Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dissecting a Starfish, Clam and Shark!!

Hi! My name is Kristin and I will be a new contributor to this blog. I have two girls, age 1 and 4. I still have some time before I officially start kindergarten with my oldest, but for now I am encouraging a love for learning, ingraining good habits and learning a ton so we are ready to start when it's time.

I am so thankful to be a part of this group and around moms who love homeschooling and enjoy their children. They are just about excited, if not more, as their little ones when it comes to books, birds and bugs. We are thankful for our liberty to be with our children and teach them in a fun and inspiring way.

Speaking of fun, we met up at Jen's house today for a day of learning and play. First I wanted to show you how she displayed some of their nature finds and treasures! I love it!

First we started the day with play and then some reading about a starfish and clam, two of the things we would dissecting. This was to get this kids excited and give them a few ideas of what to look for or ask to see.

You can order animals to dissect online. Get a shark shipped right to your door step!

Then the kids had some time to draw or paint what we just read about.

We were so thankful to have a friend who teaches bio labs and was willing to offer some time to guide us in dissecting these creatures. She was fun and told us lots of neat facts, pointed out parts and answered the kids questions. She endured some squirting of the specimens too, so she was quite the champ.

The grand finale was the shark...i love this picture.

Of coarse the moms were right there with their children oohing and aahing.

Once the dissecting was over we went outside for some nature play! We had a great spot right under a big Fig Tree.

Some kids painted...

Some kids searched for items on a scavenger hunt list....

Tried some wild cherries....

Climbed trees, built forts, sword fights, catching grasshoppers, running or just spent time with their moms under the big tree with shade.

We had a fun full day! Hope this gave you some ideas to do with your little ones!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Trap in the Creek

Our pastor came to Romans 12:13 a couple of weeks ago and since that message, everyone in the church has been doing a lot more inviting each other to dinner!

We were at one of those dinners just last week at the home of a homeschooling family from our church and had such a great time. They had a chicken coop in the back with friendly chickens who would eat grass out of our hands and several doves. Fruit trees, loads of grape vines with fresh grapes, fresh tangerines right off the tree, a bird bath fountain with an occasional visitor, and some dogs including an amazingly trained Australian Sheep Dog. We were loving it there!

I started asking the Grandfather about his yard (which is kind of unusual in this area with all the cookie-cutter homes and McMansions) and then I shared about some of the fun things we'd been doing in nature - next thing you know, he pulls out this trap and loans it to me. He said to throw it in the creek where no one will know and see what you catch!

I felt like a child all giddy to run down to the creek and try it.

So on our way home from our Nature Study Day, we headed over to a nearby creek by the hollow tree.

Since our rope was left on a neighborhood tree and gone when we went back for it, and since I had to find something to tie to the trap last minute as I was rushing out the door to Nature Study, I grabbed a ball of yarn.

I cut 6 very, very long pieces of yarn while the kids played in the tree. My thinking was I'd braid the yarn with 2 strands per section to make it strong enough. I had my daughter hold one end as I braided when a very peppy Shiba Inu came running over to us, smelling me, the kids, the chicken for the trap - he had a collar but no owner. So my daughter grabbed a piece of the chicken and told it to sit, which it obediently did, fed him the day old chicken and got hold of his collar.

I tied my ingenious handy dandy yarn rope to its collar and called the number on it while the kids walked the dog. Sure enough, it was a neighborhood dog let loose by the gardeners that morning. The grateful woman was still 45 minutes away driving home from work so she gave us her address which was right up the street and we put the dog back in its yard and headed back to set the trap. There really never is a dull moment in nature!

We put the meat in the trap, tied it closed, tied the rope to it, found a deeper pool with minnows swimming around, and threw the trap in. We then covered the rope with rocks and leaves to hide it and left it overnight. What do you think we caught in this polluted city creek?

I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of the trap when we pulled it out today, but there was so much excitement, all I could do was to get the critters out. There were four crawdads in there and one big toad! My kids were yelling "Mommy! They're lobsters! We caught lobsters!"

We let the toad go because I thought the crawdads might try to eat it. The rest of them came home with us and are now in our aquarium for indefinite observation :)

Last week when all our fish died after introducing a sick fish we had bought at the local pet store, we were all really sad. This has changed our perspective. Isn't God so good?

Listen to what Comstock says about the Crayfish (which amazed us as we observed them today) in The Handbook of Nature Study.

When I look at a crayfish I envy it, so rich is it in organs with which to do all that it has to do. From the head to the tail, it is crowded with a large assortment of executive appendages. In this day of multiplicity of duties, if we poor human creatures only had the crayfish's capabilities, then might we hope to achieve what lies before us.

I couldn't help but smile and envy them right along with her.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book of Centuries

One of the classes offered at the Childlight Conference we attended earlier this year was a class called "Paper Trails, CM Ways with Student Work" by Laurie Bestaver. The description of the class followed... You know about the nature notebook but what is a "fortitude list," "a commonplace," a "century chart?"...

Kristine and I agreed to split up to get the most coverage of all the classes at the conference so while she attended that class, I opted for a class on CM's four pillars, which I ended up sneaking out of to catch the tail end of the one on Math.

After hearing Kristine rave about Laurie's class, I was bummed I hadn't attended, but you just can't get to them all! Thankfully, however, Laurie Bestaver posted to the Childlight blog just this week on the Book of Centuries - one of the things she covered in that class. In her post, she sheds light on what that really looked like in CM's schools including drawings and graphic illustrations.

And this is why I love Childlight - they seek to know the truth about CM's philosophy and methods and share that with the rest of us as best as they can. And they do it from a heart full of passion for the truth in the goodness of a CM education for the child.

You can read Laurie's post here: The Book of Centuries Revisited by Laurie Bestaver

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blue Passion Vine

We visited the local library yesterday to browse through their large used books section. By the time I got there, Kristine had stacks of books pulled for anyone interested and had found beautiful hardcover versions of a few YR3 books which we didn't have yet - Heroes by Kingsley, Caddie Woodlawn, Water Babies and some others. And sitting there on the wall with a $1.50 sticker on it was The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

It was a beautiful day :)

Just a short walk downhill from there is a fenced off nature area with little trails running through. Kristine's oldest boy found this Gulf Fritillary freshly emerged from its cocoon. Its wings still dripping fluid, it walked easily onto his finger for us to observe and take pictures. This picture unfortunately doesn't do justice to the pearly iridescence on its wings. Stunning.

The fritillary's favorite host plant is the Passion Vine which is just starting to bloom there. Have you ever seen such a unique, stunning, dramatic flower?

There is a story to this flower you may have heard of: the legend of the Passion Flower, Passiflora incarnata.

The spiky purple-blue flowers were said to have been used by early Spanish missionaries to exemplify lessons from the Passion, or Crucifixion, of Christ. The ten sepals and petals represent the ten true Apostles, the spiky crest represents the crown of thorns, the five stamens represent the five wounds, and the stigmas, the three nails.

It never ceases to amaze me what fantastic treasures and discoveries await us on our nature days.

by Mary Baker Eddy
January 1900

It matters not what be thy lot,
So Love doth guide;
For storm or shine, pure peace is thine,
Whate'er betide.

And of these stones, or tyrants' thrones,
God able is
To raise up seed - in thought and deed -
To faithful His.

Aye, darkling sense, arise, go hence!
Our God is good.
False fears are foes - truth tatters those,
When understood.

Love looseth thee, and lifteth me,
Ayont hate's thrall:
There Life is light, and wisdom might,
And God is All.

The centuries break, the earth-bound wake,
God's glorified!
Who doth His will - His likeness still-
Is satisfied.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Strategic Plan

Michael Farris, a United States constitutional lawyer, president of HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), founder of Patrick Henry College, and Father of ten children, has been defending homeschooling families and their ability to teach their children at home since 1983.

He is asking for our help in a Strategic Plan to thwart the efforts of the opposition against homeschooling and parental rights. Whether you care anything about Michael Farris or HSLDA, I believe as a homeschooler and Christian parent, this plan matters to you and your children.

You can read the details of his Strategic Plan here. He believes there is cause for hope and and an opening for great progress. I hope you'll join us in supporting this Strategic Plan!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Little Windows

Ever since Jan Bloom was here, I've had this uncontrollable urge to scour used books at the library. There are hidden on shelves there, for $.50 or $1, unbelievable treasures. Just like little windows into the world around us, they wait to be discovered and opened once again to reveal their enduring contents.

This one was listed at $3.

The man told me "That one's been sitting there for a while, you can have it for $2."


Can you see, even just from the Table of Contents that it is 'living'?

Seriously, how can you not love a book with a chapter titled "The Beauties and Uses of Dust"?

And here is a poem in the first chapter by Longfellow for the fiftieth birthday of Agassiz, perhaps Louis Agassiz, the paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist?

It was fifty years ago
In the pleasant month of May,
In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,
A child in its cradle lay.

And Nature, the old nurse, took
The child upon her knee,
Saying: "Here is a story-book
Thy Father has written for thee.

"Come, wander with me," she said,
"Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God."

And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old nurse,
Who sang to him night and day
The rhymes of the universe.

And whenever the way seemed long,
Or his heart began to fail,
She would sing a more wonderful song,
Or tell a more marvelous tale.

So she keeps him still a child,
And will not let him go,
Though at times his heart beats wild
For the beautiful Pays de Vaud.


What a lovely way to introduce a child to a book on Nature; a story-book thy Father has written for thee.

Have you ever had the old nurse sing to you when the way seems long? Her song is so lovely, so soothing.

I have these moments... You can understand why :)

and, what could be better, we are reading Longfellow in YR3, Term 3. Love that AO!

I wonder what treasure may be sitting on the shelves at your library.

FYI, did you know the complete AO booklist from YR 1 - YR11 is available in an excel spreadsheet on this page? You have to scroll down under 'subject resources' where it says "Alphabetized Booklist Years 1-11 arranged by Title or Author" Quite the handy thing to have when scouring shelves!

Mmmmm... Ceviche!

When my husband's Father died of brain cancer four years ago, my husband joined Team in Training to do an Ironman race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run - ugh!) in honor of his Father. I'm so proud of him :) Let me put your mind at ease, while we have many things in common, this is something I have absolutely no desire to ever do, whatsoever. And at that time, I wondered what on earth he was thinking to ever want to do such a thing. There are so many easier ways to torture yourself! But it was that race weekend that his Team in Training race mate introduced us to this...

and now I see why the race had to happen. It had been a lifelong dream of his, and surely Providence that brought this goodness into our lives :)

The sourness of the lime combined with the fish and the fresh herbs, pair that with the creamy avocado and crunchy tostada - oh, believe me, you must try it.

Here's the recipe just as it was given to us by Carlos, my hubby's teammate. Just don't tell him I gave away his family recipe - I'd never outrun him. My notes follow the recipe.

*1 lb raw halibut, sea bass, or red snapper fillet (or use a mixture of fish and shrimp)
*5-6 limes (enough juice to cover fish)
*1 cup diced fresh tomato
*1 green pepper, sweet, chopped
*4 tablespoons chopped parsley or chopped cilantro
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon pepper
*1/2 teaspoon oregano
*2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and chopped (or more to suit your taste)
*2 tablespoons white vinegar (half of the time I don't add this)
*1 medium onion, finely chopped
*2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
*1 dash Tabasco sauce or Tapatio sauce (I like Tapatio better)
*Tostadas (fried corn tortillas)

1. Dice the fish (approximately 1/2-inch dice if using shrimp use cleaned shrimp).
2. Marinate fish in the lime juice in the fridge overnight (this step cooks the fish).
3. Stir often.
4. Pour off most of the lime juice (just leave it moist).
5. Add remaining ingredients except lettuce, avocado and olive. Do this preferably a few hours before serving & refrigerate.
6. Toss well and serve on a tostada.
7. If you wish garnish with sliced avocado and Tapatio sauce


My notes:
*I made this last minute with cooked shrimp, without refrigerating it and it still tasted great.
*I made it without the jalapenos because I was hoping my kids would eat it and my 8yo and 2yo daughters loved it. 6yo boy didn't.
*Where did the lettuce and olives come from? They weren't in the ingredient list so I'm assuming they are for garnish along with the avocado? The olives are probably sliced black olives.
*uh, Carlos, 2 jalapenos is plenty for us gringos!

And, to make up for such a healthy meal, here's a link to my husband's blog post for Yummy Chocolate Chunk Oat Bars for dessert.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Achieving Amazing Results on A Fraction of the Budget

Here are the results of a New Study of Homeschoolers in College posted on HSLDA's site. I think you'll be encouraged by the results.

So in reality, the average homeschooler is spending $500 to educate each of their own children, on top of contributing taxes to the public education their children aren't receiving, while achieving better results, while, contrary to popular opinion, still managing to produce well socialized citizens, AND managing criticism that they're not 'qualified' enough to do so.

Wow, my hats off to an amazing group of people. Thanks to the parents of these kids and the pioneers of homeschooling and the folks over at HSLDA, our paths are much smoother today.

I think the important question to consider after reading this article is: What would you do with an extra $9500 per child per year in your homeschool to match the public school spending!?!? If it had to be spent on education within the year?

Build a home library and fill it with books?
Field trip to Europe? Fiji? Tokyo?
Road Trip across the US to visit historic landmarks?
Offer to homeschool an underprivileged child?

Imagine how we might stimulate the economy ;-P

What would you do?