Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WWOOFing Explained & Farm Fresh Eggs

For the past month we have been wwoofing at Thus Far Farm here in Westminster, South Carolina.  I have gotten the question “What is wwoofing?” a lot, so I thought I would go ahead and answer it to start with.  WWOOF stands for World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers.  There are wwoof farms all over the world and in many parts of the world people regularly visit wwoof farms as a type of vacation, taking a week out of their every day city life to work on a farm.  When you wwoof, you agree to come and work on a farm in exchange for room and board.  Most often this means that the farmer provides you with a room, access to a bathroom and some of your meals.  This is a possibility here at Thus Farm Farm, as they have an amazing farm house with extra rooms available upstairs.


A Peek Inside the Farm House at Thus Far Farms in South Carolina.  Find out more about our wwoofing adventure here at RVing with the Rakis.

However, as we have brought our home with us, we stay in our RV and they provide us with a place to park as well as electricity and water hookup.  Feeding a family of 5 is a steep order, but they do provide us with some food, including two dinners a week and many, many farm fresh eggs which we have used to make many delicious meals including these yummy baked eggs with a sautéed mushroom base and ricotta cheese.  Super simple recipe, just sautee mushrooms with onions and place at the bottom of a greased muffin tin.  Add cheeses and then crack and egg and bake for 15 minutes.  Delicious!

Delicious baked eggs made with fresh eggs we collected while wwoofing at Thus Far Farm in Westminster, South Carolina.  Find out more about our adventure at Rving with the Rakis.

The couple who runs Thus Far Farm, Mary and Bill McGinn, are amazing people who have encouraged my children to participate in many farm tasks, including letting our 3 year old help collecting eggs.


Collecting eggs while wwoofing at Thus Far Farm in Westminster, South Carolina.  Find out more about our adventure at Rving with the Rakis.


We are feeling very blessed to have this great opportunity here at Thus Far Farm.  Good food, fresh air, nice people, what else can you ask for?


Friday, January 23, 2015

Travel – an Informational Writing

Have you ever wondered what places you might you might see? How to get there? Well, traveling is a way to discover new places.

There are many ways to travel the world, here are a few. If you like traveling but don’t like leaving the house, a motor home but don’t like leaving the house, a motor home or RV is what you want. If you like the air and going places fast, airplanes are the way to go. Boats are an incredible way to go from place to place for water lovers. If you like enjoying the countryside, you can ride a car or train. Now let’s find out about what to see while you travel.

Travel - an informational writing on travel from a fifth grade student. 

There are many places to go around the world while traveling. If you like nature and history you should try to visit US National Parks like the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia. For people who enjoy history there are museums where you can learn a lot about history from the Civil War to Elections. The country side is an enjoyable place to relax after a long day of traveling and stress on the road. Now we’ve learned about where to go, but where will you stay.

Grand Canyon - an informational writing on travel from a fifth grade student

Here are some places to stay while traveling. If you are camping in a tent, RV or a trailer, you might stay at a nice campground where you can have water and electricity and often a swimming pool. If you like traveling in the city a hotel is the place to stay and enjoy. Rental Houses are like a house but are smaller and are usually found in the country. You can stay for a night, a week or longer.

Traveling is a great way to enjoy the world and all its wonders.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Science of Soils on the Farm

China and Russia.  The boys chose these two countries to research this year for their Year Long Country Study Projects.  During Trimester One, they studied the maps, landforms, plant and animal habitats, folklore and religious beliefs of their countries.  This trimester, we are studying the history of our countries – starting with the history of the land.  To build up our background knowledge, we started by exploring the types of rocks and soils.  We covered our whiteboard as we talked – so thankful to have to whiteboard available to us now thanks to my handy husband, much more helpful than the mirror he took down to hang it!


Studying Rocks & Soils in our RV - Great science lesson for roadschooling using our digital microscope to study soil samples we collected here on the farm.  RVing with the Rakis


After our rock and soil talk, we decided to take a close look at some examples with the new digital microscope my cousin gave the boys for Christmas (a homeschooling mom’s dream present – right?).  Luckily life here on Thus Far Farm made it super easy to gather samples.  The boys gathered a small handful of clay from the garden, a small handful of sand from the pile near the chicken house and a small handful of potting soil from our own pot of mint (the only survivor of our portable garden).  They also gathered up a few small rocks and we had a blast looking at all of the these samples under the microscope.  We compared the granule size for each type of soil, as well as the color and the items we found mixed into each.  Once the kids had explored their real life samples, we went onto the internet and did some research, discovering that Russia has almost exclusively metamorphic and igneous rocks and China has almost exclusively sedimentary and igneous rocks.  Great day of learning!    


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lessons Learned from Trimester One

We have broken down our school year into three trimesters.  Each of trimester lasts three months and after each trimester we take a month off.  So, our first trimester consisted of September, October and November and then we took the month of December off – at least off of book work, we still did lots of “unschooling” activities.  Now that we have completed our first trimester, I am reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and making adjustments to our routine accordingly.


Lessons Learned from Trimester 1 of our Roadschooling Adventure.  RVing with the Rakis


Here are some of the things that worked:

1.)  Letting the boys choose their own individual order for completing their work.  My oldest prefers to work by language – completing all the French at once, all the Arabic on another day, etc. My middle son prefers to work by subject – completing all the Math on one day and all the Grammar on another.  By letting them have control, they were much more likely to manage themselves and they were much less needy during the day.


2.)  Listening videos.  I started an activity that I simply call “listening” where the boys listen to educational videos – on topics of their own choosing.  They listen to two 20 minute videos in each language (Arabic, French and English) a week and then summarize what they watched.  I started this mainly so that they would continue to be “immersed” into Arabic and French.  Lo and behold they LOVE this activity, especially in English!  They choose crazy different topics and are big fans of TED Ed videos and have built up tons of background knowledge that they can in turn use to make connections with their reading, content and other learning.


3.) Calendar and map skills.  We have a desk calendar and a world map posted in the hallway.  Officially the calendar is for the 3 year old and the map is for the big boys.  However, everyone has benefited from both of these being posted.  Sam works on calendar every day, going over the days of the week, counting to 31, counting by 10’s, working on patterns and recording the weather – all in English, French and Arabic.  Sometimes he does this with me, but often he works on it with one of his brothers. It has been a great review for the 2nd grader and a great chance for responsibility for the 5th grader.  The map was posted to help the older boys, but has made my 3 year old EXTREMELY interested in maps and especially where everyone he knows is “on the map.”  One of our projects for this trimester is to post pictures of family members and friends near where they live.     


4.)  Minecraft carrots.  Completing work in an appropriate amount of time was an extreme challenge for my 7 year old at the beginning of trimester 1.  As with most kids, he has a carrot and his is Minecraft.  So our deal is that I say how long something “should take” – often padded with 5 or 10 minutes and if he completes the work in that designated time, he gets to go play Minecraft for 10 minutes before returning to his school work.  This gives him a good brain break and has proven to be a highly effective motivation for material he isn’t interested in at the moment.


5.)  Visual checklists posted at the beginning of the week.  On Monday, the kids receive a list of EVERYTHING that they will do for the entire week.  Then, as we finish things, they cross items off of the list.  This helps them visualize exactly how much they have completed and how much they have left.  They also plan their weeks, often with the goal of having half or all of Friday free, based on these checklists.


Our Weekly To Do List for our Roadschool - homeschool - lessons.  The children receive lessons in English, French and Arabic.  RVing with the Rakis.


Here is some of what DIDN’T work:


1.)  Having Mom plan and monitor Arabic and French.  The only reason we had me in charge of this was that the Mister was working on his student teaching and he didn’t need another bit of work.  However, I am very glad to hand it over to him this trimester, as my Arabic and French are not quite up to snuff!


2.)  Working straight through the day.  We were working a “standard school day” and by the end of the day, the boys were exhausted!  The only time the Mister had to work with them was in the evenings and by that time they were too tired to really focus.  This trimester, we are trying something new.  We are working half of the day – from 8 until 12:30ish.  Then, the boys take a long break to run around, play games, watch movies, etc.  When the Mister gets done with whatever his workamping duties are, (We’re on a farm right now, so he’s been splitting logs and helping with the chickens.) we pick up again for another two hours.  The morning hours can be used for whatever language needs working on,but the afternoon/evening hours are exclusively for Arabic and French.  This gives the boys focused time with these languages when their dad is around to help them.


3.)  Too many book assignments.  Because we are trying to keep them “up to snuff” in three different languages, it is really easy just to assign them a ton of textbook pages.  However, we didn’t start homeschooling to exclusively work out of a workbook.  So, this trimester, our to do list specifically asks them to free write or journal in each of their languages, to play math games and to complete language puzzles.  It gives them a few more choices each week that are not textbooks.


4.)  I forgot to do mini lessons!  I didn’t really forget, we were doing mini lessons as needed, but always after they had difficulty with a problem or textbook page.  This trimester we are starting each day out on the whiteboards, working on a specific skill that I know they’ll need during that week’s work.  This will help build up skills ahead of time, making for less issues with textbook pages – I hope.


5.)  I got caught up in what we HAD to do and forgot I was in control.  As a school teacher, there is so little you’re in control of.  You have a curriculum, you have to cover it all – end of story.  This was my mentality during Trimester 1 and I was stressed about getting it all in.  Then it finally occurred to me over our break – I wrote the curriculum!  I pieced together what was necessary from each language and subject.  If there was too much, all I needed to do was take some out.  Obviously, I can’t remove everything, but the boys are both reading more than a grade level ahead in English and are at least a grade level ahead in Math in all of their languages.  They are learning grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and math in three languages.  They’re good.  Remove the stress and truck on!


So, with all of these insights, we move into Trimester 2 and are actually more excited about the non-curriculum opportunities that lie ahead of us this trimester, including an opportunity to learn to classify trees and plants, an opportunity to explore the world with our new digital microscope and the opportunity to start corresponding with our new pen pals!



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Our Plan for 2015 – How we plan to live rent free for a year!

During the past six months, we have been living in our RV, but we have stayed close to “home”.  I bet some of you are saying, wait wasn’t Morocco your home last year?  Yeah it was, so I guess I should say “where our home was before we moved to Morocco”.  Yesterday, we launched our official “adventure” to travel the US in our RV.  Confused yet?  Here’s some background:


- From 2004 to 2011, we lived in north Georgia. 

- From 2011 to 2014, we lived in Casablanca, Morocco.

- In June of 2014, we returned to the United States and purchased our RV.


Better now?  Good!


RVing with the Rakis - our plan for 2015 - how we plan to live campsite free for the next year.


So, now that we have launched, what’s in store? Here’s our plan for 2015:


January – March – WWOOFing at Thus Far Farm in Westminster, South Carolina.


 RVing with the Rakis - our plan for 2015 - how we plan to live campsite free for the next year.   First stop - Thus Far Farms


April – WWOOFing at Earthen Heart Farm in Bangor, Michigan.

 RVing with the Rakis - our plan for 2015 - how we plan to live campsite free for the next year.   Second stop Earthen Heart Farm



May – WWOOFing at Soul Farmasee in Fairfield, Iowa.


June – September 15th – Working at Crooked Creek Campground in Black Hills, South Dakota.


 RVing with the Rakis - our plan for 2015 - how we plan to live campsite free for the next year.   Fourth stop Crooked Creek RV park


September 15th – Dec 23 – Working in Amazon’s Camper Force, either in Kansas or Nevada – hopefully Nevada.

 RVing with the Rakis - our plan for 2015 - how we plan to live campsite free for the next year.   Last stop Amazon Camper Force



This is our plan, but by this point in my life, I am well aware that plans twist and change in lots of interesting ways.  So, we’ll see where life leads us in reality.  However, if this plan is fulfilled in means that we will pay no campsite fees for the entire year of 2015, allowing us to chuck that money at our ever present student loans.  It also means that during the second part of the year we will earn a salary on top of having a free campsite.  Adding this to what we earn from our various business enterprises gives me hope that I may see even see some of those student loans eliminated by the end of this business year.  To see more about our business enterprises, check out our newly updated “How do we afford this lifestyle?” page.


While this plan works well for us from a financial standpoint, it also gives us some amazing opportunities to meet fabulous people, see fabulous sights and enjoy fabulous experience.  Since life is so much about the journey than arriving at the endpoint debt free, this is where my focus is going to be!