Monday, November 19, 2012

Science Discoveries With Autumn: Mt. St. Helens!

This is Autumn's most recent science portfolio project that she completed for her Michigan Connections Academy curriculum. She is really proud of it, and I think she did a great job too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Reading

Our family does a lot of reading around the holidays, because there are always so many great holiday books to read, and I don't like reading Halloween or Thanksgiving or Christmas books in the middle of the summer. So, I encourage the girls to devour these holiday themed books in season. That means we are in the middle of reading a huge pile of books about Pilgrims and Indians and Turkeys, etc...
We have read a lot of great books, but our number one pick for Thanksgiving this year is called, "Thanksgiving Wish" by: Michael J. Rosen. This book carries important messages about family and tradition, and it is very touching. If you're looking for a great story for Thanksgiving check this one out!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Burial of Doggy

           About a month ago Alaina experienced a terrible loss. She had a warm-up stuffed puppy named Doggy that she slept with every night for almost two years. It was filled with lavender scented barley and was meant to be microwaved for about two minutes, and then cuddled with at bedtime to help her fall asleep. Alaina and Doggy were inseperable and slept together every night, which meant a lot of warm-ups. Autumn also has a warm-up animal (a rabbit) and she has been warming hers up on her own for a long time. I just taught her to hit the 'popcorn' button, which goes for 1 min 45 sec.

Since bedtime is always a busy time I thought it would be a good idea to teach Alaina to do the same. And, it was....for a while.....

However, on this fateful evening Alaina mistakenly hit a few wrong buttons on the microwave dash, and then ran off to brush her teeth, play with Autumn, listen to a story from Mommy, etc....

Sniff, Sniff...

"What's that smell? Did someone close the fireplace damper?"......

"What on earth!!!!!! Where is all this smoke coming from??????"..

Running out to the kitchen...

The microwave is counting down 31:52, 31:51...

I open the door, and there was Doggy. Well, I should say, what was left of Doggy! Alaina was right behind me, and before I could stop her from witnessing this horror she was wailing and hollering. Doggy was melted in some spots, and black and charred in others. His beautiful puppy face stared out at us from the mocrowave questioning how this could have happened to him?

I was immediately reminded of a moment in my childhood when I had let my favorite cocker spaniel dog, named Lacey, outside to go to the bathroom during supper. Little did I know that a deer had recently been hit across our somewhat busy road, and that Lacey would try to cross it to investigate. Our supper was interrupted by a lady knocking on the door to inform us that she had hit our dog. I remember running out to see if she was o.k., and my Mom shooing me away because she didn't want me to see. I cried for days.

Listening to Alaina weeping on her bed made me realize that she probably loved Doggy just as much as I had loved Lacey, and so the idea to perform a burial for her popped into my head. When Doggy had finally cooled enough to remove him from the site of his demise, I placed him in a cardboard shoebox, and told the girls that we would bury him when the whether was dry.

The girls buried Doggy next to our apple tree, and we prayed and talked about how much we loved him.

After that, for at least three weeks we were continually reminded of Doggy because of the odor he had created. The smell in our house was horrible!  And, the smell from the microwave was worse. I don't know if you've ever experienced a bag of popcorn in a microwave for a few minutes too long, but multiply that by ten, and you may be close to understanding.

Anyways, I am sharing this story with you, because on the day of Doggy's burial I told the girls that they could prepare his grave and arrange everything to be ready for when Steve got home from work. I was busy raking leaves and doing chores in the house etc., and they were working so well, that I wasn't watching them work the whole time. So, it was surprising to come across this video that I am about to share with you. The girls have been watching me enjoy videoing and documenting bits and pieces of our life, and they must have thought that this was an important moment to remember. They took this video on their own, and I just found it a few days ago. I found that rather touching.

Well, there is a happy ending to this story. Another doggy named LillyAnn has since been adopted by Alaina, (after some frantic hunting by Steve). She loves her just as much. The microwave has since been off limits to Alaina for a while. And, the whole incident sparked a few great conversations about how it was wonderful that Doggy could be "replaced" but that people can never be replaced, and thus people should hold immeasurably more value in our hearts.

We will miss you Doggy, but thank you for keeping Alaina warm, and for comforting her on so many cold nights. And, thank you for helping us to learn more about the value of life and how precious it is.


        Today was the calmest day we have ever experienced on our lake. It was so calm that sound was traveling great distances and normal things like woodpeckers, sounded like groups of Native Americans drumming in the woods today. This calm was mysterious.

        We have been playing a running game named "The Boggart" which is named after a scary character in a book we just read. It involves some pretending that the "Boggart" monster is chasing you. But, today on our run around the lake it was much easier to play this game. We really didn't have to pretend much with the strange sounds that kept emanating from the woods. It was so still and so special that the girls and I hopped on our bikes and road back out to the lake to take some quick video of the amazing reflections that were being cast into the water. They had fun dancing around and making their reflections do silly things, and even though my camera seems to be on the fritz or in it's last days, and isn't picking up color like it should, I am so thankful that it still managed to capture this amazing day. It must be the "calm before the storm," because it is just never this calm around here.

        Tonight the girls were asking Steve and I to tell them stories "from our heads." I told the girls a story of how their reflections creeped out of the water and switched places with them while I wasn't looking. This spooked them both a bit, because their reflections were really that clear! I wonder what kind of strange dreams they will have tonight? :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gemini Concert at LSSU Arts Center on November 13th 2012

 We went to the Gemini concert last year and thought it was great. Steve and I plan on taking the girls again and I thought I would spread the word about this concert, because last year the auditorium had plenty of open seats. These musicians really work to involve the audience, and their songs are awesome. We still sing the songs we learned last year! Our family can't wait to attend their show again, and we hope to see you there!

I copied and pasted the info below from LSSU's website:


Gemini - "A Musical Celebration for Children and the Whole Family

November 13, 2012
Tickets: $5

Tickets can be purchased by calling (906) 635-2602 .
GEMINI celebrates with their audiences the fun, warmth, and humor of family life. Kids and adults love to sing with them! From start to finish, a family concert with the twin brothers abounds with rousing sing-alongs, hand motion tunes, folk tales, and music from around the world. The highlights of their shows are Gemini's original, sparkling songs about the everyday experiences of childhood and growing up.
San and Laz combine uncannily matched voices with wonderful musicianship on nearly a dozen instruments. Gemini bring to their concerts a natural ease around children, and they're equally at home in an intimate setting or in front of an audience of thousands. The twin brothers have an up-beat flair for involving everyone, from tots to grandparents, in the music making. The result is a dynamic show ranging from laughter, grins, and boisterous fun, to the magic of hushed hushed lullabies and tender ballads.
Gemini has been performing since 1973, and are now playing music for their third—or is it fourth?—generation of young fans and families. From their home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan, San and Laz have performed to enthusiastic audiences at concert halls, festivals, community centers and elementary schools throughout the US and Canada. In 1997 Gemini added a new and very exciting facet to their music as they began performing with symphony orchestras, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Ann Arbor Symphony and the Kansas City Symphony.
Since 1979 San and Laz have released numerous recordings for adults and children and families. These recordings have won a number of awards including ones from Parents' Choice Magazine, the American Library Association, the National Parenting Publications (NAPPA), and the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts. "Fancy That!" their first video, was voted one of the Top 10 children's videos by the American Library Association & Random House in their book "1992 Best of the Best."
In 2002 Gemini teamed up with an acclaimed chamber orchestra, the Phoenix Ensemble, to release "The Orchestra Is Here To Play!" This unique folk-classical collaboration—the perfect introduction to classical music for young listeners, through songs they love—has won awards from Parents’ Choice Magazine, as well as from the Children’s Music Web.
Gemini has received ASCAP's "Popular Awards", a songwriting and recording award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, as well as songwriting grants from the Michigan Council for the Arts. San and Laz have written music for educational TV and films, and have recorded twelve albums of international folk dance music for the High/Scope Educational Foundation. Since 1993, the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation has published Gemini's first songbook, and two musical revues for Elementary schools based on Gemini's songs. These two revues continue to be performed by children in schools throughout North America. In 2004, one of their songs was used in the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and most recently, several of their songs were included in a new music education textbook (McGraw-Hill’s Spotlight on Music—Grade 1) which will be used by music teachers around the country.
Gemini’s newest recording, released in April 2010, is "Once Upon a Time... The Storytelling Album," featuring folk tales from around the world, with musical elements added to each story. This CD also features "Perfect Pitch," a new story by San, which includes original orchestral music interspersed throughout.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Down Town Trick or Treat Night

 Our family had a lot of fun this year at the Sault's Downtown Trick or Treat event. We always park at the library, so I made sure to capture a shot of Autumn with one of the books from the book series she just finished reading that inspired her costume this year. She is dressed up as the character Omakayas from the books "The Birchbark House," The Game of Silence," and "The Porcupine Year," which are all written by Louise Erdrich. While we were there our librarian informed us that this author will soon be publishing a fourth book in the series that will be titled "Chickadee." Autumn was really excited by this news because she obviously likes these books a lot and can't wait for the new one to come out.

Alaina is Minnie Mouse of course. We came upon this polka dot dress at a thrift store and immediately thought it looked perfect for Minnie, and so I crocheted her a hat and found her a pair of white gloves and voila!


This is at the AMAZING carnival put on by the Salvation Army. The girls walked away from this carnival with Barbie dolls, cakes, stuffed toys, popcorn, cookies, etc! We almost didn't walk down to their building because it was a bit out of the way...but we saw balloons and thought we may as well go check it out. We sure were glad we did! This was definitely the girls favorite part of the evening and we are just so thankful to all of the volunteers of the Salvation Army for hosting this.

The girls doing the Cake Walk.

There were live ballerinas standing in the showcase windows of STARS 'en pointe' pretending to be mannequins. Alaina thought this was awesome. The girls were doing an amazing job. This was right before we went through the haunted house which was also hosted by STARS. Alaina laughed and thought it was lots of fun, and Autumn shed a few tears :)

Even Snoopy was out on the streets giving out hugs!

 It was 7 p.m. when we finally finished checking everything out, and we went and got some pizza at Guidos for supper. It was a really fun evening. We think the best part about the evening is that it is still light out and so we get to see everyone's creative costumes and run into lots of friends and say "hi."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Maybe It's the End of the Indian Summer?

The past few days we have had gorgeous warm weather. Indian summer days are wonderful reasons to homeschool. We were truly blessed with this warm day. The girls had a blast jumping in the big lake with their clothes on an I got the chance to sit back in the sand, and soak up their exuberance. What wonderful memories are created on days like this.

Tonight we are experiencing high winds and rain, and they say snow might be in the forecast for this weekend. Maybe it's the end of the indian summer?

Here are a few more songs to help us say goodby to our recent warm weather:

Timing Chip...munks?

The Annual Turkey Trot 5k that is hosted by Steve's LSSU cross country team is coming up in just a few weeks, so the girls and I have been getting outside and training every day for the the race.

Today I had a running experience that I will never forget. About a mile into our run the girls sprinted a bit ahead of me, and I was jogging along watching them leap over leaf piles when all of a sudden I felt my foot kick somthing wierd feeling. I looked down to see a chipmunk doing barrel rolls down the road in front of me, and right before I stepped on the poor little guy my mind realized what was going on and jerked my foot up. I screamed so loud! The little guy hobbled to the side of the road and then just sat there staring up at me in disbelief. He was obviously in shock, as was I. The girls sprinted back, and we all walked up to him as I "apologized." He slowly hobbled into some leaves and then sat down again, and I began to think that maybe he was hurt. He let us get so close that we could have picked him up in our hand. So, we just sat there for a while with him. It was such a strange experience because I literally almost squashed the little guy with my foot, and the way I sent him tumbling could only be equal to me getting kicked by an elephant.

After about five minutes the chipmunk slowly crept under a log and hid. I hope he is okay.

Maybe he wanted to be a timing chipmunk? :)

Well, if you need some motivation to get out on the road and run over small innocent animals with your own feet (just kidding PETA), then sign up for the Turkey Trot 5k (and win yourself a yummy turkey for Thanksgiving ...not kidding). The race brochure is below:

Turkey Trot 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Funniest Home Videos???

The other day I gave Alaina my very first leotard that I ever wore when I did competitive gymnastics at Joan Boyers School of Dance and Gymnastics. The competitive team was called "The Rainbow Company", hence the colorful blocks along the side. (As a kid I always thought that our team name was more magical than all the other teams, and I was really proud of it and all of the to this day I am still a little bummed that my magical rainbow was "taken from me" to symbolize other things.....)  Doing gymnastics was one of my favorite things as a kid, and I still like to do a cartwheel here or a handstand there, so I am pleased that both the girls enjoy flipping and dancing around in the living room. There is a "dance production" or "show" of some sort almost every night and the girls love turning up the music, putting on crazy outfits with wacky hairdos, and entertaining Steve and I.

Anyways, I am thankful that my Mom saved this leotard for me because it brings back such happy memories and it is very special watching the girls wear it. But, the leotard is very old, and the elastic around the legs is really worn out, and I am thinking that after Alaina outgrows it, that will be the end of my leotard. So, I got the video camera out and decided to tape Alaina fooling around in it so that when it is gone we would still have a memory of it. Alaina was being really cute on camera, and I was enjoying watching her leap back and forth and cartwheel etc....and then at the very end of this shot, she gets really into her leaps and winds up pulling a mini "Funniest Home Videos" moment. I thought she hurt herself, so the camera immedietly shut off, but she was OK. We have watched the ending of this about 5 times in a row now because it makes us all laugh hysterically!

Check it out for yourself :)

Poems With Autumn and Alaina

This is Alaina reciting "The Land of Counterpane" by Robert Louis Stevenson. She really liked this poem when she saw it on a cartoon called "Little Bear," and she has also listened to a song version sung byTed Jacobs. We really like his musical versions of Stevenson's poems.

This is Autumn reciting the song "What Is A Youth" written by Nino Rota, and Eugene Walter. She just finished watching the 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet and she really liked this song. When we were at the lighthouse the other day she saw a rosebush still in blume and thought it would be the perfect place to recite this poem. Although, when we taped it off today the sun was shining right in her eyes because we were experiencing an unusually hot 70 degree day!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our First Month of School with Michigan Connections Academy

          Well, it has almost been a month since Autumn started her first day of school with Michigan Connections Academy (MICA), and we have been a lot more busy with school than we would like to be. This is evidenced by the fact that this is the first blog I have had a chance to post since school began!

          The first week of school was stressful because we had company, and then we went on a trip. I made the mistake of allowing Autumn to do most of her online course work and then put off some of the paperwork like worksheets, book problems etc that was assigned with each lesson. For example, she would complete her math lesson and do all of the activities online and take the quiz, but skip the math problems. Or do the language arts assignment online, but not complete the 5 pages of worksheets that went with the lesson. We kept saying, we'll do that later when we get back.....BIG MISTAKE! We found out very quickly that it is not a good idea to put off any assignments or projects while using MICA. A couple of lessons set aside for a later time could mean A TON of work if you continue trying to accomplish future lessons and projects at the same time.

                 This doesn't necessarily mean that we think the workload is too much, but we are finding that the pace can be challenging if you don't work quickly and do the tasks the same day as they are assigned. We are used to spending a long time on projects or new concepts and at times we have said "YIKES! That is due already? It feels like we just were assigned that!" Or "Wow, there is already a quiz on this material!" This feeling is probably happening to us just because we aren't used to working on a teachers deadlines. I think we also feel this way because the computer system doesn't do a very good job of breaking up projects into smaller tasks. There is no hand holding. The job of time management and breaking apart large projects into smaller tasks each day (hand holding), seems to fall mostly on my shoulders. This is not good, because I am a procrastinator and often pass this nasty habit along to others. I am quickly learning that there is no time to procrastinate with MICA.
                Also, we are probably adding too much pressure on Autumn by adjusting the assignments to meet our own personal standards of education.  For example in math, we really want Autumn to grasp the material she is covering, so we think it is important to do ALL of the problems in her textbook for each lesson. We have found that this will usually cause her to run into a couple of tricky problems that she would otherwise not see if she only did the ones assigned by her teacher. However, doing 60 math problems each day on top of all of her other paper assignments and computer assignments and live lessons and need for exercise, reading, eating, sleeping, etc. is turning into a challenge. Plus, Autumn has always worked at a VERY leisurely pace, and it was never really been a problem, but now she needs to adjust her rate of work to this new work load.(Something she seems reluctant to do, which irritates me a great deal because I feel like the pressure is on me to get her to keep the pace up) I have to say, it has been a challenge at times motivating her to accomplish all of the tasks without feeling like we are destroying all of the reasons we are homeschooling in the first place!

             Yet, we are only a month in and we are just starting to relax into the schedule. Autumn is now navigating the computer system on her own, which is nice, because the first couple weeks I felt like I had to guide her through each step. She is still not doing very well with typing, which we discovered right away is a skill that would be helpful to have, since most of her answers online need to be typed. There is nothing more painful than watching your child plunk out a paragraph letter by letter at the pace of a snail. If you are thinking about enrolling your child in an online school we HIGHLY RECOMMEND an intensive TYPING CLASS. Autumn and I both agree that better typing skills would save us both a lot of stress. We have a few websites that we are visiting to work on this problem, but it is slow coming and we wish we would have mastered this skill over the summer while we had more time on our hands.

Autumn had to take a few Scantron Performance Assessment tests online, Leap Tests, and at the beginning of October she has to travel to Cheboygan to take the MEAP tests. These tests haven't been too time consuming, but Autumn and I do find them slightly irritating, just for the fact that we don't really need a test to tell us what we know and don't know and where we are struggling,.... we know already. She will be required to do testing again in the Spring.

Probably the thing we like least about MICA right now is the grades. So far Autumn has really high scores on everything, so it is not because she isn't doing well. Rather, it is the way the grades make us feel about learning. We are used to doing an assignment or quiz or test over and over again until we get 100% on it. We have always felt that fixing your mistakes is the best way to learn, and so getting graded on everything feels so foreign. I notice that when Autumn gets an answer wrong she is adopting the same attitude that I had in school... the feeling of failure, and what is the point of the grade doesn't help me learn. The grades make her feel pressure and stress. Instead of wanting to discover the right answer, there is something about a system that uses grades that makes the student feel like they are doing all of the work for the grade instead of for the learning. If a student is getting all A's that is probably a bad thing, because it means they aren't being challenged enough. But is they are getting all C's, which most likely means the material is a challenge, instead of having the student practice the skills that are difficult until mastery is demonstrated, the C grade is just given and the student moves on.....Grades in other words are really quite pointless and detrimental. A's are bad, but C's are bad too!  We like the lessons MICA offers and the way they are all organized for us and how we are being motivated with the knowledge that we are being supervised by teachers afar, but we think the use of the A, B, C... grading system doesn't work at all with this new technologically based learning. It is very cold, impersonal and unmotivating, and seems wrong with a system like this, where they have the capability of using the technology to ensure that every kid grasps all of the material....why settle for anything less? (which is what a grading scale does). Every kid should be required to demonstrate mastery of ALL the material, not just 75 percent of it!

Autumn loves to practice math on a website called Khan Academy because when she gets an answer wrong they don't give her a red X and a 90% and tell her to move on. Instead, she can demonstrate mastery of the new skill. When she does this she earns points and stars that eventually lead her towards earning badges etc. She never feels like a failure on this site because it is a pass/ or try again system. You either understand the material and move on, or you don't, and you keep on practicing it until you do. This is what we were doing last year with our homeschooling, and I think it is the only thing that truly motivates kids to succeed without hurting their self-esteem and their eagerness to learn. It would be awesome if MICA would adopt this type of evaluation system,...It would be cool if teachers made you rewrite your paper until it was perfect, instead of just plunking a grade on it. Imagine if we did that in other areas of our lives. "Well, I only give this building a D rating, but we'll live in it anyways and hope it doesn't fall down...." No! That would be crazy. Instead you would ask the builder to make the necessary changes until you were satisfied with the results. Or you might even ask the builder to tear the building down and start all over.....But I guess schools haven't figured this out yet, and we are going to have to just play their games and put up with the antiquated A, B, C, system and try and find time to force ourselves to review material we don't master.

               Overall, we are not sure yet whether MICA is the best choice for us or not. We are not unhappy, but we are not as excited as we were on the first day of school. We wish the school would use video streams during live lessons so we could see our teacher's face while she lectures. We wish our conference calls with our teacher would be over Skype instead of the phone so that they could be more personable. We wish that there was more opportunity to connect with the other kids enrolled in the school in a meaningful way. But, the school is still very young, and technology is always changing, so who knows what kind of adaptations they will make in a years time. For now, we are just doing are best to make things exciting and fun while still keeping up with the daily influx of new assignments.

                Also, it doesn't help that the weather has been rainy and cold and we have been stuck inside doing school work almost all day, every day. This is not typical of September. Usually in September we are playing on the beach and enjoying all of the time we have outdoors, while thinking about all the poor kids stuck in school....This week I am praying for some sun, the chance to get caught up or even ahead on our work, and I'll gauge how we feel about MICA again in another months time.


Our Trip to Madison, Wisconsin

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of School

Today is our first day of school enrolled in Michigan Connections Academy. Grandma and Grandmpa Veramay arrived at our house last night and plan to visit for a few days, so Autumn and I woke up extra early to start our school work so that we would have time to play. It turns out that today is a bit dreary and humid, so right now the girls are playing Scrabble with Grandma and Grandmpa at the dining room table instead of swimming at the beach like we anticipated. But, waking up early has still really paid off.

Autumn started working on her school assignments at 5:30 a.m. and was done with 90% of them by 10a.m. She still has an assessment to complete in math, and she needs to rewrite a science journal entry due to spelling mistakes, but other than that she is done for the day if she wants to be. We really liked that our first school day with MICA wasn't like a first day at a brick and mortar school. We got to dive right into our lessons and start working on assignments without wasting time on covering procedures, rules, introductions etc.

In preparation for our first day we enjoyed reading a few picture books about going to school Our number one pick was:

First Day Jitters, by: Julie Danneberg

We thought this was a great book to read before the first day of school because it reminded us that starting back into the school schedule can be a challenge to everyone.....including adults, and even teachers! We highly recommend it.

So, far our first day of school is going smoothly. We hope you and your family are enjoying your first day back to school, and that many more successful days will follow this one.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's Time To Go To The Fair!

Yesterday, Saturday, Aug 25th, was the beginning of the Chippewa County Fair, which will be going all the way until Monday, Sept. 3rd in Kinross, MI. Our family has always enjoyed walking through all of the barns and petting the animals, learning more about farm life, and partaking in some cotton candy or elephant ears. So, we are definitely going to be heading to the fair sometime this week. But, to make things seem a bit more special this year I checked out "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White from the library. It has been our bedtime read aloud this whole week, and it is the PERFECT book to read before venturing off to the fair. The girls had already read this story before, but it is such a wonderful read that they are fully engrossed in it again. This week when the girls and I arrive at the pig stalls I know we are going to be imagining they are Wilbur and Uncle, and I am sure we will be glancing up into the corners for any webs and down into the straw for rats.We will be seeing the fair through the eyes of Fern, Wilbur and Charlotte and it will make it that much more meaningful for us this year. In fact, we have enjoyed it so much that we will probably make reading it before fair time a new family tradition.

If you are taking your kids to the fair this week, we recommend reading "Charlotte's Web!"

See you at the fair!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

LSSU Cross Country Camp, Wolverine Michigan, 2012

Steve offered us the opportunity to attend cross country camp with him and his LSSU team. The girls and I had a wonderful week and feel so blessed and lucky to have the chance to experience going to camp and all of the fun times that come with it. I am very thankful to all of the college athletes who welcomed us into their fold, and suffered through Autumn's and Alaina's constant shenanigans and endless energy. We sure enjoyed all of the athletes!

This is a picture of the girls on the Ferry Boat heading over to Mackinac Island on the first day of camp.

While the athletes ran around the perimeter of the Island and then hit the trails in the interior, we went for a very long walk, and then took a rest in the grass field below Fort Mackinac.

This is Autumn in costume for the "Talent Show" night, which she and Alaina advertised for by putting signs all over camp. I don't think the athletes were as excited about the Show as the girls were, but they still played along. :)

Alaina dances a duet with Rob during the Talent Show.

Wolverine Camps used to be a fish hatchery. There is a big, cold pond right outside the kitchen, and the girls were really excited to find these two resident ducks. The ducks were happy too, because the girls were constatnly throwing them duck feed!

Autumn and I both got to challenge ourselves on the high ropes course.

Climb On!

ZIp Line!

Alaina found a new friend in freshman, Ben, who she quickly figured out was great at shoulder back rides and flips.
 Poor Ben :)

Our group safely back on the ground. The last time I was on a high ropes course I cried....I didn't cry this time, but I still hugged a few trees :)

Dion and Autumn working in the kitchen.

Is that sanitary???

Autumn doing the "Trust Fall"

Steve being caught by his team.

The weather was beautiful and we ate a lot of our meals outside.

"Flip me like Ben."

Alaina and Rob on the low ropes course.

The trails at Wolverine were awesome. This is a "Rails to Trails" that I rode my dirt bike on while pulling Alaina. It runs along the sturgeon river and there is lots of wildlife. We saw deer, rabbits, woodpeckers, bald eagles, and lots of birds.


On their way home the team stopped to run at Wilderness State Park. The girls liked this pond, where they found a three legged frog!

Camp was great! The girls and I got to know a lot of the athletes, mountain bike on hilly dirt roads, swim in Silver Lake, eat healthy food, and have all sorts of new experiences. For example, I was stung by my very first yellowjacket, which I was actually really excited about because it didn't hurt as bad as I had imagined, and now I know I am not allergic to stings.

Camp also symbolizes the end of summer for our family. College classes start on Monday, Steve gets into his schedule of coaching in the mornings, working in the afternoons, and teaching in the evenings, and we hunker down and start studying here at home. It is our families final hurrah together and also a chance for Autumn, Alaina and I to become excited about being a small part of these young college kids lives. Getting to know the athletes makes it easier to accept Steve spending so much of his time with them. Even though we don't get the chance to see the athletes on a daily basis or even go to all of their meets, over the course of their four years at LSSU many of these kids begin to feel like family, the girls absolutely adore and look up to many of them, and we enjoy watching them change and grow, and cheering them on through that process.


Good-bye Summer,

Hello, Fall!

Steve's 1/2 Ironman Triathlon Turned Family Vacation

Steve competed at a Rev 3 Half Ironman in Wisconsin Dells last weekend, and our whole family was able to enjoy attending the race because of the location. Steve had an awesome race, and afterwards the girls were really excited to ride rollercoasters and go carts for the first time ever. It was a fantastic trip. Here are two videos to give you a taste of our trip. The first is snippets from Steve's race and the second is of us riding a few rides at the parks.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Happy Music

For Autumn's last poem recitation she chose "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. This was a long poem, and so we got on YouTube to see if there were any good videos that would make the job a bit easier. We discovered an artist named Loreena McKennitt. She sang this poem beautifully and we used this to aid in our memorization. Here is her version:

I enjoyed discovering her music so much, that I started searching for other artists that turn famous poems into song, and I was blessed with the rediscovery of the artist Natalie Merchant, who is the lead singer from 10,000 Maniacs. I used to listen to a lot of her music when I was in college, but I never owned any of her albums, so I had kind of just forgotten about her. There were two songs back then that were definitely on my list of "happy music." They were the type of songs that could lift up my spirit no matter how many times I listened to them. Everybody has there own taste in "happy songs," but to make it onto my list a song has to make me want to dance or at least tap out a beat. I thought that maybe these songs wouldn't affect me in the same way now that I am older, but I have found that they still make the top of my "happy" list. Maybe they will make yours as well, here they are:

# 1. These Are The Days

# 2. Thank You

I discovered that Natalie Merchant put out an album in 2010 called "Leave Your Sleep" that contains songs using the words of other poets as the lyrics. I was able to listen to most of the songs on this album on YouTube and enjoyed the following two the best because they have such moving instrumentals. I think these two song- poems are going to be added to our family list of future poems to memorize. I hope you will enjoy listening to them as they are:

# 1. Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

# 2. Crying My Little One

Sometime soon I will have to start working on compiling a complete list of my "happy songs" so I don't 'loose' any, it would be a great playlist to take to the gym or on a hike in Mother Nature.  You could help me out by sharing a few of your favorite "happy" songs with me. What songs always lift you up? What music do you imagine playing behind you as your soundtrack on a good day? I would love to hear your picks!


Poetry With Autumn: "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes

This poem is really long, so it took a while for Autumn to memorize. This take of her reciting it had a few mistakes and I had to toss her a word, but since it is over five minutes long to recite she decided it was good enough. I have to agree! We are really enjoying video taping these recitations because it motivates us to work hard, but sometimes we wish we had a video editor...and my arm wishes we had a tripod :)

Do any of you use video editing software? What would you recommend? We would need something user friendly because we wouldn't want to waste a lot of time on it, but we think it would
 be fun to use for school projects to splice together some movies or music videos or add background music or titles etc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Funny Fox

This morning I woke up a bit earlier than usual, and I was awarded with the entertainment of three fox kits playing in our yard for a whole hour. They were tossing acorns with their mouths, pouncing onto each other for a bit of play fighting and wrestling, and stopping to roll in the grass and take quick naps. It was certainly an enjoyable and peaceful way to spend the first hour of my morning. I videotaped them for a bit, and then woke the girls up so they could share the experience with me. I often comment on the fact that we see less wildlife up here in Northern Michigan than I did when I was a kid growing up downstate...but, I guess the trade off is that when we finally do see some wildlife it is extra special and truly appreciated. Especially when it is in our own backyard!

Here is a video I took so you can enjoy them as well!

More Poems With Autumn and Alaina

Autumn recites "Little by little, Inch by inch," and Alaina recites "Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Poems With Autumn and Alaina

This week Autumn recites "Hope Is The Thing With Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, and Alaina is accompanied by Autumn singing "A Wise Old Owl" which is a nursery rhyme.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Michigan Connections Academy (MICA) Box Arrives!!!

Our 8 year old daughter, Autumn,  has been homeschooled since kindergarten. We started homeschooling her after she missed the public school age cut-off date (she was born December 20th). We immediately fell in love with the flexibilty, and creativity this method of schooling allowed us...not to mention the closeness it affords our family. Even so. we did have Autumn dip her toe into school life for a few months in 1st grade to make sure we were doing the right thing....(She begged to return to homeschooling).

We find this homeschooling lifestyle to be ideal for our family, but it is still a time consuming endeavor for myself to come up with curriculum and motivate Autumn to do enough work each week, and just like anything, at times it can be a challenge. We were using a delight/literature based method of teaching that followed Autumn's lead on almost every subject. This meant lots of trips to the library and research into topics of curiosity, but not much structure.

This has been working great for us, and I am sure we could have continued using this method happily for many years to come, but then I came across some information advertising Michigan Connections Academy (MICA). It is a public school system that is government funded and offers a K-12 curriculum online for free. The school provides many of their students with computers and internet vouchers, and all students recieve textbooks, workbooks, art supplies, science experiment supplies etc. Each student is assigned to a grade, recieves a teacher, and is required to log so many hours of work each day. Students turn in work and are assessed through portfolios that are mailed or faxed, online tests, phone calls from their teachers, attendance in live sessions using skype, and standardized testing such as the MEAP.

We decided to give MICA a try for six reasons:

1. We were looking for some structure to motivate us, give us some goals to work for, and provide a bit of schedule into our day, yet still allow us the freedom to decide when to do the work. With MICA we will have to log a certain number of hours each day and complete all the assignments, but if Autumn wants to do school work at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. or on a computer in Florida or Europe it should be O.K.

2. We wanted school records for Autumn's future in case she decides to return to a brick and mortar school or for college.

3. Autumn is advanced in certain subjects and just average in others, and MICA tested her and placed her into the appropriate classes based upon her test scores. This is somthing that we know wouldn't occur in a brick and mortar school. We like that MICA is willing to acknowledge that a student might be working at a different grade level than they should be.

4. It is FREE, and is going to save us a TON of money! Even though most of our homeschool materials were found at the library, we still invested money into math texts, tutors, workbooks etc. Even with plenty of creativity, we were still spending money on our homeschooling.

5. If we don't like it we can leave! Since MICA is a public school we are under no obligation to continue if it is not working out. We have already decided that even if we don't like it at first, we will commit to finishing out the year, because just like any new experience there is a learning curve and some time that needs to be invested into getting used to the change. However, at the end of the year if we are unhappy all we need to do is return the computer and texts in their orignal boxes and decide not to enroll again in the fall.

6. So far all of our experiences with MICA have been positive. They responded to my request for information with lightening speed, they helped my through the online enrollment process with a few friendly phone calls, we recieved more positive and friendly phone calls when they were in the process of placing Autumn in the appropriate courses, they called again to alert us when she was accepted and enrolled, and immedietly shipped Autumn a desktop computer within the week she accepted her enrollement, they offered wonderful online courses to guide us through their system and teach us our responsibilities for the year and what to expect, and this week we recieved our second delivery from the UPS man containing all of Autumn's t school supplies. I can honestly say that so far they have been the friendliest  and most informative organization that I have dealt with. This leads me to believe and hope that this trend will continue throughout the school year.

Our only worries about this new school adventure is that it will either be too much structure and work and throw our feelings of freedom off, it will be more "busy work" than we expected, or we will find out that we are behind somehow in a subject. However, Autumn has decided that if the assignments take longer than she is used to she will just start earlier in the day or do additional work at night.

I think overall we are more excited about this new homeschool experience than we are nervous! Below is a video I took today of Autumn going through all of the materials she recieved via UPS. It was like Christmas, and Autumn was so excited that she plopped down on the couch and read both of her reading books straight through from cover to cover! She thinks they are great and wants to start working already....that's a really good sign of what is to come!

I will continue to make updates throughout the year on my thoughts about MICA in case you are considering this school or a Connections Academy in a different state.

Pulling a Mr. Bean (Our Day On Mackinac Island!)

This past Friday we spent the night in Mackinac City's Wilderness State Park. We were there to pick up Autumn from her week long adventure with Grandma and Grandpa Eles in their new RV. Autumn had a great time with them. She showed us all of the neat fossils she had found on Black Lake in Onaway, and was really excited to show us all around this campground. She never got homesick, and seemed to relish her time away. We were very pleased to find her in a state of such excitement, and are lucky to have grandparents with the energy and time to take their granddaughter on such an excursion.

We decided since we were down there we would make the week even sweeter for the girls and take them to Mackinac Island and actually bring our bikes so we could explore. (Somthing we had always wanted to do). We debated whether we should pull Alaina in her bike cart or let her bike on her own. We decided on the latter, and I am glad we did because Alaina did an amazing job! She managed to pull off two full laps (about 16 miles total) and stay in good spirits.

It was hot and sunny all day, so on our first lap we were on the lookout for a good place to swim. We passed by some kids jumping off of a large boat dock and went to check it out and see if it was safe. It was more than deep enough, so Steve and Autumn took the first plunge. They let out lots of woops and hollers as they realized Lake Huron is COLD! I wanted to jump in too, but I didn't want to bike further to find a bathroom, and there was nowhere in site where I would be safe from other swimmers/bikers eyes. Then, I remember an episode of Mr. Bean that I had just let the girls watch....
You have to watch the episode to fully understand the humor in what I decided to do next.....
Here it is:

So, anyways, I think to myself "I wonder if I could pull a Mr. Bean??" So, I snuck down onto the beach next to a larger rock that did little to protect me from curious eyes, but made me feel a little more confident in the event of a fail, and set to work putting on the bottom of my swimsuit over my bike shorts. Since Autumn and Alaina had just watched this episode hilarious giggling and exclamations of "silly Mommy!" ensued. Steve looked on with curiousity and terror........except for the moment where I almost lost my balance (which could have been disasterous) I found that pulling the bottom half of a "Mr. Bean" was easier than I had imagined. And since I had a T-shirt on, the top half was even easier. By the time I was done we were all laughing hysterically at my ability to change into my swimsuit in broad daylight in front of dozens of strangers.

Here I am displaying the end result of my "Reverse Mr. Bean." You can't help but laugh a lot while trying this.

We went on to jump off that "pier" dozens of times....the water was cold enough that after a few jumps you got the shivers...but not cold enough to make you gasp. In other words, just right!

At the end of the day we stopped at a beach that had hundreds of rocks stacked up into rock towers by all of the tourists, and we decided to join this special club and make our own rock towers. I was tired of wearing my wet bathing suit and decided to see if it was possible to pull a reverse "Mr. Bean." We all laughed even harder at my shenanigans this time, as I discovered that "yes" a reverse "Mr. Bean" is possible!!!! (DISCLAIMER: For those of you who sometime in the near future will attempt this AMAZING and MIND BAFFLING feat to impress your buddies or girlfriend, I must disclose the fact that my cycling shorts were very stretchy, thus creating a false sense of ease. I recommend practicing a few times in the privacy of your own home if you plan to perform a "Mr. Bean" while wearing somthing less forgiving....say, like a pair of blue jeans. I claim no responsibility for any embarrasing accidents that result from attempts of such amazing feats :)

When we got back into town we decided that it was time to eat somthing more than a granola bar. On our first lap we had seen a girl advertising for an all you could eat pizza buffet for only $8 dollars! "Too good to be true on Macinac Island," we thought. But, it turned out it was better than true!!! The  buffet was in Murray's Hotel, and not only did it have the most delicious variety of pizzas, but it had a salad bar with toppings that we couldn't believe, like peanuts, walnuts, yellow raisins! They even had soft serve ice cream, doughnuts, and cinnamon buns. (We burned a lot of calories ok?...) After a long, long day, we had found our oasis. It is hard to find unless you happen to hear the pizza girls siren songs, so remember : Murrays Hotel ,,,,in case you are on the Island, are famished, and want to eat amazing food without spending all your money.

We walked out of that buffet as happy as four gluttons could be, retrieved our bikes, and lined up for our ferry. While we were waiting we were given one more gift to add to our bag of wonderful memories of the day...a family of otters were swimming around the docks! They were fun to watch, and we were amazed because we didnt realize they lived in the lake! There was a sunset on our ride back to Mackinac City, which gave us all the chills since we decided to sit at the top of the boat. As soon as the girls climbed into the warm car they were out!

What a memorable day! If you ever go to Mackinac spend the tiny bit extra it costs to bring your bikes with you....we found out it is the only way to really experience the island!

Here are a few videos and pics of our day: