Archive for the ‘
Trips We’ve Taken ’ Category
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
A few years ago, I heard about a fossil collecting trip that another homeschooling family had gone on (I came across it on a blog somewhere). It sounded so terrific, I tucked in the back of my mind and kept an eye on the trips offered by Cathy at Fossil and Nature Trips. She organizes fossil collecting trips up and down the east coast. I had my eye on one in Virginia which is offered in the spring and fall. (It is open to kids 4+.) This year it finally worked out that we could clear the schedule to go. We were excited that our friends, another homeschooling family, could join us.
Our fossil hunting trip was at Stratford Hall, the birthplace and childhood home of Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederates during the Civil War. Usually most of the beach area is off-limits to the public, but they open their shores to Cathy’s fossil trips since there is a paleontologist on hand overseeing the site.
They had boats to take us to various parts of the mile or two long stretch of beach. Mostly we hung out with our friends in a couple of different spots. It was an unbelievable weekend! LD and his friend C spent 95% of the time intensely looking for fossils. Their efforts were certainly rewarded. The kids found lots of sharks teeth… everything from Tiger Sharks, Sand Sharks and Snaggle Tooth Sharks. Even ED found about 7 or 8 sharks teeth fossils.
LD was overjoyed to find a baby megalodon tooth! He also found lots and lots of other fossilized teeth. His friend C also found a megalodon tooth while DD found the fossilized tooth of a Mako Shark (below) which had washed up on the shore:
So how large were the megalodons? Check out this picture (courtesy of wikimedia):
No one would want to be around these teeth, right?!
A couple other neat things that were found over the weekend was a large vertebrate found by K and the partially fossilized shoulder blade of some sort of mammal by C.
What made the trip even more exciting was the expertise of Dr. Ward, an invertebrate paleontologist. He told us so much about the fossils and the bits and pieces we brought to him! He found some massive fossilized clam shells and let the kids take a couple home:
Since we were at Stratford Hall, we had to check out Robert E. Lee’s childhood home. In later years, he wanted to purchase the land back, though he never did. The land had been in his family since the 1717. Here is the main house, mill and back gardens:
Be sure to check out the trips available at the Mid-Atlantic Fossil and Nature Adventures. We sure had a wonderful time and can highly recommend it!
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
As you probably gather from yesterday’s post 10 Reasons Why Time Off is Important, our family was on holiday last week at the beach. There are so many things to do at the Outer Banks (Southern Shores/Kitty Hawk/Nags Head area), I thought I would share some of the things our family has done there. I know it’s a popular family destination.
Here are some things your family might enjoy in the area:
1. Obviously, playing in the ocean has to be at the top of the list!
Be sure to check out this post about the Seashore Life that can be found there. I have pictures of jelly fish, sea anemone, blue crabs, sea cucumbers and all sorts of other sea creatures we saw while walking along the beach!!
Click on the photo to see more amazing sea life pictures from the Outer Banks.
2. Kayaking, Sailing, Scuba Diving: On the other side of the island, the sound-side, the waters are warmer (end of May) and calmer. This makes it ideal to go kayaking or sailing.
This year we took the kids kayaking. My sister and brother-in-law have their own kayaks and we used the public access area, but there are also lots of places to rent kayaks (sail boats, etc.) in Duck (and other areas too).
3. Jockey Ridge State Park (Sand Dunes): The kids had a blast at the sand dunes in Nags Head! This is the tallest natural sand dune system in the eastern U.S.
4. Roanoke Island Festival Park: This is an interactive history site that explains what life was like when the settlers arrived from England to try to establish a permanent settlement in the New World in the late 16th century. The park has a replica of the 1587 ship, an Indian town, and settlement village area. They also have a movie that we all enjoyed about three Native Americans from different tribes in the area and how they interacted with the white settlers.
I did an even more in-depth post about this wonderful park last year. Last May 2012, experts released new evidence about what happened to those “Lost Colonists” and I shared that in that post.
One thing I did last year, that I actually wished I had done again this year, was to check out a children’s book about the Lost Colony to read to the kids while we were there. It really made the experience come alive last year especially with the mystery and intrigue about what happened to all those settlers who stayed behind waiting for supplies.
This was about a 40 minute drive from where we stayed in Southern Shores (probably longer when there’s a lot of traffic in the summer), but well worth the drive especially if you combine it with a visit to the aquarium.
5. North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island: Just five minutes from the Roanoke Island Festival Park is an aquarium. It was not huge, but the kids enjoyed it. They had an interactive sea turtle rescue area where the kids weighed their turtle, determined why it was sick/injured, treated it in the “lab,” gave it time to recover from its injuries, and then released it into the wild.
Also a hit there was the “Close Encounter” with sting ray and horseshoe crabs. They could gently stroke some of the hermit crabs and star fish.
6. Wright Brothers National Memorial: We learned so much when we stopped by the Wright Brothers Memorial last year. I have a long post about some of the things we learned and saw. It is absolutely worth a visit.
7. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge is about 10 miles from Nags Head and provides thousands of acres of habitat for nesting and migratory birds. This is a birder’s paradise with more than 365 bird species. We stopped at the visitor’s center and did a short out-and-back walk out as we checked out all the different birds.
8. Other Fun Activities: And then there are lots of things along the main road — mini golf, go karts, movie theater, ice cream shops, hang gliding…
Unfortunately, that’s as much hang gliding as my kids got to do this trip!!
We sure had a wonderful family vacation. Hopefully, you get to visit that area at some point!
Traveling this summer? Here are some other trips we’ve taken…
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- Antietam, Civil War Battle Site in Maryland
- Global Village, Heifer International (Maryland)
- The Tourist Town of Branson, Missouri
- Road Trip to the Smokies (Gatlinburg, TN)
- Aquarium of the Smokies
- An Amazing Nature Center in Nashville, TN
- Homeschool Week at Colonial Williamsburg — Hands On Experiences at Colonial Williamsburg
- The Mansion with 32 Secret Doors (Washington D.C.)
- Arkansas: The Plantation Agriculture Museum, Toltec Indian Mounds
- Baltimore Aquarium
- Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s Home
- The Liberty Bell (Philadelphia); Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island
- Tennessee: Grey’s Fossil Site, Davy Crockett’s Cabin, Parthenon (Nashville)
- Jamestown, Virginia, Powhatan Indians
- La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
- Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
1. It allows you to open your eyes to the beauty around you
2. It puts the focus on love, family and being together
3. It lets you try new things
The kids went kayaking for the first time last week.
4. It’s soothing, relaxing and you can switch off.
5. It allows you to experience someone else’s passions
Hubby and LD played endless rounds of card games with my nephew, NJ. Meanwhile, I went birding with my sister and my Dad, who is an amateur ornithologist.
6. Creative ideas come to you when you have a chance to relax.
I felt so inspired while we were away. Do you remember the worksheet pack I made to accompany the Bob Books? Well, we wound up using the free Sam phonics readers this past year and this summer we’re going to go back to the Bob Book series. They will be relatively easy, but will keep ED fresh and “reading.” While we were away I drew a whole bunch of little figures and made a new set of worksheets for her to go with the next set of Bob Books. Fun! You’ll see those soon.
7. You get to see new things
7. It allows you time to reflect on how things are going (at work, at home, at school)
I gave a lot of thought to our upcoming summer and next school year. I won’t hijack this post with all that, but I was so inspired and motivated… just by stepping out of our normal routine!!
8. It’s downright fun! It makes us smile and laugh and builds wonderful, lasting memories!
9. It re-energizes you.
10. It motivates you to be sure there are new things to look forward to…
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Thursday, May 2nd, 2013
I thought I’d spend a post just talking about our homeschool life in general. I find it therapeutic to write about how things are really going since single-themed posts (you know, about commas or slavery) don’t really give a thorough picture of life on the home front. It’s 10 pm on Wednesday evening. I’ve finally left LD’s room and the kids are in bed. Whew! Hubby is currently in Australia and so I have the kids on my own. I miss him (I should say WE miss him), especially in the evenings, since he’s such an active part of the routine (helping pick kids up from practice, reading to them before bed, and generally helping get things done and settled for the night).
Wednesdays are particularly busy… grueling even. Let me tell you about my day today. We got up… well actually here’s the more accurate picture… ED dragged me out of bed by rubbing my arm, patting my cheek, asking me to open one eye, turning on the light, sticking my hearing aid in (mostly)… and saying, “Come on Mom. Let’s get your coffee and you can read me a book.” I envy the Moms who jump out of bed hours before the kids… get in some quiet contemplative time, go for a run, shower and catch up on the news… all before the crack of dawn. Me? Well, I stay up at night after I get the kids to bed –usually at 10pm for LD, though ED needs to be in bed/asleep by 8 pm… which means that a well rested ED is raring to go way before I am!
Oh my goodness, where was I? Okay, so ED got me up and we ate breakfast together. I read her another Scooby Doo story. She was going to do her Bob Book (actually they are Primary Phonic Storybook readers, but anything she reads is now called a Bob Book!!) but then I got two back to back phone calls. I talked/Skyped for a while with Hubby (since he’s in Western Australia, he’s exactly 12 hours different than us at the moment.) Then one of my best friends called. She homeschools too and we had a wonderful conversation about how things are going homeschool wise, etc. etc.
Finally, I got off the phone. (We parents need some adult conversation, right?!!) By this point LD and DD were up, had eaten breakfast, and had read for about 45 minutes since I wasn’t around to kick them out of the kitchen area. Quite frankly, LD will read for a couple of hours in the morning if he had his way! They went into the homeschool room to go work on their art homework. The object of their homework is for them to sketch for 5-10 minutes a day… but I never, ever remind them and every Wednesday morning, before art class mind you, they work on an assignment for their afternoon class. Sigh… So now I’ve just publicly admitted that I’m teaching my kids the fine art of procrastination!
After their art homework was done, I worked with the kids on their “basics.” Today both LD and DD worked some more on that comma rules practice sheet I shared yesterday. Initially, I made it for just LD, but DD wound up working through it with me as well. They also worked on their math. While they worked away on those things, I snuck into the living room and ED read her phonics reader to me. LD and DD started squabbling while I was out of the room. DD wanted to sing; LD wanted silence. A small meltdown ensued… and DD declared she wasn’t going to go to art class. Sigh… I brought DD into the room with me, calmed her down. Finished that reader with ED. Oh–and I remembered to jump online to renew our library books. (No late fee this week! Aren’t you proud of me?!) Pretty soon, I was in a panic because it was time to go and I hadn’t gotten lunch (and everything else) ready. The kids usually eat in the car on the way to their art class. And, since we go from activity to activity all day on Wednesdays, I also had to remind LD to get his gymnastics stuff and his snack. Then we all piled into the car. “SEATBELTS!” I’m always saying as we try to get underway. We continued listening to our current book-on-tape, Pippi Longstocking. We made it to their art class several minutes early even!
While LD and DD were in art class (2 hours, 1-3pm), ED and I ran off to Home Depot to get some grass seed and bricks. We made it back just in time to pick up the kids. Once in the car and underway again, we listened to the last of Pippi Longstocking (the kids loved the book and were sad it ended) and then practiced German (Pimsleur German). They are doing really well with that. I like the fact that they can say… How much does that cost? It costs 16 Euros or What time is it? It is 2 o’clock. I’m not so thrilled that my kids can now order a beer or two… or some wine. Ummm… We laugh about that a lot — and then I make sure (again and again) that they can say… “I’d like some water please” instead!! Twenty or twenty-five minutes later we’ve arrived at the doctor’s office for LD’s allergy shots (we still have to go twice a week. Ugh!!) We paused our CD and headed inside. LD got his shot, changed into his gymnastics outfit and off we went. Will we make it to his practice on time with the horrible traffic??? We finished off today’s German lesson (the kids cheer) and we listened to some music. Whew — we made it to LD’s practice on time… a few minutes early even (4:15)!
I realized I didn’t have ED’s gymnastics outfit so we had to run home to get that. Remember that grass seed I had bought earlier? I manage to sprinkle the ENTIRE 20 lb. bag all around the yard with help from the girls, put ED’s hair up into a pony tail AND get her to practice by 5 pm!!
DD and I rushed home to make dinner (sorry to say, it was fish sticks and broccoli tonight). :( No award winning meals at the Homeschool Den today. That’s the way life is sometimes. We packed that up in more Tupperware, picked up ED from her gymnastics practice, and while the girls ate in the car, we headed off for my choir rehearsal. The girls went to the babysitter, I practiced and then we left early from rehearsal to drive all the way back to get LD from his gymnastics. By the time we got home at 8:50 pm, everyone was hungry again. I offered ED and DD leftovers from yesterday, but they wanted more fishsticks. GRRrreat meal, Liesl! Because of this, I didn’t have ED in bed until 9:20 pm… DD was in bed at 9:40 pm and LD is/was in bed at 10:00 pm.
Not all days are like this, but Wednesdays are a carefully choreographed dance of activities!
Some days we seem to squeeze in a fair amount of school-stuff and other days we don’t. In the spring, we try to do a lot of field trips and while on the one hand it’s great and educational in a different way, they eat into out time and energy in other ways. Trips are a bit draining because not only are we packing lunches, snacks, the kids, water, the hats, sunscreen and all the other assorted paraphernalia, but then when we come home we bring in the empty Tupperware, warm ice packs, hats, sunscreen. All that stuff gets dumped and needs to be dealt with and put away at some point. That said, do you know what? I often daydream of being one of those homeschoolers who packs everything into an RV and drives around the country (or the world!!). I doubt that’s in our future, though I sure hope to get in plenty of road trips and trips abroad before the kids are out of the house.
Anyway, we’ve been taking full advantage of the nice weather and lack of crowds to add new dimensions to our homeschool. Some of our trips are educational… others, well not so much. But one trip in particular was very shocking and eye-opening for the kids. I mentioned our service project and our trip to see the different houses at the Global Village of Heifer International a week or so ago. While we were in that part of Maryland, we visited Antietam. For those who don’t know, the Battle of Antietam was the first battle of the Civil War to be fought on Union (Northern) soil. The battle on September 17, 1862 was the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War… with 22,717 dead, wounded or missing on both sides.
We stopped into Antietam and spent hours and hours there. We watched the movie (which was just border-line acceptable for ED). We went through the museum and then headed to see some of the sights (it was a car-tour).
Don’t you love the fact that my 5-year-old doesn’t know how to hold a gun?! (lower left picture) Of course, LD quickly remedied that. But all joking aside, Antietam National Battlefield was a stirring place to visit.
I have lots more pictures of what we saw that day, but honestly the most wrenching part was the cemetery. The kids and I were the only ones there. Because of that, it was silent and somber. I became very choked up (and honestly writing about this I have tears in my eyes) when I realized what DD was doing. She (and then ED also) went from grave to grave whispering quietly, “I’m sorry you died…” over and over and over. Oh my goodness, that was just heart-wrenching. We all were very overwhelmed… and DD leaned on me and cried quietly at one point. It was stirring and horrible… and touching all wrapped into one.
As I said, some of our outings are quite educational, but other things are just plain fun… Like the day we went to a petting zoo…
And the circus…
Whew, well I’ve been writing and writing and realize this post has gotten out of control. I’m not sure I even answered my original question… so how is homeschool life going? I’ll have to cop out and say, homeschooling is going fine. Some days we get more traditional stuff done than others… we’re finishing up our digestive system unit (several posts about that early next week) and are moving into a new unit geared a bit more for ED/preschool about geography, African/world animals and stuff like that.
If you’re actually still with me at the bottom of my post (I know Hubby is, since we’re not getting enough time to chat! Hugs and kisses to you, Hubby!)… thank you so much for reading! Have a wonderful day!
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Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
As I mentioned yesterday, the kids are raising money to buy some livestock for Heifer International. When I looked on the map, I saw that the Heifer has various learning centers around the country. We called and made arrangements to visit Shepherd’s Spring in Maryland. Oh my goodness, what an amazing trip we had!!! The program director was so engaging with the kids and she led us on a 3+ hour tour all around the Global Village and let the kids feed and hold some of the livestock.
Heifer International was founded in 1944. It has helped more than 125 million families in more than 125 countries. Families are gifted with some sort of livestock: a cow, pig, sheep, goat, chickens, etc. and they agree to pass the gift along to other families when their animal has offspring of its own.
We wandered down to the village and got to see some of the houses in various countries where Heifer International is involved:
The lower class houses in Mozambique are small and are mostly made of materials such as sand, grass and clay. The walls are made of mud. The roof has to be replaced every one or two years. The life expectancy in Mozambique is 41.18 years.
Heifer provides families in Mozambique with goats, bees, fish, guinea fowl, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and draft buffalo.
The kids learned that most people cook over an open fire. And in fact, half the world’s population cook over an open fire!!
When people have enough resources, they are able to build sturdier houses. A heifer family might save their money to buy the materials needed over the course of 3-5 years. These houses still have no bathroom, electricity or running water, but the roof does not need to be replaced every year or two and there is better protection from the elements.
The next place we “visited” was the temporary housing of a refugee camp. Neither of the girls knew what a refugee camp was, but LD was able to talk about it a bit. People displaced because of disaster or war have very little. The wood and canvas tents offer very little protection from the elements. Access to fresh food, water and other supplies can be limited. And often the camps are crowded leading to the spread of illness and disease.
As of 2009, half of the 10 million refugees were in Asia, 22% were in Africa.
After people’s needs have been met (by other organizations) and conditions are stable, Heifer works with survivors to provide livestock, training and other resources.
Our next stop was in Thailand. We saw a traditional stilt house. Stilts keep the house off the ground during the rainy season and provide cooling and protection from mosquito breeding grounds. Animals usually live under the house for protection. The life expectancy in Thailand is 73.1 years.
Heifer provides alternatives to the traditional slash-and-burn agricultural techniques. It also provides cows, water buffalo, pigs, chickens, fish and silk worms.
You can see the enclosure that is being made for a flock of ducks. They will also be able to find shelter under the stilt house.
The houses in Kenya are often small mud or concrete brick dwellings with metal or thatched roofs. Kenya has good soil, but because of the small sizes of their farms, most Kenyans have trouble raising enough crops to feed their families throughout the year. The life expectancy in Kenya is 57. 86 years.
Heifer provides families in Kenya with goats, bees, chickens, sheep, cattle and donkeys.
The kids took turns sweeping the dirt floor. The wall hangings you see are made in Kenya, but would not be hung in people’s homes. They are sold to tourists at the markets.
There was an outdoor shelter for cooking:
Heifer works in the Appalachian region to support the growing, selling and eating of fresh, local foods. Heifer USA provides goats, pigs, chickens, bees, ducks, turkeys, cows, rabbits, fish, sheep and worms. The life expectancy in the USA is 78.11 years.
If a family can afford them, homes are made of sturdy concrete blocks. Guatemala is a mountainous country with numerous volcanoes, a rolling limestone plateau and a narrow coastal plain. It is difficult for farmers to eke out a living on the rocky, barren soil.
Heifer provides animals such as chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, goats, worms and bees.
At this house, we talked a lot about how difficult it would be to have to fetch water from the local water source. In one of the pictures below, you can see LD lifting the heavy 6-gallon water container.
The animals that are gifted in other countries are purchased locally, but for educational purposes the Heifer learning center we visited had livestock the kids could feed and hold. The chickens hadn’t come in yet, but they did get to interact with the other animals. The kids obviously loved that!!!
Our trip was absolutely wonderful. The director of the program was incredible! They do overnight stays and learn experiences with older groups, though just the visit was well worth it! If you are interested in trying to find if there’s a Global Village near you, here are some of the locations:
Heifer Learning Centers
Heifer Village in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas
Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas
Overlook Farm in Rutland, Massachusetts
Heifer Global Village Site Sponsors
Howell Nature Center in Howell, Michigan
Shepherd’s Spring in Sharpsburg, Maryland
You might be interested in reading yesterday’s post about our service project to raise money for some livestock. Check out the kids’ beautiful art work!
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