school days

We're gearing up for school at our house. This year we'll have two second graders, a fourth grader and a fifth grader! Where has the time gone?

I'm excited that we've joined a homeschool group here in the area. It's an a la carte program that allows me to pick and choose classes for my kids. This semester I chose Art, Writing (Institute for Excellence in Writing), Science, and Classical Memory Master. The classes are taught by former or retired teachers. The church where we meet allows parents to check out books and materials from their extensive church library.

Here's a list of what we're using this year in school; all textbook names are links:

Second Grade


Fourth Grade

Spelling--Spelling Workout

Fifth Grade

Math--Teaching Textbooks
Spelling--Spelling Workout

Combined Subjects

Bible--Children Desiring God Series: God's Names, God's Providence, God's Promises,
Grandpa's Box by Starr Meade

Science--Answers in Genesis: God's Design for Life,
My Nature Journal

History and Geography--Story of the World Volume 2

Character--Lessons in Responsibility for Girls, Lessons in Responsibility for Boys, Character Trails


last days of summer

Our family just got home from a wonderful trip to Washington, DC, and Upstate New York. Living here in the Midwest has made it so much easier to travel to all the places we've wanted to take our kids. Nine states in 10 days--awesome!!! My only complaint would have to be all the toll roads. I really, really do NOT like toll roads.

 Vietnam Memorial

We toured the Smithsonian Museums and Galleries, which are all FREE! We gasped when we saw this!!! My girls and I have always loved Degas' Dancer sculptures and his paintings of ballerinas.


We loved seeing Seurat's pointillism up-close!

This is the kitchen of Julia Child. Her real kitchen was moved into the Smithsonian!!!

There are so many other things I'd love to share that we weren't allowed to take pictures of like the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry in 1814--our Star Spangled Banner, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta. So incredible.

 Lincoln Memorial
The kids noticed that we've lived in the 3 states carved right over the doorway.

WWII Memorial


walnut grove

On our way home from DeSmet, we drove through Walnut Grove, MN. We loved visiting Laura's beloved dugout from her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, the museum and visitor center, and eating at Nellie's Cafe.

I get choked up every time I think about this...here's the church bell Pa helped to buy at Christmas time with the money he had saved up to buy himself a new pair of boots. Sniff-sniff. Oh, Pa.

Here I am touching the mantel used in the Little House television series!

plum creek

The site of Laura's beloved dugout in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek
Laura's "Big Rock"

 The table land above the dugout

 Wading in Plum Creek, just down the hill from Laura's dugout. She would have followed this same path to play in the creek.

The dugout caved in years ago, but its depression remains. We loved standing here imagining the family's ox and how his foot went right though the grass roof into their home.

 In keeping with our literary theme, we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge

silver lake

 Sadly, but true, this is Silver Lake. It was drained years ago to provide more farmland in the area.

Originally, the Surveyors' House was out here, but then moved into town years later

pa's trees

And now I get to write about these trees that I obsess about. :) Pa's 5 cottonwood trees. He planted them on the homestead right away for a wind break--one for each member of the family. The reason I love them so much, is that this grove is the one thing man doesn't need to restore, or refurbish in order to preserve its legacy. As we toured many of the original buildings, much had to be done in order to make them safe and meet building codes. Furniture replicas were brought in so we could see things as they would have been. But these trees...these are the trees.

 The grove is now a memorial site with this plaque affixed to a rock at the top of the hill

the ingalls' homestead

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Ingalls' Homestead, just outside the town. There were many great activities for the kids, but I was taken by the landscape, its openness, and how the sky changed so many times throughout our day. I loved walking where Laura had once walked.

 pumping water from the well

 making corncob dolls

 making rope

 walking to church through the cornfield--this was Phil's favorite part of our day

Headed up a hill to an old church. While inside, the kids played church and I sat at the piano and played the hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." It seemed fitting.

 Tidying up a dugout

And cleaning the claim shanty

ingalls' gravesite

 Difficult to make out in this picture--the grave marker of Charles Ingalls

 Laura and Almanzo's baby boy

 "Baby Carrie"
I guess I never knew her name was Caroline

de smet

The Ingalls family lived on their homestead only 7 years. Pa built this house in town on 3rd St. and he and Ma and Mary settled here. He became very involved in the community and with local politics.

This is the old bank on the main street that was renovated and turned into a bed and breakfast. We stayed upstairs in a room called Laura's Loft.

Across the street from the bank is the site of Pa's building where the family spent their Long Winter. His building was moved back into the alley and then dismantled and the lumber used for other buildings around the town.

 This is the site of Almanzo's building, where he stored and hid his wheat in the wall.

 The building with the red store front is the original Loftus Store.