Rapberry Picking in Mora, New Mexico

We went Raspberry picking last weekend and we were surprised how much fun we had. Take a look.

Upon arriving you get a small bucket to collect the raspberries. You fill those and at the end they get weighed and you pay by the pound. We paid $6 per pound. Everybody gets a row assigned to pick their berries. We were shown how to properly pick the raspberries off the stems. Tasting is allowed; we tasted A LOT. picmonkey-collage-2

PicMonkey Collage-3.jpgimg_3409img_3447img_3386

After we were done picking we went to the store to pay for our 4 lb we had collected. There was a small shop that served raspberry sundaes. So good!!picmonkey-collageimg_3470img_5348IMG_3478.jpgIMG_3343.jpg

I recommend bringing bug spray and sunscreen.Which we forgot and paid for the next day.

Be sure to check Salman Raspberry Ranch’s website before you go, fields and stores are not always open. They update daily.

Have a lovely day,



Rapberry Picking in Mora, New Mexico

Desert Child

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to raise children in the desert. It is such a unique experience and one that I never anticipated. I grew up in Germany in a city near a dense forest. Everything was small, green, and urban. New Mexico is almost the opposite. It is vast, brown, you can see for miles and miles, and it is wild. There is hardly any grass, just a sea of rocks. I wonder if the surroundings will affect their views on life. Will they see this world as big and limitless and be eager to discover it?

Bringing Tashi to White Mesa made me realize how much at home she is in this terrain. There was no: “I’m bored, what is there to do?” She immediately started walking and interacting with her surroundings. She could have spend all day there.



She found some chalky rocks and was delighted that she could draw pictures with them. IMG_2011

She decided the rocks would make excellent furniture. Here she is holding a couch, but it looks more like a telephone….IMG_2026IMG_2038IMG_3512

I have been reading a lot about forest pre-schools in Europe. Children spend all day outside in the woods. I guess my children have been going to rock school…

Have lovely day,


On :

Pants: H&M

Top: Olive Juice

Vest: Old Navy

Cat Socks: Gymboree

Shoes: Hand me downs


Desert Child

Home-school Statistics


I honestly don’t think that home-schooling is the only option. I think there are really wonderful private, public, and charter schools. I have been home-schooling for 8 years and it has not been easy. That said I also believe that home-schooling is a really good option and paving the way for a better way to educate in our country and hopefully in the world. The chart above proves that you don’t need a lot of money. Home-schoolers spend on average $500 a year and score in the upper 80th percentile in state testing. Our state spends $5000 per student a year and ranks very low nation wide. I think this is good news for the rest of the world who don’t have thousands of dollars to educate their children.

But here is how I hope that home-schooling will change how we educate our children. Home-schoolers educate individuals, not masses. They understand that every child is different, learns at a different pace and in a different way. It allows for children to take longer to learn to read or understand a certain math concept.  At the same time they don’t need to get bored with concepts they already understand.

What do you think? Has this chart answered some of the questions you had? Did anything surprise you?


Chart found via http://www.topmastersineducation.com/homeschooled/

Home-school Statistics

Book Series: Artemis Fowl, Redwall, and Spartan Quest

Hello Friends,

do you have children that read you out of house and home? I have a 14 and 11 year old who read so much that I have been seriously concerned we might run out of books to read. Thanks to the library and friends, who read just as much as they do, this has not happened yet. There is always a sigh of relief when we  find a series that has at least 12 books (which might get them through one summer). I asked my 14 year old to write up short summaries of some of the series he has read. Here are three to get you started. This is for readers who  have already read the well knowns like:

– Narnia

– Lord of the Rings

– Harry Potter

– Little House

– Percy Jackson

– Anne of Green Gables

-Inkheart/ Inkspell/ Inkdeath

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. This series includes: Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident, The Eternity Code, The Opal Deception, The Lost Colony, The Time Paradox, The Atlantis Complex, The Last Guardian (Coming Out The Summer of 2012)

This series follows the the adventures of the young genius, criminal mastermind, and millionaire Artemis Fowl II. His adventures take him all over the human world and under it in the fairy world, where he both fights and aids the fairies with the help of his loyal bodyguard Butler and other friends he picks up along the way. I recommend these fun, witty, and exiting books for ages nine to ten and up.

Redwall Series (Brian Jaques): Redwall, Mossflower, Mattimeo, Mariel of Redwall, Salamandastron, Martin the Warrior, The Bellmaker, Outcast of Redwall, The Pearls of Lutra, The Long Patrol, Marlfox, The Legend of Luke, Lord Brocktree, The Taggerung, Triss, Loamhedge, Rakkety Tam, High Rhulain, Eulalia!, Doomwyte, The Sable Quean, The Rogue Crew.                                                                                            Following several centuries of (and before) the history of Redwall Abbey, a comfortable premises  in which mice, badgers, hares, moles, and various other creatures live peacefully. But occasionally they are attacked by rats, foxes, and other vermin and the peaceful creatures must rise up and defend their abbey. These epic twenty-two books are filled with adventure, battle, and fun humor. I recommend them for ages 9 and up.

Spartan Quest Series (Michael Ford): The Fire of Ares, Birth of a Warrior, Legacy of Blood

These dark, gory, and violent books are about the life of Lysander, a half-Spartan half-Helot (Spartan slave), who is given a chance to train to become a Spartan warrior. During his training and the battles he fights Lysander loses many of those close to him, and discovers just how hard his life has become in this society where the fittest prevail. This series gives a demonstration of what the life of a Spartan boy would have been like in a story-telling way. I recommend it for ages 11 and up.

Book Series: Artemis Fowl, Redwall, and Spartan Quest

Essential Furniture for our Home-schooling


Today I wanted to share the several pieces of furniture that are essential to our home-schooling. The first one is a desk with a computer for my high-schooler. He pretty much spends all day on it, because he is part of an online schoool. The computer is on loan from the school and too ugly for words. We are I Mac people so you never see the adults in the house using it.

IMG_5384The second one is this black round table. It is a Pottery Barn table purchased on Craigslist. I really like it because it is so versatile. I can pull it out for extra seating for dinner guests. Since they are no legs you can fit a lot of people around it. It is sturdy and holds up to kids climbing on top of it. This is what it looks like when I have cleaned all the clutter off to take a picture.


This is what it usually looks like. There is always someone sitting at this table, coloring, doing school work, crafts, etc. It drives me crazy that it never looks like the above picture. But then again, I’m glad that it invites creativity, and a lot of it.IMG_5393Next is my school closet from Ikea. It kind of functions as a locker. Every child has one or two cubbies. I have maxed out our book schelves, so I really need something for the school stuff we use daily. I like that this closet stays shut, thus hiding the mess.

IMG_5376This is my 11 year old daughter’s cubby, neat and organized. She takes after her dad.

IMG_5378Here is my 14 year old son’s cubby. I’m not sure what happened here, he is usually pretty neat.  I am responsible for top sections where we keep craft supplies. It needs attention badly…


On the bottom I keep pre-school type of learning toys for the little people, so my two youngest can do their  “school”. IMG_5381Here is the dining room table we don’t use as much, because frankly most of the time it is too sticky.


We have a little table that is perfect for the under 5 age. It was a hand me down, originally purchased at ToysRUs and has survived all of my children and their friends. Here is my mom when she visited with Luci.


Lastly, would you like to know where most of our school gets done? Right here on the couch. This is where I sit and do one and one sessions with the kids.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEsther spends a lot of her time on our main computer. It is here that I write all my posts if you care to know.


This is pretty much it. It looks like a lot of furniture, but with six kids all of it gets used all the time.

How about you, do you have furniture that invite learning and creativity? What is your favorite? I’d love to hear.

Have a wonderful day!




Essential Furniture for our Home-schooling

The Perfect Homeschool Room



this post is about what would be a dream come true for me: a designer helping a home-school mom to design a room where she can teach her kids. Can you imagine?? Edie from Lifeingrace had the good fortune to do just that. That is after her  previous house burned down and they had lost everything. So don’t be too jealous. Take a look.



Here is what Edie says about her room:” The multitasking type of room has long been a dream of mine.   A room that’s like me—–that reads and does laundry and blogs and dabbles in paints and maps and printing and child-rearing and bird watching.  We’ve only lived here two weeks but I can’t even  count the hours we’ve already spent in here.”

updatedworkroom3A place for everything, even the works of Luther. Love it.



Here comes the surprise. Not only is this room a school room but also a laundry room!!! This makes total sense to me, since that is what my days are all about: schooling, blogging, and laundry.workroom5


Edie assures her readers that her room is NEVER this clean and organized. The green table for example gets cleaned about 27 times a day only to be cluttered with new projects again. The family spends their whole day in this room, first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Friends, this rooms speaks to me on so many levels. When you are home with children all day you want it to be a happy and aesthetic place, and one that functions well. We use our front room as a library/school/play room. Now I need to work harder in making it look prettier. However the washer/dryer will stay in the laundry room…

How about you, is your space working for you? Is it pretty enough where you want to spend all day in it? I know most of us can’t afford a designer, still the smallest changes like drapes, pillows, and a couch cover can make a big difference.

Happy decorating!


The Perfect Homeschool Room

School Pictures

Yep, home-schoolers do the school picture thing, too. And the yearbook. In our home-school co-op we pick a photographer who is used to doing school pictures and we go to their location. At the end of the year a team puts together a year book. Most often we use Shutterfly.

Here we are waiting for our turn and practicing that cheesy grin.

The year book has a page even for the nursery and pre-school. My two year old was not on board with that. I’m going to have to find another picture for her.

Lucille on the other hand was ready.

The whole process was quite fast. Even with six kiddos we were done in 10 minutes.

Have a lovely day!


School Pictures

Home-schooling in Turkey


I’m so exited to introduce a friend of mine, Jamie, who lives and home-schools in Turkey. Are you ever curious what it is like to live in another country, day in day out, the perks and the challenges? Read to find out…

Sofija: Tell us about your family.

My husband James and I are both originally from California. We got married 10 years ago and since then have been busy figuring out life on the other side of the world and having kids. We have four beautiful girls, Elise (7), Marie (5), Clara (3), and Pearl (4 mo). All of them were born here in Turkey.
2. What are you doing in Turkey? What do you like about living there, what makes it challenging?
James teaches English at a high school here in Turkey. It is an absolutely gorgeous country. If you’ve never visited, I highly recommend it. I don’t even know where to start answering the question about what I like about living here. There really are so many things! I love the fact that I can drive an hour and be at Gordion, where King Midas lived and is buried. I love that I can drive two hours and visit an ancient Hittite capitol. I love that I can see ancient Ephesus, Pergamum, and innumerable other interesting old sites. Actually, there is an archeological dig going on right behind the Chinese restaurant that is down the street from my house! Living in Turkey has made me fall in love with history. I used to live in a city called Kayseri. My friend there was homeschooling her boys (my oldest was only a baby then) and as she was looking at their history book it mentioned a Hittite city where archeologists had found a lot of things that let them know about that ancient civilization. She looked at her boys and said, “You know, I think this is about 20 minutes away from our house.” How amazing is that?! Aside from the amazing history, Turkey has delicious food, hospitable people, and cheap, fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only that, but every building in Turkey has a man who comes to your door to deliver fresh baked bread every morning, and take out your garbage every evening. I love that when we go on vacation we can drive to the Mediterranean and stay in an inexpensive hotel right on the beach. In fact just a few weeks ago there was a holiday so we took a few days of vacation. I was sitting on the nearly deserted beach, watching an amazing sunset over the Mediterranean while my kids played in the warm water, and eating a pomegranate that was grown right there. Can life really get much better?! I could go on, but I think you get the picture, and probably want to move here yourself! 
Of course living in a foreign country comes along with a host of challenges as well. We have been here over eight years now, so it is feeling more and more like home, and so those challenges are getting less challenging as we get used to them. We spend hours and hours at the police station getting visas, there is always a huge stack of paperwork to do and no matter how much you prepare and do ahead of time something goes wrong. Banking, getting phone/internet/electricity/etc is a lot of work, especially as a foreigner. You can’t plan nearly as much into your day as you could in the US because it just takes longer. Another thing I just can’t get used to is the lack of planning. People don’t even seem to know the day school will start or get out until a week or two before it happens. You can put a lot of work into something and then no one will show up (even though people said they would come), or maybe far more people than you planned for will come. You just can’t tell. It’s not uncommon for someone to go visit a friend on a whim and then stay for two months! Turks are so nice, but also feel very free to give way too much advice and criticism (at least from an American perspective.) Every time I go outside I am told 1) I have too many kids. 2) They are not dressed nearly warm enough. 3) They are all going to get sick. 4) Any other random piece of very personal advice (for example, “Get your tubes tied,” or my personal favorite, “Your butt is big, you should lose some weight.” Another challenge is just the fact that it isn’t my culture. I think I will always feel a little distance from friends because our backgrounds are so very different.

3. Why did you decide to home-shool?
The schooling decision just kind of fell in our laps. Elise (our oldest) was doing part time Turkish school (at the private school where James teaches) and part time home school. Because she was so little I wasn’t too worried about making sure she learned absolutely everything – reading in English and basic math were my only goals for her first grade year (last year). I mostly wanted her to become more fluent in Turkish and to feel more a part of things. Being Americans and speaking English rather than Turkish in our home can often make my kids feel a kind of separation between themselves and the Turkish kids in our neighborhood. I don’t like that, and one of the ways I tried to prevent it was by sending Elise to Turkish school. This school year we were planning on sending her full time. It is a very good private school and teachers kids can go for free. Unfortunately they only have so many of those free slots and they were already full. The administration was also not open to the part time idea this school year, and the school just isn’t affordable for us, and so in the beginning of September our schooling plan fell through. We did not like the idea of sending her to the public school for various reasons and so I suddenly found myself homeschooling. Thankfully, I have always been open to homeschooling, so it wasn’t a big scary thing to me. In fact, aside from the whole idea of increasing fluency and using schooling as being more a part of the community, homeschooling would have been my first choice. Anyway, I started by looking up California’s second grade standards then looked up some other homeschool friendly stuff online, downloaded some books on my kindle, and away we went. It has been very enjoyable thus far. Elise and I are both learning a lot!

4. Is this accepted in Turkey? What are some of the reactions you get?
No, not at all. It is a completely foreign concept and completely unheard of. For the most part I’ve given up explaining how we’re educating our kids. No matter what I say, no one seems to understand. People don’t understand how I can get my kids to listen to me, do school work, etc. They also have a “leave it to the professionals” type of mindset here, for example, you don’t paint your own house, you hire a painter, you don’t teach your own kids, you let a trained teacher do it. Honestly I’m so sick of trying to explain that I now just say that Elise’s education is tied to the internet. It is true, as that is how I look up standards, download books onto my Kindle reader, and she uses Khan Academy online for a lot of her math work. It generally satisfies people far more than the idea of me teaching her. Of course if they ask further questions I’m happy to explain the nitty gritty of it, but I find the more I explain the more appalled they become. I’m pretty sure it is so far outside the box that they just can’t imagine it being in any way a good thing.
5. What are your challenges of schooling in a different country? Do you have a support sytstem?
The main challenge is with curriculum. Some of my friends are using Sonlight or other curriculums and have had huge problems getting it shipped here… they not only have to pay for the books, but also fork out an arm and a leg for shipping costs. Unfortunately all too often it gets stuck in customs. I know people who have paid $100 – $600 just to get the curriculum out of customs. It is really difficult and frustrating for many. I decided to bypass as much of that mess as possible by ordering nothing but a math curriculum (Excel), and using books I could download onto my kindle, the children’s books we have brought over or my parents have sent over the years, and the small library on the US Air Force base that a friend can sign me into. It isn’t ideal, but it works. 
I have a great support system. My mom recently retired from many years of teaching, I use skype and talk with her several times a week. She is a huge encouragement and great at helping me with any questions I have. She also is happy to send me almost anything I think I need, which is great. I also know a couple of moms who homeschool here in Ankara. We all use very different systems, but it’s nice just to have those connections. Finally, there is a great online community for homeschoolers. I got a lot of my ideas for what books to read and what to teach by looking online. A friend recommended charlottemasonhelp.com and it has been a huge help to me.

6. Describe a typical day in your house.

Our typical day probably doesn’t look too different from your typical day, with exception of hearing the call to prayer five times a day, and speaking Turkish when we’re outside our home. We all wake up and get breakfast and James goes off to work. I try to get started on schooling anywhere between 8 and 9 am. I’m new at this so I’m still working out the kinks – what order to do the lessons in, how to balance schooling and taking care of the baby, etc. We keep at it on and off until we have lunch around noon and shortly after that we all walk about a block to a preschool where my three year old and five year old attend half of the day. We want them to be very strong in Turkish and not feel so much like outsiders and so our solution has been to do some Turkish schooling. We really like the preschool we chose. The teachers are very friendly and our kids are happy and making friends. The baby, Elise, and I go back home. I spend another hour to hour and a half with her finishing up whatever we didn’t get to in the morning (like I said, we’re still working out the kinks so some days it’s math, some days it’s me reading her history book aloud, some days it is reading some of the library books we checked out.) At three I put baby Pearl in the stroller and Elise and I take a 15 minute walk to a “kids club” where she will hang out until six. It is basically an after school day care type of place for kids to go, do their homework, and play until their parents get done with work and can come pick them up. We send Elise to ensure her to be in a Turkish environment regularly. We do have a playground nearby and in the past we just took her there all the time. Unfortunately she really does not feel comfortable making new friends and playing with kids, she loves playing alone making fairy houses in the bushes. I love this about her, but it has made it hard for her to get beyond the basics in Turkish, which has made it difficult for her to really embrace living here. The few Turkish friends who she feels really comfortable with aren’t available to hang out and play on a regular basis, so this year after our schooling plans fell through, we decided to put her in this after school program. Right now she’s doing what she can to boycott the idea by refusing to speak a word of Turkish to anyone while she’s there. I really don’t like that, but at the same time I kind of feel like this is just one of those things we have to be firm on and push through until she gets it. We’re still looking for other alternatives but thus far, this is the best thing we can find. It is a safe environment and she is getting used to it and I think she even sometimes enjoys herself (although she would never admit it!)
After three, I sometimes take a walk with the baby, sometimes I go visit a friend or neighbor, sometimes I go to the market and do the grocery shopping, sometimes I plan lessons for an English Club I help teach on the weekends or for other programs I’m involved in. Living in a big city has it’s advantages and one of them is that I rarely have to use the car. I can do all of the above on foot, which I love. James picks up all the kids on his way home, between 5:30 and 6:00, then its dinner and bedtime. Sometimes we stay home in the evenings, sometimes we go visit someone, sometimes Elise and Marie go up the elevator (we live in a 10 floor building) to visit their friend Selin who lives on the 7th floor. James usually goes back out after the kids are in bed, for various meetings, or to work on some classes he is taking online.

7. What are your plans for the future in regard to schooling the kids?
I have no idea! I love the idea of continuing to homeschool them, but I also love the idea of being involved in the community more by having my children in the schools. Next year we will be in California for the school year and I really don’t know if I will homeschool or not. It’s just something we will continue to pray about and make decisions as the time comes.

Thank you, Jamie. I enjoyed learning about your life in Ankara. Especially your typical day. I’m forever curious how other mom’s organize their day. I had to laugh about the comments you are subjected to on the street. Would you believe that I get a lot of the same comments from my family when I go to Germany?

Friends what do you think about those field trips to Ancient Hittites ruins? That is pretty hard to top. Turkey has just moved up on my “places to go” list. Jamie didn’t mention that she is an artist. In the last picture you can see her doing Ebru with her daughter. This an Ottoman painting technique dating back to the 16oo’s.

I hope to do this again soon.


Photos were taken by Matthew Will- all rights reserved.

Home-schooling in Turkey

Ancient History: Fun Links


Thank you for stopping by.

Here are my favorite  links and activities useful for studying Ancient History.

  • Take a virtual tour through an ancient cave in France here: www.lascaux.culture.fr. (If the link does not work just copy and paste) This is really cool. You can slowly walk through each room and they explain what it is that you are looking at. The whole thing is kind of eerie but soothing. I could spend hours walking through those caves.
  • Meet Oetzi the iceman, found in Europe. Find out what he looked like, what he did for a living, even what he ate. www.iceman.it/en/node/226
  • Test your mummy making IQ. I made one mistake, see if you can beat me. Make sure you have eaten before you attempt to mummify, as you will have to extract the pharaoh’s brain:www.discovery.com/games/just-for-fun/mummymaker
  • Use the hieroglyphic typewriter to write secret messages. www.eyelid.co.uk
  • Be a tourist in Ancient Rome: this video takes you on a virtual tour around Rome with an expert explaining who built the buildings and what they were used for.

Have fun with these. As I find more interesting links I will share them with you.


Ancient History: Fun Links

Teaching German


Today I’m going to share with you how I have taught my kids to read German. Understanding and or speaking wasn’t good enough for me. I really want them to be able to read German and ideally write as well. The challenge for me was to find the right material. They are not native speakers, so they are missing some vocabulary and grammatical nuances that are assumed in German school textbooks. However they are beyond the level that  might be available here to kids that have no prior knowledge. So you have to improvise. Personally I always wait until my kids are solid in their English reading before I would teach them how to read in German. However bilingual schools show that it is possible to do both at the same time. Thankfully German is much easier phonetically than English so it doesn’t take that long to teach. Above I have a German reader that is used in German schools. They are easy to understand even for non native speakers. Once we work through that I have them read simple books like the Max und der Keks series to give them the opportunity to read on their own.

For the next level I use the second grade reader above left. I also use different grammar and writing helps.

Above are German readers. They are called Leseloewen or Lesemaus.

After the second grade level I have them read books like early readers. Once they are at a 4th grade level they might be able to read Pippi Longstocking, or similar books.

I bought most of these books in Germany, they have great sales around August. Another great resource is Alphabet Garden, an online store; they have quite a bit of text books and refer you to billingual websites. Amazon.de is also a great option.

My oldest just started high-school. He is pretty fluent and a decent reader. However his grammar and writing skills are lacking. Therefore I enrolled him in German. I want him to start from scratch with Grammar and relearn some of those things he has missed.

In my experience immersion is not enough. If you don’t have a strong grammatical foundation you will always be guessing as how to built your sentences. I was immersed in Croatian all my life. I was taught grammar in elementary once a week but it was assumed that I was a native speaker. I would have benefited relearning it in high-school as a foreign speaker to fill all those gaps I have.

This is just to show you what we have done. I’m sure there are better options out there. If you know of any do tell. I’d love to hear from you.


Teaching German