Homeschooling Journey: Paul Bunyan, Wisconsin, Photosynthesis, and Grant Wood

Last week was a crazy week! It was our second week back and we were still working out our rhythm and routine. We also added in the subjects we didn’t do the first week back, so we had a very full second week! Music, art, phonics, reading, math, science, social studies… we did it all.

Let’s start with..music and social studies. Wyatt is absolutely loving The Waldock Way’s Traveling the States curriculum. It is by far his favorite subject that we cover. I have to admit, it is pretty neat! I loved geography and history as a kid, and even in college so it makes sense. I was even in school to become a Social Studies teacher when they got rid of that degree and I had to choose sometime else (I picked History – I should have picked Geography) Anyway, back to Wyatt and our school! I have been starting every school session with a folk song or song that pertains to our lessons and this week we listened to the Wisconsin state song as well as songs from Bunyan and Banjoes, and Voices From Across the Lakes. Wyatt loves this – and was super pumped up by the Roll Loggers, Roll song. It also tied in with our Literary Arts for the week. We have been making our way through legends and tall tales, and last week we read about the mighty Paul Bunyan, and Babe, his blue ox. I asked Wyatt who he liked better, Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan, and Wyatt is sticking by Johnny Appleseed.

Wisconsin facts we learned: toilet paper was invented there, which for some reason was hilarious to Wyatt, and that the first ice cream sundae was made there as well. Those were Wyatt’s two favorite takeaways. My favorite Wisconsin fact though is that Laura Ingalls was born there.

Science this entire year is all about plants, and we started at the beginning, with photosynthesis and how we get oxygen from trees. It’s still such a perfect design, that we need to live hand in hand with trees, as they use our carbon dioxide and we need their oxygen. We also had a very simple observation experiment to complete. We took two freshly cut leaves (I used my pothos) and put them in two jars of water. One was to be put in the sun, and the other in a closet. After an hour we needed to see the difference, were there any bubbles, etc.

Art this week was about Grant Wood, probably best known for his painting American Gothic. We read a few different books about Wood, looked at pictures of his work, and then we were supposed to make a sculpture over the weekend – but it didn’t happen. Note to self: Do not save work for the weekend, at least until the weather changes. Wyatt loved Wood’s sculpture work which were made out of just anything he found. I loved his portraits best, especially the portrait of his mother holding her snake plant, called Woman with Plants.

The sculpture is named “Lillies of the Alley”, and I found this photo online at Antiques and the Arts, photo credit to Stephen Gassman.

What We Used: (contains Amazon Affiliate links)

Living Sunlight // B is for Badger // American Gothic // Grant Wood: The Artist in the Hayloft // Paul Bunyan

Bunyan and Banjoes // Disney American Legends

I am sure a lot of these resources can be found either available online for free or at the library.

We also use curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful, The Waldock Way, and Blossom and Root.

I am hoping to get my blogging situation with timing of posts, replies to comments, and visiting you all and commenting under control this week!

Homeschool Journey: The First Week Back

Well, we made it through our first week back! Wyatt had a fantastic week. We had our moments where we struggled, both of us, but overall this was a great first few days back!

The first day I got up way too early and got started. I tried to make a special back to school breakfast of french toast but, I totally screwed it up somehow. Lol. I wasn’t awake enough maybe? So we had just a breakfast of buttered toast and we were happy because Wyatt and I are superfans of toast, which I know sounds funny. I gave him his little bin of supplies, some that he had chosen and some that were surprises, and he ate breakfast while exploring them.

After breakfast, we got ready and took back to school photos. He opted for his new lizard shirt – and told me that he was looking forward to learning about geckos. I guess I need to get a unit study together!

I can’t get over how much he has grown since even last year. Where did my baby go?

Then we headed in and got straight to work. I had a week that was structured to let us ease back in. We only tackled reading and language arts, social studies, music, and art last week. Next week we will add math and science back in. We need to form our new routine, get used to the new schedule, figure out how to work around therapy, all that good stuff.

And in the middle of our first day, I discovered we had a runaway caterpillar! I was crawling around the office looking for it everywhere! I finally found it on the baseboard behind my desk. (This is a giant swallowtail caterpillar)

When we finished up our work for the first day, we went outside for a much needed break. Wyatt played and played while I sat in my new yard chairs by the zinnias, enjoying the cool of the day and listening to Wyatt playing. It was a tiring but wonderful day.

What We Learned:

Our week was all about Johnny Appleseed, the state of Michigan, and the artist Thomas Cole.

Our Language Arts curriculum is one that I designed so I was excited to try it out! I need to fluff it out more with some projects that correlate with the book, etc but the actual work and how it went made me very happy.

We are learning about the states this year using a program from The Waldock Way, and we had a blast with it last week! I added in some Motown music, of course, and I had found the book Voices Across the Lakes on Amazon for $6, when other copies are selling for $40! It is described as “Beautifully told and illustrated stories about the Great Lakes region. Historical content, written around 10 authentic songs.” It is really cool, and we are probably going to use it with music class for a few more weeks.

I was also really excited to start our art program. I am not using anything formal, but I have a list of artists I want us to learn about this year and I am sort of making it up as we go along. This week we learned about Thomas Cole. I found an awesome picture book called Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, which we read together. I also visited the Thomas Cole National Historic Site website and they had some wonderful free downloads available to use. It would be an excellent field trip for anyone living in that area too, with free outdoor explore kits for students to use while visiting. Plus that view from the porch!! We are going to complete our art project later this afternoon as a family, by sketching the view from our porch. Not quite as scenic, not by a long shot, but it will be fun to do.

What We Used:

(contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

S is for Sleeping Bear Dunes // M is for Mitten // Voices Across the Lakes // Picturing America // Seed by Seed

For a look at what we are using for our curriculum this year, check out my post here.

We ended the week with a crazy road trip – but that is a story for another day!

Mini-Getaway: Days Two and Three

Wyatt is possibly a farmer boy at heart.

Day two, the sun was shining, the rooster was crowing, and we were up too. Early, because Wyatt is a total early bird. But that is ok because we got to see the farm wake up as well. The chickens were clucking and possibly laying eggs, making that Bawkbawkbawk-baBAWK noise. I love a breakfast and coffee in the morning sun so as soon as I could I stepped out onto the deck with my little sidekick while Billy was lounging about in bed still. He rolled out not long after, lured by the coffee, and joined us. We finished up our breakfast and coffee seconds before the dogs raced over to see us, and we gave them lots of pets before exploring the farm.

Usually I “McGill” a vacation – that is my maiden name and we are a people full of action a lot of the time, especially on vacation. We want to see and do it all! However, my intention for this trip was exactly the opposite. I had to turn down the McGill and just be. Wyatt and Billy are masters at relaxing, so I slowed my roll and it was an amazingly restful and slow day. We hung around the farm most of the day, except for three things – getting ice cream, trying mead at a local meadery, and getting pizza (takeout).

It was a lovely lazy day. All the fresh air and exploration zonked a little someone out, so we took him to bed and I read a bit of Charlotte’s Web to him before he officially turned in.

Then Billy and I caught the sunset, and sat and chatted while watching the deer in the meadow for a long while before turning in ourselves.

The next morning the guys stayed in bed, and our little friend was back. I went out to have breakfast with him, and his friend showed up. I felt well attended and guarded with my dog friends.

Before too long, it was time to go home, and we were not ready! We are already talking about a return visit in the fall. We just loved it that much. Before we left we said our goodbyes to the animals and I spotted a teensy chicken! Is this a baby? A young juvenile? A tiny chicken? I wanted to cuddle it!

The details, just in case anyone is ever in Michigan and wants a relaxing respite.

The Details:

We stayed at the Firefly Stargazer tiny house studio, located in Hastings, MI. It is really intended for 1-2 people, but I emailed and they were very accommodating about Wyatt after I explained his different needs and we assured them we don’t mind being snug. It is a perfect mix of modern farmhouse and rustic, with a super comfortable bed and fluffy pillows. I feel like Elena and Victoria really put so much thought and care into the little touches – the ultra soft bed, the cozy blankets, including the teddy bear blankets, the thick and fluffy towels, and books and games. And seriously, whatever laundry detergent they use smells amazing. Like, I might email to ask. The shower was not a super tiny stall where you feel like you are touching the walls or curtain which I hate, it was a nice size for a tiny house.

One thing that might be different. It has a compost toilet. This was new to Billy and I, and frankly, it was honestly not a big deal. It was easy, and despite my skepticism about it, there were no issues. I actually felt virtuous like some sort of eco-warrior when I used it.

Elena and Victoria try to live exclusively from what they grow and raise on the farm, which is also an organic farm as much as possible. Elena is retired military and both women are extremely nice and friendly. And the dogs – I can’t tell you how much I loved them. I had dogs my entire adult life until our dog passed away right at the time Wyatt was born and we just never thought it was a good time to adopt another after Penny. So it was so nice to be with dogs like that again.

The trip was super relaxing and I recommend it to anyone needing a reset!

Mini-Getaway!

This weekend we took a short little mini-getaway to West Michigan. I wanted a trip where we could really unwind and relax and be absolutely lazy if we wanted. We are not beach people, so a beach trip wouldn’t be that fun for us. So, I looked for something different – and found a farm.

Just a two hour drive from us, this tiny house looked adorable on Airbnb – and was even better in person! However, we did have a few stops before we got there.

Our adventure kicked off with lunch at Virtue Cider in Fennville. I love Virtue Cider, and was so excited to take an adult field trip (plus one child) to their ciderie. It was spendy but I loved it, and I have wanted to go for a long time. I ordered the Briard cider with a turkey and havarti sandwich, Billy enjoyed the ham and gruyere with a glass of Abeille, and Wyatt was happy with a grilled cheese and water. I knew I was going to buy a bottle of one that was difficult to buy at home, so I opted for the Lapinette. (You guys know I love rabbits!)

Afterward we still had some time before we could check in at the tiny house on the farm, so we stopped at a local creamery called Evergreen Lane. They make all the cheeses in their creamery, right there, from their own goats and then locally sourced milk from dairies. We ended buying the Lily Rose, and then a sampler that had Noella, Poet’s Tomme, and a cheddar. After splurging on cheese, we stopped by a field of poppies! A local blueberry farmer planted 4 acres in honor of his son, a soldier who didn’t return home. We were there a bit late in the season to see the full effect but we still were struck by the sentiment and in awe of the flowers that were still in bloom.

It was starting to get dark from an incoming rainstorm, so we hit the road again – next stop the tiny home!

We pulled in and the rain was just coming down like crazy! We raced up the garden path and up the few stairs and burst in to the shelter. And instantly fell in love with our little home for the weekend! I threw open the curtains, including those for the skylight, and we lay on the bed just listening and watching the rain come down. This for some reason had a huge impact on kiddo. He talked about it all weekend, the rain on the skylight. It is always surprising to me what kids hold on to. After an hour, the rain stopped and we had a furry visitor at the door!

What a sweet and handsome ambassador to welcome us!! Three dogs actually live on the property which is a working farm, and they were all so friendly. This dog, Skye, was our little companion much of the weekend.

We just chilled out for the rest of the night, playing games and reading, and when Wyatt fell asleep, Billy and I tiptoed outside to watch the fireflies, drink our cider, and eat our cheese. The cheese was very good, although maybe a bit stronger than we are used to. Very earthy. We both thought the Lily Rose was the best of the bunch.

It was so peaceful and beautiful, looking out at the meadow, listening to most of the world start to settle down around us, while some creatures were just getting started, like the fireflies and the trilling tree frogs.

I could have sat out there all night but eventually we had to turn in. And the bed! Seriously comfortable and it smelled so good! It was the best night of sleep any of us have had for a long time.

And that is it for day one! (Don’t worry there will only be one more, mostly photos!)

Greenfield Village – Late October

Saturday morning we woke up determined to have some family fun time. It’s been all work all the time around here lately, and we all needed a break. We tossed a few ideas around before deciding on Greenfield Village. We got there as the gates were opening, the day was overcast, and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves which was awesome.

I love visiting this time of year. I love fall and Halloween, as you all know, and the Village is all dressed up in vintage Halloween decorations, as well as some spooky ones too. They do Halloween Nights there, with candy and live performances, but to be honest, we prefer it like this. Empty. Without the fanfare and other people. Plus, we can actually see everything rather than be part of a huge crowd in the dark. We did that once and while it was fun, we like visiting on our own terms more.

We walked around the farm, greeting all the animals who were enjoying their breakfasts al fresco. The horses, John and Wilbur, were on their way to plow up the fields and we gave them a quick wave as they went off to work.

We walked around the “town” area, by the Wright Brothers house, closed up refreshment stands, and creepy decorations.

And made our way across the spooky covered bridge, making ghostly ooos and boos as we walked through…

These scarecrows were terrifying. I stepped in close for a photo, and and had the weirdest feeling they were watching me back. I freaked myself out, imagining one would leap off its post at me, and after snapping the picture, raced back to Billy and Wyatt.

We toured around the homes, and headed back over the bridge, not knowing the scariest monster was still to come…

Such scary!!!

Needless to say, Wyatt had fun! And so did we! (I look like a crazy person…I was helping make scary noises with Wyatt…lol)

I love this time of the year at the village! I am so happy that this year they extended the length of the visiting season for members through November. I see some mornings there in our future for a few more weeks at least!

‘Tis the Season – For Pumpkins!

My family has always gone to the pumpkin patch in the autumn for apples and doughnuts and ciders – and of course the aforementioned orange gourds. When I was a kid, we would go with my cousin Brian, and the cider mill was pretty basic, more farm than fall attraction. That orchard is still operation but I guess to jazz it up and draw in more business, they have added vendor booths and bounce houses and all sorts of things that we are not interested in. So when Wyatt was born, Billy and I found Bennett’s Orchard and it’s become our new tradition to go there. Sometimes with my brother and his family, sometimes just the three of us. This year, it was just the three of us.

We are early birds, and got on the road after breakfast for Wyatt and coffee for Billy and I. It was a quiet Sunday morning, hardly any cars on the road, with a blanket of fog enveloping the city and eventually farms around us. We listened to an episode of Campfire Monsters, and it was a great start to our adventure.

We arrived just as they were opening, and basically had the place to ourselves. The morning was very moody. Atmospheric even. We took a small walk around the grounds but not as far as usual as it was also very damp. I couldn’t get over how picturesque everything was – the photographer in me could not stop snapping pictures.

Not our dog, but he pretended to be while we were there. Such a sweet boy. As we strolled about, the fog began to dissipate, the sun was shining, and it was all of a sudden sweaty hot. Yay Michigan for your crazy weather changes.

There seems to be some sort of small imp peeking through my hair.

We started back for the store as it warmed up – definitely time to shop, try the hard cider that they make on site (not Wyatt of course), and pick out the main attraction, pumpkins. I filled my little hand basket with honey and cider and tiny pumpkins and a special one pot coffee pack of Maple Pecan coffee.

Then we headed outside for our pumpkins. My big cheeser was not in the mood to sit still for a photo though.

That’s ok, he is cute no matter what.

After the obligatory pumpkin photos, it was doughnut time. The best part, in my opinion. Wyatt had a doughnut and an apple. I don’t blame him, the apples are fantastic.

And with bellies full of apple cinnamon doughnuts and the Outback full of pumpkins, we turned toward home, happy and content.

Hometown Views: Churches

Hi all! Recently,Lisa from Boondock Ramblings and I started a new blog feature called Hometown Views, where we share different buildings, traditions, memories all from our hometowns. We started this because during our online friendship we have enjoyed comparing the areas we live – rural to suburban outside Detroit.

Where to start? Well, Wyandotte, my town, has 26 active churches, of all denominations. About ten years ago or so, there were more, but this the number we are at now. There used to be a joke that for every church there was a bar in our town, and honestly, I kind of think that was true! There is church or a bar on every corner it seems!

I am not going to talk about all 26 churches of course. That would be silly and I don’t know anything about most of them anyway. So I will start with the church I grew up going to, and was married at. The First United Presbyterian Church. My aunt and uncle were actually the first couple ever to be married there! My mom and dad were married there, my cousin. My grandparent’s funerals. So so many Christmas Eves, time in Sunday School and in the children’s little chapel and all my time in the children’s choir, which at times was only my cousin and me, with me half hidden behind her when we had to sing in front of the congregation. Unfortunately, this church did not survive. It lost members and never got any new ones to keep it going. However, the building is still there, and is a church according to the website, as it is now called Kinergy and I wasn’t sure what that was. I always thought this church was so pretty, and I loved being in there at night on Christmas Eve, with the candles and stained glass. I loved it so much that when we got married there, I had an evening wedding. There are stained glass windows both sides of sanctuary and I just thought they were beautiful.

There were churches however that almost everybody I knew went to – we had a multitude of Catholic churches at one time, and most of my friends were Catholic. Three or four of these churches had festivals every summer where we could eat pierogis that were handmade all year and frozen for the festival. They were so darn good. Now only one has a festival, Mount Carmel, and it is so packed that it is almost impossible to get a pierogi.

It stands at the end of a long boulevard, sort of majestic and tremendous in size for our city. There is a statue of the Pope, which I have heard was erected after the Pope’s visit to our area. I can’t find anything to substantiate that claim however. I can say that my best friend went to elementary school here, and also was married here. I stood up in her wedding and I remember her asking me to peek out over the balcony where we were waiting to make sure I could see her future husband down there. And of course I did, she was just a bundle of nerves!

The other “popular” Catholic church is St. Patrick, or St. Pats for short. I think this is another gorgeous building, inside and out.

If you stand on the middle of the boulevard where St. Pats is, you can see two other churches. One is the church where my brother and sister-in-law were married, The First Congregational Church of Wyandotte. It feels so old world, even on the inside and has a charming fellowship hall. For some reason it reminds me of a tiny castle. It is no longer open either, sadly.

The last church I am going to post about is also the third church you can see from the boulevard. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. It is my current church, or would be if I were still going. It’s been about two years but as soon as I can go back I plan on it. This is the church that my son and my niece were christened at, on the same day. I hadn’t been to church for many years and was looking for the right fit – I felt comfortable right from the start here. If The First Congregational reminds me of a castle, this one makes me think of a little hobbit house.

Look at those little babies! And my straight hair!

For Lisa’s post on the churches in her area, just click here! I am looking forward to seeing what her churches are like!







Our Butterfly Project – (A Brief )Update #6

It’s been a sort of slow week for us with the butterflies. We have caterpillars eating and growing, and a few in chrysalis going through their metamorphosis. I did have one male Black Swallowtail eclose last night, in the evening as the sun was setting so he had to spend the night. I released him first thing this morning and he was ready to go. I named him Kerouac.

It’s also been a sad week. I read some people keep their cats in enclosures outside, so I had some monarch caterpillars outside on the porch, not too hot or too cold, not too sunny or too shady. And something happened to them. I am not sure what although I suspect that someone in the neighborhood sprayed pesticides and it drifted over to our yard. Which is upsetting for many reasons, but it also shows just what these species have to survive through. I moved the survivors into a clean enclosure with all new food and keep checking on them, hoping they pull through. I will bleach and rinse the mesh enclosures today and get them all clean and sanitized for the next group. Update: All but one caterpillar survived!

I haven’t been bringing in any new eggs or caterpillars in the past week or so. We are going on vacation next week and I have to pass on the ones that I have to my friends to take care of for me while I am gone and they have their own as well, so I didn’t want to overwhelm them. When I get back however, I will pick up where I left off, in time for the big migration and super monarchs. The monarchs that eclose in late August and early September will be the monarchs that make the flight south, to Texas and Mexico. I am bummed that I did not get tags this year but I will for sure next year. So Texan friends, keep an eye out next year for my butterflies!

So right now we are in a holding pattern over here. Leslie from Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After suggested little video updates on this project, maybe permanently embedded in the sidebar, and I am considering that, especially with the big migration and big monarchs coming soon.

And this is where we are this week! Slow going right now with some weeks of growth and a week off next week, then big things coming soon!

See my previous updates here!

Update #1

Update #2

Update #3

Update #4

Update #5

Our Butterfly Project – Update #5

Good morning butterflies! Good morning caterpillars! This is a pretty common thing in our house these days, greeting all of our little friends that share our space, however temporarily. Wyatt still remains more in love with the caterpillars than the butterflies, but the magic of a watching a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis then fly away into the wind never gets old to me.

Last week all of our butterflies emerged from their chrysalis! At the time of my last posting, we had 14 monarchs in chrysalis, and 1 black swallowtail. As of today, that group, which I am calling The Toad Hole group after my friend Kelly’s house’s “name”, are all living their lives, free and wild and gathering nectar and hopefully creating more butterflies.

One morning I woke up to 6 butterflies! I actually had to work that morning, but I work for my cousin, and he is working from home these days, so I took them with me to release there. You have to give them some time to allow their wings to dry, and they would be ready while I was working. So, the butterflies went with me. And as a bonus, his daughters were there too, and got to watch and help out.

Although I had to laugh at myself, driving with a car of butterflies. I wonder what they thought, if anything?

So last week was all about these beautiful creatures – releasing them and collecting eggs for the most part.

I am planning on keeping a running tally though for those who are interested of the number of butterflies released, either in the sidebar or somewhere else. Maybe a whole dedicated page? I’ll have to see what works best. I am also hoping to start tagging monarchs, but I need to order the tags today or it won’t happen. If I do, it would be really cool to see if my blog friends down in Texas find any of the monarchs that I release! Tagging happens in the fall, we will see if I can order the tags today, since I think today is the last day to order!

So, the breakdown of butterflies last week:

14 released monarchs : 5 female (Janet, Scarlet, Wendy, Penny, and Freya) 9 male Larry, George, Peter, Frank, Captain, Loki, Odin, Thor, Fenrir.

1 released Black Swallowtail – male, Cavendish

If you are wondering why I am doing this, here is a great article. I can’t imagine a world without butterflies, can you? I remember going to Jack Miner in Canada as a child, and seeing trees just covered in monarchs and thinking it was the most amazing, wonderful, enchanted thing I had seen. I want to take Wyatt one day so he can feel that too.

The Haps’

It’s been quite a week! We set a lot of different things in motion to make some changes this week, shifting stuff around, making different financial changes. We also had to deal with the insurance company over a small dent in Billy’s car that happened when he was hit while parked, and make some decisions on our barely functioning ancient A/C unit. Overall, it was a busy busy week and things have been pretty good for the most part.

I am going to probably skip around a bit, timeline wise. Wyatt had his EEG on Thursday, and he did so good. He is such a trooper all the time. It was supposed to be a 48 hour EEG, where we took him in, had him hooked up, then brought him home. However, on Wednesday the hospital called and I found out that a mistake was made in scheduling and this was a 30 minute EEG in office instead. So I imagine another EEG is in our future. I’m glad we at least got something done though.

He looks a little upset in that last photo. And he was. At me. Lol. I had to take my phone back for a minute and he was not happy with me. I don’t usually ever let him play with it (last time he did he called emergency so.. never again) but for the EEG I let him watch his YouTube favorites and Sesame Street. We got the results but I can’t interpret them so I am waiting on the doctor to call. But Wyatt did such a great job. He loved showing everyone his moon shirt, and it seems a lot of people really like the moon too. Or so they told him. The tech was also wonderful, she made the whole experience so much easier for all of us.

Wednesday I went back to work! For a short time but it was still something. I work part-time for my cousin at his law practice, and it is just the two of us. During the past 18 months though, he has been working from home and I haven’t been working at all. I just couldn’t juggle all of Wyatt’s needs and extra work, especially with never knowing quite when Billy is getting home from work. But now we are slowing adding in normalcy, like work. Brian is shifting his business away from the office entirely, and we are creating an office space in his home. I am looking forward to it, I can actually take Wyatt over there with me if need be and let him play or whatever while I work. But first, we need to get it organized. And since I had to pass by a Starbucks on my way over, I of course had to stop and pick up a new favorite, the Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte. So good!

And looking at this, I really need to do something about my nails today!

Last night Billy and I went out together, without Wyatt, for the first time since COVID. Our city has a Street Art Fair every year (except last year) and Billy and I have gone almost every year without fail. It’s been a while since I have gone on a Friday night though! I didn’t really look at the art too much, I was just too busy enjoying being out again. Looking around, people watching. We got tacos and split a beer, finished walking around, and that was about it. It was a beautiful night though, and with the music and the people and sights, it felt so alive. And so did I.

It should be a pretty slow Saturday around here, Billy has to wrap up some of our business today and then tonight we are going swimming at my in-laws with my brother and the fam.

I can’t wait to share some of the things we have been doing for Italy month! Hopefully next week I get a chance to round those up.

How was your week? What has been happening?