ways our family is learning through the summer

Our field trips are often ordinary activities.

Like interacting with the post office clerk, learning to purchase things independently when they’re little, finding items at the grocery store, and listening to doctor’s meetings.

Ordinary things.

What do we do?

This particular summer I was teaching my six-year-old the difference in the size of eyes (sewing needle eyes).

Somebody’s beanbag was jumped on, and poof, styrofoam bits were everywhere. Six is not too young to maneuver a needle and thread and it does give him something to do.

A conventional summer activity? Probably not.

Then my six-year-old son lined up to buy a juice box from the café barista, by himself.

Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of ordinary things.

They’re not conventional educational activities, but they are still educational.

Bird watching.

…And reading about birds. This could sound awfully boring. But it is right outside our windows All. Day. Long. 

Watching mama robin outside the family room for a week, then hearing the tweet tweet of a baby robin one afternoon is ordinarily amazing.

One of my girls watched the baby bird fly off with her mama (it’s a girl, of course), then we snatched the nest to observe the baby blues… Mama Robin is now feeding a new baby within the grape arbor.

We stared long enough that the youngest yelled, “I see a baby Robin! Oh wait, that’s a pinecone”. We learned that robins won’t eat out of bird feeders, but they will eat strawberries and bits of bread.

We also discovered a woodpecker, starling jays, sparrows, more robins, and hummingbirds. There’s a bird call I’d love to identify that makes a water droplet sound.

All this life and we usually pass it by, but not in summer.

Paid jobs.

Like cleaning out vehicles.

Once a season, I suggest paid vehicle vacuuming. (Any more than that and I’m trying to live my single past, which causes more frustration than benefit. Remember the days when the vehicle was ‘out of place’ with a lonely Wendy’s bag smashed in the footwell of the passenger seat? That was a very, very long time ago.)

I pay for ironing too. I have a love-hate relationship with wrinkly clothes. I love flat, but I hate irons.

My youngest child has been paid to water my greenhouse plants too (and also watch plants grow).

Tennis, volleyball, soccer, and basketball.

We play a lot of tennis. In the front yard and at the tennis courts.

“Mom, what’s the rule for…”

I’ve got things to learn about these sports too. So to YouTube, we go. With soccer season comes daily soccer practice. Despite recovering from a ripped ankle ligament, I am building my game too.

Spring cleaning.

They’re learning not to be organized hoarders like their mama. I’ve been told I don’t own a lot of clothes (a lot of clothes mean a lot more laundry). The kids have been helping me get rid of stuff, and discovering ‘new’ stuff…stuff we already owned but had forgotten about. They’ve been through our DVD collection, the cookbook collection, our library (yes, it really could be called a library), and our clothing collection (now amongst the six of us, there are a LOT of clothes).

Clearing land.

Though not on an excavator’s scale, we have a lot of forests to clear to prep for our homestead. And a lot of firewood to collect. We’ve been making paths, cutting trees, and building a firepit. During that time, there’s been a lot of design time…where to put the raspberry bushes, maybe we should puta mountain ash trees in this area, there’ll only be sod laid over the septic field, and there will be a pea gravel patio.

House designing.

There are discussions on the placement of the furniture in rooms, size of windows, paint colour, and kitchen cabinet choices. They helped measure the house on the property, decided on directions of lighting in each room, and even helped me measure out the future rooms inside our present home.


A lot a lot of reading. Sherlock Holmes, Mein Kampf (yes, one of the kids even wanted to understand the background of this author), and the Bible for the eldest (odd selections hey? all these choices were hers, even Hitler’s offering). With me, we read The Scarlett Letter. I also read Jack and Bill and Big Dog Bill with the youngest. Pippi Longstocking, Caddie Woodlawn, and Old Yeller in the evenings. So. Many. Books.

Baking and cooking.

Everyone gets a turn every day to create something. Muffins, banana bread, cookies, bread, jam, and ice cream. Or a meal. One of the girls is practicing for her monthly catering job, preparing coarse ground coffee in her new percolator. With watermelon season upon us, we love to prepare the salty Mennonite pastry, roll kuchen.

Lemonade Stand.

We’re on the garbage delivery route so these kiddos have raked in the money and met a few neighbours.

Bachelor of Fine Arts Hour.

A couple weeks ago, I recounted our afternoon art time under the red maple tree. We’re always studying some form of fine arts (cause I love it).

YouTube Channel.

And the Sugar Crush YouTube Channel was born.

How else is my third daughter going to be a pop star if she’s not found on YouTube? Her rendition of Sound of Music songs is found here. Also, tutorials on Rainbow Loom and how to decorate a room.


This is no one’s favourite, but mine.

Everyone gets to help every couple days, and inevitably questions are asked.

What is this mom?

That’s vermiculite. It helps create air pockets in the soil.

We have to feed the tomatoes? Oh mom, taste these strawberries–so much better than the store.

And, can we make kale chips mom? WHAAA? Even gardening can surprise me!


I asked the girls to learn presentation software. So far, I’ve had presentations on oil spills and the Fruits of the Spirit.


One of the girls was interested in genetics. So I found her a class through a local university. This was a stretch to understand, but she made it through four classes on genetics for the ordinary person.

Chess online.

Both my husband and son enjoy playing Magnus, the world chess star. They’re learning to beat him at my son’s young age of six, seven, and eight.

Zach will win a lucrative bet if he can beat his daddy. He’s motivated.

Learning happens in classrooms, in bedrooms, and living rooms, in cafes, and in neighbourhoods.

Learning happens in fall, winter, spring, and summer.

“…We are the creators of our lives. That is the opposite of school’s message, which is that life is about going through a curriculum laid out by others. School is preparation for living lives that are not our own”.

Charles Eisenstein

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