About our blogger: hurricaneranch

"You have how many kids, and you do what??" Two of my life's most frequent questions, and that's what I'm here to ponder! I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom to four kids, a dog, two cats, two rabbits, and two tangerine trees, and my blog is all about the triumphs (and struggles!) of my everyday life as mom, teacher, photographer, artist, zookeeper, baby wrangler, and last and definitely least, housekeeper. I love to share ideas and photos from our school lessons and art projects, and funny moments we create along the way!

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Posts by hurricaneranch:

September 6th, 2011

Cave art and toddler lapbooks

We’ve made it through the first week of school; this used to be a big deal, but this year for the first time there wasn’t a whole lot of, “Oh crud, what was I thinking?!?” going on. I guess it only took six years to get here! I’ve set our days up to have Friday be more of a relaxed, fun subjects kind of day. I do sneak in writing, but so far they’re pacified; that may change when they’re writing rough drafts. Soon, Friday will mean 4-H activities, but until our books come in, the major subject of the day is art.

Today, we made our own cave paintings to help understand lines and form. I cut up paper grocery sacks and wrinkled them for a realistic textured effect, and the kids were told to use a black crayon for outlining their main elements in their drawings. Suggestions were horses, mammoths, simple people, plants, and so on. After outlining, they could use pastel chalks to add colors to their cave wall. Read the rest of this entry »


September 2nd, 2011

My take on Handwriting Without Tears

Let me preface this by saying we’ve been using the program for a grand total of two days now, so I am subject to change my mind on this at a later time. But I don’t think I will: everything I’ve seen thus far with our new Handwriting Without Tears workbooks has me excited. I did some research over the summer (but mostly I lounged around the house in the a/c), and I knew this particular line of books existed, but I had never paid much attention. Everything I’d heard from friends touted its greatness, but I personally like to see and feel my books in a store before making a purchase, so if Wal-Mart or Books A Million didn’t carry it, I didn’t own it.

I was thoroughly impressed with the HWT website; they seem to have included just about everything: samples, PDFs of actual pages, research, lots of reasons to use their curriculum because of their unique approach, and even access to free online tools. If nothing else, they have a slick marketing team. Read the rest of this entry »

August 30th, 2011

A back to school project

Yesterday, the big kids had their 4-H awards ceremony, where they got certificates, pins, and ribbons for the project books completed earlier in the year. When I have more than one free hand, I will find the photos and give you all the juicy details. Having a toddler along for the ride magically made two hours of festivities seem like an all-day torture.

Back to the reason for the occupied hand: yesterday evening, the kids came in, clamoring about a kitten lying in the road. I went out and didn’t see anything, and then a little black shape slipped under a fence into someone’s backyard. Alexei wanted me to toss him over the fence so he could get the kitten, and he was rather upset when I told him that A) there was no way on earth I was throwing him into a backyard of people who weren’t home, and B) we’d probably never catch it. End of story.

That would be too easy, right? Read the rest of this entry »

August 24th, 2011

Back to school

Today was our first day back to school after a leisurely summer break. A first day of school juggling three elementary students in different grades and a rambunctious toddler goes something like this:

I kick everyone out of bed and make them get dressed and assembled for school pictures. An opportunity to torture children with the camera would be a pity to pass up.

Alexei is in 5th this year and has an attitude to match.

Read the rest of this entry »


August 22nd, 2011

Shotgun schooling

I’ve been gathering up all the goodies to begin our school year next week and balance the needs of a self-starting (if grouchy) 5th grader, an ADD 3rd grader, a year-ahead-of-schedule kindergartener, and a crazy into-everything 20-monther. Exciting stuff. But you know what has come to me? In all of this curriculum wrestling, I’ve realized that public schooling is like shooting a shotgun. A teacher aims and shoots a bunch of tidbits of information at the class and hopes that some of it hits each student.

I’m not playing blame-the-teacher. I think about some of the genuine in-the-schools kindergarten books we’ve used in the past, which are nothing but activities showing children how to wash their hands, brush their teeth, stop at a stop sign, recognize safety officers, etc., etc. These are all things that a five-year-old should already know. Read the rest of this entry »

March 10th, 2011


It finally happened : 15 puzzle pieces came together and were glued on a piece of cardstock to form a photo of a much-wanted Leapster Explorer game. The completed puzzle was handed over and the family made the trek to the store, where the game was signed, sealed, and delivered into the hands of the hard-working student. A small miracle happened today. Ibis followed through on a goal to fruition. May it last!

Sometimes the rewards have to be tangible. There’s schoolwork out there that some kids are just going to have to get through even when it’s not fluffy and fun. But then there’s another incentive we’ve recently stumbled upon that is its own reward : postcards and the pen pal. The postcards are part of our state project and the kids have gotten their feet wet learning to send little notes and write addresses. The pen pals are brand new. For the first time ever today, Alexei sat down to write a letter not only without complaint, but without even being asked. And not only is he interested in talking back and forth with another homeschooled kid his age, but he’s trying to improve his handwriting (aka chicken scratch) and spelling to impress his new pen pal. Sometimes peer pressure is awesome.

Ten weeks of school left in this year!

March 7th, 2011

finding your way

There’s a lot out there about the myriad ways to keep your homeschooled kids happy and socialized – basically, as with anything else in life, the amount of effort you put into it relates directly to the amount of satisfaction they get out of it : in other words, it is what you make of it. I have zero doubts about my kids’ opportunities and quality of social time. Something you never seem to read about is where you as the parent fit into the grand scheme of things.

Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you fit in when you’re a homeschool mom, especially if you have a large family that spans a substantial age range. I’m not just a toddler and preschooler mommy since my older kids don’t go off to school each day; nix the preschool set of friends. Many baby/toddler groups these days absolutely forbid older kids attending. On that same axis, since I have a preschooler and toddler to keep up with, I’m not just a homeschool mom. Field trips that require concentration, quiet, and two hands? Forget it. Read the rest of this entry »


February 27th, 2011

Four years ago….

There’s just something about the kid that enters life in an eventful way. I once ran into a lady who must have had a premature baby at some point, because she was so right. It’s not that they’re your favorite, or more loved, but the fight they went through to get here always holds a special place in your heart.

She was a month old and three pounds in this photo.

Coral is four years old today. Four years ago, my May baby became my February baby. We did six weeks’ hard time in the NICU, holding her tiny hand through all the ups and downs of preemiedom. We brought home a tiny, four pound infant who decided to stop breathing after two nights home. Then there were the countless appointments with her pediatrician, cardiologist, opthalmologist; the prescription caffeine we swore would make her addicted to coffee in her later years; and the much-hated apnea monitor we lugged around for six months. We worried about her learning to eat, learning to sit up, learning to walk – she finally met that milestone at eighteen months. There were times we thought she’d be tiny forever. Read the rest of this entry »

February 26th, 2011

All’s fair that ends fair

Finally, the photos from the last weekend of the fair are upon us! In addition to Alexei’s rabbit activities, Ibis had her shoebox float parade and the kids had to work for an hour in the 4-H strawberry shortcake booth as community service to help raise money for our county’s clubs. The last big thing was the awards ceremony.

Ibis loved the parade again this year; it’s almost too bad she won’t be a Cloverbud next year!

Read the rest of this entry »

February 25th, 2011

is it Friday yet?

It’s Friday. Not just any Friday, but Rodeo Day. Our county still upholds its long-standing tradition of closing schools one Friday a year while the fair and rodeo are in town. History has it this was done because the cattle for the rodeo had to be driven across the main thoroughfare through town, making the road impassable for school buses and traffic. Of course these days I think all the cattle is trailered in, and it’s just a good excuse to lure patrons into the fair. We made the mistake of heading out to the fairgrounds to feed the rabbits – it only took twenty minutes to park and a half hour to exit the parking lot after we spent the three minutes required to feed the rabbits. Thank you Rodeo Day.

That sort of set the tone for our day. I was helping Alexei study for his upcoming Rabbit Skillathon, and Coral and Hobie were playing nearby. I’m drawing a chart of the rabbit digestive tract (cecum, anyone?) and notice that the house has gone quiet.

Coral left the pantry door ajar, and Hobie snagged the two boxes of Cheerios. Thankfully he only managed to open one before I caught him, but he had a grand time shaking the bag upside down and covering the entire kitchen with oaty circles. There are still Cheerios under the fridge and behind the trash can.

While I was cleaning the Cheerios mess up, Hobie followed Coral into the bathroom and proceeded to unravel the roll of toilet paper and then start splashing in the toilet. If you’re going to wreak havoc, go big. Thankfully the roll was almost empty and the toilet was recently cleaned.