Homeschooling Update

So it’s been about 6+ months now of our homeschooling adventure.  How are things going, you ask?  Pretty good.  It turns out that homeschooling doesn’t have to be THAT hard, or so we have learned.  My rigorous schedule for homeschooling was overwhelming and just plain IMPOSSIBLE for a newbie with two younger kids to accomplish and as it turns out, unnecessary.  Hours and hours of homeschooling everyday is unnecessary because it turns out that when kids have lots of free time on their hands, they do a lot of learning on their own!  Loralai is now a master bike rider and roller skater, can cook her own simple meals, draws often, and is a tenacious reader!  Her reading level has gone from beginning 2nd grade level to a 4th grade level since we started homeschooling!!!  This can be only be due to 1 thing: she has time to read now.  Period.  When she was in school, she was too exhausted to do much of anything in the afternoon, and getting up at 6am didn’t leave much time for night reading.  Now she stays up WAY too late most nights reading for hours, which has its good and bad points, but it is the sole reason her reading level has jumped 1.5 grade levels in 6 months time.

Loralai is a wiz at math.  It’s great!  Keeping her attention on the lesson is a challenge, but she gets things quickly.  We are progressing.

Spelling and writing continue to be our weak points, but those are also the most difficult subjects, so we’ll keep plugging (EN: one could even say, “chuggin'”) along, and I feel confident she will be able to write an acceptable story (with the aid of spell check) before she’s 20.  This is the one area that I’m actively seeking a curriculum though.

We go on lots of adventures!  To the library, to  museums, to community events, to caves, to lava fields, to national parks, and to reservoirs, and, and, and…  We hike, we swim, we explore, we have fun!  These are our social studies and science lessons, and sometimes math, reading, writing, and PE lessons as well.  We’ve made prints of animal tracks, used our 5 senses while hiking to observe our surroundings, seen dolphins swim, petted alligators, made volcanoes explode, seen Old Faithful erupt, watched buffalo herds, fed apples to wild donkeys, skipped rocks, climbed rocks, visited farms, and collected “pets” to study in almost every location we’ve visited.  It’s been a blast for the entire family!  My favorite part is that we got to do it all TOGETHER!

Drive days are great for getting big chunks of school work done in a short time!  That’s one trick I’ve learned!

Juliet is learning a ton as well!  She demanded to do school work like her sister and what Juliet wants, Juliet GETS!  So my little preschooler has learned the days of the week, the months of the year, how to work a calendar, how to count and write numbers to 20, count by 10’s, and her letter sounds!

It’s amazing!  I CAN teach my own kids!  And it doesn’t even take that much effort on my part.  Who knew!

Now the big question: Will we go back to regular schooling when we return?  Answer:  I don’t know.  I guess we’ll see.

Until then, we will be learning everyday, in sometimes unconventional ways, TOGETHER!

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A Birthday Girl in Pipestone Minnesota!

20150812_155532smSo we headed to Pipestone, Minnesota for 3 reasons:

1. We had not been to the state of Minnesota yet and I wanted to put that sticker on our US map.  (Yes, these are seriously the things that drive me (EN: there are weirder bucket lists.)

2. It was home to a National Monument. (Which we are very fond of.)

3. It was just a 1-day drive away and that was important because Lou’s birthday was on Sunday and we didn’t want to be driving for two because that would overlap her special day.

Lots and lots of sunflower fields on our way into Minnesota.
Lots and lots of sunflower fields on our way into Minnesota, like a CRAZY amount!

So we arrived at Pipestone RV park and it was a fine park.  We liked it enough.  We could have done without  the crazy amount of flies and slight trash smell is all.  But it was within walking distance to a pretty cool park.

Skate Park!
Skate Park!
Bean conquered a fear this day!
Bean conquered a fear this day!


Turns out Jonah is not into the meditating.

In the town near Pipestone and the surrounding area you couldn’t walk a block without running into a tee-pee, so this meant we spent a lot of time in tee-pees this week which was fine by us!


Picnic in a tepee
Picnic in a tepee

We also spent some time at Pipestone National Monument, the only place where pipestone is still mined today by registered Native Americans.  We watched videos and walked the property and watched Native Americans carve the stone into pipes, and earned jr. ranger badges!  It was a cool place.  I really should have bought a pipe!  Drat!

20150812_151857smThe biggest part of this week by far was celebrating our oldest Little turning 8!  How did this happen?!  I know everyone says that and it’s so over done,  but I’m seriously asking: Please tell me, how do I have an 8 year old (EN: Time, for an individual, is experienced subjectively; time flies when…)?!

20150809_210429smI’m so proud to be this sweet, spunky, fun, adventurous, caring  little girl’s Mama!  We love you to the moon, all around Jupiter, bounce off Pluto and into infinity, times infinity!  Please just come visit me LOTS when you are all grown up, and you can have as many popsicles as you want!

20150809_210654smNow, STOP!  Right now, this was it!  8 is Great!  But stop RIGHT HERE!!!!  No more growing!

We had a day of presents, including Lou’s new inline skates that she barely takes off now, and a scooter!  Daddy made her 3rd birthday cake to celebrate, and I took the girls to see In and Out at Lou’s birthday request.  It was a really fun, family day celebrating our special girl!

Being so close to Sturgis time and place, we saw some interesting hogs!
Being so close to Sturgis time and place, we saw some interesting hogs!

This was an okay stop for us, and I did get to put that Minnesota sticker on the RV map, but we decided to leave a couple of days earlier than planned and head to The Black Hills of South Dakota where there was lots more to do!

Oh, the skies!
Oh, the skies!
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Down on the Farm

20150807_112240smWriter’s Note: I had written a masterful piece on our visit to Gina and Brandon’s Farm in Kansas.  It was witty, heart warming, and portrayed them and their fabulous kids as the rock stars they are.  And then it got deleted.  Don’t ask me how (editor’s note: wasn’t me either (editor’s note: from now on further editor’s notes will be abbreviated to simply EN (EN: this is nice))).  And definitely don’t ask Joe how; he will tell you it was my fault.  So I took a couple of days to cry about it and now this is my attempt at recreating the incredible post that was lost.  Here we go! 20150803_101729smOnce upon a time in Austin, long ago when we both only had one kid, I met Gina in a parenting group I ran.  She was awesome and had cool tattoos and I wanted to be her friend so bad.  However, she moved away to start a farm with the love of her life before I really got the chance.  But thanks to Facebook we stayed in touch.  We started this trip and she’d message me about her love of travel, and I’d message her about our (Joe’s) love of farming.  Joe had been harping on the farm thing more than usual in the weeks leading up to this visit, and so on a whim and in a wine induced state, I messaged Gina one night and asked if she’d be willing to put us up on her property for a week and we’d pay it off with Joe’s very eager farm laboring.  She was like, “Come on with it!”!  (I’m paraphrasing here, she talks way cooler than this!)  And that is how we ended up in Kansas in August! 20150803_101004smWe pulled up to their rolling, 20 acre farm on a (I have no freaking idea what day we rolled up on, I’m so far behind on blog posts, the details have left me).   We drove up their lovely long driveway, past one of their ponds, and parked under a huge pecan tree.  It was so farmy and perfect! 20150803_172941smAll week, Joe kept busy working as usual, and when he wasn’t working he was mowing, driving the tractor, hauling things, or setting stuff on fire.  He was happy and very much in his element.  I realized just HOW in his element he was when he was out doing farm work one afternoon and Jonah was insisting that he get to drive the mower Daddy was on too!  So I walked him over to Dad.  And where I go, Darby goes.  And since Joe was working by the goats, Darby took the opportunity to tell them who was boss……again.  This time she got the female so worked up that she jumped the fence, and was set to bolt far, far away.  That is, if Joe had not leaped into action and caught her mid air and placed her back into her pen.  My hero!  (I’m realizing now that reading this may be the first time Gina and Brandon discover this fiasco even happened.  And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for my my naughty little chug dog.)20150807_111604sm

20150808_110513smI was busy with the kids, as usual, but on a farm; so awesome! 20150805_174808smWe hunted for eggs, fed the chickens our scraps, recycled, and burned our paper.  And that’s what I miss about being in one place.  Weird?  Maybe.  But nonetheless true. 20150807_191707smLoralai had a 10 year old boy to try and keep up with, Dylan.  They did all of Dylan’s farm chores together, rode bikes, made prank calls (to me), watched movies on their gloriously fast internet, and occasionally ignored one another just long enough so that the other didn’t think they didn’t have better things to do if they had to.  This is definitely a sign of having an older kid.  Sigh, where does the time go?! 20150808_112222sm

Loralai’s homeschool was summed up this week in a unit study about the food service industry…blah…blah…bullshit….bullshit. Okay what I meant to say was, Loralai was too busy playing to do much schoolwork this week, but she did spend one full day creating an entire restaurant including menu, cooked food items, cleaned RV, painted place mats, wrote monetary amounts for items, made signs to market restaurant, and more! Homeschool!
Oh yeah, we reviewed time too! That spelling is a work in process, as it is for me too.

Bean tried to keep up with those bigs for a day, gave up, and did a lot of painting, and trying to sneak into “the big house” to watch Annie a million times. 20150803_102431smJonah had Harper to learn lessons about sharing with others.  They jumped on the trampoline, swung around, and generally made a mess of things, but together.

Sand pit made out of an old tractor tire, in the crop fields, so kids can play while you plant. I mean, this is just cool!
This old rocking horse was a pretty hot item!
This old rocking horse was a pretty hot item!

20150807_203509smAll this going on while in a setting with two goats, that Darby just loved to get riled up, 20150803_101259smdozens of chickens clucking about, 20150807_211021smand two sweet farm dogs, Mavis and Sven. 20150808_111539smI left my heart in Kansas with Sven when we said our goodbyes.  He went from barking at me as I sat outside, to  scaring the hell out of me by silently sneaking up on me in the darkness as I stared at facebook, and finally just chilling with me and putting his huge head in my lap and demanding I pet him and never, ever stop.  We are in love, and set to me married in June.  Darby does not approve and is planning to make a big stink at the wedding (EN: how scandalous). 20150806_184206sm 20150806_175420smBeing at their home was a gift.  They have the farming, fields, ponds, zip-lines, bike trails, hills, and everything is just so green!  Their house was old, full of character with a great big kitchen right in the middle of it all that always had a box of home grown veggies sitting on the counter and dozens of farm eggs in the washroom.

I think the best gift anyone can give me at this point in my life, is a carton of farm fresh eggs.  Gina gave me two!
I think the best gift anyone can give me at this point in my life is a carton of farm fresh eggs. Gina gave me two!

On any given night, they’d pull out meat from their basement freezer full of animals they had raised and processed.   And everything tasted a million times better then anything we get in the grocery store.  They’ve got a pretty cool thing going and I hope that even when they face breaking appliances, rusty tractors, faulty wiring, and soggy basements that they know what a good thing they have!  I think they do.

20150807_111412smIn the midst of all the farm fun, we did get out and do a few things in the tiny town of Atchinson.

Swimming at the town pool!
Swimming at the town pool!

One of my favorite field trips was visiting Amelia Earhart’s house that she grew up in!

Nice digs!
Her Daddy was a judge.
She also loved to sew and had her own design company.
Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

We also visited The International Trees of Friendship, where they had different trees from all over the world.

I think that as long as I live there will never be, a poem as lovely as a tree.

And we visited a lovely city park.




Such a great week, even with the heat, and the fried power cord, which meant no AC for 2 days!  And I don’t think it did anything to rid Joe of the farming bug, quite the opposite.  Shucks!


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The Gateway to the West!


20150801_130818smHow appropriate for us to pass through St. Louis (known as The Gateway to the West) on our way out west!  We so rarely get to be “appropriate,” so we thought we’d take this opportunity! Joe’s Uncle, Perry Simeroth and his family were the goal for visiting the fine city of St. Louis.  It was a short visit, just 4 days, but it was a good one!  This also marked the second week in a row that someone let me do my laundry at their house there by avoiding the usual $15 charge and semi-dry towels that usually plagues our RV tripin’.   Happy me!

The Simeroth Clan. We had such a good time with Joe’s family!
This lucky little girl got to celebrate her birthday for the 2nd time with family, a week early this time!

Then as a total surprise to me, during one of my regular conversations with my mom, (you talk to your mom more than anyone while road tripping across the US), she told me that my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, lived in St Louis!  It blew my mind, and I set to work getting ahold of him right away!  He made room for us to hang out and meet his twin boys at Magic House!  It was a fun time, but really just so special seeing him again, reminiscing about old times, like when we would steal grandma’s cigarettes, and drive the golf cart through ditches.  And of course getting to meet his boys was a treat!  I just kept thinking what a good Daddy he turned out to be!

Little John
Little John
Just look at all this CUTE LaFourness right here!!!
The kids had a blast playing with each other. Eventually we just let them run and quit trying to keep up with them.
Serious fort building going on right here!
I swear, she’s my cutest kid! ;)


Just sad we didn't have more time to spend together.
Just sad we didn’t have more time to spend together.

Another day the Simeroth clan escorted us to the famous FREE St. Louis zoo!  It was magnificent!  Best I’ve ever seen!  But I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Picnic on the lawn.
We’re suckers for merry-go-rounds!
This was also a big day for AJ, who learned to hold a baby!
This gorgeous guy was so close, he was spraying us with water! I could have stared at him all day!
Sweet elephant family.
LOOK at how CLOSE! Crazy!
But if we had never left the elephants, we never would have seen the hippos!
Or got to work on the farm.
And I don’t even want to think about how crushed Jonah would have been if he hadn’t gotten to see those meerkats!  Not to mention how devastated I would have been if I didn’t have this picture to look back on for years and years and years to come!

One night, Perry, Mary, Thomas, AJ, and Rob all came over to our RV for dinner.

The girls were ecstatic when Thomas played Life with them! Guilty mom moment! Since they are always asking me to play but I’m always busy. Glad they got that out of their systems now! ;) Thank you Thomas!
Rob and Jonah just chilling. Rob followed our little guy around the whole week! Which was AWESOME, cause Mama had laundry to do!

And now a few random pics from the week.

Joe, doing what he do! Love him!
Miss Sassy Pants helping Daddy do what he do.
I got the gloves Dad!
Lou loved watching Thomas practice his flute. He’s pretty killer at it!
Jonah was in heaven with all these toys they brought out! Evidently, if you have lots of age appropriate, manly toys for your toddler to play with they leave you alone for a few minutes at a time. Mary let us take a few on the road with us. My sanity thanks you, Mary!

We also threw in a trip to the old courthouse near the arch and Joe and I were released to GO ON A DATE!  How do I even describe the peace that comes from being able to sit at a table while someone brings you delicious, hot food and you talk at a normal volume to someone you generally like (editor’s note: really?)?  I can’t.  I will just say that it was a much enjoyed and appreciated night.

Thank you for the good time St. Louis, Simeroth Clan, and Lafour’s!  I’ll think of you every time I use a clean towel for the next 2 weeks!  We hope to see you again soon!

Writer’s Note:  After this week, Rob Simeroth is now the official editor of our Chuggin’ Along Blog.  Cause we should all be able to embrace our weaknesses; and some of my worst happen to be spelling and grammar.  And Rob happens to be brilliant in those departments and funny too (editor’s note: as well as witty, charismatic and most of all, humble (but not photogenic apparently))!  So THANK YOU for being smarter than me Rob and making me look smarter just by knowing you.  You are making this world a smarter place.  I think you are smart.  I hope you got that. (editor’s note: I got it)

These are the two people bringing you these blog updates.  You are in good hands.
These are the two people bringing you these blog updates. You are in good hands.
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