Homeschool: Kindergarten First Quarter


Fall brought an exciting new dimension to our lives: homeschooling! We “officially” started Kindergarten with Harper at the beginning of September. I will admit that even though we had been talking about doing homeschool for years, as the actual start date approached I started to question our decision. I started feeling overwhelmed by the task set ahead and began thinking way too far out into the future about the sustainability of such a seemingly herculean task. Luckily, we were able to make a deal with ourselves that we would just take it one year at a time and not get swallowed up by the enormity of long-term homeschooling. That truly was a great decision because it I don’t think we would have even started otherwise. I am so glad we forged ahead because homeschooling is going amazing well!


Drawing “B” Butterflies

We are using Oak Meadow’s Kindergarten curriculum, having graduated from the Oak Meadow’s Preschool learning guide (which we had been using for two years, along with following the concepts from Simplicity Parenting). I had started looking into Oak Meadow many years ago as it is a gentle, “Waldorf-influenced” curriculum with a special focus on nature and the arts. The Kindergarten curriculum focuses on language arts through lots of storytelling and reading, introduces all the letters of the alphabet; introduces numbers and basic number concepts;  music/movement through songs and fingerplays; is filled with quality arts and crafts; and weaves nature and science into almost all lessons. There are no worksheets or copywork in the curriculum, although we do add in a few workbooks for math and language arts just because Harper finds them fun. Even though the curriculum is very gentle and doesn’t introduce reading yet in Kindergarten, Harper is easily picking up on reading so we just follow his lead. I have to say, it is absolutely thrilling to see him start to read!


He asks for us to play this “game” all the time. He asks us to put a  “puzzler” on the board and he sees if he can sound it out.


He needs help spelling but asks for help so that he can write sentences on the board.


“Mom, can you help me spell Robot?”


Turning “H” into a house

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We read “The Three Little Pigs” alongside Jan Brett’s “3 Little Dassies” and the kids wanted to compare/contrast the stories

Oak Meadow encourages a daily rhythm, which I have to say has been the biggest component for success in our homeschool life, as well as our regular non-schooling life. Even though some days are wild and unstructured, most days we do fall into a regular rhythm (I will post on that soon for families who are struggling to find their daily routine). Having the kids know and expect that every morning we will eat breakfast, get dressed, do chores, and then start school has made a huge impact on their behavior and makes our day run so much more smoothly.

Mathias (age 3) has been doing Harper’s Kindergarten curriculum right alongside him, to the best of his ability. He absolutely loves it! He and Harper are basically inseparable so there is no way we could ever leave him out. He is picking up on so much.

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Mathias surprised me when he jumped up and wrote this (backwards) “D” on the chalkboard when I asked if anyone could write one.


Making his own contribution to the chalkboard

We start every school session with a “Morning Circle,” which includes songs and fingerplays, show and tell (the kids have added this at their request), and reviewing the concepts we’re working on. We then dig into whatever we’re doing for the day. We usually do language arts on M, W, F and Math on T, Th. Science, Crafts, and Music/Movement are interspersed throughout the week.

I do a weekly planning session the weekend before we’re going to start. Oak Meadow does not give a daily schedule but instead introduces the concepts and projects of the week. I usually go through the calendar of activities and combine that with the curriculum to create the daily learning objectives and activities. We do a lot of field trips and spend a ton of time outside in nature. Between hiking excursions with family, getting together with homeschooling friends, The Great Plains Zoo, the Outdoor Campus, Siouxland Libraries, and the Museum of Visual Materials, we manage to keep the calendar pretty full.

Completely engrossed in looking for insects in the fallen logs


Digging for bones with some homeschool friends at the Outdoor Campus’ “Backyard”


Whole family out for a hike

Because the curriculum is so gentle there is enough flexibility for improvisation and also for adding additional special projects. For instance, a couple weeks ago the Great Plains Zoo added a mongoose exhibit and Harper, the little scientist he is, became completely obsessed with learning everything he could about mongooses. So we researched mongoose facts at home, watched mongoose wildlife videos, and even read Rudyard Kipling’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi.” Harper was absolutely thrilled!

To me, this is a perfect example of the beauty of homeschooling. One of our main objectives in homeschooling was to let the kids “geek out” on whatever interested them and to follow down any rabbit hole their interests led them. The are both extremely curious kids who truly do love to learn. They are making homeschooling very easy as they are so excited to learn new things, to hear new stories, to work on projects, and to propose new topics of interest.


“Rikki Tikki Tavi”…not for the faint of heart!


The kids making crescent rolls for “C” week (C being the shape of a crescent, and the first letter of the word). Oak Meadow is very hands-on and often includes baking in the curriculum.


Making homemade crescent rolls

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Making and counting snake eggs

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Giant “A” to walk around; One Sun with 1,000,000,000 rays


On a field trip at the pumpkin patch with the OWL Homeschool Collective


Running the Sioux Falls Area Running Club’s Kids Cross Country Series


Checking out the Greenway after a heavy rain


Making the most of rainy fall weather!

We’ve had a wonderful fall filled a with ton of learning and fun. We are looking forward to starting our Winter Quarter next week. We took out some of our winter decorations today to make a seasonal corner in the house. We will update on our homeschooling adventures as we go!


Fast Forward

Hard to believe, but it’s been well over three years since I’ve kept up with the blog.  Life kind of turned on at warp speed for a while (our second son, Mathias, not-so-coincidentally turned 3 in May) and blogging just became hard.  But, the pace of life is feeling a little slower now so I’m going to attempt to revive the blog as there are some great radical homemaking adventures happening that I want to share!

So what has happened since the last blog post?

We built a new chicken coop…(March 2012)

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The new chicken run

And spread the love of backyard chickens by getting involved in local organizing to ensure it remained legal to keep chickens…

Summer 2012

HGSF printmaking

August 2012 257

August 2012 265Kicking off the first annual Sioux Falls Tour de Coop…we were the first stop!August 2012 265

And welcomed, Mathias, our second child into the world….(it was a whirlwind!  Hopefully I can share his birth story sometime) May 2012

May 2012 130

May 2012 163

May 2012 149

And grew together as a family of four…

June 2012 066

June 2012 125

June 2012 309

Oct 2012 024

And grew other things….

August 2012 078

August 2012 084

And these boys…well they just kept growing too…

Summer 2013

harper 3 years oldHarper 3 years old

Mathias 1 year oldMathias 1 year old

halloween 2013Halloween 2013

And we moved to a ranch in the Black Hills (2013)….

Hermosa ranch

And because of Murphy’s Law ended up moving back to our old house 3 months later!

end of trail

End of the trail for that adventure.

I trained with DONA International to become a birth doula and started on my birth work journey. (Fall 2013)


And the next June (2014) we witnessed two milestones. Celebrating our 10 Year Wedding Anniversary…


And losing our sweet Reuben dog at the age of 10.


And the boys just kept on growing! (Here they are with some “cheep” entertainment)

cheep entertainment2014

wyatt and kids2014

And we took trips as a family….

Summer/Fall 2014

on the train in DuluthOn the train in Duluth, MN

bayfield wiHiking in Bayfield, WI

And in Jan 2015 I left my job as a community organizer to build my doula business and spend time more time at home with the boys.


And this summer (2015) the boys turned 3 and 5…how can it be?



But despite the business we took a lovely vacation to CO and saw some old friends…

RMNP 2Rocky Mountain National Park 2015


And currently we are just settling into Fall with a recent trip to the apple orchard with our local homeschool collective (more on that new adventure soon!)

Hoversten Orchard 2015

What a whirlwind! Thanks for this little trip down memory lane. I’ll admit I’m a little misty-eyed looking at all of these photos. But we’re all caught up now so I’ll be posting more regularly now! Look for updates soon.


It’s been quiet at the blog but that doesn’t mean it’s mean it’s been quiet around here.  Our active and ever-growing toddler (20 months already!) and the demands of busy work and life schedules have kept us hopping.

One busy toddler, two dogs, and six chickens...we've got this thing!

But we are staying warm and snug in the little house, enjoying the fruits of our summer labors with lots of warming meals made of our produce.  We are ever-thankful for the freezer full of veggies and two deer that have kept us well-fed this season.

Solstice Dinner

Braided Challah Bread

We are trying to carve out a mindfulness, a slowness, despite the busy season.  Our evenings are precious to us.  It is our “slow time.”  Cooking nourishing family dinners, reading lots of books to our little one and taking time to play, and evening cups of tea and good conversation keep us connected and grounded.

Holding onto the light during the long nights

Snuggles with a sleepy boy

We’ve also made a commitment to maintaining healthy bodies.  On top of eating well, we have been able to stay active thanks to a mostly open winter (we are just now experiencing the first significant snow of the year!).  We even enjoyed Christmas Eve runs on the bike trail in 50 degree weather.  It has been wonderful to experience a late winter and enjoy the feeling the warm breezes and sunshine far into January.  On colder days and now that the snow and ice has arrived, we head to the YMCA.

All of has made for one happy, healthy Mama, which is good because I have a very important job this winter: growing our second child.  Yes, we are expecting another son in May this year.  We are so very excited to expand our family and can’t wait to meet this little boy.

Happy Mama at 20 weeks

Hope you are finding your peace this winter, no matter how busy you may be.  Sending much love, and will try to update more often!

Sioux Falls Urban Chicken Ordinance Reviewed

Our little family made the cover of the Argus Leader today for a story surrounding the ordinance that allows urban chickens in Sioux Falls.  The ordinance is being reviewed by the city council, so if you support allowing folks to have some food security by keeping layers in the city, let them know!

Here is the story:  Squawking Over Urban Farms

Photo credit Devin Wagner, Argus Leader

The New Gals

We welcomed two new ladies to the flock last week, a pair of Ameraucana pullets from a local farmer. We needed to add to the flock since little Harper has a not so little appetite and is rivaling Wyatt in his love of eggs.

They spent the first night in the garage in Rube’s kennel, then the second day in the kennel by the chicken run to introduce them to our hens. That afternoon we let them into the run where several of our hens stood curiously by while others started implementing “the pecking order.”

Harper and his steadfast fascination with the chickens

The chicken social hierarchy is a very real thing and our flock has been working hard at making these young gals realize they are at the bottom of the totem pole. The poor chicks have been hiding out in the coop most days, cowering when the “big” chickens come near. We were a little concerned they might not work it out (especially because our Rhode Island Red seems really seems to have it out for these gals), but just today we finally spotted the pullets out in the chicken yard mingling (from a distance) with the other birds. Whew! Hopefully soon the birds will figure it all out. Anyone know of a chicken whisperer?

Taking refuge atop the shade hut

These ladies are gorgeous! We’re loving our beautiful mixed flock, and looking forward to blue/green eggs these ladies will be providing!

Babe in the Northwoods

Last weekend was the long-awaited first time camping with our little guy.  We booked our campsite in July after realizing that nearly every weekend this summer was and is scheduled to be consumed with events and engagements.  We knew  if we didn’t pencil in a trip just for us the season would be here and gone and it would be another year before camping would become an option again.

Since we booked our trip during a brutal heatwave in July we looked for some northern location that would hopefully provide some late summer relief.  Jay Cooke State Park outside of Duluth, MN was our destination.  Set in the Northwoods of Minnesota, Jay Cooke has over 50 miles of hiking trails within its borders.  The St. Louis River runs through the park and provides some amazing views as it sweeps over lots of exposed rock on its way through the dense forest.  It is beautiful and provided us with a wilderness fix (something we deeply need), but was accessible and friendly enough to camp with a family.

View from the swinging bridge in Jay Cooke State Park

The three of us spent several nights in the woods and made some day trips to Duluth and beyond to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Superior.  Camping with a toddler is…well, definitely different than the days of old when we were unencumbered and could hang out around the fire relaxing (now those two words don’t look like they belong near each other), hiking for hours on gnarly singletrack trails, camping minimally in a tiny tent with just a sleeping bag and camp pad.  But it is certainly doable and  having our 15 month old fill up his bucket full of  pine cones and rocks, watching his face fill with curiosity and wonder listening to a ground squirrel or chipmunk, and seeing him toddle down the trail, well those are the images we had in mind when we decided have children and I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything.

We arrived Friday afternoon and set up our camp.  Harper immediately started exploring his new surroundings, picking up handfuls of dirt, rocks, and sticks.

He even got in on setting up the tent…

We didn’t bring an air mattress because we felt like Harper wouldn’t sleep next to us well on one, and instead laid our sleeping pads on the ground and then covered them with a feather comforter and a thick flannel-lined sleeping bag.  We topped this with another feather comforter for sleeping under.  We brought our biggest tent, which I won in 10th grade at an after prom party.  It hasn’t been used much over the years since we prefer to pack small and light, but I have a feeling that it’ll be making more appearances now that we have a child.  Having that extra space to stash gear (and toys) as well as let little ones play was a must, especially when we needed to wait out a quick rain shower one afternoon.

With our camp secured we decided to head into Duluth (only about 12 miles away) for an evening stroll along the boardwalk that follows the shore of Lake Superior.  Duluth is one of our favorite towns and the weather was perfect.  We spent a leisurely two hours meandering along the shore and through the downtown before heading back to camp.

Watching the ships

Playing in the sand and checking out the immense lake

Braving the water with Daddy (Harper still hasn't warmed up to lakes, pools, or sprinklers...maybe next summer...)

Back at camp the sun began to set and we readied our fire and began cooking our supper of delicious pork chops (from Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. in Dell Rapids, SD).  As the delicious scent wafted through the campground we plated up potato salad, veggies, and chips.  Just as we were getting ready to pull our chops off the fire I spotted in the dark a little black animal near one of our chairs and then saw its big white stripe down its back: A SKUNK!

I swept Harper up instantly and flew into the car.  We were completely astounded that a skunk would approach us and Wyatt went out to see if he was gone.  He found him out there circling our pork chops and not seeming afraid of us at all.  He even walked toward Wyatt nonchalantly and made his way around our camp like he owned the place.  Turns out, he did!  After calling the park staff over and ascertaining that the skunk had finally moved on a friendly ranger asked us if this was the site with the drain pipe running under the tent pad.  Well yes, it was.  Apparently we are not the first campers to have this skunk visit  He told us that skunks are attracted to food and that since there were no other campsites available we should just try to keep a clean camp and if the skunk came by again to shine our lights on him and made clicking sounds to get him to go away.  Seriously?  He went on to talk about the strange behaviors of wild animals who become habitualized to humans over time…skunks who are fed by hand by campers, garbage can raiding bears, and a story about a tenacious fox up at Temperance River State Park who had somewhat of a shoe fetish and stole campers’ shoes.  One family had four pairs of shoes outside their camper when they went to bed and only one lone shoe left when they woke up (later on Wyatt and I laid in our tent imagining this single-minded fox carrying off shoes, one at a time, getting to his den with one and obsessively turning right around for the next.  We imagined him racing against the sunrise for that last shoe and not quite making it back, watching despairingly as the family woke up and snatched their one remaining shoe back into their camper…).  Eventually someone found the fox’s den and there were around 60 shoes stashed there.

But back to our current skunk problem.  The ranger left, seeming not too concerned about this unwelcome visitor at our site and we spent the rest of night doing “perimeter checks” with our headlamps and worrying.  The skunk did come back again that night and he wasn’t afraid at all of us, showed no aggression and we didn’t receive a spraying.

Drain pipe under our camp pad, a.k.a. the home of "Jimbo," our campsite skunk

After a somewhat sleepness night next to a fitful baby we awoke bright and early to the cool woods and the promise of a new day.  We made our fire and cooked a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon over the flames.

The camp kitchen box doubles as Harper's breakfast table and chair

After washing down the meal with hot coffee we dressed and wandered over to the visitor center to inquire about “child-friendly” hiking options.  We wanted something that would allow us to easily hike with a baby on our back, or something we could take the jogging stroller on.  The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful and we left with a map of highlighted routes and scenic points.

We decided to take the stroller and make a long hike along the Forbay Trail en route to the Munger Trail, a 63-mile paved bike trail running from Hinckley, MN to Duluth.  We packed lunch, water, and a diaper bag full of supplies and headed out.

We first stopped at the Swinging Bridge (a brief hike from the visitor center) and took in the gorgeous view of the river, then took the Forbay Trail through the park  and joined with the Munger Trail.

It was a beautiful walk and we passed through both the towns of Thomson and Carlton along the way.  At one point we crossed a bridge with beautiful views of the river.

Harper did wonderful.  Around nap time he drifted off easily in the stroller and took a hearty snooze.  We passed the time checking out the abundance of wildflowers along the trail and spying trees that were showing the first signs of the changing season.

We ate our lunch at a picnic shelter in Carlton and spotting rain clouds on the horizon began speed walking back to the park.  We received a few sprinkles but after walk/sprinting for a little over an hour we made it back dry. We collapsed in the tent after three hours of hiking and listened to a brief shower pass over.  Since he had spent the duration of the trip lounging in the stroller Harper took this rest time to expel his pent-up energy by jumping on our heads and crawling over our limp, exhausted bodies.

Energy to burn

Once we recuperated we tried to spend some time relaxing at camp, but quickly realized that instead all we were doing was chasing Harper as he climbed onto the picnic table, went out onto the road, tried to work the water spigot, and just generally attempt to injure himself in this new and freeing world of “outside.”

Trying to figure out how Mom and Dad get water out of this thing

Taking himself on a walkabout

After a while however, this became exhausting and we decided we needed to find something else to do.  We loaded into the car and headed out for a drive along the North Shore.  We headed into Duluth first and cruised the historic district checking out the huge homes built in Duluth’s port town heyday.  We then drove out of town and headed up Hwy 61 to Two Harbors.  We stopped at Betty’s Pies, a place we had visited after a rainy backpacking trip a few years ago in Crosby Manitou State Park and had fond memories of.  We ordered broasted chicken and all the fixings and of course a slice of Apple Strawberry Crunch a la mode for dessert.

The boys chowing down

Stuffed, we unbuckled at least one pants button and drove over to the lighthouse off of downtown Two Harbors and took an evening stroll.  The light was beautiful and it was so amazingly peaceful on the lengthy walkway taking us to the lighthouse.  The water lapped below us and as far as the eye can sea stretched Lake Superior.

Walkway out to the lighthouse in Two Harbors, MN

Feeling the breeze off of Lake Superior

We spent a while taking pictures in the fading sun and strolling around the  shore and the rocky outcropping nearby.

Feeling content we headed back to our camp where we ate a cold supper (fearing a return of the skunk, who by now we had nicknamed Jimbo, and who returned again anyway but without incident) and hit the hay early.

The next morning Harper rose early again and we cooked up a second helping of bacon, eggs, and coffee before striking camp around 9am.  On our way out we stopped by Oldenburg Point for one last short stroll in the woods and a sweeping view of the forest and river below.

View from Oldenburg Point--woods as far as the eye can see

We then hit the road taking Hwy 23 down to the junction of I-35 to avoid the heavy road construction on the interstate.  Harper fell asleep and we made good time back through the cities heading east.  We decided to make one more fun stop on the way home to break up the drive and give Harper something to do.  We stopped at Emma Krumbee’s Apple Orchard outside of Belle Plaine, MN and went apple picking.

After steeling ourselves with coffee and an apple fritter we headed out to the orchard where we were able to fill up our bag with over 10 lbs. of Stella apples (we paid $11 to do so).  We helped Harper pick some apples off the tree, but soon he was mainly interested in getting an apple in his mouth. Once he did he was content to hang out in the grass.

Harper continued to munch on his apple for a good part of the drive home and we arrived safe and sound around 6pm on Sunday to greet our dogs and chickens, who had been cared for by Wyatt’s sister during our trip.

It was a wonderful experience being able to share our love of the outdoors with our young son, and a reminder that babies do grow up (in the blink of an eye, actually!) and activities you love aren’t gone forever with the arrival of children.  With patience, a little flexibility, and some creativity camping can be a had with young’uns.  You can bring your babe to the woods!

Cucumber Mania!

It’s that time of year!  We didn’t grow any cukes last year because we were still working on the previous year’s pickle stash, but this year we have a sizable patch of very prolific cucumbers.  What to do, what to do with all these cukes?  Well, for starters, we’ve been eating cucumbers EVERYDAY!

Cucumber salad with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and parmesan

Fresh cukes dressed in yogurt and vinegar sauce with onions and dill

Cucumbers as a side (here with pasta and fresh tomatoes, basil, and feta)

Despite our near constant munching, we are still dealing with a surplus! 

So, yesterday we decided it was time to whip up a quick batch of refrigerator pickles.  I have always loved the delicious sweet and sour taste of these little beauties. 

Refrigerator pickles are super easy and quick to make.  You just harvest a bunch of cukes from your bursting cucumber patch:

And then send them through the slicing blade on the food processor:

And throw some onions through the slicer as well:

Egyptian walking onions

Put this all in a large jar.  Throw a few cloves of garlic in for good measure.  Then whip up a quick brine and pour over the top of the cukes and onions.

The brine will contain vinegar, water, and sugar and salt along with the seasonings of your liking.  I used mustard seeds, tumeric, and black peppercorns. 


Because these aren’t canned they must stay in the fridge, but they’ll keep in there for an indefinite amount of time. 

Despite this mass pickle batch, we still had a sack of cucumbers to give away to some friends who joined us for supper last night.

Now, what to do with this week’s cukes? 

Even with  all of this cuke mania Wyatt is insisting we made a  mistake in not growing zucchini this year! 

What are you doing with your cukes this summer?  Share your favorite recipe or talk about the most prolific veggie in your garden!