Thursday, May 31, 2012

Strawberry Fields, Forever!

It's still MAY here in Michigan, and our glorious strawberry patch has been already spoiling us for over a week with a cup to 2 cups of fresh, delicious, ripe little strawberries each day! My kids are thrilled! For the past 3 years we can hardly get the kids to even swallow a store-bought strawberry anymore--after having fresh, organic, home-grown strawberries fresh from the garden--they know the difference in taste without a doubt. They munch them down almost faster than we can pick them. With how fast they eat them, I wonder if we'll ever have enough to freeze or jar for the winter? Given how large and lovely our strawberry patch is expanding every year, I certainly hope so. In fact, I hope we have it John Lennon-style... forever.
This morning I snagged out a book on Strawberry Plants from our basement library to read along with, making the kids' breakfast snack into a short (and sweet!) school lesson. Happy summer!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wildfires blaze through our U.P. Vacation

As we drove into Newberry, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, late Friday evening, smoke was covering the roads and the surrounding woods we could see for miles and miles and miles. Were we, perhaps, like other families, headed to a hotel because we had been evacuated from our home due to the raging wildfires that were spreading across the top mitten? Nope. We were venturing there on vacation!
In spite of the crowd of Wisconsin firefighters and eventually the National Guard that was checked into our hotel over the course of the weekend, we surprisingly weren't finding the inn to be overcrowded or busy at all. After speaking with fire officials as well as the Red Cross Disaster Relief, we felt confident about (cautiously) continuing with most of our vacation plans--although, our anticipated tour of Tahquamenon Falls would have to wait until our next trip up, as the park was closed due to the emergency and the uncertainty of where the winds would carry the fire before it was contained. According to the Associated Press, State officials say 115 structures, including homes and a motel, were destroyed. The fire, started by lightening strike, spread 21,450 acres.
We saw some of the aftermath of devastated, barren trees on our way up to Lake Superior. "Those trees that caught on fire look so sad, mom" observed my daughter. They truly did. Most of the damaged trees from where we were directly at were from past fires, which also taught the kids the lasting effects of the damage. Parts of the devastation even reminded us of scenes from Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which we've done recent studies in our homeschool around (Lorax Learning).
Vintage Smokey the Bear billboards peppered along the main roads were slotted "Extreme". My kids didn't even know who Smokey the Bear was, so it made for an excellent learning leap for us to discuss Forest Fires in general, while also incorporating a safe, first-hand memory. Along with the firefighters, National Guard soldiers and American Red Cross, there were helicopters flying overhead with tanks of water.
By the time we were leaving, Smokey was back down to moderate levels, as much of the fire had been contained over Saturday night and into Sunday. We made sure to purchase a Sunday newspaper to keep and thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to include current events into our home education. My daughter is working on her report today, and she gets to include some first-hand source of the accounts in her "who, what, where, why and how."

Current Events Report Worksheet

Current Event Form

Leave it to us to vacation to a spot of national disaster! While we certainly didn't plan it that way, and we did keep a relatively safe distance (approximately 14-18 miles) from the center of danger, it will surely be a memory of travel we won't soon forget. In fact, you could even say, it will be burned in our memory banks forever!

CNN: "Wildfire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula..."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Highlights from our Homeschool Week

Warm May temperatures are filling our days with adventure. Here are some quick highlights from our regular routine, a "week in the life" of this homeschool family.

Fridays are our homeschool Learning Cooperative. During our spring trimester we have done unit studies, this season it was 5 weeks on the senses. We had guest speakers on each sense and then broke down into small group for related activities, games and experiments before playground time. It's been a fantastic trimester, we were blessed to have wonderful speakers and delightful families. Visiting throughout we had an eye doctor, a radio disc jockey, an aromatherapist, a culinary expert, and some fiber arts specialists who brought in various exotic fibers.

Friday Co-op

Over the weekend we did lots more work in our garden, planted the Sunflowers we started for our annual project (see my post Seeds, Thneeds and Planting Things for more on this and related crafts) and we started a unit study on Bears, gearing up for our trip to the Upper Peninsula... ironically it was the same day we actually had a live bear lose in our town that made it all over the news, what are the odds?


Regular school and then a fun Homeschool Movie Night with Dolphin Tale!


We enjoyed a wonderful day of schoolwork outside at the picnic table and did fun experiments from our Apologia science (melting chocolate with the sun through magnifying glasses!), went to the library and then to the playground for my daughter's girl scout meeting.


Magic Tree House Book Club


My husband got to ride his moped to work in town, which was an exciting rarity for him. He has been collecting, repairing, riding and selling vintage mopeds since he was a young teen. It's been a passion, hobby and side-business for him for 15+ years. I had some quality one-on-one learning with my son as my daughter went flower shopping and planting with grandma.


Co-op and afternoon playdate at our friends' house


Michigan Fiber Fiesta, we enjoyed with some close friends who came up to visit, and afterward we all went for a wonderful picnic and playground time. The later portion of the afternoon was spent back home around the yard, gardening, relaxing, running through the sprinkler and an interesting look at dragonflies catching evening bugs over at grandma's back porch. Hope everyone is enjoying May as much as we are!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dolphin Tale: Homeschool & Family-Friendly Delight!

Last Monday night we enjoyed a homeschool movie night with Dolphin's Tale, a wonderful family film based on the true story of Winter the dolphin. We saw it opening day in the theaters last September with 200+ area homeschoolers for Homeschool Movie Club and it was awesome. We love this movie!! It's heartwarming, educational and pays a great tribute to home education in the process. Wish there were more movies like this! We got the book, Winter's Tail, to go along with it.
Here are some awesome links, to Winter's Webcam, and the Homeschool Share's free lapbook on Dolphins. Here are the pictures from when we went to see Dolphin Tale at the theater for the Homeschool Movie Club last fall, which features great Dolphin Tale curriculum, too. And some books and puppets we got from the library just this week after our movie night in. ;)
Here is a sweet little clip from the movie about the girl being homeschooled. :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A week's worth of homeschool lunches

One of the often unforeseen benefits of homeschooling is that you can ensure your kids eat nutritious meals and snacks (and that what you pack isn't being peer-pressured into the trash). Here are five simple, at-home lunch ideas. For more, see my other installments of this feature, on the lunch tab below. Homemade Potato Salad and cucumbers
Salad, pecans, peas and a couple nuggets :)
Leftover Spaghetti
Peanut Butter and Jelly, Snap Peas and Apples
Chicken, macaroni & cheese, broccoli and carrots

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Michigan Wolf Spider, fun to read about, NOT fun to find!!

Eeeeeek!!!! The nightmares have begun. This Michigan WOLF SPIDER (insert chills here) was right outside our back door a few weeks ago. Poisonous but not lethal. We took pictures, then we killed it. Not only that, there was (gulp!) another one in our laundry sink in the basement a few days ago (insert more chills) AHHHCKKK!!! My husband literally torched it. I am officially freaked out. These things are HUGE, they build their nests in the ground like tarantulas and they have my normal tolerance for spiders wiped completely off the charts. I am trying not to let the kids pick up on my fear... but that is not easy, as I've never seen spiders so gigantic and gross outside of, say, a National Geographic feature. Yuck!!! Overcoming my fear isn't easy, but I'm trying to use it, however hesitantly, as a *small* learning opportunity. (Stretching my comfort zone to the max, Dear Lord!) While I'm certainly unable to gain the nerve to JAR these spiders, (shiver!) as I have with various insects in the past (Click Beetles and Praying Mantis, also this year: Honey Bees.) I at least had the kids see it, I took a picture and we searched online together to identify it. Michigan University has a helpful BioKIDS page on Wolf Spiders. The topic has sparked more conversation on why spiders are, in fact, good, even if we don't want them in our house, and of course with my son's fascination with Spiderman, we've done some further discussion with webs and spiders. I don't know if this is God's way to nudge us in the direction to read Charlotte's Web, or not, but we do have it on our book list for either the summer or this fall. If it IS, let me just say to the Man Upstairs: "very funny, but we were going to read Charlotte's Web either way, I don't need to be confronted by these enormous, furry, scary looking spiders at home to start a unit on being friends with these eight-legged creatures." Talk about Arachnophobia! And yes, if I was Miss Muffet, I would freaking run like the dickens if this thing sat beside me, curds and whey or not!! Oh, and here are some super cute spider sandwiches I invented a few years ago... they aren't so appetizing after being face-to-face with the Michigan Wolf Spider... (twice!) but worth sharing anyway. ;) Spider Sandwiches by Mama Bee.

My friend's Handmade Wool Purses, Helping the earth and others with style and love!

My good friend Beth makes these amazing hand-made wool purses, completely out of material that a carpet manufacturer was going to throw in a dumpster! They are beautiful and super cool! ((HUGS)) to Planet Earth!!! This one is going to be up for silent auction at the Howard Christensen Nature Center this Sunday, May 6 at a benefit for local couple, Kare and Scott Greenup. Read more about the Day of Giving for the Greenups here: Kare Greenup, A soul we treasure, a time of need.
Come out and bid on this and LOADS of other packages, discounts and quality items, and get some good food while you're at it! All for a great cause! Pancake Breakfast 9-11 a.m., Silent Auction 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Spaghetti Dinner 4-8 p.m. at 16190 Red Pine Drive, Kent City, Michigan.