ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Should have blogged in 2013… Part 2

(This is part of a series of things that I should have recorded in 2013 – things which were highlights of the year, but which didn’t get recorded when they were fresh in my mind. Now you mostly just get pictures.)

January 26 – Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Shortly after our trip to Black Rock, I took the girls to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. (It must have been Field Trip Week at the Rainbow House of Learning!) We spent the entire day and had a great time. The bad news is that my pictures are poor. The good news is that my parents gave us a family membership to the Carnegie Museums for Christmas. Expect more pictures!

Middle Daughter was also taking pictures that day. Being the aspiring ornithologist that she is, she took about 70 pictures (yes – 70!) of the museum’s bird collection, including the family favorite – the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Ivory-billed woodpecker

Birdorable ivory-billed woodpecker

Should have blogged in 2013… Part 1

(This is the first in a series of things that I should have recorded in 2013 – things which were highlights of the year, but which didn’t get recorded when they were fresh in my mind. Now you mostly just get pictures.)

January 22-24 – Family mini-vacation

In January, we traveled to Black Rock Retreat (a Mennonite camp in eastern Pennsylvania) for an overnight homeschool program. And since we were in the area, we added stops at the Herr’s Snack Factory, Wilbur Chocolate, a Hampton Inn (because we like staying there and because they had an indoor a pool to test out Middle Daughter’s underwater camera), and the Pennsylvania capitol building.

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It’s time to get ready for school! Oh… never mind.

After breakfast this morning, Ordinary Spouse/Home School Teacher went to tell the girls to get ready for school. This is what she found.


As it turns out, school had started without her.


Why you shouldn’t read homeschooling blogs

This evening, Ordinary Spouse exclaimed,

This is why I don’t read homeschooling blogs!

She was looking at a blog describing the curriculum for a particular second grader. It included the following textbooks:

  • 1 math
  • 1 grammar
  • 1 spelling
  • 1 writing
  • 3 world history
  • 2 United States history
  • 1 reading
  • 1 literature
  • 2 science
  • 1 vocabulary
  • 2 art
  • 2 geography
  • 1 critical thinking
  • 1 foreign language
  • 1 keyboard skills

Says Ordinary Spouse…

Nothing like a homeschooling blog to make you feel inadequate…

And then she went on to imagine this conversation between two homeschooling parents…

“What did you do in school today?”

“Oh, I gave my daughter a box of buttons and some felt.”

The crazy weather day

(Another special treat – Oldest Daughter’s thoughts on Superstorm Sandy, recorded in her journal during school today.)


They say it’s going to snow!


Now it says it’s going to rain!


They say now that it’s going to snow on Tuesday night!

WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? Good question. On October 30, 2012, the day before Halloween, I woke up and went down the stairs. “Look at this picture,” were my dad’s first words to me. I looked at the picture. It was a picture of our picnic table sprinkled with snow! I looked out; sure enough. The picnic table was sprinkled with snow slush!


As the morning brightened, rain drizzles became more visible. But my dad called from the office and said the waterfall was DUMPING HARD!

So we got in our warm winter jackets and headed outside. When I stepped out, I suddenly became aware of the loud rush of the creek. We hurried over to our little creek* and found it was the most full we had ever seen it!

* Ed. note: We have a little, unnamed creek that runs right outside our back porch. It eventually feeds into Jacob’s Creek – the big creek running past camp. Jacob’s Creek is probably the one Middle Daughter heard, but she investigated the small one first.

Seeing BIG splashes, we hurried over to Jacob’s Creek.There were two enormous logs stuck in the middle of the creek! The creek itself, though, was at least one foot deeper than it usually was; maybe even two feet deeper!

We walked down to the office, but not by the lookout by the waterfall, because there was a huge hole made by water! We went to John’s office** (he wasn’t working) and saw the waterfall DUMPING! Words can’t describe how big it was! Even Brenda**, who has worked here for 16 years, had not ever seen it this full!

** John is Laurelville’s executive director; Brenda is the director of group reservations and guest services.

Then my sisters went to build a snowman out of the patches of snow slush. My mom and I watched them build while we huddled under our umbrellas, hiding from the cold, whipping wind. Their ‘slushman’ (or at least that’s what I call it!) turned out to be more of a snowpecker, so that’s what we called it. After ten minutes or so, we got cold, so we went home.

After lunch, it started SNOWING! Unfortunately, lots of it falls, but none of it sticks. And ever since this afternoon, it’s been falling – even at 3:52 pm on October 30, the time I wrote this period → .

Middle Daughter’s thoughts on Sandy

(Today we have a special treat. Middle Daughter will share her thoughts on Hurricane Sandy. She wrote these in her school journal after a mid-afternoon walk and wondered if I wanted to post them to my blog.)

Here come the leftovers of Hurricane Sandy. One of the most amazing things here is… SNOW! It’s the first snow of the year. I mean – there was January, but that was a long time ago.

I see many things… like snow, of course. Birds, including chickadees, titmice, and another bird we think is a hermit thrush. And last, but not least, we saw three deer.

I can hear a few things, too. Some of the things I can hear are the highway and the creek. The creek isn’t a good creek for whitewater rafting – until now. Well, actually, it’s a little too dangerous for whitewater rafting!

I’ve seen a splash in the creek that was six feet high! I can feel snow on my face, and I can also feel just plain cold. Well, I guess it has to be cold to snow.

Thanks, MD!

6 + 3 = ?

At supper last night, we had this little exchange among Middle Daughter (age 8), Youngest Daughter (age 5), and Ordinary Mommy…

MD (turning to YD): What’s six plus three?

YD (after a pause): Nine!

OM (quizzically): How did you know that?

YD (matter-of-factly): Because when you make a nine-patch and you have a group of six, you need one more strip of three.

Say what?

Ordinary Spouse/Mommy/Homeschool Teacher laughs, because there are all these techniques for teaching addition, and then the child goes out and learns it from her quilting.

Nine patch

Youngest Daughter with her nine-nine-nine patch.

Bragging (humbly!) about the Rainbow House of Learning

On Monday when I got home from work, Ordinary Spouse told me that Middle Daughter had calculated 2 to the 20th power. “MD wanted to get to at least a million,” she explained.

OS has really done a great job of making learning fun at our house. Of course, our Oldest Daughter has been home schooled this year, and MD will join her next year (after completing first grade in the public school system this year).

MD was home from school on Monday with a mild injury. She probably could have gone to school, but since my dad was in town, we let her stay home to heal and spend some time with him. In the process, she experienced home school (although I don’t know if she realizes it).

One aspect of this was the aforementioned calculation of 2 to the 20th. Actually, what she was doing was repeatedly adding numbers together:

1 + 1 = 2,
2 + 2 = 4,
4 + 4 = 8,
and so on…

The girls have made a game out of seeing how far they can recite this series by memory. But on Monday, MD wanted to keep going until she got to one million. She made it to 16 in her head before she had to switch to paper. And then she kept going until she got to 2,097,152 (which is actually 2 to the 21st). Along the way, she had to learn how to re-group, because they hadn’t done that in school yet. Her calculations cover four pages.

She had also made a checklist of things to do:

  • Make butter
  • Look at Click under the  microscope [Note: “Click ” is her children’s magazine.]
  • Look at Velcro under the microscope
  • Make Mayan chocolate
  • Play memory game
  • Help fix the step
  • Look at a helicopter under the microscope [Note: “Helicopters” are the seeds from maple trees.]
  • See onion cells [Note: Presumably, this is also under the microscope, perhaps with food coloring.]

One of the neatest things with home school is how the girls are able to pursue things that interest them. There’s a pretty nice diversity in MD’s list, I think.

The last wonderfully odd thing of the day was making soap. I think that this was mainly OS’s project. She came up with four varieties: lemon-mint, cinnamon-clove, lemon-cardamom, and allspice-mint. As soon as it was ready, I had to try washing my hands with the cinnamon-clove variety. 🙂

One of the joys of home schooling

Oldest Daughter has been with my parents for the past week. She went home with them from Laurelville and spent the week at their house. If Amtrak is on time (and it never is), the two of them should be pulling out of South Bend right about now (0651 CT) and will be arriving in Chicago in roughly two hours. I’ll be going to the station to pick them up.

It is one of the benefits of being home schooled that she could spend the week with them. The school doesn’t stop. She just gets two new teachers. (And that actually works out pretty well, since Ordinary Grandpa is a retired biology prof, and Ordinary Grandma is an elementary school teacher.)

Here are her reports from the past week:


Today we went to three ponds to look for some creatures to take back and put in containers to study. We got two fish, millions of tiny creatures and guess what else! A baby turtle! I hope I can send some pictures. Tomorrow we are going to Penn Alps and we are hoping tomorrow we can also catch a salamander.


Grandpa is going to release the turtle (and the other creatures) sometime after he gets home from our house.

Today is a busy day. First,we have to go to Grandma’s school to get Grandpa’s boots (she took the truck: you’ll see why). Then we take the car in for an oil change and we go to Penn Alps. After that we look for salamanders.

P.S. Did I mention we went to Page’s last night?


We have four salamanders, one frog, two fishes,a turtle and millions of tiny sea creatures.

I have been seeing lots of birds. I think you would like the pileated woodpecker. It’s a big woodpecker.

When we were going to catch salamanders we heard a Ruffed Grouse trying to attract a mate. It starts beating its wings which produces a low, drumbeat noise. We just heard our spring peeper frog peep. He woke me up this morning. Grandpa said today he is going to take me to see an eagle’s nest today.


I think today I will do my freewrite today (I’ll explain it to G’ma and G’pa).

Yesterday we went to The Cut. It was double cool (as in very windy and interesting) and amazing. I keep on forgetting to tell you that I have a nature journal.

I have seen lots of birds and I have taken lots of pictures of them. I am going to try to list them. Goldfinch, towhee, mourning dove, green heron, pileated woodpecker, downy woodpecker, flicker, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, rose-breasted grosbeak, chipping sparrow, wren, cat bird, tufted titmouse, nuthatch, starling and a cardinal.

[Ed. note: “Freewrite” is when you write for ten minutes. You keep your pencil moving at all times and put down everything that comes into your head without regard for punctuation, spelling, or complete sentences. This is one of the ways that OD is learning how to write, courtesy of Brave Writer.]

We didn’t get reports for Friday and Saturday yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear quite a bit once the train gets in.

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