Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Camping is an experience.

Camping with children is an adventure.

And camping with children with lousy gear?  That's just crazy.

We tent camp.  It's been an evolution of sorts but for all the years we have done it in tents.  As our family size and needs changed, so did our choice of tents.

Cabela's Alaskan Guide Tent system was our very first tent purchase.  We looked far and wide for a way to get 2 adults and 7 children into tents without having to be strung out over many campsites.  

Our first camping trip.
September 2003

Now, it looks like only the 8-man dome is available but, when we ordered, we got the 8-man (on the left) and the 6-man (on the right) as well as the joining vestibule.  We called them our "Turtle Tents" because they looked like two huge sea turtles standing head to head.

The Man & I and the infant at the time took the 6-man tent and the rest of the children took the larger tent.  As you can see, they are quite tall in the center.  Jason could nearly stand in them. Talking between the tents was just like talking through a hollow core door.  We even got a lantern with a remote so I could turn on the light in the kids' tent without having to get up myself.

The drawback of this system was footprint and weight.

Seven of our eight children on that first camping trip.

At a standard size campsite, we were so close to the fire ring that we couldn't safely use it during our stay.

This variety of tent is also very heavy.  All the poles are aluminum and, thought that's a light material, there's just a LOT of material and gear to get these buggers up off the ground.  We got tired of lugging them in and out of campsites and the time it took to get them really going.

It was a good set for us for that season of our lives, but eventually we needed more smaller tents for ground space and weight reasons.

The Kelty Villa tents were our next try.  (For some reason, I can't find any photos of us using these tents.  Must have been a dry spell in my photo-taking-mom years.  I've had several of those actually.)

We got the 4-man and the 6-man version of these tents and they were really a sweet deal!  Light weight and fairly simple to put up, these semi-dome style tents were really handy.  The rain fly was complete (covers the whole tent) which is a must in the way we camp.  We'll be there in the driving rain if it looks like it will clear up in a day or two.

These were pretty easy to put up for adults that understand simple leverage concepts.  Well made like nearly all Kelty brand things we've ever purchased.

But, unfortunately for the Keltys, we also ordered the Eureka Assault Outfitter 4 tent at the same time.  

Lake Itasca
This 4-man tent is mostly dome style in my opinion.  Not quite a true domed tent, it uses only 3 poles and 9 stakes to be up and ready for most weather. Add the storm tie-downs and you have a real three-season tent.  The ventilation is quite good.  Construction quality is great.  AND (the best part for us now) it can be put up by three children under the age of eleven.

This summer we have been camping with six of them:

One for Dad & Mom
Two for Girls
Three for Boys

Editor's note:  Since we've purchased our Eureka Assault tents, we have also entered the adventure called "Ultralight Backpacking".  Here we discovered Ray Jardine and the Ray-Way Tarp kit.  Now THAT's a light weight, simple tenting system right there.  And we really like it.  But that's another blog post.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Camp Cooking: The Abbi Bar

Abbi Bar is the name we use for our version of Lara Bars. I got the recipe from a dear gal, Abbi, who is super smart and super aware of allergies. These bars are gluten free and casein free. They are also very simple and easy for all ages to eat.

I use my Ninja blender. A sturdy food processor should work.

I don't think the cheapo blenders will do the trick and I would hate to have you burn out your appliances on something that it just couldn't handle but - you're a big kid and can probably figure out what you want to do. 

The basic ingredients are simple:

1 cup whole nuts
1 ¼ cup whole dates

My happy Ninja with almonds & dates.

From there you blend & go.

After a minute.

Finished enough for me at about 3 minutes.  Note that it's not all uniform.  The very bottom is quite smooth but there are still lots of nut & fruit pieces clinging to the sides.

Scraped out onto a plate.  You can see the variation clearly here.

Oops!  I forgot to add the cocoa powder I wanted.  It's ok.  Just put some on and knead it in.

A little bit of cocoa swirl packs a great flavor punch.

Roll two ounces at a time into logs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Flatten to stack better.
This batch made eleven bars, 2 ounces each.  And one 1 ounce snack.
Three ingredients?  Can't beat that with a stick.

Because we use these a few times over the course of a camping trip, I like to make a couple different varieties. Here's what I've done but - if you keep about the same ratio, you can do any dried fruit & whole nut combo!

almonds & dates

almonds, dates, cocoa & almond extract

almonds, apricots, & coconut (pulsed in at the very end so it's still visible)

cashews & mixed dried fruit (pineapple, mango, coconut)

raisins, peanuts & a little vanilla

Any combo of nuts to make one cup and any combo of fruits to make 1 ¼ cup. A small shot of extract if you like. That's it!

Editor's note:  Also find the Fabulous Abbi over at OneSock Pictures and - if you are in the 574 area code- CALL HER for your next photo session!  Let her show you how your ordinary really is extraordinary. She can.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Camp Cooking: Meal Making

In September, we will celebrate 10 years of camping with children.  We've made a variety of changes in our plans and equipment over the years.  Meals have had to change as time has gone on as well.  Three things have driven our meal choices:

  1. Must be able to serve MANY eaters of ALL skill levels.  When we started, we had seven children ranging from 8 years to 8 months.  In June of this year it was fifteen of us from adults & teens to 2 yrs old.  That's a lot of different skill levels.
  2. Must be CHEAP!  Camping can make vacationing less expensive for a family our size.  I want to keep it that way.
  3. Must be EASY! When camping, so many things are unpredictable.  Add children to the mix and... well.  It doesn't get more predictable.  Making meals should be simple without any hassle at any step of the process.
I'm going to drag out my menu from last post and show you how I put these three are put into practice at our campsite.

Day 1: AM
Breakfast Blobs (use 5# sausage)
sliced peppers
Really called Sausage Cheese Biscuits, these little wonders have made
a great "departure day" meal for several years now.  They are warm, filling, and
full of carbs AND protein AND fat.  Managed by toddlers to adults with a
bunch of last minute jobs on the run, they are my goto for Day 1.  I serve
with something fresh and easy with natural moisture and crunch.  This time
it was peppers I had sliced the night before.
Day 1: Road Meal
Kettle Korn
sliced peppers

I bagged up the extra peppers from breakfast.  
Kettle Korn is easy-peasy if you have a stovetop popper like mine.  I use1/4 cup popcorn kernels, <1/4 cup sugar and ~1 TB oil. Pop, cool and bag for the road.  DONE.  To serve, I use #4 Cone Coffee Filters.  They pack flat, are easy to fill with dry 
finger-foods, cheap and disposable. 
I also drug out some bags of apples and we were
all set when we pulled into a rest area on the way north.  We polished off 3/4 gallon
peppers, 2 1/2 gallons of Kettle Korn, and 5# of apples here.  **The order of serving 
is significant here.  Eat the raw veggies first, kids. If you are hungry, you will eat 
them.  if you aren't hungry enough to eat them, you don't 
need Kettle Korn either.
Day 1: Evening Meal
last of the peppers
2# raw carrots
Beans & Burger
2 bags Twizzlers
This is an easy to eat, feel-good meal that I heat in my large stockpot on
our two-burner LP stove.  All ingredients are pre-cooked. Serve in mugs
 with shredded cheese (1.5lb) and eat with Sporks.
4# burger, browned & frozen for transport
1 qt bag of fried onions, frozen for transport
four 28oz cans baked beans
two 28 oz cans pork-n-beans
one XL can pinto beans, drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained
3 cans black beans, drained
3 cans butter beans, drained
Day 2: AM
leftover Breakfast Blobs
hot chocolate
We had over 50 biscuits left on our departure day.  I plan it that way and
pack the extras for this first breakfast.  Fresh bananas are an easy
 food for everyone here.  Hot chocolate is a powder that we 
add to heated water:
11 cups dry milk powder
~16 oz chocolate milk mix

1/2 cup baking cocoa
(I add the cocoa to make it darker flavored.  The original recipe

I had also had non-dairy creamer & powdered sugar in it but I'm cheap.)
I use about 1/4 cup for evey cup of hot water.  About.

Day 2: Snack
Abbi Bars
Abbi Bars are a home made version of Lara Bars.  Gluten Free &  Casein Free,
these little gems are a power house of flavor and energy in a package that
adults and toddlers can both eat and enjoy.  Find the recipe in my next
post and the variations are many.  They deserve their own post.  We ate 24 bars
and 8# of apples for this snack time.
Day 2: Evening Meal
Once I get someone handing out fresh celery to the circling vultures, I get some
 water boiling for pasta.  But it's not just regular pasta cooking that I do at camp.  I 
cook my pasta at home and dehydrate it so I can quickly rehydrate it instead of boiling
 and draining.(I have never found a way to do that trick without almost scalding
 my toes.) I used 5# small shells this time.  Orzo works great but costs more.
  I choose a variety that will fit easily on our Sporks and will work well for small mouths.  I heat a scant gallon of water to boiling and add the pasta to the pot.  Once it's ready, the rest goes in. For this meal, we used 3# Italian sausage with 
onions & zucchini, fried and frozen. To this we added 7 cans Hunt's spaghetti sauce (because it comes in a metal cant that won't break in transport).  We like to serve with parmesan cheese and, for camp, we don't hold back 
much.  We use a full pound of that.
Day 3: AM
Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is an easy one for us now that all of us
can chew nuts.  Sometimes I add M&M's if I'm feeling generous.  Bananas
are still fresh and cappuccino is considered a treat (and a convenient
 warm beverage.)
Day 3: Snack
dry fruit
cheese sticks
We dehydrate fruit for our trips and general snacks.  Here I served a couple
gallons of dry apples in coffee filters and 24 string cheese sticks.
Day 3: Evening Meal
This is a favorite meal for my troops (except maybe the carrots). My
apologies for calling it "mexican" when it is so clearly an upper-midwest hotdish
sort of meal.  It is what it is and I needed a name for it.
I start by reconstituting cooked, dehydrated brown rice.  This trip I used two boxes
from Aldi.  I'm not super close on measuring at camp because the meals are
planned to have moisture.  Rice that ends up a little wet is not a problem.
Once that's done, I just start dumping in ingredients:
4# ground meat (We have our own Chorizo!) Frozen for transport.
2-3  onions, chopped and fried. Frozen for transport.
2 cans whole kernal corn, drained
2 cans hominy, drained
3 cans black beans, drained
5   24 oz jars salsa
Heat through and serve over tortilla chips (we use 3 bags) with shredded
cheese (1.5lbs) and sour cream (4 pounds).
Day 4: AM
dry apricots
hot chocolate
Just as easy as it sounds.  This is NOT a great meal for tots that don't chew
nuts, but mine are nut grinders, so we're good.
Day 4: Snack
dry bananas
From here, it's pretty much repeats and leftovers.  We're camping.  It's exciting
every moment of the day!  Live with repeated meals.  It's ok.
Day 4: Evening Meal

Day 5: AM
(no hot beverage)
On the last morning, we're all packing the last of our goods and getting ready
to hit the road.  I want the last of the fresh fruit & veggies gone by now.  The last
of whatever snack I have?  Pass it out and get it all eaten.  We all don't
eat the same things but we all get fed.  
Day 5: Snack
We usually drive straight home w/o stops to run around very much.  We're tired.
The kids are tired.  We just wanna eat when we are hungry and put the miles
behind us.  It's a time for debriefing and resting.  Eating is an afterthought.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Camp Cooking: The Plan

We camp.

And we eat.

That requires a bit of planning, some gear, and a whole lot of food.

For many people that would mean lots of hot dogs & s'mores, eggs in a cast iron skillet over the campfire, and those little pies you make over the campfire embers.

Like you would expect by now, we do things a little differently with camping foods, too.  I've had to feed fifteen people in a wide variety of weather conditions, activity levels, and self-feeding levels.  Hot dogs won't make the cut.

We just returned from a four-night stay at one of our favorite MN State Parks.  This time we camping in the normal campsites at Gooseberry Falls.  (We have spent a lot of time at group camp sites in the past but that topic needs its own post.)  Four nights for us means:

  • one Departure From Home Meal
  • two Road meals
  • four Evening Meals
  • four Morning Campside Meals
  • four to six Snacks
My first step in this task (ok.  Any task.  I like a good list.) is to make a good list!  And, I've done this gig enough times now that I simply refer to my "CAMPING" file folder and refer to last trip's lists to begin with. Here's the list from last time: 

Day 1: AM
Breakfast Blobs (use 5# sausage) 
Sliced peppers

Day 1: Road Meal
Kettle Korn
Sliced peppers

Day 1: Evening Meal
Beans & Burger

Day 2: AM
leftover Blobs
hot chocolate

Day 2: Snack
Abbi Bars

Day 2: Evening Meal

Day 3: AM

Day 3: Snack
dry fruit
cheese sticks

Day 3: Evening Meal

Day 4: AM
dry apricots
hot chocolate

Day 4: Snack
dry bananas

Day 4: Evening Meal

Day 5: AM
(not hot beverage)

Day 5: Snack

Purchasing, preparing and packing are really important to make my camp meals work out right.  That will be my next post.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Fritter

a piece of fruit, vegetable, or meat that is coated in batter and deep-fried.

New Oxford American Dictionary 2nd edition © 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

That's an official definition of a fritter.  I have asked a few folks from different parts of the US and it seems there is a wide variety of presentations of this thing called a "fritter".

In my house, a fritter is a way to bring new life to leftovers.  I've only used vegetables in my fritters but, theoretically, anything could be used with varying levels of success.

That is my corn fritter batter. I used the corn we froze last year and it has butter and cream in it right from the freezer.  When mixed with egg and a little flour if you like, it makes a batter that is similar to pancake batter in consistency.  


Fried in butter and served hot from the pan, they are a great meal for us any time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Liebster Award: ARG! I Forgot Something!


Those eleven questions for those I nominated.  Yup.  Forgot those.

Here is my way of following that part of the directions.

Choose eleven words of your choice from the following list. Using words, images or sound, define as if to someone who does not know the perspective you have ... if you feel like it, ya' know:


Ok.  There you go. This might be harder than it was ever intended to be but, as words are the tools that writers (and bloggers) use, I thought it would be a good exercise.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Liebster Award: Part Three

So, NOW is where it gets hard here with the directions for this here Liebster Award....

Normally, I don't follow directions very well.  As in "not hardly ever".

But, because my pal, Laurie, is such a cool and resourceful kinda gal, I figured I should give it a go in my own way.

Here are the rest of the directions:

3- Nominate 7 bloggers who have less than 200 followers and ask those bloggers 11 questions (Don't forget to tell those you have nominated...).

4- FOLLOW those 7 bloggers you nominate.

5- If you are nominated and choose to play along, please let your nominating blogger (that's me) know in comments so that I can see your answers and get to know you.


Remember how I'm not so good at following directions?  You haven't seen it much yet if you only know me by my posts here, but trust me on this.  I'm not good at following directions.

So, with that in mind, here are my totally loose-leaf nominations!

Conversations with a Pastor's Wife  
Not your average Preacher's Gal, LKS is a great resource for life fun, challenge and a peek at the wacky things that make her family a great team to play on.  She's given me some really great ideas, too!  I got to host this delightful woman in my house and she even took some fun pictures of my favorite part of the country.  

Sassy Family 
Jill is adopted, Irish, sassysmarter than is probably safe, and made it so my son, the Dood, makes all our salad dressings himself.  She's easy for this Minnesota Kid to talk to because we speak the same idioms, don'cha know.  You bet.

If Not You, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When? 
Which of these things is not like the other? Jimmi is a man I've known for just about 20 years.  He & The Man have been friends since high school.  He's taught my kids Irish pub songs, helped them learn guitar strumming, and spilled on my walls, furniture & carpet.  The things he has to say are not the same as you will find on the other blogs I'll mention.

Wouldn't You Like To Know?  
HealthyBratt has a HUGE, HUGE wealth of knowledge.  She's smart on hennaKorean foods, and that's just a tiny peek into her know-how. I've known HB for more than 5 years and have had the privilege to hug her neck, too.  She's got the smarts & the heart.

Larson Log  
The young pup who writes this blog is more than a diamond in the rough.  (Diamonds aren't my thing so call me biased. I'm cool with that cuz I am - but that's another post.) This gal is opal.  She's made of common stuff and she knows it, but the light inside her is brilliant.  I've never met Rebekah & I may never get the chance to squeeze on her and that will truly be a shame.  You'll only get a peek here and here but that's just a glimpse.  There are many posts and there will be time invested to read them all.  I encourage you to read it like a novel, a story that you read to see how the characters work it out.  Follow her thoughts and see her stretch out those wings.  I can't find words to say how excited I am for the future that is unfolding for those in her life.  I am certain there will be amazement, work and great, great reward.  I dare you to take this one on.

Courage Road 

I've never met this woman in person, but I have found her in my heart on days I would not have expected.  I'm not sure why, and it's likely I never will.  But that doesn't change her presence there.  It's another blog developed over time. Though you may be able to pick some bits & pieces of things from the individual posts, it's an unfolding story best read from start to finish.  She's in my age demographic and from a similar part of the United States.  It's a difficult story on the courage road.  Don't let that deter you from the journey.

There! I did it! Sort of.

And, because I really didn't follow the directions and never intended to completely, here are some more blogs that receive Honorable Mention:

bertsie collins 
Written by a friend dear to my heart, this little blog is cheery and may even be that way with a sad time, if it's chosen.  She's an unreasonably optimistic citizen, the oft surprised life-complement to Jimmi from If Not You..., and my favorite vegetarian.

The Blue House Blog 
The adventures of Melissa, Katie & Annie are chronicled in this record.  Here you'll find wacky kids, fun learning, and dangerously tastey  really healthy, yummy pancakes.  And a teeny bit of sarcasm. I've never met this family either but I'm luring them to the Source of the Mighty Mississippi and then I'll get to see them for real.

Ok.  Now I really am through the directions.   If you are on this list, don't feel like you have to follow the Liebster Award directions either.

I just like you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Liebster Award: Part Two

The second step of The Liebster Award directions is to: Tell 9 things about yourself.

Oh brother.

OK.  Because Laurie is just plain fun and smart, I'll throw out a few things about myself because she asked.  

I love language.
Not just words but the origin and definition of a word.  
And then the way the definition of that word can actually be different than it's meaning.  Combine some words and all their definitions together do not match the meaning of that word series.  
Use that same series of words in a context of different words and the meaning changes again.  
Good grammar is the correct use of the tool but the best use of language is to communicate thought to thought and concept to concept to another through - and in spite of - the filters we all have as we use language.

Soft ginger cookies are my love language.
It's like number 9 or 10 on the Five Love Languages thing I think.  Pretty sure it is.  Should be anyway.

When we got married, The Man & I thought we might have a lot of kids.
 Like five even!  Crazy lots of kids.  We would almost certainly have to get a minivan.  And they could be kinda close in age.  Like all five under ten years old.  We would probably shock people we knew but we were pretty sure we could handle it.

My favorite sound is actually the call of a red winged blackbird.  It's the sound of spring to my ears.

If it were not for my husband, I might not have shoes. I dislike shoe shopping that much.  But he has a thing for shoes and buys them for me. They are all very weird and very minimalist except a pair of Yellow Box flip flops that I got from a fabulous gal from Alabama.

I am 5'2" and weighed over 200# after my first pregnancy.  I lost about 40 pounds before the next pregnancy but was incredibly weak for my age for many years.  I left that behind when Stick was born.  I now weigh a few pounds less than my wedding weight.  I was a size 10 then and am now a size 4-5.  I intend to live well for a while yet.

Some people don't fully appreciate my gifts.
  Like the time I gave rhythm eggs to all the toddlers at a multi-family picnic and a kazoo to each of the older kids.

I haven't been on a plane since I was an infant.
  It might be a while, too.  We've been kinda busy.

I don't think of myself as very interesting.  This list, for example.  It was WORK to come up with things that might be worth noting about me.  I really do believe I'm just a very ordinary person.  I'm just living an extraordinary life.

Next up: My nominations for the Liebster Award! Kinda.  Really.  I'm not very good at this "follow the directions" gig.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Liebster Award: Part One

My pal, Laurie writes Laurie's Everyday Notions and is an amazing garage saler. (Why, yes! That is a wonderful skill on so many levels!)

She has given me The Liebster Award!
What, you ask, is a Liebster Award?


I actually have no idea what it really is or where it came from.  BUT I do know it's given by bloggers to other bloggers in a way to spread information about small blogs here and there.  And that sounds mighty nice to me!

With it comes a list of questions to answer, things to do, and folks to share it with. ... Which makes it seem an awful lot like directions.

Here is that list:

1- Answer 11 questions from the nominating blog.
2- Tell 9 things about yourself.
3- Nominate 7 bloggers who have less than 200 followers and ask those bloggers 11 questions (Don't forget to tell those you have nominated...).
4- FOLLOW those 7 bloggers you nominate.
5- If you are nominated and choose to play along, please let your nominating blogger (that's me) know in comments so that I can see your answers and get to know you. 

THERE THEY ARE!  Just five little steps.  


I'm not so very good with directions.  Sigh.

So I will follow these directions just like I do with a recipe.  I'll let this list sit within reach while I go about doing something kinda similar with whatever I have around that I like.

I'm going to break these steps into a few posts because I just don't have the time to post it all at once.  (Anyone who has been following to this point knows I'm woefully behind my planned posting schedule.  Oy!)

FIRST - I'll answer Laurie's 11 questions.  She's a good egg and a swell pal for answering weird questions out of the blue when I have her cell phone number handy.

1- What brings you joy?

Joy is a mighty big, powerful word.  It's more than taste or sound.  More than sentiment.  It's a longing of the soul fulfilled with a hope that's more solid than any promise given by human voice.
What brings me joy?  Laurie knows me personally and she knows my answer.  If you don't know what my answer would be - or just want to hear me say it - email me at my blogger contact email (or call me!) and stick this question to me.  I love to answer this sort of question but I do try to keep it face to face to avoid confusion.

2- What drives you nuts (pet peeves)?

Today, implied questions irk me.  

Cob (holding book with destroyed cover): Mom.
Me: That's me.
Cob (continuing to hold book and cover)
Me: Hi, Cob!
Cob (wags book and cover in the air)
Me (waves hand): Hello!  Nice to greet you.
Cob (holding book and cover farther apart... as if I can't see they are totally disconnected?)

Drives. Me. Bonkers!

3- If you had one day with no kids/spouse/responsibilities and could do anything you wished, how would you spend your day?

I have no fast answer for this. It would depend on the season of the year but I would probably choose to be out in the woods.
I think.
Maybe?  I just don't know.  It's so far out there, ya know?

4- Favorite book?

I don't get to read much.  I have a huge, huge list of things I would like to read about but my time just isn't getting them done.

But my favorite fiction book that I keep returning to one decade after another is Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  There are a lot of reasons for it - several of which few would ever guess - but I've enjoyed the thoughts evoked by the story for a long time.

5- Since I'm moved by music so, I want to know your favorite song.

My favorites change a lot.  

"Every Morning" by Keb' Mo' is my current favorite with his Shave Yo' Legs coming in close second.

6- What is one word that others would use to describe you?


That is the word that was used to describe me to my blind date by his friend.  It was my last first date.

7- What are you good at?

I have yet to meet someone who can pile stuff in a closet as well and varied as I can.  Granted, it's not something that most folks go around bragging about but - hey, you asked!

8- What do you wish you knew how to do?

I wish I knew how to shoot really good portraits.  I would like to be able to share this skill with others.  I'm working on photography lessons so maybe I can get this skill yet!

9- Favorite dessert (because I'm all about food) ?

I really like New York style cheesecake.  I make a turtle cheesecake that is supposed to be quite good, too.  I rarely ever get any of that one.  But a nicely done cheesecake is just smooth and nummy all it's own.  No extras needed.

10- Who is your hero?

I've been pondering this one and I am not coming up with anything.  As I think about it, i don't know if I've ever had heros.  I'm not sure why that is but I suspect it has something to do with my understanding of people, their abilities and what we all have in common.

11- What is your favorite household chore? (I'm chuckling a little here. I'm going to bet that no one says, "toilets"!)

Can I count planning?  I like planning.  What will be needed?  Who should prepare?  What is best delegated to whom?  All that.  I love a good list!

Friday, March 8, 2013

What Do You Use For Curriculum to Teach Them History?

There was a time in my life when I didn't enjoy history.  The first 25 years of my life to be more specific.

It was so BORING.  There are dates and names AND locations AND political stuff all together and none of it is related to anything that matters much with what's going on right now.

Axis powers
Dust Bowl

And then I found I was going to be teaching history.  Not just any history.  ALL of history.  
Like I've done with other things, I went looking for some good tools.  Basic tools that I could use to get started with my littlest guinea pigs children and see if there was some way at all that I could make this horridly miserable stuff teachable.

To at least cover what the law requires and get through that junk as fast and efficiently as we could.

I had no idea how much I was going to come to LOVE history!  

I started with a series of audio CDs from Diana Waring Presents! and I played them while we were doing our most idle tasks.  We listened to her speak through events and cultures of Ancient History while folding laundry.  Van rides to Town were more interesting because we heard about the intrigue involved with the Byzantine Empire.   I learned about folks like William Wilberforce and his influence on the slave trade globally from his place in England.
These CDs were not only engaging but they totally changed my understanding of current policy and politics.  Right.  CURRENT politics gained a whole new meaning for me when I realized that:

  • The Dark Ages weren't all that "dark" outside of Europe.
  • In Europe, Vikings were raiders & invaders.  In Russia, they were traders.
  • The national boundaries established in Africa were often set by people who not only didn't live there but hadn't a clue about the languages of the people there.
  • Until relatively recently, defeat by an invading group of people, though often tragic, was a very normal part of a group's existence.  It was not assumed that all cultural unions would survive for all time.
  • The French Revolution and the American Revolution had very different methods & goals.  And it shows in their different outcomes.
  • The composer, Joseph Haydn, died shortly after Napoleon attacked Vienna.

These simple audio history CDs became the beginning level of our history education plan.  While they are detailed and complex enough to engage older learners (like me!), these programs are very engaging.  Diana Waring uses a story-telling style to relate a wide range of events and personalities that have influenced world history.  It's a massive undertaking and we've been very pleased.

After this stage, our history plan becomes a whole part of our house.

This is a pretty sad picture of our timeline.
BUT, to see it in its full glory, I would need a crazy amount of pictures and interactive video or something. Our main timeline is over FIFTY FEET LONG and we love it!  

Timelines are a great way to have history integrated into your home and your home school.  They fit into all kinds of learning styles, too. 

Here's our biggest sub-timeline.  It's only about 6 feet long and covers just a few thousand years.

 When you take on the task of a timeline, think of these benefits:
  • High traffic and high visibility locations are going to ensure more opportunity for making teaching moments and the great moments when your children are just gazing around and pondering what they see.
  • Visual cues are great for ALL learners!  Do you want a single color to denote discoveries and inventions?  Music notes in picture frames for the arts? Ribbons can mark the time span of an empire or a ruler.  Maybe your colors can denote geographic locations.
  • Multiple timelines are a great thing!  Make a sub-timeline for a time of history your family enjoys.  
  • Include as many people in the construction process as possible.  Having a part in the project sparks interest for all ages.  (Any friends or extended family that might want to contribute?  Bring it on!)
OK!  Timelines sound great!  But what do I put on them and how do we find our facts? That's the part we love the very most AND the part that makes the foundation for all our elementary and junior high grade level history curriculum.


Back when I told about how I teach them to read, I ended by saying that my kids read 30 min per day as part of their daily assignments.  Every other book they choose (after they complete the required reading for the end of their phonics instruction) needs to be nonfiction or historical fiction.  We have a huge library in our own basement and over 50% of the titles meet this requirement.  Even if we didn't have this resource in our home, I would still choose this plan. A story that shares the facts with engaging the mind and emotions of its reader is a powerful learning tool.  Don't pass it up! 

Of course, you can use other resources, too.  Movies, historical markers, museums, vacation spots and relatives can all contribute information for your timeline.  Where does "Old Yeller" fit on the timeline?  When was the local library built?  What other events happened in the world during that time?  

Whew!  OK.  I'll try it.  But where do I find history books for my eight year old?  or my twelve year old?  Or my guy who only wants to read about railroads, cars and things with wheels or explosions?  I have a tool for this, too!  All Through The Ages by Nothing New Press is the mother lode (another history word!) of all booklists!  I have a copy of the second edition book.  Though I will loan out my math stuff, let you check out books from our personal library and would even let you run some newborn laundry through my washer, I don't loan this book to anyone.  Come visit my book.  I'll bring my book to visit you.  But it stays with me - it's THAT valuable.  It's about $30 as a soft cover and around $20 as an ebook from the publisher.  Get this book.  Just get the book.  

[Updated with current URL & pricing: 7-15-2013]