A Day in the Life of these Unschoolers

It’s so interesting to see into other people’s lives, to get a peek at a regular day. That’s part of the fascination of blogs. You get a peek into their home and into their head.

There’s no typical unschooling day. Every family has their own rhythms and likes and dislikes. We like games.

Games of all kinds: board games, card games, dice games, sports, you name it, we probably play it. And so that’s a big way that Caleb learns things.

Chutes and Ladders, I think, really firmed up his knowledge of numbers. Monopoly first introduced him to percentages. Acquire got him comfortable with multiplication. A homemade Shut the Box game introduced him to formal division. And almost all games require reading, which he’s starting to pick up, though that he’s mainly picking up by writing different things.

But another family that didn’t like games, or didn’t play them as much as we do, would learn the same basic skills in other ways.

Now and then I’ll think that we aren’t doing enough, that we need to be doing this or that, and then I’ll think back to all the things we did during that day, and often I’m surprised by what an interesting and varied day it really was. Take yesterday for example:

When Caleb got up, I came up from the basement and he helped me take the packages out to the porch for the mailman. Then I made breakfast, and we played 2 games of Monopoly (he won the first, I the second). After that (which took forever), I went down to the basement for a little while to cut some reindeer and billy goats, and Caleb listened to the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

When I came up, we had lunch. We ate outside, because it was such a warm day. And Caleb played with the “volcano” we made the other day.


He used up a whole box of baking soda and that whole jug of vinegar. And then he started making his own concoctions, adding buckets of water from the rain barrel (aka, trash can under the gutter). We talked while I was eating my lunch, and then I got some sanding to do outside with him.

When he had tired of this, he washed up, and we went to the creek. I wanted to find some branches for making Billy Goat bridges, and the park by the creek has lots of huge sycamore trees that are always dropping their branches.


We played some tag at the playground, and Caleb helped me saw some branches into manageable lengths to fit into the car. He also worked on building a rock bridge, so he could cross the creek without putting  his feet in the freezing cold water. Of course we both ended up going in anyway (and it was FREEzING!).


We examined a caterpillar that was making it’s way across the leaves choking the stream. And then we went home, because it was getting dark.

At home, Caleb took a bath for at least an hour to warm up and play with his bath toys (I relaxed and enjoyed the smell of baking bread). After he got out, we had butternut squash soup and bread for dinner. Then we got to work on some pumpkins.


Caleb did most of the carving of the jack-o-lantern while I worked on some pie pumpkins for our Halloween pie and some seeds for roasting. And yes, it did make me nervous, but he was very careful.

After we had cleaned up the kitchen and taken a walk (so we could walk past our house and admire the scary pumpkin), Caleb wanted to earn some money, so he did some finishing work for me, while he watched a Charlie Brown video.


Then it was off to bed for a story, some tickling, some talking, and at long last, some sleep.


Starting Over…Again

It always seems to happen like this:

After the rush of the holiday toy making season, I am anxious to get back to the gym, get back to running. I keep it up through the winter, because it’s warmer in the gym than in my home. Spring comes, and I’m invigorated by the fresh, warm air and sunshine.

I keep running through the spring into summer, and then it all starts going downhill. The weather gets hotter, which I really don’t mind, but it means I want to go to the pool or the lake or the creek. After that I’m tired and making dinner and cleaning up, and somehow I never managed to get out for that run.


The next thing I know, it’s October, and I’ve gone months without running regularly. I’m feeling fat and sluggish. But now my work is picking up and I don’t have time (so I feel) for that run. And then it’s January and I’ve been working for months and not running at all.

But not this year.

I’m not waiting until after Christmas when I’ve gained five pounds and lost every bit of stamina I built up earlier in the year. I’m starting over now.

But I don’t have time for an hour run every day, I don’t even feel like I have time for a half an hour.

So what I’m going to do is to commit to running 3 days a week, no excuses, and run at least a mile. Anything beyond that, it’s icing on the cake. And on the days that I don’t run, I have to make sure to at least get out for a brisk walk now and then.

It’s so easy to go between my work and playing games with Caleb and taking care of him and the house, and never take care of my body.

We take our health for granted, especially as parents. A healthy body enables you to work and take care of your kids. And vigorous exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy body.

I have to remember that just because I’m exhausted at the end of the day, doesn’t mean I’ve actually used my lungs or my muscles. I’d like to think that running up and down the stairs to my basement is exercise, but it’s really not.

So please, join me. Don’t wait until New Year’s to start getting back in shape. If a half an hour workout seems to daunting, just commit to five minutes. You’ll probably feel like doing more once you get yourself moving.

You Can’t Rush Art

The other day I was sanding dollhouses. I was making five of them at a time, and getting a little impatient with all the sanding. I just wanted to be done.

And I caught myself trying to hurry the sanding along.

Sanding is not something that can be hurried. A hurried sanding job is a bad sanding job, and I take pride in my smooth, rounded edges.

So all I was doing was tensing myself up for no reason. I forced myself to relax.

There is very little room in woodworking for rushing. You have to take your time and measure correctly. Then you had better be calm and focused while you are cutting, because you just might end up cutting the wrong thing (like your finger). Then you just have to put in your time at the sander.

So you might as well relax and enjoy yourself.

That doesn’t mean dillydallying and fiddle-faddling. It just means enjoy your work.

If you are washing dishes, you really can’t make it go any faster, and if you try, you might end up breaking something. Work efficiently, but relax into the task. Don’t fight it.

Sometimes I can feel my neck muscles getting tense–fighting against the job I’m doing. Tensing up your muscles is not going to make you work any faster, so just relax.

It’s going to take a certain amount of time to complete 5 Wooden Dollhouses. It’s going to take a certain amount of time to wash the dishes. Accept that. And then enjoy your work.

And remember, no matter how busy you are–make sure to take time out to make volcanoes every now and then.



How did I have time to write this post? Caleb decided, since he had nothing else to do, he’d clean things: the cabinets, the stove, the side of the freezer that he colored all over….






Cranberry-Oatmeal Muffins

This time of year always makes me feel behind. I feel like I didn’t do enough during the warm months of the year.

I should have canned more tomatoes.

I should have made more applesauce and definitely more cider- you can never have enough of that.

I don’t have enough fruit in the freezer!

I need more onions!

There aren’t enough toys in stock!

I should have made and sanded more keys while the weather was nice at the creek.

We should have spent more time at the lake.

I should have eaten more watermelon, and what about all that watermelon juice I was going to put in the freezer for a taste of summer in December???

But eventually I have to make peace with my frantic voices and bid farewell to the growing, sunny season.

Tomorrow we’ll likely have the first frost, and the next day it looks like another frost, and is that SNOW in the forecast??

The fruit flies in my kitchen are going mad with their impending doom-breeding like crazy (it seems like). Their numbers are increasing as the amount of fruit available is dwindling.

I’ll still be able to harvest greens for another month or more, but this week will be the end of my peppers and tomatoes and basil. Hopefully it will also be the end of the cabbage worms that have been feasting on my kale.


Cranberry season is here!

I was overjoyed to see cranberries in the store this week. My frozen stores are long since depleted, and cranberry muffins are one of the great joys of fall and winter. And this year I swear (again) to put more of them away against all those bleak, cranberry-less months of the year.

Without further ado, here is one of my favorite ways to eat cranberries…


Cranberry-Oatmeal Muffins

2 cups of rolled or quick oats (I prefer rolled, better texture)

2 cups of milk (whatever kind you use)

2 tsp of vanilla extract

–Let the oats soak in the milk while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

3 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour (or white flour if you like fluffy, insubstantial muffins)

2 tsp of baking powder

2 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

whisk dry ingredients together

add in the wet ones including the milk and oat mixture…

1 cup of applesauce

1/2 cup of oil

1/2 cup of maple syrup

Mix it all up using as few strokes as possible and fold in a full bag of cranberries.

Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown on the bottoms.

Then try not to eat all 24 muffins at one sitting. You’re going to want to put some in the freezer for those cold mornings before you go down to the basement and make some toys.

Where have we been?

It’s been too long.

We’ve been around, maybe even around you.

First we were in Pittsburgh selling our toys at the Rubber Ducky Bridge Party.




We didn’t get home until midnight. Then the next morning we headed back east for the Allegheny Green and Innovation Festival and Hay Day.

There were hayrides, pony rides, a petting zoo, a hay maze, and lots more things that I didn’t get pictures of. It was a great show. Despite how tired he must have been, I didn’t even see Caleb for half the day, so it must have been a good show. He went on the hay ride, had a pony ride, and did a lot of hard playing. I sold lots of toys, so we were both happy.

I came home from the show and got to work on a big wholesale order that I wanted to get done before I left for New Jersey on Tuesday. I worked almost nonstop until the second I left. I stayed up all night Monday night working.

Then we were off to New Jersey to visit my family and friends, and see my cousin get married.

We drove up to Lancaster to my cousin’s wedding. They got married in a barn on a neat farm kind of like a larger version of Johnson’s Farm (for my NJ readers).

We took a trip to the Camden Aquarium thanks to a friend’s membership.





After a nice long visit in NJ (don’t worry it was a working vacation),  we took the Megabus down to Washington, DC to visit my brother.

david's new office

david’s new office



Maybe next time they’ll have the place up and running for us. As it was, we got chased out of the Jefferson Memorial after we hopped the fence. And we didn’t get to visit the Smithsonian. But we did have fun with my brother and his girlfriend.

When we got home, I got right down to business. I had dollhouses and kitchens to make. I had to prep for a craft show, and get the house back in order from my frantic all-nighter before we left.

We went to I Made It Spooky on Saturday to sell our toys, and all my prep was wasted. We sold 2 items. It went down in history as our worst show ever.

Caleb had fun though.


I spent Sunday cleaning and painting people. And today I finally posted something on my blog.