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KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

A Backyard Camping Trip to Celebrate Sweet Summer Time

Tips, tricks and activities to make backyard camping a blast

Our summer science class this year isn’t very outdoorsy.  The whole reason I initiated summer science four years ago was that I wanted the Littles to be able to get some Hands-On, Outside, Science Stuff Experience.  It has served us well over the years, making summer school seem less like school.  And even though it seems just as un-school-like as ever this year, that’s because they’re talking about and playing video games.  Screen-time science.  Important, I know, if they want to be able to function in today’s world.  But how am I to get them outside for some screen-less lessons when we’re studying code?

Well, the perfect solution is a backyard camping trip.  We did this last year, and it was so much fun we are still talking about it.  We took a Saturday and I set it up like a summer camp, with crafts and activities and a tent set up on the trampoline (because Mama’s back wasn’t up to the cold, hard ground).  This year we have a camper we can sleep in for our summer camp because the trampoline may actually have been worse than the ground!

Last year’s itinerary was so fun I thought I’d share my ideas with you.

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Back to (Summer) School

Practicing Cursive

Practicing Cursive

Hooray!  We started summer science today and it went even better than I hoped.  I had kicked around a couple of different ideas for this year’s summer school, including an in-depth study of Da Vinci (one of my heroes) and going through our Curiosity Files from The Old Schoolhouse and just doing one or two a week.  I really wanted something that didn’t require a whole lot of planning on my part because planning for autumn is taking up so much of my time.  What I landed on is nothing short of Awesome!

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know Middle is obsessed with becoming a video game designer.  You also know I have been wondering how on earth I’m going to teach him to write code when I am about as code-knowledgeable as a stump.  I found the greatest deal for a program that teaches him coding, and I just have to share it with you.  The class is called Game: IT Junior from STEM Fuse, a site that offers several different IT classes for both home- and public schools.  This particular class is $1,499.00 on their website, but if you use the coupon code HOMESCHOOL, it’s only $50.

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Fifty. Dollars.  We decided we would all take the class for summer science.

It is an 18-week course that begins teaching what a game is and proceeds through the engineering design cycle, the physics of games, game engines, programming basics… on to truly programming their own games with Construct 2, an easily installed construct from which games can be created.  You can download the whole class and print it or install it on your tablets or do a mixture of both, like we did.  My Middle is so excited, I thought he might burst during class this morning.  And Littlest enjoyed it just as much.  Especially since their first assignment was to play some of the games they’ll be working with.

The best part about doing it for summer science is that we don’t have a full school day so instead of doing one lesson per day we can do 2 or 3 as time and interest allow.  Today we did the first two lessons and school felt so easy and fun.  Stress-free for everybody.  I’m loving it!

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It’s not just about video games.  Obviously, learning to write code has tons more applications.  Some of the other things that can be learned from this class are computer programming and graphic design, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, engineering, physics, and math concepts, and using digital research tools.  The awesome thing is that while the Junior class is geared toward middle-schoolers, there is also an elementary class and 3 different levels for high school.  And an app class for learning how to create apps.  Um… Can you say cool?

And, really, saving $1,450.00?  How could I resist?! I’m so happy to be able to provide Middle with this awesome class Right Now while his interest is so strong.  I think it will help him decide if he wants to continue on this career track.  If he does, I will definitely be looking into the higher levels at STEM Fuse.

Today, what I love most about homeschooling:  Getting to provide my Littles with their dreams while they’re having them.

Love wins,

KT

This Crazy-Cool Country Life

I’ve mentioned often that part of the Littles’ learning process here at home is working on the farm, but I’ve never really given you much of a tour.  So today I’m going to take you on a photo tour of some of the cool things we’ve done/encountered so far this summer.

We’ve had a couple of run-ins with snakes already.  Now, my beautiful husband loves snakes and there isn’t anybody here who is afraid of them, so when my sweet mama called me and said, “Snake in my strawberry netting!” with abject fear in her voice, Martin rushed home from work and we went over to save her.  Save the snake.  Save somebody.

IMG_20150529_154922413IMG_20150529_155023776_HDRMy beautiful husband was about as patient as a person can be.  The blacksnake’s head was caught in the netting.  He had a mouse halfway down his throat that he couldn’t swallow because the netting had tightened around his neck.  Martin took his pocketknife and a pair of scissors and loosened that netting strand by strand.  Eventually, the snake coughed up his dinner, his head was extracted from the netting, and Martin set him free at the edge of the woods.  Mama Did Not put netting back over her strawberries.

Look at those muscular arms.  Swoon

Yesterday was a different story.  Littlest came running over at feeding time.  It’s his job to gather eggs.  “Daddy!” he yelled, “there’s  a snake in the hen box.”  So off we all went again to get a look at yet another blacksnake.  This one was stealing eggs.  It was so cool to witness, we just let him eat.  I mean, what’s one egg?  Right?

IMG_20150609_161721759IMG_20150609_161709971How often do you get to watch a snake suck down an entire egg?!  The Littles got to see how his jaw unhinged, how when he got to the biggest part of the egg his eyes closed, how patient he was to get that meal into his gullet and get his belly full.  We watched him for about 10 minutes.  But after the initial awesomeness, it kind of became like watching paint dry.  Apparently, it takes a Long Time for a snake to eat an egg.  The little thief.  Isn’t he beautiful?  We couldn’t even be a little bit mad.

Because it was incredible.

Snakes aren’t the only things we see a lot around this place.  Dragonflies and butterflies love it here, especially when we let the meadow grow up and provide plenty of food and hiding plabutterfliesces.  These butterflies are Everywhere.  They came and hung out on the ladder when we were working on one of the outbuildings.  They follow us around in the woods.  I think they’re trying to let us know that we might think we own this place in human terms, but really it belongs to them.  I’m good with that.IMG_20150609_164627063

IMG_20150609_163713009It’s berry season, and the wild raspberries are finally ripening.  They grow everywhere along the edges of the woods, so we spend a good part of our summer walking along the edges and gathering all that yummy goodness.  I love that the Littles are getting the opportunity to learn how to identify these plants and also learning to appreciate what the Earth has to offer us that can’t be found in stores.  (If you’ve never tasted a wild raspberry, you haven’t Really tasted a raspberry.  They are so much better than the ones you can buy in stores.)  finchesI don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but when we went out to get to the bushes between the woods and the meadow this morning, we scared up a flock of goldfinches.  They landed safely on the electric lines and chirped at us until we were out of sight.  They nest in the tall meadow grasses and we get blessed with the sight of them daily.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, all my boys decided to go hang out on the IMG_20150609_164052305tailgate of Big’s truck.  In the blaring hot sun.  You can tell by their faces that it is too hot and bright to be hanging out on a black tailgate.  But they wouldn’t be country boys if they didn’t tailgate in some way.  So even though Littlest Still Won’t Put on a Shirt Unless You Make Him (he’s been like that since birth), I had to capture the moment.  See the turkey by the truck?  His name is Peeper, because of the loud peeping sounds he made as a baby.  He is a family pet.  He travels everywhere on the farm with us.  And scares any woman who dares show her face here with his strutting and cooing.  It’s pretty funny.

IMG_20150609_163423360Here are a couple of cool things about our veggie garden this year.  See the weird white thing at the bottom of the pic in front of the pepper plant?  That is half a bar of Irish Spring soap stuck onto a stick.  Why?  It keeps the rabbits away.  My sweet mama taught me this trick, and it appears to be working.  I guess the strong smell of the soap masks the smell of the plants.  Rabbits were tearing us up a couple weeks ago, but since we put out Irish Spring on either end of our rows, they have left it alone.  A quick spray of cayenne pepper diluted in water keeps the bugs away from the leaves of the plants.  We never use non-organic materials on our garden.  Unless you count the landscape fabric we put down to keep the weeds out.  We learned that from the GAC reality show Farm Kings.  If you’ve never watched that show, it’s a really good way to learn some new farming tricks.  You know I don’t like TV, but this show really does teach something a person can use.

This next pic shows my beautiful husband’s idea for getting my cucumber plants up offIMG_20150609_163356241 the ground so they’re easier to harvest from.  We had some old wall-racks for feeding livestock hay that we had no use for.  Instead of building a trellis, he lay them down by the plants, covered them with a piece of fencing, and the plants are growing up through them beautifully.  And, they can just be carried back to the barn in the fall with no fuss whatsoever.  He’s a genius.

But the really cool thing Martin has done around here?  IMG_20150609_163509560He built me my very own building.  Walled with bookshelves.  Containing a desk.  And electricity.  A haven for me to write in, read in, escape to when I need some quiet.  Sitting in a clearing just inside our woods, it reminds me of something out of Little House on the Prairie.  It’s my favorite place in the whole world.

Blue and Storm

Speaking of favorite things, how cute are my cats?  They totally have that brotherly love thing down.  I’m taking them to the vet today to be neutered,  and even though logically I know they’ll be okay, I have this weird, paranoid fear of anesthesia.  So wish them luck.

IMG_20150325_152457355Some of the animals we raise to sell here on the farm include rabbits, doves, and golden pheasants.  Pheasants are incredible creatures.  They look like little Samurai warriors, and their colors are breathtaking.  In comparison, the doves are like the IMG_20150504_082657032sweet version of bird on the farm.  They have soft voices, soft, lovely colors, and a gentler approach to life.  We don’t often get to see the little ones before they’re IMG_20150514_091549644learning to fly, but here’s the one pic I’ve been able to catch of them while they’re still just a few days old.  My favorites, though, are the rabbits.  I love how the little ones will cuddle against your chest until their heart rate slows and they get drowsy.  I love that the Littles get to see how they grow from birth to weaning and learn the responsibility of taking care of something and keeping it alive.

IMG_20150529_161626590There are so many things to learn on a farm.  Invaluable lessons about life that are harder to grasp in the city.  Animal husbandry.  The life cycle of mammals and how to handle death.  The miracle of birth.  Getting your hands dirty and feeding yourself.  How to tell one tree from another, one plant from another, one insect or bird from another.  Every day is a free science lesson.  I am grateful every second to get to live here.

I suppose I’d better get busy…

Love wins,

KT

This Crazy-Cool Country Life

I’ve mentioned often that part of the Littles’ learning process here at home is working on the farm, but I’ve never really given you much of a tour.  So today I’m going to take you on a photo tour of some of the cool things we’ve done/encountered so far this summer.

We’ve had a couple of run-ins with snakes already.  Now, my beautiful husband loves snakes and there isn’t anybody here who is afraid of them, so when my sweet mama called me and said, “Snake in my strawberry netting!” with abject fear in her voice, Martin rushed home from work and we went over to save her.  Save the snake.  Save somebody.

IMG_20150529_154922413IMG_20150529_155023776_HDRMy beautiful husband was about as patient as a person can be.  The blacksnake’s head was caught in the netting.  He had a mouse halfway down his throat that he couldn’t swallow because the netting had tightened around his neck.  Martin took his pocketknife and a pair of scissors and loosened that netting strand by strand.  Eventually, the snake coughed up his dinner, his head was extracted from the netting, and Martin set him free at the edge of the woods.  Mama Did Not put netting back over her strawberries.

Look at those muscular arms.  Swoon

Yesterday was a different story.  Littlest came running over at feeding time.  It’s his job to gather eggs.  “Daddy!” he yelled, “there’s  a snake in the hen box.”  So off we all went again to get a look at yet another blacksnake.  This one was stealing eggs.  It was so cool to witness, we just let him eat.  I mean, what’s one egg?  Right?

IMG_20150609_161721759IMG_20150609_161709971How often do you get to watch a snake suck down an entire egg?!  The Littles got to see how his jaw unhinged, how when he got to the biggest part of the egg his eyes closed, how patient he was to get that meal into his gullet and get his belly full.  We watched him for about 10 minutes.  But after the initial awesomeness, it kind of became like watching paint dry.  Apparently, it takes a Long Time for a snake to eat an egg.  The little thief.  Isn’t he beautiful?  We couldn’t even be a little bit mad.

Because it was incredible.

Snakes aren’t the only things we see a lot around this place.  Dragonflies and butterflies love it here, especially when we let the meadow grow up and provide plenty of food and hiding plabutterfliesces.  These butterflies are Everywhere.  They came and hung out on the ladder when we were working on one of the outbuildings.  They follow us around in the woods.  I think they’re trying to let us know that we might think we own this place in human terms, but really it belongs to them.  I’m good with that.IMG_20150609_164627063

IMG_20150609_163713009It’s berry season, and the wild raspberries are finally ripening.  They grow everywhere along the edges of the woods, so we spend a good part of our summer walking along the edges and gathering all that yummy goodness.  I love that the Littles are getting the opportunity to learn how to identify these plants and also learning to appreciate what the Earth has to offer us that can’t be found in stores.  (If you’ve never tasted a wild raspberry, you haven’t Really tasted a raspberry.  They are so much better than the ones you can buy in stores.)  finchesI don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but when we went out to get to the bushes between the woods and the meadow this morning, we scared up a flock of goldfinches.  They landed safely on the electric lines and chirped at us until we were out of sight.  They nest in the tall meadow grasses and we get blessed with the sight of them daily.

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, all my boys decided to go hang out on the IMG_20150609_164052305tailgate of Big’s truck.  In the blaring hot sun.  You can tell by their faces that it is too hot and bright to be hanging out on a black tailgate.  But they wouldn’t be country boys if they didn’t tailgate in some way.  So even though Littlest Still Won’t Put on a Shirt Unless You Make Him (he’s been like that since birth), I had to capture the moment.  See the turkey by the truck?  His name is Peeper, because of the loud peeping sounds he made as a baby.  He is a family pet.  He travels everywhere on the farm with us.  And scares any woman who dares show her face here with his strutting and cooing.  It’s pretty funny.

IMG_20150609_163423360Here are a couple of cool things about our veggie garden this year.  See the weird white thing at the bottom of the pic in front of the pepper plant?  That is half a bar of Irish Spring soap stuck onto a stick.  Why?  It keeps the rabbits away.  My sweet mama taught me this trick, and it appears to be working.  I guess the strong smell of the soap masks the smell of the plants.  Rabbits were tearing us up a couple weeks ago, but since we put out Irish Spring on either end of our rows, they have left it alone.  A quick spray of cayenne pepper diluted in water keeps the bugs away from the leaves of the plants.  We never use non-organic materials on our garden.  Unless you count the landscape fabric we put down to keep the weeds out.  We learned that from the GAC reality show Farm Kings.  If you’ve never watched that show, it’s a really good way to learn some new farming tricks.  You know I don’t like TV, but this show really does teach something a person can use.

This next pic shows my beautiful husband’s idea for getting my cucumber plants up offIMG_20150609_163356241 the ground so they’re easier to harvest from.  We had some old wall-racks for feeding livestock hay that we had no use for.  Instead of building a trellis, he lay them down by the plants, covered them with a piece of fencing, and the plants are growing up through them beautifully.  And, they can just be carried back to the barn in the fall with no fuss whatsoever.  He’s a genius.

But the really cool thing Martin has done around here?  IMG_20150609_163509560He built me my very own building.  Walled with bookshelves.  Containing a desk.  And electricity.  A haven for me to write in, read in, escape to when I need some quiet.  Sitting in a clearing just inside our woods, it reminds me of something out of Little House on the Prairie.  It’s my favorite place in the whole world.

Blue and Storm

Speaking of favorite things, how cute are my cats?  They totally have that brotherly love thing down.  I’m taking them to the vet today to be neutered,  and even though logically I know they’ll be okay, I have this weird, paranoid fear of anesthesia.  So wish them luck.

IMG_20150325_152457355Some of the animals we raise to sell here on the farm include rabbits, doves, and golden pheasants.  Pheasants are incredible creatures.  They look like little Samurai warriors, and their colors are breathtaking.  In comparison, the doves are like the IMG_20150504_082657032sweet version of bird on the farm.  They have soft voices, soft, lovely colors, and a gentler approach to life.  We don’t often get to see the little ones before they’re IMG_20150514_091549644learning to fly, but here’s the one pic I’ve been able to catch of them while they’re still just a few days old.  My favorites, though, are the rabbits.  I love how the little ones will cuddle against your chest until their heart rate slows and they get drowsy.  I love that the Littles get to see how they grow from birth to weaning and learn the responsibility of taking care of something and keeping it alive.

IMG_20150529_161626590There are so many things to learn on a farm.  Invaluable lessons about life that are harder to grasp in the city.  Animal husbandry.  The life cycle of mammals and how to handle death.  The miracle of birth.  Getting your hands dirty and feeding yourself.  How to tell one tree from another, one plant from another, one insect or bird from another.  Every day is a free science lesson.  I am grateful every second to get to live here.

I suppose I’d better get busy…

Love wins,

KT