Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Visit to the Farm

My Grandpa Ed, Auntie Debbie and Uncle Danny live on the family farm up in Northern Minnesota.  My aunt and I were texting the other day and she informed me she had a 25 year old Italian sourdough starter that she'd share!  We took a look at our schedule and blocked out a day for an impromptu visit.  It takes about three hours to get up there, so we got up and hit the road to make it for an early lunch.

All of my kids (Kolachi included) had a BLAST!  They were all able to roam, run and explore.  Danny and Debbie kindly put their own dogs away so that my 'city dog' could experience farm life without sticking her nose in anyone else's territory.  She was even allowed inside their log home.

The gorgeous sourdough--

 While Debbie gave me the low-down on breadmaking with fermented flour, Justin discovered little boy heaven.

After a nice lunch, we went on a walk down the looong road to the gravel pit.  Kolachi was SO excited to be off-leash she got a little rambunctious.

She had her first swimming experience when we reached the gravel pit.  She wasn't quite sure what to think at first, but soon was hopping in and out of the water like a pro.

 The road got a bit long for Justin on the way back, but Great-Auntie Debbie offered him a lift.  By the time we were back at the house, he had figured out how to make her scooter speed up, down, and go in reverse.

 While we were off playing, Great-Grandpa Ed had been re-stocking the hen house with some eggs for my city-kids to find.  They had really been looking forward to collecting some eggs.....

  They were thrilled to pull the eggs out of the boxes and bring them carefully to Great Grandpa.

 I'm sure the chickens were wondering what all this activity was about!

We had a wonderful visit, and were all a little sad when it came time to head back to Woodbury, but we had a three hour drive ahead of us.  Next time we'll try to coordinate an overnight tenting adventure!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Creation Studies: Light- Shadows

To begin our light unit, we focused on shadows today.  After observing lots of different types of shadows on our nature walk, I asked the kids what all of the shadows had in common-- 'they're all pointing the same way' was the answer we worked together to find.  So-- we decided to track our OWN shadows on the driveway throughout the day and see what happened.

They MOVED!  We put our feet on the x's every time, but our shadows moved.  Justin was amazed by the movement.  Alex chalked it up to the Earth's rotation.  Go figure ;-P  
 We did the same exercise using a pole to make a more reliable sundial.  Here's Alex sketching the day's work.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Perfect Day for Herding!

After our big Introduction to Herding, Kolachi and I have been attending weekly lessons in Clear Lake, Wisconsin.  Due to the cold/snowy/icy nature of this past winter, the kids have been great sports about staying in the car during the outdoor lessons.  Finally, though, they got to emerge and join us on the field for herding lessons.  Despite the hour drive to and from lessons, it is one of my favorite parts of our week.  Kolachi loves the job so much, and it is really fun to watch her work and learn how to communicate in a whole different way!

Alex and Justin take it all in stride-- they love Tuesday 'picnic' time, and now that it's nice out, they can explore the farm and visit all the animals during the lesson.  Today Alex was kind enough to act as my personal photographer-- please enjoy the photos below-- ALL of these photos are the work of my young artist!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Breaking a coconut

It was a grocery store day, which always means an experimentation day.  We had some extra canned pumpkin to use up, so the kids and I made really, REALLY yummy maple-pumpkin muffins (using this recipe).  We put pearl sugar on top to make them extra-fancy.

I have a policy that if one of my children shows an interest in a fruit or veggie at the grocery store, we will absolutely buy it and bring it home to try.  Alex and Justin have both had fresh coconut before, but they really had a hankering for it today.  So, here goes.  I should add that JUSTIN was the one who told me how to open it correctly.  The conversation went something like this:

Amy: "OK guys, as soon as we get home we'll figure out how to successfully get the meat out of that coconut.  There must be an easy way we can discover."
Justin: "MOOOM... just use a hammer and a screwdriver"
Alex:  "Or a chisel.  That would work, too"
Amy:  "Where did you two come from?"

So, upon returning home.....

And video proof.... we were babysitting sweet Sadie at the time, but she was nonplussed by the whole coconut experience.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On The Seventh Day...

Since we've started 2nd Grade, we've also started a new Science/Creation Studies curriculum.
 It is really exciting because it first goes through an overview of the Creation story--  then, as we go throughout the year, we explore the scientific concepts of our world.  For example, next week we start our first unit on light and color.  Then water, clouds, weather, plants, space/stars, birds, fish, animals and man (rudimentary body systems).
 We got started by reviewing Genesis 1, and drawing each day of Creation.  The curriculum is leveled for all ages, so Justin chooses when to float in and out of lessons as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I was shocked and surprised when I opened my homeschooling closet this morning to find two Swallowtail butterflies had emerged from the chrysalises we stored away last fall.  I was honestly not expecting them to make it!  As it lies, they either experienced trauma during their caterpillar transformation or did not have enough room to properly emerge and dry before we found them.  Both butterflies are a bit wrinkled and do not seem to be able to fly successfully.  We set up a makeshift habitat in the kitchen and put some sugar water and fruit in there to help nurse them to full strength before we release them.  Today it's 50 degrees and windy, so we'll wait for a warmer day

.  The kids are 'ok' with the fact that they might not live.  Alex talked about how they might become food for a Mama bird with babies.  Good lesson in 'the circle of life'..... and a good lesson for me to bring the jars out of the closet when the weather warms up a bit!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Welcome to 2nd Grade!

Since we're doing school at our own pace, it seemed about time to start 2nd Grade.  We finished up the mandatory ITBS tests last week.  Alex rocked the reading section, but we had approached math in a different way than the state public schools do, so I'm thinking her math scores won't be as high as they would be if I could have formulated the questions instead of reading the language of the test verbatim.
We have all new curriculum for this year, though.  She expressed an interest in doing "the same math" as the public school, so I went ahead and got the Houghton Mifflin Grade 2 curriculum.  At least I know it's "teaching to the test".  She already has the concepts  of multiplication and division down, but we've skipped a lot of the "common core" concepts, so it will be good to go back and fill in the gaps.

There is still a lot of "unschooling" (even though as a former school teacher that term makes me shudder) going on.  The kids decided to experiment today and make their own kites.  They learned a lot about wind, weight and aerodynamics without me doing more than handing them a tub of supplies when they asked.

Nightly storytime with Daddy is still a big part of our day.  Justin LOVED Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and dove into Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator with abandon.  We have tickets for the family to go see a ballet version of The Chronicles of Narnia, so Dave is getting Justin up to speed on parts of that story as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Okee Dokee Brothers- exploring Minneapolis

The kids and I shared a really fun experience this morning.  What seems like ages ago (probably last April), I got three tickets to a concert in the MN Orchestra's Music for Young People series.  It featured the children's band the Okee Dokee Brothers.  I meant to get a cd or two and train my kids up before we went to the concert.  Fast forward a year later and we'd forgotten to do the pre-listening activities.  We almost skipped the concert entirely, but after I showed Justin a few of their youtube music videos, he rallied to go.  I am SO glad he did!

We arrived about a half hour early and were rewarded with what are easily the best seats in the house-- a box right up close to the stage.  Alex enjoyed identifying the instruments of the orchestra as the musicans came on stage.  Justin enjoyed having his own little space to dance/fidget/play in before the concert started.

Did I mention it was AMAZING to hear bluegrass folk music backed up by a full orchestra?  I really hope that they will release a recording at some point, because it was such a treat!

Because we were in walking distance of Daddy's office, we were able to visit with him, too! He had a lunch meeting to run to, so we decided to have our OWN lunch meeting.... at The Melting Pot.
It was admittedly a bit nerve-wracking to have two kids and a hot cooktop sharing the same table, but they were really good direction followers (as always) and let me do the majority of the cooking and dipping for them.

Except for the chocolate dessert.  They were experts at dessert.

 It was such a gorgeous day that we spent some time exploring downtown Minneapolis before heading back to the suburbs.  The kids were fascinated with the window display of a wig store!
And my nature-loving kids found a little green spot to play in.  Minneapolis certainly is a nice city!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Big Bike News!

Big things are happening here at the Marotz having TWO full-fleged bike riders zipping up and down the sidewalks!
I returned home from my big adventure to 'discover' that the Easter Bunny had left Justin a big guy bike!  (That's what happens when one is four years old in our house-- remember?)  He had a few preliminary practice sessions with Papa Bob, and then took Gramps up and down the street a few times before just RIDING!  I've discovered that the most important part of teaching a kid to ride a bike is making sure they can mount and start pedaling by themselves.  Nothing gets old as quickly as having to help them start up every time they stop.  Therefore it fell upon the 'master' herself to dole out the majority of the pedaling instruction--
In a matter of minutes, he was riding like a pro:
And now I have two bike riders!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Trip Report: Highlights in Photos

Since this is a kid-centered blog, I won't go into great detail about our amazing Holy Land adventure.  In summation, it was WONDERFUL!  Enjoy this selection of my favorite impressions of Israel: