Labor Day 2013

Labor Day for us was another school day. Well a half-day of school anyway. I won’t say my students were excited to hear they wouldn’t get a full holiday last Monday, but they worked hard on studies before lunch and then they worked hard on outdoor life school! Please note no child labor laws were broken … I promise they had fun painting our hen house with the Prez.



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First a Library … and now an Art Gallery in our New Home

I have seen this idea all over Pint*erest, but I never seemed to have a large enough wall to do it at our old house. I decided recently that the wall between our kitchen and library would be the perfect spot for an art gallery.


I didn’t need to search far for beautiful artwork. I have saved special works over the years and in recent months. All but one of these works of art were created by one of our children.

By Curly, at age 9, 3rd grade (now age 14)
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Nature Study: The Brown Recluse Spider


This post contains close-up photos of a spider. A quarter-sized brown recluse spider.

Please click off now if you have a serious fear of spiders.

Chances are, if you live in most parts of Tennessee and quite a few other states, you have encountered one of these spiders. While they are elusive, they have a distinct marking that makes correctly identifying them an almost certainty … if you know what to look for.


Take a look at the following close-up photo and see if you can see the identifying mark.


For those who know, I’m sure you can see it. For those who don’t, do you see something that resembles a violin?

Do you see it? The neck of the violin points toward the back of the spider. This particular spider has a very distinct violin marking. I have to admit he is a beauty as far as brown recluse spiders go. And yes, it is highly likely he is a he, because the females rarely travel away from their mating/nesting area. Survival of the species at its finest.

Do I dare say this amazing specimen was found at our new home?

I mean, how many people share on a public blog that they have some unwelcome guests who reside IN their home. Not many I’d say, but hey, it is what it is. It is also not uncommon in Tennessee, particularly in areas with mature trees nearby.

There are treatments available, but most traditional methods are ineffective because not only do these spiders stay RECLUSIVE but they also walk with their entire bodies OFF the ground/floor/surface so that most pesticides are not absorbed by them.


So, what to do? Well, shake your towel, shake your clothes, check your shoes and give them a good shake as well. While people will say they don’t like moist areas, this big dude above was found by our girls in their tub last week. Now, mind you, we had record-breaking rainfall amounts, but we’ve also found them in our WET creek shoes. So, by our unscientific observation, they do not mind our wet spaces. Seem to even like some of them. Sigh.

For perspective, the cup housing this specimen is a bathroom-sized dixie cup. While the spider wasn’t dead at this point, he was paralyzed and soon died. As for who captured the spider, that would be my seven-year-old daughter who said, “Mom, we had gotten in the tub and he was in there. So I got out and told Li’l Bit to get out, and I got a cup and just got it with the water around it.” Yeah, she knows not to pick them up, but she is a country girl and a spider in her bath water is not going to phase her too much. By the way, she also let the water out and got clean water!


Is anyone feeling things crawling on them yet?

The good news is that you are most likely NOT going to encounter one of these lovelies if you were to come to our home, as they come out at night when all is quiet. And even then, we haven’t seen them crawling around! We have found them on an item of clothing, in the attic, and in the aforementioned creek shoes and bathtub.

If you’d like to learn or read more about the brown recluse spider, lots of specifics can be found at the Etymology Department of the University of Kentucky.

Summer School and Renovation Updates

This may be part of a series.


Ha, ha. The probability of that is not too high.

OK, who am I kidding? When I say the word series, that is usually part one of one. One reason for that right now might be the state of my desk and work space. It still needs quite a bit of tender loving care.


Who knows though? Maybe I will continue updating our summer school pursuits. I hope to anyway! It will at the very least keep me on task.


I have continued organizing our library, which will be used for school and other learning pursuits as well … especially reading. Just look at all those books (and space left) for little people and bigger people to easily access.



Our science and nature cabinet is organized, and everything science-related excepting a few books has been placed on (or in) the cabinet.


Our arts and crafts area is in need of more work. I do have it all set aside and much of it is ready for use, but I need my cool metal cabinets that are at the moment still in the workshop in need of cleaning and some tender-loving care.


Someone really is in summer school as he knows he has no choice but to finish his science curriculum that he has been studying since midway through his 7th grade year (yes, he just finished 8th grade). I will say science is his least favorite subject, the curriculum is very in-depth, and he still scored well on science on his standardized testing. He has just one chapter left and a couple of tests to take.


All in due time I keep telling myself. We did just move 30 miles into the country along with six children and all of our belongings. In addition, we’ve been renovating our 3,000-square-foot home (that was still original to circa 1976) as well as finishing a 2,700-square-foot space in the basement, which includes two bedrooms, a full bath, a kitchenette and a living space. Here’s a sneak peek for those who keep asking for continued renovation updates.

*The Toy Room* (out of sight and they are out of their minds to have these toys again after them being packed for more than two months!*

*A view from the inner door coming in from the garage area; you can see the big boys’ bedrooms at the far end of the room*

*LEGO zone*

I am really hoping also this summer (or what is left of it; seriously, what happened to June???) to spend some extra time with Li’l Miss and Li’l Bro on reading and language. And of course, what do they want to do? Math of course. Sigh.



So, we mixed it up and started with language, which I have no pictures of because I needed to be that involved. Math was their reward, and they loved it thus more photos!

Speaking of rewards, I love Pin*terest. Who doesn’t? But anyway, an idea inspired me to use an OLD metal hanging thing I have to create our own behavior chart.


And yes, I intend to have clips for EVERY student in my room! I don’t often have behavior (or attitude) issues from our oldest two but I do have expectations and have no problem clipping them down if needed (or up when warranted).


I like the way it turned out. It needs a little something on the top, and I need to find an orange clip and a yellow clip or something similar. I tried it out on Friday during a Summer School session, and it worked like a charm!

Beside our behavior chart, I have hung up our world maps, one large one, one smaller one that shows countries under persecution, and one that is in Chinese characters.


In language, we tried out a “new” used book I found at the curriculum sale: Preparing to Build by Rod & Staff Publishers. I was able to get two Level 2 students books as well as one teacher book for $15. It will definitely be worth that, and we’ll use it at least four days a week.

After a lesson in “What Is a Sentence?” with some exercises after, we tried out another pinterest-inspired idea: number cubes.


I can see so many uses for these dollar*tree finds (3 of the square plastic tubs for $1), but on this day I put three dice in each of them. I asked them to shake them up and then add up the three numbers. I allowed them use of their abaci, but they really didn’t need them. It was fun to see their abilities even after being away from formal math for a couple of months.

“Mommy, 5 + 5 is 10, so 5 + 5 + 4 must be … 14!”

“Mommy, I know that 3 + 3 + 3 = 9 because I can skip count my 3s! 3, 6, 9 and that is 3 groups of 3.” Sounds a lot like multiplication, doesn’t it?


I love it when they make these associations, and I love it that our math style of learning encourages them to pursue this instead of just come up with an answer. I could see using these math cubes for place value work as well as reading multiple-digit numbers along with other possibilities. I am making each of our 2nd graders math and language cubbies with manipulatives such as the number cubes in them ready to go each day. I hope to utilize many hands-on approaches.


I will be *hopefully* sharing more of our summer school learning. I am officially starting us back to school for 2013-2014 the first week of August. Between various camps, moving and renovations, I haven’t had any time to plan and prepare for this coming school year. I finally just gave myself the green light to relax and realize that our children are still learning every day with their incessant reading, daily nature walking/creek jumping/hiking/exploring, math in the everyday and helping to care for our animals as well as experimenting with a very late garden (for this area).


Oh and watching turkeys walk across our backyard as we relax with a book on the back porch!


We Have Lockers!

I know the title isn’t creative, but I couldn’t think of anything else this late.

I am, however, excited that we have some *new* lockers in our mudroom, which is right beside the library in our “new” home.

Some of our learners will need a new backpack, and they will be well-used as we’ll be attending a tutorial for age-graded classes one day a week and *hopefully* continuing our Friday Bible classes (if I can get us there). 🙂

My Dad went with me to a city not quite an hour away to grab these gems. While he might not agree with the gem part, he graciously went along to not only get these loaded in his truck but to also purchase them for our new home. While the gifting of the lockers was Grammy’s idea, Papa went with me to get them after close inspection and he took them out to our new house and helped to unload them.


Yes, they are well-loved, but I like to call that “character.”Besides, they already have stories to tell! Our students were so excited when we informed them that yes, they could have combination locks for their set of lockers. Each of us will have a top and bottom locker (yes including the Prez and me), and then one extra set that I figure we can use for pet stuff? or what? The units came in sets of three, thus we have 9 sets (and no plans for another family member other than the furry kind LOL!).


Grammy has been hunting on the C-list with me for some used lockers for quite awhile after our local sources led to dead ends. These were at a nearby university and were being used by a private school meeting there. I have no idea how old they are, but like I said, they are well-loved and have much character, but I like that about them and the price was just right.

I wish I had taken an inside pic as they have hooks on both the top and sides of each locker. Can’t wait for the BTS sales so we can stock up on locker digs. 🙂

This last pic has nothing to do with the lockers other than it is in the mudroom as well. We hauled another load of stuff to our house this weekend and the sink base and countertop we picked out was in there waiting on the plumbers to finish up their part of readying it for use.


The Prez and I went back and forth on what type of cabinet to put in there, but in the end we went with a prefab unit from the big blue box home store. This is actually two base cabinets because the size of the space is 45 inches and the standard sizes are 36 and 48 inches. We chose a precut slab of laminate for the top and a small sink. We wanted to maximize the space and exercise the budget, and we’re happy with the way it turned out. I know this is a learning blog, but I know many of you have expressed an interest in seeing house reno updates. 😀