TOS Schoolhouse Teachers’ February Special

This offer is such a great value that I have to make a special post for my subscribers.

The Old Schoolhouse magazine operates an online lessons platform called I have been interested in using this platform for some time, but the price tag was just a little too steep for me to sample it. I had trouble budgeting the $179/year, even though this price was good for all students in the household.

The February special is only $95/year!

There is also a monthly option if the $95 is too steep for you to commit to all at once. That’s just $131/year which is still quite a savings over the original price of $179. offers over 300 online courses that your student (or you!) can take at their own pace. All 300+ courses are included in the $95/year! There are no additional fees for adding children. I haven’t seen such an offer anywhere else. All other sites I’ve explored charge extra for each additional child.

This offer isn’t just for homeschool families! Anyone can sign up. You can expand your child’s learning, shore up their skills in mathematics, or keep them on task throughout the Summer months so their return to school in the Fall is an easier transition. There are computer classes and art instruction and foreign languages and … the list goes on and on!

If you can do this, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s definitely well worth it!

Throwback to November 27, 2010

NOTE: This post first appeared on our former blog called Our Cedar Cottage. Now that we have our own domain name, I’m moving a few posts over that we want to save. Please enjoy this flashback with us.

How to make fire starters …

We finally found the time yesterday to make fire starters.

Normally we use dryer lint, which works very well. When we lack old candle stubs, Gulf Wax works well and is very cheap.

This time, however, I had a number of old scented candles in various sizes. We also decided to try pine wood shavings in place of the dryer lint.

Dad keeps his fire starters in an old aluminum pot, which doubles as our wax melting pot. The process of melting the wax would have gone more quickly if we had chunked up the old candles first.

I had two candles still in the jars, so we softened them by putting them in a pan of hot water. We put a rack underneath to prevent breaking the jars.


A nearby nursing home saves all of their cardboard egg cartons for us to recycle as fire starters. We plan to raise chickens next year, and will set aside the cleanest cartons at that time for our eggs.

We filled each carton with pine shavings. We found that they worked best when the shavings were contained in each cup and not mounded over.


We stirred the wax gently to prevent splatters. An old spoon found among the camping utensils served for stirring and for ladling out portions.

We found that hotter wax provided better saturation and a more cohesive fire starter. Just be careful as it tends to have a boiling action when it is poured into the cups.


I had trouble getting a fire going today after a busy morning kept me from tending it. Placing a fire starter under a log that is supported by a couple of small kindling rounds will provide a flame lasting 10 to 15 minutes with plenty of air flow. That is usually enough time for the fire to catch.

The fire starters reside in my old cast iron dutch oven on the hearth.

Throwback to November 23, 2010

Note: This post originally appeared on our old blog at Our Cedar Cottage. We’re moving some posts to this domain name to save them for posterity.

Frozen Pipes!

What a start to our day! The first true cold snap of the season froze up our pressure pump works.

We dismantled the pressure switch and thawed the pieces in front of the wood stove. Since we had it apart anyway, we replaced the pressure switch and pressure gauge.


We then discovered that the pipes at the back of the house were frozen. We put a heater underneath and after a couple of hours, the water was flowing freely once again.

In the meantime, Kenny and Dad went to town to buy insulation. They came back with R-19 faced Certainteed. We are hoping it will be sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing again.

Dad and I went under the trailer to put up the insulation. We didn’t finish until 5:30 when it was completely dark.

We also put up temporary insulation in the pump house to prevent further freezing there. Within a couple of days, we’ll need to properly insulate it.


The Big Dipper was beautiful tonight. A Barred Owl called from one part of the homestead while another owl, possibly a Great Horned, hooted from another direction. I tried to photograph the halo around the moon, but just couldn’t get the settings correct.

I intended to make fire starters today, but I’m flatly too worn out.

Lilla Rose with Michelle

Throwback to November 21, 2010

Note: This post originally appeared on our old Our Cedar Cottage blog. Please enjoy this flashback.

Out with the old …

… and in with the new!

When we purchased our home, one of the features that I liked the most was the old cast iron Earth Stove in the living room. It has a large fire box and heats well.

The problem is that it heats too well. It didn’t fit in the hearth area, nor did it meet proper clearances. The mantle would become dangerously hot whenever we got a decent fire going.

OldWoodStove (1)

One of our first priorities was to replace the stove with one that was safer and more efficient. A nice bonus would be the ability to see the fire in the stove for that perfect, cozy feeling.

We finally settled on a US Stove Country Hearth 2000. It met our budget and is rated to heat a larger space than we have. We got the bonus of a viewing window, too!


We bought a few items to round out the purchase. I wanted a hearth rug to keep the carpet clean and safe from sparks. We knew we wanted a fireplace screen to keep the little ones from getting too near the stove and were happy to find one with a star to match the patriotic decor in our living room. Dad gifted us with a new cast iron hearth tool set. An old cast iron dutch oven holds our homemade fire starters.

We are warm and toasty this evening. We only lack mugs of hot cocoa, which I believe we will remedy tomorrow night.


Throwback to November 20, 2010

Note: This blog post originally appeared at our now-defunct Our Cedar Cottage blog. I’ve moved it to our family domain name so we do not lose it.

The Charge of the Light Brigade …

“Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;”*


Little boys can build a million things out of Lincoln Logs.

Noah’s latest creation was a bevy of cannon.

See *”The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Fall In Love Lilla Rose

Throwback to November 18, 2010

Please Note: Today *IS* my father’s birthday, and he is 71 years old! However, this blog post has been moved from our now-defunct Our Cedar Cottage blog and is six years old.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Today my father turned 65 years old. We’ve all been so busy getting our place ready for winter that no thought has been given to planning a celebration.

Two days ago, we spotted a turkey flying up to roost in one of our tall pine trees. Dad had a turkey permit he had been unable to fill.


We called him and he walked back to our place, shotgun in the crook of his arm, and successfully harvested the first wild meat on our homestead. The children were enthralled with the scene and Grandpa became the hero of the day.

A trip to Tractor Supply provided us with inspiration in the gift department. Dad is now the proud owner of a dog bone wrench and a C.E. Schmidt red-and-black checked flannel shirt.

Mom took Dad out for the evening, but when they return we’ll go to their house for a little party. Cake? Yes! Ice cream? Absolutely! Hugs and hilarity? Always.

Lilla Rose with Michelle

Throwback to November 10, 2010

NOTE: This post is six years old. It was first posted on our old blog in 2010, right after we finished moving from Black River Falls to Tomah.

The big move is behind us …

Our move is behind us and we are settled into our new home. It seems we were just in time as Fall is disappearing and the nip of Winter is in the air.

The children have enjoyed time out-of-doors, free to roam and play in a way we could never allow when we lived in town.


With Grandma and Grandpa living just down the drive from us, the children are able to walk over to visit or help out with necessary tasks. They have been enlisted to groom the dog, carry wood, rake grass clippings and so on.

This fulfills one of our great desires in making this move: that we are able to help my parents as much as and as often as they need us to do so.

Fall In Love with Lilla Rose

REMINDER: Register with the DPI

It’s that time of year again for Wisconsin homeschool families. We need to register our intent to homeschool with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. We live in a state with one of the most lenient homeschooling laws. It treads on our freedoms, but not as heavily as in other states. We simply file a form indicating that we intend to educate our children at home and attest to the fact that we aren’t filing simply to excuse truancy.

Filing WI DPI Form

Why didn’t we register earlier?

Our local public schools give a student count to the state by the third Friday of September. If a homeschooling family registers prior to that date, our children are counted among the students due to the fact that they could potentially enter the local school system. In other words, early registration with the WI DPI would cost taxpayers the expenses of educating my children, even though none of them will actually be in the schools!

Why do we register now?

Registration is due by October 15th but we file on October 1st. Although it is all handled online, it’s still a good idea to have a due date established in one’s mind. Choosing October 1st hearkens back to those long ago (okay, three years ago) days when we had to file a paper by mail and be sure they received it by the fifteenth of the month.

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out the Wisconsin Parents Association’s article on the subject.

Know the laws in your state! The Home School Legal Defense Association has a great resource at this link.

Lilla Rose Fall Styles

School is officially in session!

The 2016-2017 school year has begun for our family. We began homeschooling when our oldest child was old enough to be registered with the WI DPI in 1999, so this marks the beginning of our 17th year.

This year we have two senior high students, a middle school student, and two elementary students. Our oldest has graduated, married, and has welcomed her first child!

We’ve always taken an unconventional approach, using life learning and various methods to teach our children to learn rather than teaching them rote facts.

LEARN Blocks For all of our lack of convention, there is one area that requires consistency and method, and that is mathematics. We have found that a combined approach of life learning (games, etc.), Khan Academy, and Life of Fred textbooks works best for our children.

I recently learned the Khan Academy has released apps for young learners so we’ll be testing those out this year.

Question: If you homeschool, which mathematics coursework do you prefer? What didn’t work for you?

Lilla Rose with Michelle