Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category

Back in December, the kids and I made bird feeders.  It was very easy, very fast, and lots of fun! 

Here’s how we did it.

You will need:

2-liter soda bottles (1 per feeder)

dowels or sticks (I think our dowels were 3/8 inch size)

drill and drill bits

something to cut dowels or sticks with

a ruler to measure length of sticks/dowels

bird seed


wire strong enough for hanging a full bottle

a tree, post, or peg to hang the feeder from


1.  Wash the soda bottle thoroughly and dry well.

2.  Decide which way the bottle will hang—right-side-up or upside-down.  (We did ours upside-down, but the next ones will be right-side-up.)  Drill 4 holes a couple of inches from the bottom.  Put two of them across from each other, and the other two on the opposite sides, a little above or below the first holes.  This is to make a cross-shaped set with two dowels poking out on 4 sides of the bottle.  (This makes 4 perches for birds, but if you just want 2 perches, drill 2 holes and just use one dowel.)


3.  Measure and cut two 8 or 9-inch pieces of dowel and push them through the holes.  They should stick out 2-3 inches from the bottle.  If you make them too long, bigger birds like European Starlings (which are real pests for many people) will be able to perch and eat all your seeds in a day or less). 

4.  Drill 4 more holes 1-2 inches above each dowel hole.  This is where the birds will stick their beaks in to get seeds.  (We actually did 2 sets of feeder holes; one for smaller birds and one for taller birds.)

5.  Drill two smaller holes near the top of the bottle, across from each other.  These will hold your wire.

6.  Cut a long piece of wire and thread it through the small holes, bringing the ends up so it looks like a “U” shape. 

7.  Drill a small hole or two in the lid (or bottom of the bottle if making a right-side-up feeder).  This hole will help drain the moisture that collects inside the bottle.  (We didn’t do this for our first feeders and are regretting it, so that’s why our next ones will be right-side-up…drilling small holes in the bottom will be easier and drain better than drilling holes in the lid.)

8.  Unscrew the lid and fill with birdseed using the funnel.  Do this in an area that’s easy to clean (or even outside…ground-feeding birds like sparrows and quail will thank you for the spilled seed).  Some of the seeds will spill out the holes, but not much.  Screw the lid back on.


9.  Take the feeder outside and hang from a branch or post.  (I’ve heard there are wall-mount things you can buy to mount it from your house, as well.)  You can either make a loop of wire and hang it on a nicely slanted branch, or if you only have straight branches, put the wire around a branch and twist the ends together several times.  Make sure the wire ends are tucked under the branch where bird feet won’t catch on them.



10.  Wait patiently.  It may take up to 2 weeks before the birds find out there’s a new restaurant in the neighborhood.  You might want to scatter some seeds on the ground around the feeder, and even small bits of bread crumbled up.  We waited one week before we got our first customer—a beautiful male house finch—and then were mobbed a few days later (on Christmas Day, no less!) with Black-Capped Chickadees, House Sparrows (ugh), Dark-Eyed Juncos (Oregon variety), and California Quail

Since then we’ve also been visited by lots of male and female House Finches, 2 Mountain Chickadees, a Northern Flicker, a pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves, various Mourning Doves, several Black-Billed Magpies, lots of European Starlings (though they can’t perch on the feeders), and one Spotted Towhee.

You may want to consider making some pine-cone feeders while you wait.  These are quite effective–the birds love them!  They’re very easy:

1.  Find some nice bristly pinecones

2.  Tie a sturdy string or thread around them

3.  Cover them in peanut butter

4.  Sprinkle bird seed all over the peanut butter.  Some people mix cornmeal into the peanut butter, too, so the birds can digest it better

5.  Hang from a branch and watch the birds enjoy their tasty treat.  (Warning: Starlings LOVE these things, so cross your fingers that they don’t discover it or the peanut butter will be gone in an hour.)  Chickadees adore this treat, and they’re so curious and friendly that they may let you eventually stand a few feet away and snap some pictures like these:


Black-Capped Chickadee


Mountain Chickadee…notice the white stripe above his eyes


Here you can see the stripe isn’t a complete circle


Snatching some peanut butter.  We named this guy “Mountain Dude.”


Chickadees are so much fun to watch…they’re quite the acrobats. The purple
ribbons are for my friend, missing mother Susan Cox Powell. 


My favorite picture: a beak full of peanut butter, while “Ginny,” a curious female house finch, watches from a few branches above

We look forward every day to seeing old favorites as well as new birds at our feeders.  It’s also a terrific nature project for the kids…they can observe and draw the birds from two feet away inside the house and learn the differences in genders, types of birds, and how they act and eat. 


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Since I homeschool my kids, I’m always looking for ways to make school more creative…more fun…more engaging…more enjoyable.  Sometimes I draw a blank, but I often manage to come up with some fun ideas that the kids love.

One favorite activity is as follows:

1.  The mom/teacher writes activities on slips of paper and folds them

2.  After the child completes a problem (or 5 problems, or a whole page) they get to choose one slip of paper and do the activity on the paper.

3.  Repeat step 2 until all work is done.

pick a slip bowl

If you come up with a large list of activities (many slips of paper), you can keep them in a jar or container and re-use them as often as needed.  Here’s some ideas (not all of these are pure “fun” activities, but they do give the kids a break from school):

* build a tower out of blocks

* do one math problem on the computer (or math game) for 2 minutes

* eat 1 chocolate chip

* do 5 somersaults

* play 1 song on the piano, harmonica, kazoo, or tin whistle

* put away 5 things in the living room

* draw a Star Wars character (customize this one to your child’s interests)

* send a text message (my kids love to text my sisters on my phone)

* send an e-mail (grandmas love getting e-mail from grandkids!)

* go outside and scatter some corn or birdseed for the birds

* bird watch for 1 minute (we have active and busy feeders outside out front window)

* put away 10 things in your bedroom

* jump 30 times with the jump rope

* eat at least 5 nuts or seeds

* drink 1 cup of water

* play a tic-tac-toe game with an imaginary opponent

* read 1 page in a book

And so on.  The possibilities are really endless.  Of course, the kids have to be watched so they don’t “abuse” the game (so they don’t take too long doing activities or decide they don’t want to do something, put it back, and choose a different one); if they don’t like the activity they chose, they “forfeit” that turn and do their next set of problems.  But for the most part they really love this game and it’s a great way to get them excited about finishing schoolwork quickly and well.

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Just a quick post to squash a couple of stupid, silly rumors that I’m really sick of.

I’ve seen this rumor everywhere the past few months and this post probably won’t do any good because the kind of people that spread this garbage don’t believe me, anyway—but here goes:

No, I am not writing a book.  Not about Susan, or anything or anyone else.

How do rumors get started?  Lots of reasons, I suppose…malicious people who have nothing better to do with their lives…or someone who sees or reads something, says “I wonder if” or “I bet this person thinks” or “Maybe this happened” and then someone else reads it and takes it as fact without ever bothering to check the truth out.

People see that I have an English degree and that I’m interested in writing children’s novels.  So for some reason they assume this means I want to write about Susan.

I think the people that obsess about this kind of thing need to find something productive to do.  Go outside, take a walk, enjoy some fresh air, fill your mind with good literature, do something kind for others.  Or—if you’re so concerned with every minute detail of Susan’s friends’ private lives—do something to help Susan such as printing and passing out fliers in your local area.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate items to women’s shelters. 

I spend 99.9% of my time trying to find Susan in every way I can, and the tiny bit of time left over all goes to my family.  I homeschool my children and try to give them a strong foundation for their lives and a sense of security…not an easy thing when their mother’s friend suddenly disappears from their lives and they’ve got to be wondering, if it could happen to her, could it happen to anyone?  I don’t have time to write anything more than I’m already doing with blogs, e-mails, Facebook messages, Twitter accounts, and all the other online things to keep Susan in the news and in people’s minds and hearts.

I hope that some people who like to spread and perpetuate rumors of this type and others will stop and consider what they’re doing, who they could be damaging, and what lives they could be destroying.  Find out the truth before spreading lies.  Gossip is never good, whether in person or online. 

Instead, why not go out and do something real with your day and go to bed feeling that you’ve contributed something good to the world.

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My goodness, it’s been quite a while!  My world has been quite busy these days…ballet class problems, 4-H club meetings (5 weeks of cooking, 1 week of tying a quilt, 3 weeks of sewing), Cub Scout meetings and trainings, school with the kids, etc….

I don’t have anything earth-shattering or profound to blog about but I do have a few things to share.

First up: my boy is now a Bear in Cub Scouts (*sniff*…he’s leaving my den!  Not grand).  Here’s a rather washed-out picture of him getting his Bear book last week at pack meeting:

 Bran is a bear

The kids did a wonderful job during the 4-H sewing meetings.  The first two weeks we made long fabric hair ties and toy bags for the LDS Humanitarian Center, but last week the kids could make whatever they wanted.  Ciara drew a shark picture on paper, cut it out, and used that for her pattern.  She made a stuffed shark toy for her cousin Ethan’s birthday, coming up soon:

Ciara's shark

I’m so proud of her!! She did a terrific job!

Bran and Nia decided to make themselves toy bags, modeled on the Humanitarian ones:

bran's toy bag

nia's bag

I never would’ve thought it was possible to teach a 6-year-old to run a sewing machine.  Nia and Bran did so well!  I have to watch them carefully, of course, so they don’t hurt themselves, but all three kids wowed and amazed me.

Friday night I checked the weather for Saturday and it was supposed to be quite cold and snowy.  Since I don’t have a hat yet, I gave my fingers a workout getting this done in time:

Cees headwarmer

The fast, fun and warm Calorimetry from Knitty.com

I got up at 6am Saturday and worked like crazy until 7:45, finishing it just in time for Ciara and I to leave for the Twilight Lexicon New Moon party.  (We thought we’d be standing outside in the cold for an hour, but that’s another story for another day.)

Speaking of knitting, I finally finished Bran’s stocking hat (after three tries…size was either too big or too small…third time was definitely the charm with this one!), made some matching fingerless gloves, and a scarf.  I am not thrilled that the scarf isn’t longer.  I measured it carefully but somehow it shrank while I was making it.  The gloves are okay; not the best, but definitely better than the first pair I made last year (and since I didn’t have a pattern, I’m glad I managed to figure them out).  The hat is grand and I know he’ll love it but I wish it was longer.  He wants a really, really long one.  I still need to make the pom pom for the end.

Bran fingerless gloves

Bran’s been wanting fingerless gloves for a year

Bran bday pres

Ciara, modeling Bran’s matching set

Bran's hat

The now-infamous “3rd time” hat

The kids and I got up early to shovel the snowy driveway this morning.  I’m looking very much forward to a relaxing week…no ballet, no Cub Scouts, no 4-H.  My brother and his wife are down from Idaho and I’m excited for all the upcoming family time.  I hope you’re all safe and warm and enjoying family!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why whipped cream, you ask? Well, it’s because this is just a short, fluffy little entry…nothing too important…but kinda sweet and nice, like whipped cream on top of cake.

A few fun things about my day today:

* My husband is working from home, at least for now. It’s quite an adjustment but it’s lovely to see his handsome face all day!

* The kids did their first “Quills and Magical Writing” lesson. We made two kinds of quills…the “real” kind, carved nibs and home-made berry ink and everything, and another kind that we slipped ink tubes from pens into and then decorated. SOOOOO fun!! Pics available here.

* I haven’t read aloud from novels much to the kids, because the younger two have not been very interested up until now. However, we started reading The BFG by Roald Dahl last night, and they love it! They kept saying “just one more chapter” last night and tonight we read for almost an hour, till my voice was giving out. Bran drew the Bloodbottler spitting out nasty bits of snozzcumbers all over. I can’t believe he/they are so into it and I’m thrilled about it. Tomorrow: my favorite chapter…the hilarious whizzpoppers.

* I made plans with my lovely sis for the kids and I to go spend time with her boys at the Red Balloon toy store tomorrow while she’s doing a photo shoot, then we’ll have a fun afternoon together. Can’t wait to see my cute nephews!

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All week I’ve wanted to write a post here, but got busy and forgot or else didn’t have pictures ready.  So today I’m just going to play a little “catch up” game and write about several different events.

On Thursday, June 11, some of my sisters and I went to This is the Place heritage pioneer park.  I’d found out at the last minute that it was free that day, courtesy of John Huntsman Sr., and even though the girls had their ballet recital that night, we really wanted to go.

We prayed for good weather (rain/storms were forecast!) and off we went.  We had so much fun!  I’m sure we didn’t even see half the houses/pioneer things, but what we saw was great.  The kids and I have never been before, though my sisters Kaatia and Kimia had.  We rode the train around the village, went inside some tiny pioneer cabins (one tiny thing the size of my living room supposedly housed nine people! And I have a small living room), visited the baby animal petting area, had pony rides, enjoyed free ice cream cones, bought toys and fresh popcorn at the general store, marveled at a blacksmith at work making an intricate iron leaf in front of our eyes, and camped out in a tipi when it started to pour. 

b bath            b bran on path           b Bran skull      

Old wooden bathtub           Bran and cousins              Bran and cow skull

b coffin                b cousin                       b goat

Zombie Ciara             Nia and cousin enjoying popcorn            Ciara and baby goat

b lamb       b mill        b nia tipi

   Nia and lamb            In front of a mill             Nia in a tipi

b shawl                         b train       b wagon

Beautiful crocheted shawl             Kid train                 Nia “driving” a wagon

The rain never stopped, so we had to run/walk all the way down the long hill (the train was completely full) to try to find some shelter in a very leaky twig-roofed pavilion.  We ate lunch in the driest corner, only getting dripped on a few times a minute, then drove across the street to the zoo.  (Apparently they let you in for a half-hour guest pass for free if you want to visit the store.) 

After stopping at the zoo gift shop to get some top-secret things (new Hogwarts pets for the kids), we drove home—starved, soaked, muddy, and looking like drowned rats.  

Nia had fallen so much in love with a tiny barn owl she saw at the gift shop that she cried almost all the way home at having to leave him.  I told her, “Nia, you asked Hagrid to send you a cat for your new pet.”  She sobbed, “But Mama, I love that tiny owl!”  I told her that if she wrote Hagrid a letter as soon as she got home, maybe it wouldn’t be too late and he would get her letter in time to send her an owl instead.

The second we got home she ran into the house, grabbed paper and pencil, and wrote a new letter to Hagrid, complete with a quickly-drawn owl picture:

dear Hagred

I chaed my mind i wond a owel

Love Nia

Even though we were limited for time, I boxed up the three owls I bought at the zoo (Bran decided he wanted an owl at the shop also), attached letters from Hagrid, and left the packages on the doorstep.  I also got my own little stuffed owl wet and sat him on top of the pile (since, you know, it had been quite a storm that afternoon as he battled his way to our house with the packages).

brown paper packages

Brown paper packages tied up with string

When John came home from work, I asked him to ring the doorbell.  The kids ran to the door, shrieking and screaming.  When they saw the packages they screamed even more and ripped them open.  All three kids were in rapture, hugging their owls, but Nia’s joy was hilarious to behold.  She fell on the floor, she was so thrilled to be reunited with her tiny little friend:

nia owl 2

Bran was very happy with his great horned owl, and Ciara loved her absolutely perfect snowy owl.

Bran owl          ciara owl         nia owl

          “Bark”                              “Frosting”                           “Scribbles”

After a quick dinner it was time to put the girls’ hair in buns and leave for the ballet recital!

b ciara in costume

    Ciara in her “military” costume

b nia costume

           Nia as a forest fairy

We had a bit of a mishap with Ciara forgetting her red belt, but she bravely carried on and did a wonderful job dancing with her class to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”  Nia was adorable, of course, and remembered her steps perfectly to “Entrance of the fairy king” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I had to sit in the balcony with the tumbling class and guide them to the stage in time for their number, but in between I was hanging over the railing, watching every step of my girls with more-than-misty eyes. 

On Saturday morning Owl Post delivered the kids’ first Care of Magical Creatures lessons—the first of 4 lessons about owls.  It was grand to see their excitement as they pored over non-fiction books about owls, looking for the answers to their homework.  This Hogwarts school thing is working out very well!

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Whew, this week has been quite the whirlwind!  I thought I’d put up a little summary of the daily craziness for those who are wondering why I haven’t written for a few days. 🙂


Actually a nice day, not too busy.  I spent quite a bit of time reading up on Hogwarts classes and ideas and did a bunch of research.  We visited the library and had a lovely time getting books.  I found several books on dragons and fairies for the Care of Magical Creatures classes.  Also: Nia got her first “big” books!  By “big” I mean pages and pages of words without many pictures.  She checked out several fairy books and I wondered if she would even read one, let alone all her stack.  She never has before…she’s just devoured picture books and Barbie comic books/graphic novel things.

Nia’s new obsession.

She proved me wrong, much to my delight.  She’s whipping through all those books and I’m so proud of her!  I can’t believe how well she reads at only 6 years old.

Ciara and I also ran to Michaels/Petsmart/WalMart before 9pm to get some supplies for Hogwarts.


More Hogwarts research + loads and loads of laundry.  I had also decided, on Monday, to do “House Points” as part of the Hogwarts school thing.  Ciara thought of using empty water bottles for the containers and we also got some bags of small, colored “fish rocks” gravel for the “gems” in the house points containers.  Tuesday morning the kids sorted a multi-colored bag into individual colors…green for Bran, pink for Nia, blue for Ciara (and dark purple for me, just for fun). 

We bought the multicolored pack.

In the afternoon I washed the bottles, tied ribbons on them, packed bottles/house points chart/bags of rocks in a box, addressed it and tied it with string, and left it on the doorstep.  I also got my little stuffed owl wet and set him on top.  I rang the doorbell and asked the kids to answer the door.

They screamed and shrieked!  They were very excited.  I asked them, “Why do you think the owl’s wet?  And why was he so late?  Didn’t your letter this morning say the package should be here?”  Nia answered, “Maybe he got rained on!”  (It has been stormy all day.)  All three of them immediately ran to start doing things to earn points.  They made their beds.  Bran and Nia knelt down and said their “morning prayers.”  (John said, “Um, guys, it’s 6pm.  That doesn’t count as a morning prayer!”)

I took pictures of the House Points containers and the owl but they’re still on my phone.  I’ll put them up later.  It is great fun to be able to say “5 points to Gryffindor!” and “20 points for Hufflepuff!” and such.  And wow, the kids absolutely love it.  Oh, and they can also get points taken away for bad behavior…which is very nice. :D   

At 6:30 I left to attend Enrichment night, which was hilarious and fun…a service auction.  We got points for doing things like reading scriptures, exercising, saying “I love you” to someone that day, making our beds, taking time for ourselves, etc.  I had 700 points to bid on things.  I bought two separate things of 3 hours of babysitting each (SWEET!!!  Dates with John!!) and a german chocolate pie for the kids.  As for my services, I auctioned off a pair of crocheted double-thick pretty hotpads as well as four services: 4 piano lessons (30 min. each), an hour of weeding, an hour of teaching someone to lead music, and 2 hours of teaching someone to knit or crochet. 

Marie Callenders: German Chocolate Pie.


Dress rehearsal day!  We ran around getting ready not only for being gone at dress rehearsal all day, but also Cub Scouts.  I knew the kids wouldn’t eat sandwiches if I packed any, so Ciara and I went to WalMart at 6:30a.m. to get snacks (granola bars, crackers, etc.  I was quite pleased to see that WalMart actually had wheat-free ginger snap cookies for Bran!).  We got to the rehearsal shortly after 11.  Ciara practiced her dance at 12:10 and did such a wonderful job.  Nia didn’t go on till 1:45, and in the meantime I had signed up for several hours of volunteer work so I sat at the picture/finance table and also helped put together 140 gift bags for the dancers.  My sister Kaatia came with her kids to watch the rehearsals since she can’t make it to the recital.  Thanks so much, Kaatia!  It meant a lot to the girls.

Bran and I raced to Scouts at 3:20.  It started at 4 and only 4 boys came (half our den).  It was pouring rain but they had fun making Father’s Day crafts.  Then we drove back through the “flood” to rehearsal and were there another hour before the girls were done.  They were so tired when they finished and we were all so starved that John took us out to dinner at a new restaurant.  We assumed it was just a buffet place, since that’s what it was called, but it was actually Chinese and not too bad.  It even had octopus and oysters (ewwww!!).  I probably wouldn’t eat there again but it was fun.


We’re heading off soon to This is the Place since it’s a free admission day and normally so expensive that we’ve never gone.  All of my sisters are meeting us there for a fun morning of exploring pioneer times and seeing lots of animals.  We’re praying the forecasted rain will hold off till noon at least.  Tonight is the dance recital.  The girls are excited! 

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