My Amazing Crew of Young Men!

 Digging out a bush is hard work! With my health so poor that exertion makes me winded and my heart race, having a crew of young men is an amazing thing.
When my two young grandchildren begged to stay with me for a couple days, I warned them I would put them to work. They eagerly agreed so today we are creating a space for the next vegetable herb garden.

I am very proud of them. I give them breaks every hour to play games for 30 minutes, and then we get back to work. We will have ice cream treats when we’re finished.

Update: after trying to pull the stump out with the truck, and having the rope break, my grandson put his back against the wall and pushed with his feet and knocked the stump loose. It was only a matter of minutes until they had pulled it completely out.

Camouflage Capture The Flag In the Dark Game

Who is that having so much fun?
You won’t see me tonight!

When I had a bunch of homeschool families over to play capture the flag in the dark, trackerschool style, I had fun demonstrating to the kids and adults how to use mud and oily charcoal to camouflage yourself for the game we were about to play.  ONE of the most fun parts of the night, for me, was the look on people’s faces when I dipped my hand into the coconut oil/charcoal mix and rubbed it across my face and shirt!  I should have gotten it in my hair too, that would have been even better.  I have to say, my face felt silky soft and smooth after I washed this mix off!

The BEST part of the night was, however, when one of the kids, a beaming boy of about 6, came up to me afterwards as we were cleaning up, and with a face as happy and shining as the sun, exclaimed to me with the utmost joy, his escapades of the evening!  His friend, who was about his same age, echoed every point, as he stood by adding his two cents when he could get a word in edgewise!  Unforgettable!

This past couple months, I was privileged to teach a group of 8 to 12 year olds at our homeschool group, Life Academy of Salem.  We had 9 enthusiastic students who loved learning to make fire with friction; a debris hut; cordage; a deadfall trap and a snare; hunting practice with bows and arrows (and a little pink stuffed bunny); making bowls with raku clay (and firing them in a campfire); awareness games; and hearing stories about my teacher, Tom Brown Jr. and his best friend Rick, as they learned from their mentor, an Apache Scout named Stalking Wolf.

I hope I get to share these fun skills, and more, again next school year!

Kids and Bows and Arrows!

In 2010 the kids and I attended Rick Berry’s 4 Element Earth Education class in Northern  California, and had a great time.  Rick is one of the original people in charge of Coyote Tracks, an appendage of Tom Brown Jr.’s Trackerschool, in New Jersey.   One of the activities the kids liked best was hunting each other with little “quickie bows” Rick made for them out of branches and other items (see above photos).  The great thing about the bows he made was that they were kid safe because they had spongy rubber balls on the tips of the arrows for safety, in case the kids actually hit one another.

In the homeschool class I have been teaching, I made similar bows and arrows for the kids to play with.  I used cherry limbs I had pruned off our cherry trees in February for the bows, and cedar for the arrows.  I cut up the end of a pool noodle and hot glued the tips of the arrows into little holes I made in the spongy material of the noodle pieces (I found out later, though, the little rubber spongy balls would have been better if I could have found some because the pool noodle material isn’t strong enough to hold up under multiple hits).  The fletching I made with packing tape, shaped and cut to be like feather fletching.  I used paracord for the string.  I learned to wear leather gloves while notching the ends of the bows . . . because I cut myself not following knife safety rules making the awkward angled notches.  That was a lesson for the kids too, even the grown ups get cut when they don’t follow the safety rules.  The kids in my class were in a church parking lot, and after chasing each other around with their bows for awhile, I had the kids hide in the bushes around the edges of the church property, then I came along with a stuffed bunny dragged behind me on a cord for them to try to shoot.  It was more than some of them could to to stay hidden.  When they missed the bunny some couldn’t help  wanting to chase after me, shooting over and over!  It was a little chaotic trying to keep them in their places as I moved from one hidden student to the next down the bunny trail.

It was a good lesson in how much practice it takes to get good with a bow, besides just being a lot of fun!

Wilderness Survival Workshop going well.

This past January I joined a homeschool group.  The administrators have allowed me to teach a group of 10 kids ages 8 to 12, and in class I have been sharing some of the most fun things I learned in survival school.  We have played some stalking and awareness games, made clay bowls that we fired in a campfire, made a debris hut, played blindfold games, made cordage, made bow drill kits, made fire, made a snare, and will be “hunting” with quickie bows and throwing sticks this week.  To top it off, we will have a camouflage, capture the flag game, in the dark, trackerschool style, this weekend!

I’m so pleased with how enthusiastic these amazing kids have been.

Melanie and Ryan after they lit the fire.
Melanie working with a student.
A mother watches her child work the bow drill.

Gardening With Kids!

IMG_1970IMG_1971IMG_1974These kids really impressed me.  The 3 older boys practically fought over who was going to shovel the bedding mix out of the truck!  We had to set a timer so they could switch out every 5 minutes so they could each get a turn.  Of course, getting a tiny little tootsie roll when they switched out of the truck each time didn’t hurt either.

The younger two, who weren’t old enough to be shoveling from the truck were nonetheless fully immersed in the project.  From digging with a trowel to dodging the flying dirt, they had a ball.

I am really seeing a positive turn in the kids as we adhere to the work ethic for the younger kids in this Thomas Jefferson Education program.  We read together every day, and we work every day, and they have plenty of free time to play outside, interact with each other, and work out issues with our guidance.  Video games are allowed a small fraction of the play time in the evening after the house is clean and chores are done.

My older daughter is studying most of her day, as she is in the “scholar” stage.  They study the theories and philosophies of the great thinkers in history.

Still preparing for this summer!

Hello all!  Happy almost summer . . .


Above are a couple photos from my Advanced Standard Class at Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School in New Jersey.  These were taken a few years ago, but I’m gearing up for this survival experiment in Oregon so I thought I’d share a couple photos with you.  The top one is of me from our camouflage practice, and the bottom one is the inside of the debris hut I built for sleeping in.  It’s built like stick and leaf and debris cocoon that you wiggle into and plug up after you’re in.  It did keep me warm at night, without a sleeping bag, but I learned not to use moldy leaves!

I’m still in Florida, in the process of recovering from a minor surgery, but enjoying the silver lining of READING and lounging around, spending time with the kids and relaxing.

I’m re-reading “Tom Brown’s Field Guide To Nature And Survival For Children” which has some similar information as his “Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival”, but with a slant for children to give us adults some ideas for teaching this to them, including games to play!

As the time draws near to go to Oregon and quest for survival, I realize more and more how ill prepared I am!  I was grateful when I read in his book that it is important to prepare through the honing of wilderness skills BEFORE going into survival.  That makes good sense.

Will I actually go into full survival this summer?  I think it’s real to say that working toward that goal is the only thing that will actually push me enough to practice the skills like I should.  Set a date and work toward it!

I am also considering running a vision quest class this summer as well.  If I do it will most likely be the last week of August, but that could change at this point.

I’m excited to get to Oregon and spend time with family, and play some survival and awareness games with my grandchildren!

Oh, by the way, Tom has been teaching a lot of classes online lately.  I think he may continue to do so, which really enables more people to learn from him, especially those who can’t go to a physical class.  I have taken many of his online classes as have many of my friends.  We find them to be excellent.

Here’s the link to the school for anyone interested in his classes: