Honk If You Love the Mountains!

Memorial weekend 2017, we packed the kids, cats and took off to my sister’s mountain property.  It happened to be my birthday (De) and it was a wonderful celebration.  I had a “bucket list” item checked off my list.  I had always wanted to chop down a tree.  Strange, maybe, but still it was on my list of things to do.  But first, let me back track a wee bit.  We stayed over night in Hobbs, New Mexico at a campground with hundreds of jack rabbits hopping around.  Their ears are very long and the kids had a fun time trying to sneak up on them.  Yeah, that never happened!  The next morning we fueled up with some lemon curd filled donuts.  (Delish!) Sure, we are acrobats, but everyone needs a vacation from the norm.  We started driving down an extremely bumpy road and we kept hearing a horn beep.  Beep, beep, beep-beep, beeeeep!  What the heck???  Our horn wires for the bus had short circuited and kept beeping with every single bump.  It went from funny to annoying rather quickly.  We were honking for the mountains!!!  We pulled over and resolved this amusing problem and off we went this time only bumping not honking along to the mountains.  Timberon, New Mexico is a tiny village oasis!  The hiking near it rivals any hiking we have done anywhere in the USA (except the Redwoods). Along the way, we stopped at a cute little petting zoo and brushed a camel among the typical petting farm animals.  Our 7-year-old son, absolutely loves goats and it was heaven for him. We arrived at the property, five acres of forest that is a work in progress of cleaning, thinning and eventually homestead building.  Hard work was never so much fun for all the kids.  Everyone had a chance to chop down trees.  A herd of deer live on the property and come up for food in the evenings and mornings.  It took several days until they felt safe enough with all the extra people up there.  (aka loud happy kids!)  We even had a chance to meet some “circus family” that lived there.  Even if you don’t know each other, it’s family and there is a deep connection.  The same goat lover son had an opportunity to meet our new friend’s monkey children.  The weekend was filled with lots of tree chopping, log tossing, hiking, good food and lots of fun!  My sister even made my favorite birthday cake which as you can see I didn’t share with anyone!  Just kidding, only had three servings!   There will be many opportunities to head back to the mountains and help with this long-term forest project.  We can’t wait to go hiking again up there.  It truly is a gem in the forest!  Old growth trees, aspen groves, wild orchids, wild strawberries, deer/elk, mountain lions and so many hummingbirds!  The elevation is about 9,000ft.  We set off on a hike and it ended up raining and hailing on us for quite a while.  It was COLD and memorable for sure especially in my Keen sandals and shorts.  We took refuge under a huge tree, ate some snacks and regrouped which way to go because, in fact, we missed the correct turn off in the weather.  It’s all about the journey and the stories you bring home from such adventures that we will take with us forever.    In circus, we never say goodbye, but instead “See ya down the road.”  So,  see ya down the road Timberon, New Mexico and we look forward to see you again!!!



On the Road Travel Curriculum 2017

books.jpgWe often get asked how we manage to homeschool four children,  run a business, be full-time performers and travel most of the year.  This question is amusing because  we really  just go with the flow and it all works out.  I try not to think about the “how we do it” and instead just get it done.  So let’s talk about homeschooling on the road.  These are the the things we are doing this school year.  If something stops working, we change it up.  What we do isn’t necessarily what your family should be doing.  This is what works for us.  Everyone has to find their own way on the journey of homeschooling.  However, I hope that in sharing our resources, you may gain something of value that works for you too.

First, let me say that we are very relaxed homeschoolers.  In other words, some days we get a lot of “school” stuff done and other days we simply get stuff done.  I (Mom) am the one that handles most of the homeschooling.  Generally, we find a new theme each year (usually in January) and that lays the general foundation for our year.  We school year round so that allows us days to not do official school things.  Now, I must add that we are very interest directed in our approach to learning.  Learning happens all the time, every single day with or without curriculum tools.  When you travel most of the year, you learn that education comes in all forms.  One day it may be how to repair the bus and other days it could be learning to read a map because gps has once again tried to get us lost.  Often,  I feel more like an *unschooler but I can’t fully embrace that title because I love me some good curriculum to add in the learning process.  LOL  I also insist on the kids learning math and spelling in a more formal way.  My unschooling friends just threw eggs at me on that one.  : )

This January 2017, we decided to complete novel studies of Newberry Awarded books.  I had high hopes of doing  notebooking type of novel studies and even purchased some lesson plans online for our first chosen novel.  We went in hard with all the extras and it lasted about three days before I said forget it.  We tossed it all in the trash and actually just started reading it together.  The kids enjoyed it more and it opened many discussions that might not have otherwise evolved from a more strict approach.  We are now on our second novel and are simply snuggling and reading it as a family.  It’s fun, everyone enjoys it at their varying levels and it’s just another thing we share as a family creating memories together.

This year 2017, we started Life of Fred math series.  So far, it’s working wonderfully.  It’s a strange and quirky storyline but the lessons are engaging and my three oldest are getting a really strong foundation.  The series starts at about 1st grade and goes all the way into higher levels of math including trigonometry and calculus.   We have started a celebration party when any child completes a LOF (Life of Fred) book.  The party involves pizza, brownies and a special little reward (most often a  Lego mini figure mystery pack).  Oh, and some beer for Mom and Dad because we deserve it too!  LOF is working great for us currently and even better it is a small book that travels really well in our bus.  Hope it continues to work wonderfully but if things change for any particular child,  I am totally willing to find a new source of math learning.

Spelling!  The nemesis of my children and by default me. It’s really important to me that my children learn to communicate intelligently and effectively.  Spelling is a big deal to me for these reasons.  That being said none of us are natural spellers (except my mom who always could spell almost any word).  Many programs that I tried didn’t work well for my kids.   Many tears were shed from all our eyes due to frustration from all of us.  But, I finally found a program that is working almost magically for us!!!!  It’s called Sequential Spelling.  Basically, each day is a spelling “test” and each day the base words build on each other.  They take the test and simply correct any mistakes with no pressure or stress.  After a while, they naturally learn the spelling.  Sounds overly simple but really they are learning hundreds of words with NO MORE TEARS!!!  That’s a win in my book.  Again, it’s working now but if for some reason it becomes ineffectual for any one child, I will shift gears and find what will work.

We also do a historical person/place type study using the Who Was….? series.  These are smallish chapter books that go into suffienct depth of the individual’s life/place.  They are small and again store well.  And even better, after we finish one, we find a Barnes & Noble and pick a new one.  Each child gets a chance to choose one that interests them to study as a family.  If there are additional ideas that we want to expand on during these readings, we find resources and go deeper into any given topic.  It’s really a lot of fun and cost effect too.

*Living books are the basic foundation for our science and history studies.  They are more engaging than textbooks.  We share ideas in a relaxed and pressure free environment which leads to understanding and absorbing information.  We also use the Ideas in 30 Seconds series and have read most of them.  Great info in little bits to learn and  really understand.  We often choose to go more in-depth on any given topic of interest.  I have tried using a more structured history and science program but that just caused me too much pressure.  If mama is stressed out over keeping up with a structured curriculum then nobody is enjoying learning.

Each night my husband reads to the kids several books, one of which is the 1,000 Facts series.  We are currently reading 1,000+ Fantastic Facts.   We have been reading one double page each night for about a year now.  We all are learning so many interesting facts.  Our youngest is a little sponge and absorbs so much it is simply amazing me.

I would like to say that science experiments happen daily or weekly but the truth is that we get around to maybe three a month.  We love science but often being on the road or on set for our circus shows doesn’t allow convenience to accomplish as much as I would like in this area.  However, this hasn’t stopped my kids from having quite an extensive knowledge of scientific principles despite my lack of continual experiment offerings.

For my other two, we have started reading Everything You Need to Ace…..In One Big Fat Notebook series.  Currently, we are reading the American History, English Language Arts and Science ones.  These go into a lot of depth and are written in a colorful and fun way.  The things they are learning from simply reading this book to me is exciting.  Did you catch the reading to me part?  Yeah, I’m sneaky that way.  They read to me thus increasing their reading abilities and are learning the given topic too.  Oh yea!  Sometimes I get it right!!!!  It’s been one of the best things that I found to get more reading/learning in at one time.  SCORE!!!

My older kids also choose books that they want to read to themselves.  They are free to choose whatever interests them.  They write down each title they have completed on the 2017 ongoing list.  We reward them in small ways for this achievement.  It encourages them to read more and also serves to reinforce their personal accomplishments.

Lastly, we play a lot of games together.  I am a bit obsessed with games and if you asked my kids what type I like best they would all say “tiny ones!”  Yes, ones that store really easily are my favorite.  We have every imaginable card game and dice game.  There is so much learning to be had playing games together.  The list of what we have is too long to list but if you have specific questions, I am happy to answer them down below.

That’s our homeschooling in a nutshell.  It’s relaxed and based on living our education through travel and reading.  Last year, we planned our entire circus tour based on the fact that we were studying pioneer days (aka Little House on the Prairie) and wanted to experience first hand all the places that we read about in the books.  If we can create a love of learning for our children then we believe that they can accomplish anything they truly want to do in life.  I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have about our homeschooling travel style.

*Unschooler is defined as “an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning.”  (Because I insist on math and spelling for my kids so I am not  an unschooler but choose the relaxed/eclectic/world schooler instead.   

*Living books is defined as books that are “usually written by one person that has a passion for the subject and writes in a conversational or narrative style.  The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts.  Living books make the subject come alive.”




You Betcha, Our Minnesota Adventures 2016

I was on a mission in the summer of 2016 tour.  My mission was to seek and find a moose and a beaver in the wild.  We set our circus tour to accommodate my crazy whim to seek these creatures out.  Suffice it to say that we never once saw a moose and the only beaver we did see was dead on the side of the road.  However, after a month of exploring this amazing state, we captured some memories of a lifetime.

Minnesota has about 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined.  The landscape is absolutely beautiful!  Rocky hills that are covered in an array of wild flowers of buttery golden, majestic purple, vibrant orange and red.  I was surprised because I always think of Minnesota as a winter wonderland and not a gorgeous summer garden.

We performed many shows in the state in the month we were there and were able to spend our down time exploring its wonders and beauties.  We couldn’t miss the Mall of America that is simply ginormous!!!  Luckily, we got out having only spent money on four build your own Lego figures.  Since we travel in the bus for most of the year, our kids collect these mini figures as they travel and store well in small spaces.  We are from Orlando, so the amusement park indoors was not something we were going to spend money on (I’m cheap that way) but it was still very cool to see such large Ferris wheels and rollercoasters indoors.

We also went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and LOVED it!  It is a hands on experience for the kids and lots of learning while having fun.  I specifically started a Little House on the Prairie unit study and history era of that time based on our tour schedule up there.  We have read the books and enjoyed the show so it was fun to talk about all the cities and towns that we knew and loved from this series.  The kids were able to dress up and play as kids of these times did.  My oldest son was “thrilled” (NOT) to have his sister dress him up in prairie clothes.  LOL  We spent the entire day there and loved every moment of it.

We then camped at Plum Creek (you know it from the tv/book series).  Being from Florida, our kids know not to swim in lakes.  However, with the assurance of some new friends we met there, the kids jumped in and enjoyed swimming where the real life Laura would have swam.

We then routed WAY up north to a little town called Grand Marias in search of moose.  We were told that there was a specific place that you could camp at (rather remote) and the trails where the moose could be found.  {{{blog continued below}}}

So we threw caution to the wind, cranked up the bus and took off in search of this campground with moose.  The road got rougher as we got deeper into the woods.  We found the campsite area but decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea to camp because the mosquitos were by the zillions and as huge as birds.  Okay, not that bad but we did decide to camp in town instead.  So we turned around and headed back to civilization before nightfall.

When we got settled into the campground, the kids decided to play the jellybean game called Bamboozled!  If you haven’t played this disgusting game, grab your camera and get ready for some awesome faces of horror, tears of laughter and lots of water to wash down the flavors.  It’s a game where you spin and have to pick horrible and not so horrible jellybeans (you never know which is which).  I didn’t play as someone had to take pictures after all.  That’s my story and sticking to it!  LOL

Grand Marias is located on Lake Superior.  Did you know that this lake never reaches temperatures higher than 42F???  Yes, no matter the time of year, it will be between 37 and 42F.  CRAZY COLD!  Seriously, it was like deciding to jump in a glass of nearly frozen water.  Shocked all the systems.  Now, I don’t speak from first hand experience except for my feet because, well, you know, someone had to take pictures and all.  This mom doesn’t do cold water under any conditions.  Nope!  The most unique thing about the lake was that beach area.  It is totally made of rocks.  These rocks are similar to river rocks and maintain the heat of the sun.  My clever kids decided to freeze themselves in the water (seconds at a time) and then take turns covering each other with these hot rocks.  It really was such a bizarre experience and so very uniquely Minnesota.

Though I never did see the illusive moose nor beaver, the month we spent in the way up north was one to remember!  Hope you enjoy the 50 or so pictures of our month up there.  In the summer, Minnesota is simply breathtakingly beautiful.  This Florida girl won’t risk a winter there.

Turning 10 in Montana 2016

Our daughter’s birthday in August found us in Montana for our shows.  After finishing up we had a week off to celebrate her special double digit day.  We stayed at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park for her birthday.  The swimming was perfect and the ice cream delicious.  Each day Yogi Bear came out for a meet and greet.  I am pretty sure we met him every single day.  LOL  There was an ice cream social for guests each afternoon.  If you have never tried Huckleberry ice cream, get to Montana and try some.  It’s simply amazing!  Notice the black ice cream my son and husband were eager to try.  Licorice!  Not my cup of tea, but they enjoyed it.  We always love our time in Montana.  The people are so friendly and welcoming.  The roads are long, the mountains steep and friendships run deep.

Redwood Forest 2016

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The Redwood Forest is one of my family’s favorite places to visit.  The majestic trees, misty air, dampened quite and earthy smells makes for a magical experience beyond pictures and words.  We love it so much, that this is our second trip in two years.  If you ever have a chance to visit, do it!  You will enjoy every single second you are embraced in the ancient mysteries of the Redwood Forest.