Category Archives: Homeschooling

Superbowl=$$$$ not buying futures

We have just entered a new fiscal year at the Doeun household. Each year around this time we like many Americans begin preparing our taxes, through this process we look closely at the previous year’s financials and make plans for the coming year.

At the same time our home state will host the Superbowl this year. Our home team is just one win away from playing in that Superbowl–the first time ever a team would play in their own stadium for Superbowl. My husband has several co-workers that are season ticket holders for the Vikings. They said that while they pay around $99 to view a Vikings game. If they go to the Superbowl even the cost of the nosebleed sections run in the thousands of dollars.  A good seat could be as high as $30,000-40,000!

We have hopes and dreams for the future that include financial security. As we contemplated what financial success would look like for us the question came up “would we ever spend that kind of money on a sporting event?” There was no hesitation, never in a million years would we spend that money in that way. Each year we hope that the next year we can donate more.

Proeun grew out of displacement and poverty–the refugee experience. He often says, “try getting a good grade on a Math test when you haven’t eaten over the weekend.” While we home school our children I have recently become impressed with out amazing our public school system is. I purchased the book Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan at the Rush City Library’s Christmas book sale. Akpan’s collection of short stories transports you to a world mostly tragic with some beauty thrown in. The first story, “The Ex-mas Feast,” is the story of a preteen prostitute working on the streets so her brother can go to school. Going to school is not an option for her as school costs money–alot of money. She makes the hard decision to go full-time by entering a brothel. Her brother is so distraught by her sacrifice that he runs away.

Free education for all children, we take it for granted. Fiction does often have the ability to be more truthful then non-fiction. Through stories our world is opened to the experiences of others and my world was rocked by this story. Here we are taking for granted education. Education is truly the ability to have a future.

Then my mind took the leap to how many schools could the Superbowl fund throughout the year? We could be buying futures. What are we buying instead?

Reading in the New Year

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I have started doing New Year’s Resolutions. As I look at the new year and think about my hopes and dreams for the coming 365 days it has become a fun tradition and exercise in dreaming. I firmly believe adults still need to have dreams and goals they are striving for. And for this year my main goal is to enjoy life more–to not be so caught up in daily struggles that I forget about the big picture. When I was writing the author page in my book Home School Farm I was able to summarize what my favorite things are–writing and reading, cooking and eating and creating and loving. So this is where my focus will be for the New Year.

So I start today with reading. I thought I would share with you some of the things that are really filling my soul lately.

As a busy momma magazines are often more my speed. I have long been a subscriber of Taproot. I believe I have every copy, though I have not always been good at reading it, my last 2 issues I have completely devoured. So I am saving my others for a little postpartum reading. I love the authenticity of the magazine and the focus on simplicity.

Making was a dream come true for me. The handmade section of Taproot has always been my favorite as I dream about beautiful things I would like to make. Now there is a whole magazine just for creating all those projects that really speak to me. It is a new magazine. My copy, Fauna, is the 2nd issue, unfortunately I missed the first one, but I definitely plan on subscribing. I love just flipping through the magazine and planning future projects. I also love the ability to learn new skills and types of projects. I bought the tools for my first felting project yesterday!!

I picked up In Winter’s Kitchen at the Twin Cities Book Festival. Of course I am a fan of local food. I did expect this book to be a bit different though, I thought it would be a personal narrative and while there are elements of that I love that it goes into the history of various crops that are northland staples like wheat and carrots. I am learning much about plant history and getting inspired to try some new varieties. What is really cool is that since the book takes place in my home state I actually know some of the people Dooley talks about in the book. Also when she mentions a restaurant or company that she likes I can check them out myself.

Case in point she talks about Sunrise Flour Mill. They are a small mill that grinds heritage wheat and they are just 15 miles from my home! So yesterday I stopped by to get some flour and asked the proprietor Martin to make some recommendations for me. He did. Currently I am making Perfect Artisan Bread. It is a 2 day process I will continue tomorrow. I am super excited about it. Apparently the flour is good for people with high blood sugar, gluten sensitivities and celiac’s disease. I just hope it is delicious.

The last book I am reading has a lot to do with another activity–loving. In loving my children I hope to provide them with a peaceful and secure home environment. Peaceful is a little difficult to attain with 6 little (and not so little ones) running around. We homeschool and I was feeling like so so so much of my energy was going into the older children’s more complex struggles that we were loosing something in creative, fun energy. I stumbled upon Whole Family Rhythms and got a copy of their Winter Guide (it is only in ebook). The book provides a weekly story, and play activity as well as daily focus activities from a nature walk to cooking, to water coloring or crafting. It also provides momma meditations and momma crafts. I am trying to be more go with the flow and not stress if we doing get to everything every day but it is fun to have a little different focus.

What are you reading in the New Year?

Rush City Santa Day

I didn’t move around a whole lot when I was younger. Let’s see I lived in 4 houses growing up. Most in or around the Twin Cities metro area. So I always considered the Twin Cities home. I am a Minnesotan, and that was enough. But the concept of a home town was completely lost on me. A town where everyone knows everyone and we do things all together as a community was completely foreign. It might sound a a little scary to those with a more urban mindset but let me tell you it is so nice.

I did have to ease into it a bit though. This is our first year really trying out some of the community events that are staples of this town. One of those staples is “Santa Day.” This year Santa came to Rush City on December 5th. I had heard about Santa Day in years past but this year we decided to go.

Santa and Mrs. Claus make their rounds through the community.


Santa reads holiday stories to the children at the Rush City library. Meanwhile the local girl scouts help community children make ornaments and the Ladies of Rush City sell homemade cookies–by the pound.


Then the children got an opportunity to make requests. Effie wanted a Princess sticker book. Love this girl. The only thing she really wants is a book that costs all of $3 at the local Dollar General.

Santa also went to the fairgrounds where the local Lions club was selling Christmas Trees and Wreaths. One year we will has a real Christmas tree.


The highlight of the day though is the Tiger Store (Rush City Tigers). One of the local High School teachers noticed that some of the families in the community had no money to put presents under the tree. So he started taking donations. He stores these donations all year and pulls them out on Santa Day setting up a store where children can come and do their shopping for free!

My girls totally loved this idea. The parents wait outside. The senior girls from the high school help the children find just the right gift for the people on their list while the senior boys wrap the gifts and the children get to take their wrapped gifts home. I am seriously choked up just thinking about the whole concept that this wonderful man came up with and the community implemented.

Many families donate to the store throughout the year and that is definitely our plan for next year. But mostly I just love the idea of a town where people care about each other and band together to make sure everyone has a great Christmas. So I am totally sold on small town living. Even though I didn’t move to Rush City until I was 30 I now have a hometown.

Chicks Galore









Sometimes it is hard to roll with the punches while farming. That is one of the reasons that we wanted to be a diverse farm. We have cattle, pigs, goats (for dairy and pets), chicks, and turkeys plus we do vegetables. This makes it a bit easier, if it is a wacky weather year and vegetables are struggling maybe the animals can pick up some of the slack.

But this year it is the animals that are having the problems–birds specifically. We were planning on ordering chicks this year, layers and broilers. But when the news of the the avian flu hit we decided to stay as self contained as possible. Minnesota where we live is having such an issue that 4H has decided that no poultry will be shown at any of the county fairs or the state fair.

So we pulled out our incubator and decided to hatch our own. We bought it last year when we first got turkeys and tried a batch in the fall only to discover that the afternoon sun was shining in our basement window and bringing the temp way too high. We were not successful. This year we made sure no sun was coming in and bought a digital thermometer. And this year–success.

It is actually really cool watching chicks hatch. First they peck a hole through the membrane inside the egg, then the first chips appear on the outside of the egg, see above picture.





Then they start to peck in a circle around the egg. Once they have completed that they push until they are out. It takes quite a long time, sometimes over 8 hours. We leave them in the incubator until they are dry.



Then we have this.




Right now they are living in our downstairs bathroom. We didn’t have as high of a success rate as I would have liked but we had too much temperature fluctuation in the beginning, then somehow the incubator was plugged into a different outlet that we didn’t know wasn’t working, so the temp dropped way too much near the end. We will see if anymore hatch and on Monday start another batch. It only takes 21 days, the trick is to monitor the temperature (101-102) and turn the eggs every 12 hours (skip the first day and the last 2). It is a very rewarding experience, even with the mistakes. Such is life.

Spring Fun + violet jam

Finally it feels like spring around here. As I was transferring my blog to the new host I was going through some old posts and found that 2 years ago when we first moved here our crab apple tree flowered in late March. However it has yet to flower this year. Just last week Avril asked, “are the snow days over?” and I realized like her I had been kinda holding my breathe. But when I assured her that they were she was so relieved that it was fun to see.

Last weekend Proeun finally got a chance to get into the fields with Bessie.


Chores have been so much more fun now that it has warmed up. Speaking candidly it is not all fun and games on the farm but I try to focus on the good as much as possible and one of the things I have really enjoyed is getting to know this land throughout the seasons. I have been interested in herbs and foraging for a long time now but there is something extremely special about finding where these plants grow on your own property and being able to come back year after year. Plantain is an easy one and last year I found yarrow. We have a white oak tree and there are more herbs that I want to identify.

But while checking facebook recently a friend of mine was talking about violets and I realized that this year we have an overabundance (as well as and abundance of dandelions, ahem). I remembered a violet jam from one of my favorite blogs Soule Mama. Now I actually had the goods to make my own.






I ended up doing most of the harvesting while the children played but it was fun and they would come over every once in awhile to check on progress. During the cooking process they helped more, that’s where the fun is anyway though it probably too less then five minutes to whip up a batch. Now I have a new spring time tradition and it is so fun to make things grown right on our own land.

But on a humorous note all you moms out there know that once the seasons change it is often times hard to find the clothing items from last year, especially shoes and in this season shoes rapidly disappear. Here is Effie’s solution.


Sure sign of spring–bird nests

It is always interesting how nature intersects with our human constructions. I remember seeing pigeon nests as a child tucked away in I beams in the skyway in downtown St. Paul. More recently hawk’s nests on electrical poles along the highway. But this year we have our own story.


The children have been anxiously waiting for the snow to melt, then there were the cars and tractors in the way, finally this weekend the hoop was clear but we noticed something interesting.


We had noticed a bird flying back and forth. I knew what it was but honestly had never seen a nest before. We are trying very hard to hold back our curiosity and not disturb them too much but we had to take just a quick peek. The children we completely amazed and I was too. I have never seen a bird nest up close and personal and in use. So we have all agreed that there will be no basketball until those little babies move all and we are anxiously watching (from a distance most of the time) the progress they make. So many lessons,

How do birds make nests? We recognize much of the building material.

How long for baby birds to hatch and Mature? Still working on that

Also learning how to observe but not disturb and how to be considerate of even the smallest creatures. On a side note with all this rain we are learning a lot about worm saving. Yes bird saving and worm saving don’t really go together but that can be a lesson for another day.

Goat Milk Mozzarella = Pizza

We are settling into a very nice rhythm around here, though we did have the major flu work its way through the house. Even though I only got a mild case I found that having the rhythm of chores and others to care for (animal and human) helped me keep my priorities straight through the illness. I was actually feeling really out of balance before that but the illness helped me slow down and reprioritize and find comfort in things I previously took for granted. I am actually starting to enjoy the milking now. One of the perks is all the homemade goodness.

We are discovering a new love in our home–homemade pizza. This is made all the better with homemade cheese from our goats.

I used Rikki Carroll’s 30 minute Mozzarella recipe. I wasn’t sure if it would work with goat milk but it did and was delicious!

Proeun found a dough recipe he wanted to try with Avril’s help.

Avril and Mavis add the toppings.

The children proud of their delicious creations. Even if you don’t make everything from scratch it was such a rewarding experience making dinner with the children and the loved it. What a great way to connect! How do you like to connect with your family?

Meet Miracle

As Ma Ingalls would say, “there is no great loss without some small gain.” In this case it is a pretty big gain. The cold weather has been really hard on the animals. Couple that with the fact that last fall there was an “accidental” breeding, in the fact that my efforts to keep the male and female goats separated failed. I was really hoping that just because they were together that didn’t mean that there was any breeding. But last Wednesday night I was doing chores. I had suspicions but still convinced myself no there wasn’t an early breeding. But the next morning I found out that I was wrong. This little girl was nearly dead, her mother had cleaned her up but was unable to help her further until I arrived to do chores. I put her in my coat and rushed back to the house. I brought the hair dryer and heating pad and we were able to revive her.

Unfortunately there were 3 babies born that morning to 2 females. What are the odds right? Two babies did not survive. So it was definitely bitter sweet that this little girl made it. Now she is living in our house. There is no way we can introduce her back to the barn until temperatures are in at least the twenties consistently. With this winter I am assuming it will be 3-4 months.

Her mom really misses her and we have been milking both the mothers, though unfortunately one will not have babies returned to her.

It really threw me off last week. It was a big reminder that when you have animals you are responsible for so much. It has been a wonderful learning lesson for the children though. I am so proud of how there are stepping up and helping with the bottle feedings and playing with her and taking care of her. They were very sad about the babies that didn’t survive but are throwing all their efforts into this little girl they named Miracle.

She won’t be able to follow us around the house for too long but right now everyone in the family loves having her, even Hiro, our aging dog. He has seen a lot of new life come into this family and he loves all of it.

Very sad for our loss but happy for this gain.

Celebrating Christmas with Significance

Maybe it is just where I am at in my personal journey but Christmas just seems so much more significant this year then I ever experienced before. I had wonderful Christmases as a child, so much so that there would be a huge letdown after Christmas. Then as a young bride it was a bit hard to recreate, seems like I was always too busy to pause much. But this year is amazing. We are on our dream farm, literally living our dream all year round. And this time of the year is our “off-season” where we are very protective of our family time since we are so busy the rest of the year. But what makes it so wonderful, I think it is the pausing. 

We did our Christmas shopping early, often opting for on-line versions so I didn’t have to navigate crowds. And we kept it minimal. Proeun and I were noticing a case of the “galloping gimmes” (from the Berenstein Bears) and were trying to figure ways to give the children a joy of giving, so we decided to do mostly homemade gifts and get the children involved. They are not as involved as I would like but it is definitely a step in the right direction. 
This spring we bought a piano but I haven’t had much chance to play. Now that the Christmas season is here we are focusing on learning Christmas carols. 
We started with 2 carols for the girls to sing in the choir at church. Since Mavis doesn’t read yet and Avril is not proficient enough to read and sing (though once she knows the song the words help her remember) they had to memorize all the verses for “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Once is Royal David’s City.” It was a fun exercise for all of us. And they loved singing in the choir.
I didn’t do as much crafting this year, other than the presents. I wanted to spend the month working on it but instead am focusing on Christmas stories and music to make the time significant, though Avril did make a lovely table runner with her aunt that really dresses up the table.
The children have been asking for a gingerbread house though, so when I saw a kit for a gingerbread barn I thought it would be perfect. However 4 adults and five children couldn’t figure out how to make it stay erect so it became a cookie decorating party.
The younger ones thought this was a much better idea anyway.
And so did grandpa. I had to remind myself that Christmas memories don’t need to be perfect.
I will post after Christmas about some of our projects but here are some resources for making the season more significant.
The Nativity Story, we kicked off the season with this and loved it, I hadn’t seen it before but it was perfect for setting the mood.
Advent and Christmas is Family Worship, our first year using this. I love it though it took some getting used to, also incorporates songs, better for older children but younger ones love the songs and repeating the verses.
Truth in Tinsel, we used this more last year and it is wonderful. Takes a bit more prep because there are crafts involved, but the younger ones get it more. Also has prompts to add to an advent calendar (I really want to do that next year and make an advent wreath).
And don’t forget to sing, sing all day long. We have Christmas CDs going all day long. And bake, and talk and love and just be. Merry Christmas!

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It sure is. This morning our thermostat said -10 degrees. Yes that is the temperature. We are pretty sheltered here by the woods but I have heard that the wind chill today is expected to reach -30. So what would make a 32 year old mother of 5 children want to leave a nice comfortable bed and house to go out into weather like that? Chores. I have to admit when reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and she would talk about chores I had no idea what that meant. Now I do. We currently have 12 goats, 35 chickens, 3 barn cats, 2 rabbits and 1 donkey, plus there are the 2 dogs and 2 indoor cats (but the children normally take care them). I have to admit, yesterday I was thinking that if we didn’t have all these animals that I would be able to sleep in and I wouldn’t have to chores on days like today. 

But then I would be missing out on a very important truth, “caring for animals makes us better people.” See when the weather is like this it is not just feed and water they need. I have to monitor body condition to ensure that they are getting enough calories to heat their body in a addition to normal body functions. I have to watch activity and make sure that they are not getting lethargic. I have to listen to their breathing and make sure it is not too labored. I might even have to check the condition of their poo if I expect a problem. The thing with animals is that they can’t tell you when things are going bad, you just have to know. 
I was thinking about the comparison with my children. For the most part they let me know when something is wrong. But not always right away. I can use my observation skills learned caring for the animals and apply it to my children. Even adult relationships often could use a little tender loving care and observation to catch a potential problem before it turns deadly. 
The truth of the matter is everyone wants to feel needed. But many do not understand that in serving and caring for others (animal or human) that is where we are really needed. I hope to teach these skills of observation and care to my children so that they will never question their worth. And there is a huge sense of empowerment when you do difficult tasks many are not willing to do. When I was outside this morning in 3 plus layers of clothes laboring so hard I was actually too warm at -10 I felt so strong, “Baby I got this.” 
I remember reading in Farmer Boy about temperatures dipping below -40 at night. Almanzo’s family was so wealthy they didn’t have room in the barns for all their animals so some of the yearlings were in the barn yard. At that temperature apparently sleeping animals can freeze solid without even knowing they were in danger in the first place. So Almanzo’s father would have to wake in the middle of the night, dress and go out with a whip to get the animals moving and blood pumping just to save them from freezing to death. I hope it doesn’t get to that but if it does I like to think I got that to.