important to teach kids to respect the tools at an early age, and that they can use them if they are careful.  The confidence and pride I see in our girls (and that I feel myself!) when we work with tools and build or repair something that we can use makes us feel great!


Being a producer in this world is a lesson that everyone should learn.  Sometimes, you simply must do things yourself, so why not get used to the idea and be prepared to do so when necessary? Why not learn to enjoy it too?

April begins building our new duck house

Not only do the kids learn confidence, but valuable real life math applications as well. If they are having trouble with basic math, have them measure. If they need work on perimeter vs. area, have them help build the deck, with a border, or paint a room with trim. There are countless applications when we put our minds to work with our hands. And letting kids work on projects themselves, or with supervision, gives them such a sense of joy when they have completed their task and accomplished their goal. Then, they can apply these talents elsewhere in life, both now and when they are grown.

Molly and April install the new trampoline tarp by themselves!

Hooray! Jumping for joy, literally, when their task is complete!

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We have been waiting patiently in our home to bring our six little Khaki Campbell ducklings into our family! Since we moved to New Hampshire seven years ago, we have wanted to get chickens, but then we read about how much better suited ducks are to our chilly, wet and sometimes bitter cold weather. They are also better able to fight diseases and lay more eggs- which is why we want them.

SO, today we finally brought home our little ladies! Here is the video:

If you’d like to learn more about ducks, please read this awesome book which has become our duck bible- Dave Holderread’s Raising Ducks.

We even let them have a wee two minute swim- boy, do they love the water! As long as they dry off and stay warm, a few minutes won’t hurt. Aren’t those great smiles of girls learning about life?

My duckling, Dotty

Yes, we all are wearing big smiles today!

Posted in Fun, Life Lessons, Nature, Videos | 1 Comment

Kid Entrepreneur Halts Hiccups!

I am always encouraging my girls to think critically and try to figure things out- from math problems to how the lawn mower works (and what makes it stop working and how to fix it!) and other various conundrums.

Well, it is always great to read about other kiddos out there who have figured things out as well, so we thought we’d share one story with you.  Mallory Kievman from Manchester, CT has invented a cure for HICCUPS!!! We’ve all had them and they can be anything from fleeting, to annoying to painful. She tried just about every home remedy and old wives’ tale method before inventing her own. Not only does she claim that it works, but she has presented it to the Connecticut Invention Convention and caught the eye of Danny Brier, entrepreneur who helps young start-up companies with his own knowledge and experience.  For the full story check out the DOGO article with great information on hiccups and diagrams of the human body to explain how they work.

Now, what has always bothered you that you think YOU can fix? What is interesting out there that YOU want to improve? Why wait until YOU are an adult? If this kid can do it, SO CAN YOU! Good luck! :)

Posted in Life Lessons, Money, Science | Leave a comment