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Our Curriculum (Part One)

A while back I wrote a post on what (and how) we study, but we’ve since updated our curriculum in many ways, so I thought I’d write up an update on our studies for those of you who don’t know. I’d like to talk in depth about each lesson we do, so I’m splitting this post up into two so it doesn’t get too long.

We don’t use any one program, though there are lots of those to choose from. Instead, Mom has pieced together a careful curriculum that fits our needs best. We study math, geography, art, Latin, writing, history, and botany, and use a different format for each subject, allowing us to get what we need out of the lessons. So let’s start going over those subjects.


Math. For math we use an internet program called Khan Academy. It’s a fairly simple site, but quite well-organized and useful. Not only does Khan Academy offer math for grades K-8, algebra, calculus, trigonometry, geometry, and statistics, you can also study science, computer programming, history, grammar, music, economics, and test prep. But let’s get back to math.

The format is arranged in such a way that you work on one skill until you have gotten five problems correct in a row. Then you move on to the next skill, and so on. Every so often you receive a “Mastery Challenge,” testing you on the skills you’ve worked on. Your prowess at a skill is rated by level, so one type of problem could be on any one of five levels. They are: “not practiced” (meaning you haven’t begun to work on it), “practiced” (you’ve gotten five in a row right), “level one” (you’ve gotten that sort of problem right in a Mastery Challenge twice), “level two” (you’ve gotten that sort of problem right in a Mastery Challenge four times), and “mastered” (you can complete that skill correctly every time). Even when a skill is mastered, it’s sometimes brought back in a Mastery Challenge to make sure you remember how to do it.


The only trouble with Khan is a sometimes-exasperating teaching method. If you can’t get a problem right, you can either watch a video explaining the general formula, or get hints that tell you step-by-step how to complete the particular problem you’re stuck on. But the exasperation comes with the videos: they’re always teaching you how to do the simpler version of the problem you’re doing, and really aren’t any help at all. I was ready to quit Khan Academy and use something else (maybe Teaching Textbooks), but then I discovered that what I thought was an aggravating mistake was actually a popular teaching method used by the most elite schools. The general idea is that you have to figure it out yourself. You have to try your absolute best at working out the problem, and if you still can’t get it then you open up the hints and go through them slowly and carefully, understanding where you messed up and learning the techniques. The knowledge that the aim of this method is to develop a problem-solving ability gives me the patience to work through what seemed at first like useless difficulties.


Geography & Art. American geography is a subject that would be hard to avoid, given our lifestyle, but world geography is where a curriculum comes in handy. We use Ellen Johnston McHenry’s Mapping the World with Art, a fun program that teaches you how to draw different countries (Greece, Italy, Spain), as well as famous bodies of water (the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Sea of Galilee), with an end goal of drawing the whole world from memory. The program is designed to allow even the worst artists (er, me) to draw things that look how they’re supposed to. The instructions are mostly quite simple, though I’ll admit drawing Greece made me rather want to stab somebody (preferably Ms. Ellen McHenry, but anyone would do).


When we do this lesson, Mom usually draws up each step on our dry-erase board, so that we can see it well. Gordon and I use Palomino Blackwing art pencils, and incredibly nice Micron pens designed not to smear, to trace over our work once we’ve finished.


Latin. We’ve studied Latin for six years, I believe, and the whole time we’ve used Memoria Press. This curriculum has lesson plans for some other subjects as well, but we’ve never used those.
Our Latin studies are fairly straightforward. We learn new vocabulary words, recite conjugations and declensions, groan over ever-growing lists of bazaar grammar rules, learn about exceptions to rules we thought were constant, study word order, translate sentences, scour the textbooks for pronunciations, and call the Memoria Press people to ask what on earth they mean; in short, Latin’s the hardest subject we study.

But that doesn’t stop us from pressing on, and by now I have a pretty good understanding of the language; I know hundreds of Latin words, and I can decline the nouns and conjugate the verbs, and put all the parts of a sentence into their proper orders, with personal pronouns and tenses and adjectives that match the noun which they modify in “person, number, and case, but not declension.” And yet, I still couldn’t talk to you only in Latin. So I’ll keep studying.

Don’t forget to come back next Monday to learn how we learn writing, history, and botany!

The Ark Encounter

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Creation Museum in Kentucky. That’s already an incredible achievement, and you can read about that post here, though I can’t promise it will be the best quality. I was only nine at the time and had minimal writing skill. Anyhow, there’s another thing going on on Ken Ham’s plot of Kentucky land now. For over six years the boat has been worked on, but it’s nearly finished now, and we went to visit. Who wouldn’t?

We had brought along great friends of ours, Cali and Marcus Perry, of the blog Unpredictable Perrys and now Unpredictable Perrys Continued. They had already been to the ark, and acted as fantastic tour guides on our visit.

The parking lot was far away from the actual ark, but even from there it was clearly visible; an indescribably large shape resting on the horizon, looking vaguely like a boat, but more reminiscent of a large rectangular box. It certainly didn’t look anything like those cartoon arks you see in kids’ books.


When I stepped inside the ark, the first display was of animal quarters. Cages for larger animals lined walls, and small clay jars covered with a rough cloth would have housed amphibians. There were clay water jugs and sacks of food lining the walls, and some of the cages had highly realistic animal sculptures in them. Many of the creatures were odd, extinct beasts that we only know about from fossils, and cages were accompanied by plaques answering questions related to the animals. The giraffe family was represented, so one plaque guessed, by a short-necked variety to save space, and the dinosaurs were probably brought along as eggs or juveniles.

There was a room full of Bibles in other, even ancient, languages, some of them thousands of years old!
There was a room full of Bibles in other, even ancient, languages, some of them hundreds of years old!

After exploring this first area, we moved on to the mini-museums on the next floor. Of these, my favorite was one describing the flaws of and generally calling out children’s book authors and illustrators who taught, even jokingly, about an unrealistic and tiny boat with all the animals squeezed in tight. Those making this exhibit were even so bold as to display tons of kids’ books that had misrepresented the ark. It was a fun room.

The "Fairy Tale Ark" room.
The “Fairy Tale Ark” room, as seen from a stairway leading to the floor above.

On the third floor we reached what was possibly my favorite area in the whole ark: the living quarters. Contrary to what you might think, it was absolutely fantastic. In the kitchen, vegetables hung from the ceiling and a tiny garden grew on a shelf.  Beautiful handmade panels lined the walls, and the design was simple yet elegant.


The bedrooms, however, were the best part. Each room had a large, luxurious bed in the wall like a window seat, and pretty woven door to closets. One room had a hammock in the middle, another a large desk, and a third a small table. The rooms were beautifully and tastefully decorated, while being simple and practical. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with my room, even though I’ve known it was impossible from the moment I thought of it.


It was a really fantastic day in a really fantastic museum, and I’d love to go back. If you haven’t been there yet, just know this: you’ve got to go.

Remodeling our Class C!

Hey guys!

I know, I know, we’ve been gone for a long time. But after our break, we’re ready to proceed telling our travels. The main reason we took such a break, at first, was the lack of subject matter. We hardly did anything blog-worthy. A few sleepovers, trips to the public pool, and every-day studies are nothing to speak of. We then reached Wayne County and started on some more adventures, but still didn’t write! Now it’s time to tell you all about the biggest thing we did during our break. That thing was a remodel.

The “before” layout 

Do you remember how our motorhome was arranged? Come to think of it, I don’t think we showed many pictures of our little house, so I’ll describe it as it was.

There was a loft above the cab, and and a dinette on the left (when facing the front) side. A couch took over the right side in front of the door. The kitchen was behind the dinette, and the bathroom beyond that. In the very back there was a set of bunk beds, right in the middle of the room. Gordon and I slept in them, though he eventually moved into the loft, and I got both bunks (one for sleeping, one as a desk). That had been a queen-sized bed, but we remodeled it at the beginning. Once you’ve got the picture in mind, we can move on to the new floor plan.

The “after” layout

I’ll begin at the back. That big bedroom with the bunks has gone back to a queen bed. It’s a really beautiful little room now, with light green walls and a pretty, white, embroidered bed cover. The big picture-window in the back is framed with wood, and provides a great view wherever we are, because we’re usually somewhere picturesque. In the daytime the windows are covered with thin white curtains, stenciled with red and green flower patterns on the edges, while at night they’re blocked by thicker snap-on curtains.


The kitchen, bathroom, and dinette are the same as ever, though there are still ideas to change the dinette into an L shape, and to make the table removable. Across the way to the right side, however, things have changed. There’s still a couch, but it’s a lot less space-consuming, not to mention far prettier. Our old couch came out a good foot or so further, and it’s great to have the extra floor space. This new couch is entirely hand-made. Dad made the frame, with some helpful little compartments underneath, out of beautifully dark stained wood, and Mom and I made cushions with a nice cream-and-orange patterned fabric. The couch is adorned with a considerable amount of pillows (five, to be exact, but it seems like a lot more).

Screenshot 2016-08-18 at 12.00.14 PM

The wall leading to the cab is the same green color as the back bedroom, as is the wall alongside the dinette. There is a strip of stained wood along the cab wall, just there to be pretty.


And finally, the loft. Above the cab, the space is divided into two separate beds by about a foot and a half of space. I have the right-hand bed, and Gordon the left. Each bed is extended a few feet over the couch and dinette, to give us plenty of room to sleep. They, as well, are made of pretty dark-stained wood. You might imagine that it would be hot up there, but a Fantastic Fan is whirring away as I write.

Gordon’s bed (left), and mine (right).


“Where do you keep your clothes?” is a frequently asked question when people see our home. Gordon and I each have a cupboard, mine above the couch, and his above the dinette. We keep bins up there to organize. They’re long cupboards, stretching from our beds to the door, or in Gordon’s case, the kitchen. I bet you can’t say that your space to keep clothes goes all the way to the kitchen!

But where do we keep things? Just, you know, stuff? To be honest, I can’t think of too much stuff that we have to keep. There’s a cupboard in the back to keep computers in, and school supplies are kept in a bin between the two seats in the cab. Gordon keeps his X-Box supplies (controllers, games, etc.) in his cupboard, and the X-Box itself under the table. We each have a bag in the back, under Mom and Dad’s bed, about half filled or less with random items, and that’s also where I keep my sewing supplies. But when you walk into our house, you can only see that we keep one type of thing: books. There’s a bookshelf stretching out under the couch, books piled on ledges in Mom and Dad’s room, and usually at least a couple laying around. I am a book enthusiast, so I had to have a place to keep mine, as well. Gordon and I each have a felt bin at the foot of my bed, the head of his (we sleep opposite). My bin is stuffed to bursting with what I plan to read next, while Gordon uses his for every-day stuff he needs easy access to: magazines, his phone, stuff like that.

So next time you need to remodel a 28′ Class C motorhome to accommodate the needs of four people (as I’m sure you will someday), you know what to read, and who to ask. Just drop by Turtletells.

Friends in Oceanside

We have some great friends named Grace and Zoe. We’ve been close forever, but one little problem: We hadn’t seen each other in three years! The very day we were leaving San Diego (Feb. 15th.), they arrived! The Pattons were visiting their grandparents in Oceanside, an (obviously) ocean side town just a little north of Encinitas. So of course we went to visit!

Aside from just hanging around talking, laughing, and remembering things we used to do together when we were little, we went to the beach for a long time. At first we didn’t change into swim suits. Pacific Ocean water is freezing, and we weren’t planning on getting soaked. After a while, however, it became evident that trying to stay dry wasn’t quite possible. At first we just waded a bit, and kept the water below our knees. But then I accidentally splashed Gordon. Oops! That resulted in a huge water war, which Zoe and I got out of as soon as we could.

Left to right: Zoe, Gordon, Me (Lillian), and Grace

It was just Grace and Gordon for a while, until my own brother started chasing me. I ran, with many varying futile attempts at staying dry-ish. This ended, of course, in Gordon dragging me halfway across the beach, getting sand all over my already wet clothes, and dumping me in the ocean. After all this we decided we might as well put on our swim suits. That way we would have clean clothes for later.


Boogie boarding is old hat for Zoe, who taught us the tricks. None of us could get hit with particularly big waves without screaming out a little. It was so cold! We caught as many waves as we could, and then, all shivering, Grace suggested we go up to the sand and warm up. I never really realized how warm sand could be when you’re cold. We dug a gigantic hole, and Gordon, quite willingly, actually, sat in it. Totally burying him took a while, but we were satisfied with our work, after making the amazing starfish-man. Then they all buried me. It was really warm, but made me a bit claustrophobic.

The amazing Starfish-Man
The amazing Starfish-Man

We went out to the ocean again after this, and had tons of fun boogie boarding until we were completely numb. Frigid, we made our way stiffly to the hot tub and slipped into those relaxing waters. When we got back we had a fantastic dinner of spaghetti, with ice cream to follow, and played a game of telephone for old time’s sake (we always used to during dinner when we were little).

Our day with the Pattons was fantastic, and it was hard to leave, but we know we’ll be seeing each other soon. That’s the great thing about moving around!

The Kid’s Guide is Out!

Okay! The Kid’s Guide to Life on The Road is out!

With 34 vibrant pages and lots of color pictures, this book is awesome! It’s full of stories and advice and all kinds of fun!!!! (That just called for multiple exclamation marks.)

The point is: We’ve had a lot of fun writing this book and can’t wait for you to read it, so click HERE to learn more!

When you buy the book you will get an email with a blue link, click on the link and it will download the book to your laptop, iPhone, iPad, tablet,etc.



To buy The Kid’s Guide to Life on the Road, click HERE.

Read our Other Books

Before the Kid’s Guide comes out, get ahead on your TurtleTells shopping!

Into natural science? Try The Life of a Loggerhead, about adorable Terence the Sea Turtle, or A Brief Beach Book, where you can read the story of George, a hermit crab. These short stories about animals are sure to make you smile.

Looking for more games to play with your friends? Check out Games on the Go! These fun activities are in five categories: conversation games, car games, pool games, outside games, and ways to decide who’s It next. Try them out!

Tell us if you read these books! We love getting feedback from our fans.


What’s this featured image (The one at the top)? If you remember, it’s Shelldon reading Gordon’s turtle book in D.C. 

Interview with Rachel Arnow

Hi everyone!! Sorry we didn’t post last week, but we were in Yellowstone and there wasn’t any WiFi. This week I want to tell you about a cool interview I did awhile ago. As you probably know, I love manatees, so when I found out about Man versus Manatee I was ecstatic.  They are adorable comics about manatees, and they’re totally relatable. So I did an interview with Rachel Arnow, a recent college graduate and great artist, who puts up a new strip every Monday. I decided to post this interview now because we just saw Cali Perry (more on that next Monday), and she loves manatees, too, so it reminded me.


These comics are super fun to binge-read, or to read every Monday to help you ease into work (I always read the new one before I do blog work).
Rachel lives in Wisconsin, and she’s never seen a manatee (other than in videos)! So how did this comic come about? Here’s my interview:


Me: Why did you start to make Man versus Manatee?
Rachel: The origin of Man versus Manatee is a spontaneous one.  I did not always know what a manatee was, so after my friend Stephen described it to me only a few years ago, he helped me out by finding a good video for me.

The video is a young manatee nibbling a diver’s hand, and the level of adorable is almost too much to handle.  My thought after watching the video all the way through was, “This would make a great comic!”  So I made a three-panel comic that I named “Man versus Manatee.”  In effect, “Man versus Manatee” was just the name of that one comic.  But after showing it to my family and a few friends, I began to come up with new ideas out of the blue and couldn’t help drawing them out.  After four or five of them, my friends said, “You need to talk to Erty.”

Erty Seidohl is a sweet person who loves to help other people and has experience making his own webcomics.  So the general consensus was that Erty and I should get together to make Man versus Manatee into its own online comic series.  He is the proud webmaster of my comic, and to this day he handles anything outside of my realm of technical understanding and is my go-to person for any novel ideas that I have for Man versus Manatee.



Me: Have you always liked to draw?
Rachel: I am currently a studio art major and psychology minor at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.  I have experience in silversmithing, ceramics, drawing and painting, and although I may not delve into process as much as many artists, I wholeheartedly enjoy the fulfillment of completing a body of work.  Man versus Manatee is a very odd and informal artistic endeavor for me, but it is also a welcome change of pace.


Me: What inspires your weekly comic?
Rachel: Each week, when pressed to come up with Monday’s comic idea, I am inspired by my interests in psychology, physics, art and biology, or some strange, random thing that a friend of mine does or reminds me of.  My friends’ personalities inevitably find their way into my weekly manatee world.


Me: Is there anything else you want to say?
Rachel: I think it’s important for people to know that I began Man versus Manatee after being inspired by only one encounter with the manatee, and that I continue to make the comic because the positive, humanlike attitude of the creature has the power to make people happier.  When I share my comic, I’m not sharing my art—I’m sharing the manatee.


P.S. The featured image (the one above the post) is Rachel’s first-ever Man vs Manatee comic!

The Farm: Part 2

As you know, we already posted once about our friends, the Rager’s farm, but that was about the work, and not so much the play; I’m here to talk about the play. If we weren’t joyriding the golf cart or having flip contests on the trampoline, it was probably because we went out water skiing a few times. I got up on my first try and Lil learned pretty quick too! It was great! We skied all day and got some great pictures out of it!

Another fun thing we did was meet up with our friends, the Manns, who we met in Florida a couple years ago. We saw them for two days and threw a surprise high school graduation party for their daughter Marissa, who works as a housekeeper for the Ragers. Thanks again to the Ragers for letting us park in your yard and teaching us how to ski!


New York City!

We went to New York City a couple weeks ago. We drove to the edge of New Jersey and parked the motor home in a Walmart parking lot. We were planning on going back to the last park we were at, so we left the car there. We parked late and went to bed right after dinner.

In the morning, at about 8:00, I woke up. I got out of bed and got dressed, then cleaned my room, brushed my teeth, and did my hair. By that time Gordon was getting up, and Mom had breakfast ready. We had decided not to leave until 10:30-ish, because traffic is so bad early in the morning. After we were all ready, Mom and I went to buy our bus tickets. We would be taking a bus, the Subway, and a cab that day. Finally, it was time to leave. On the bus Mom and Dad sat together, and Gordon and I sat a row up, to their left. Gordon was a little tired, because he always is in the mornings, but I was wide awake.

A Lego version of Rockefeller Center, as seen from above. (Photo Credit: Gordon)
A Lego version of Rockefeller Center, as seen from above. (Photo Credit: Gordon)

It took about 20 minutes to get into New York City, but when we did we were certainly there. Just a couple of blocks after we got off the bus, there was Time Square. Here’s a short interview with Gordon about it:

Me: What was your first impression of Time Square?
Gordon: It was just like “Boom!” You step off the train and there’s a bunch of buildings with lights on them, telling you to buy stuff.
Me: Did you like it at first?
Gordon: Yeah, of course! I thought it was awesome!
Me: What was your favorite part?
Gordon: Uh-uh. I can’t pick favorites. Not gonna happen.

As you can see, Gordon loved it. But at first I didn’t. Here’s kinda what my first impression was like:
“Oh. No. I do not like big crowds, I do not like all this noise, and I have to be here all day.”

Chinese singers in China Town
Chinese singers in China Town

Dad told Gordon and I to stick together and look around, so we went into the Toys R Us. It was huge, and I had to enjoy it. Besides, it wasn’t so crowded in there. We saw the Jurassic Park setup, with the big mechanical dinosaur, and the life-sized HotWheels car drivers. But best of all was the ferris wheel. The Toys R Us building is three stories tall. The ferris wheel goes from the ground on the bottom floor, through a hole in the second and third floor floors, and ends up by the ceiling of the third floor. Each of the cars is themed off a game, movie or TV show. There’s a Lego car, a Monopoly car, a My Little Pony car, a Toy Story car, a Scooby Doo car, a Barbie car, a Nickelodeon car… the list goes on. But I better continue.

I was still a little wary of this big city, but I was starting to have fun. I had been trying to absorb it all, like you would in a museum. I realized that if I just touched the surface, and didn’t worry about getting it all, I would have more fun. And that helped a lot.

Here are some of my favorite things that we saw:

Grand Central Station.
I loved it because of the old-fashioned architecture, and the constellations on the ceiling. Also because it’s in so many books and movies.
(I didn’t take any pictures, and I can’t put up pictures from the internet. But here are links to my two favorite pictures: Outside and Inside)

The Subway
We took the Subway twice. It didn’t jolt nearly so much as I expected, and it wasn’t very crowded either. I liked it.


Central Park
I think if I lived in New York I would like that there was a quiet, garden-y, place to get away from all the noise and bustle of the city.

Hell’s Kitchen
I don’t like food, so Hell’s Kitchen wasn’t really my thing. But it has a neat story behind it: It used to be the bad part of town, but now it’s really nice. It’s one of the most popular areas in New York to get food!

The Apple Store
For those of you who didn’t know, Gordon is a huge Apple fan. And I mean HUGE! So he seriously loved going to the Apple Store, the most photographed building in the world. I don’t really care about anything phone/computer/iPad/etc. related, but it was cool to see the store. It’s an underground building, and there are spiral stairs going down. There’s also a glass elevator going through the middle.


The Statue of Liberty
We didn’t go out on a boat, but we saw the Statue of Liberty from a little place on Manhattan Island. I don’t know what the area is called, but it was cool.

The Brooklyn Bridge
We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge! It was super cool, and one of my very favorite sites. There were little locks all over the walking part of the bridge, with names on them. People come out with friends and write their names on a lock, and then lock it onto the bridge. It looks really pretty in some parts. There are people who set up shop there, and sell selfie sticks and locks.

Some of the locks on the Brooklyn Bridge
Some of the locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

The Cab
We took a cab through the city to the bus stop, because it was late and we were tired. It was really nice, and there was even a TV (Which I turned off so that I wouldn’t be distracted from the city).



Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware

We’ve been super busy these past weeks, and we will be for months! There are so many things to post about, and so little time! So we will be posting digests: lots of little paragraphs about lots of different things, all in one post.  So here’s mine:

Time With Friends in Maryland 
Last year in Kentucky we met some great friends:  Anna and Gunnar. We had a lot of fun with them, and we even spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together! But this spring they moved to Maryland, So we made plans to meet up and stay at the Dickerson’s house for a few days.
The new house had a porch with about 15 steps leading up to it. This made it the ideal base for games. We played one game where there were 2 people guarding the base (armed with swords), and 2 people attacking the base, and trying to get up (also armed with swords). It was really fun.
Gordon and Anna are both really good on a pogo stick, and Gunnar and I are okay at it. So he and I had a competition to get to Anna’s high-score first. It was 83. Neither of us got to it, but I got to 55, and Gunnar got to 50. I was amazed, at myself and him.
Another game we love to play with the Dickersons is Hide-&-Seek tag. We played it both outside and in.

Going to Delaware
While we were with our friends we went to Wilmington, Delaware. We left at about 10 o’clock in the morning, and drove for 80 miles. When we got there we saw a monument in a park. It was a statue of Caesar Rodney, the first man to cast his vote that Delaware should be a state.
We also went on a long river-side walk. At the end there was a nature center, and they let us use nets and try to find things in the lake. It ran in from the ocean, but it was fresh water by the time it got there. I caught a teeny-tiny fish, then 3 snails. After that I got a flathead with its head bitten off, and a 2-inch-long clam! We identified what was found after we were done, and then we looked at some other animals and walked back to the car.

Amish Country in Pennsylvania
A few weeks ago we went to Lancaster County, PA. More Amish live in Lancaster than anywhere else in the world.  There were a lot of buggies there. (Little metal carts pulled by horses that the Amish drive) We went to an Amish farmer’s market, too. They had really good apple cider, and really good popcorn.

Hershey, Pennsylvania
We also went to Hershey Pennsylvania, were Milton Hershey grew up and invented the Hershey bar. There is a big place called Hershey World, with a fake factory inside it. There is a moving floor going through the factory, with rollar-coaster-style cars going through. There is a recorded voice that talks about how the Hershey bar is made. When you get off the ride they give you a mini KitKat.
There is also a giant gift shop that is almost like a mall, all for Hershey-related items.

But Milton Hershey did other great things. He and his wife couldn’t have children, so they started an orphanage for boys. That eventually grew into a school, and got larger and larger. After Hershey died, he gave all of his money to the school. MHS, as the school is called, is still going. It takes girls now, and not only orphans but any kids in bad circumstances. There are people called “House Parents” who take care of about ten kids in a house near the school. Thirty percent of Hershey’s profits are still given to MHS yearly, and they give to local churches as well.