Weekly Wrap Up – Summer Break Begins

The boys made me smile this week.  They remarked several times how much they like homeschool as we did our activities this week.  We actually ended our official school year last Friday, but since our school involves lots field trips and nature walks, it didn’t feel  much different.

It’s a great time of year to seek out inspiration.

Morning Tea

Sitting on my back porch with my morning tea listening to the bird calls is a great way to start summer mornings.

I always feel more creative after I spend time in nature.  It gives me clarity and a sense of wonder.

This week we were very fortunate to come across a salamander surprise while on a hike.

Red-spotted newt hiding in leaves

We also sought some project inspiration by taking a trip to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

Children's Museum Gravity Room and Makeshop

I’m excited by the freedom summer brings to explore, build and experiment.

Linking up to:

Salamander Surprise

This morning we headed over to one of my favorite parks for a nature walk.  I almost didn’t take the camera because the trail we were going to hike doesn’t usually showcase many animals.

For the first half mile we didn’t see anything beyond the normal fast moving squirrels and chipmunks.  Then to our delight we spotted a tiny red salamander.

Red-spotted Newt on trail



Then two together.

Two Red-spotted newts on trail


Then another.

Red-spotted Newt compared to 8 year old hand


And another.

Red-spotted Newt headshot


Then we went down to the creek.  We found a cool rock, eroded from the flow of the stream.

Rock eroded by water

A large rock in the middle of the stream held a circular pool that reflected the trees above us.

Reflection of trees in rock pool

We turned over a rock next to the stream and found a tiny salamander.  Closer inspection revealed two salamanders.  They looked very young.  At first it was difficult to even see their legs.

Immature Northern Two-lined Salamander

The boys wanted to take the same path back to the car in hopes of finding more salamanders.  We did manage to find a couple more salamanders.

Alert Eastern Red-spotted Newt


Now that our eyes were looking for salamanders, we saw lots of small creatures.  I have no idea how we saw a black wooly bear on brown dirt.  We put it on a leaf for some contrast.

Catching a caterpillar


Did you know millipedes have stingers?

Millipede with stinger


We found a spider web under a bridge…

Spider in web under bridge



and one up in the trees.

Spiderweb in the woods



Chipmunks rarely sit still long enough for a photo, but I was lucky today.

Chipmunk @ South Chagrin


C saw a squirrel that blended so perfectly with the trees I thought I would never see it.

Camo squirrel eating nut


The red salamanders are Eastern Red-spotted Newts.  The ones by the creek with a stripe down each side?  Those are Northern Two-lined Salamanders.  Of course.

It was fun to research the salamanders, once we were home, to figure out which types they were.  The boys were very enthusiastic about finding NINE salamanders.  You just never know what you will find on a nature walk.  Some days exercise is the main thing we achieve on our  walk.  Other days we learn about species of plants or animals that are new to us.

Wishing you many delightful walks this summer!



Inspiration at the Children’s Museum

Don’t you love places that inspire you?

Waterfall @ South Chagrin May 30

I love to go for a walk in the woods, listen to the birds, and smell the air. The sound of water rushing through a stream or a waterfall always helps me relax.

This week the boys and I visited one of our favorite indoor places. We took a day trip over to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.

1. Magma Chamber by Ned Kahn  2. Pulley, Slowly, Rolling, Bop by Henry Loustau 3. Quilts by Lorrie Faith Cranor  4. Avalanche by Ned Kahn

1. Magma Chamber by Ned Kahn 2. Pulley, Slowly, Rolling, Bop by Henry Loustau 3. Quilts by Lorrie Faith Cranor 4. Avalanche by Ned Kahn

I LOVE the interactive nature of the art! The artists do such a great job of inviting the kids (and adults) to enjoy the pieces and make things happen. I really can’t pick a favorite piece. Ned Kahn’s Magma Chambers are so fascinating. We always visit those a few times to watch the sand build and collapse. Henry Loustau makes full use of the expansive ceiling in the old planetarium with an interactive ball maze that is a complete delight. Lorrie Faith Cranor’s take on quilting makes me want to break out the sewing machine. She makes quilting nerdy chic (a style I adore)! My boys spend long stretches of time playing with Ned Kahn’s Avalanche display.

Children's Museum Gravity Room and Makeshop

After all the inspiration it is always fun to make a visit to the MAKESHOP. They always have a variety of materials and invite you to just make something. I always think, “Why don’t I think to use that stuff?” This visit they were inviting the kids to make items to populate a town. E made a tepee and C put a rocket on a launch pad. A stop by the gravity room is always a must.

It was a great trip to make at the beginning of summer. I’m sitting here thinking about pulleys for the play set, water pumps and PVC pipes. The husband is looking through MAKE magazine and ordering Raspberry Pi boards. Visions of supporting our young inventors dance through our heads.

Do you have a favorite place or activity that gets your creativity flowing?

Finishing Up

Even though today was our last official day of school, we have already mostly transitioned to our summer schedule.  We are still reading, writing a tiny bit each day, and doing some math.


We found time to build some Lego kits and make pop rockets.

Sunday we had an informational meeting at our house about FIRST Lego League.  It is a great program that introduces kids to the fun of programming.  The competition includes researching a problem, designing a solution, and playing the robot game.  E participated last year and had a great time.


Early in the week when the weather was nice we went on several hikes.  We are planning a vacation to Yellowstone in the fall and I want to make sure we are ready to explore.  We saw lots of chipmunks, a baby squirrel, and a few caterpillars.

We started a positive reinforcement program this week.  Each time one of the boys displays a good attitude or is particularly helpful he gets a pebble for his jar.  It has been great.  It has really helped me to see all the good stuff they are doing and let them know.  Each of them has his own jar.  When he fills it there will be a reward for both boys (like a trip for ice cream or mini-golf).  I designed it that way so they will root for each other; but, there will also be a certain amount of pride in filling your own jar.

Today I took E to the cemetery to place flags on veterans graves.  It was only 45 degrees and so not the most pleasant day to be out there, but the VFW men appreciated the boys coming.  When I thought of all those men had given for us, it seemed a very small thing to be out in the weather for an hour.

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Grist Mill Visit and Camping Trip

This time of year I get a lot more relaxed about official “school” time.  With one exception we have accomplished or exceeded all our curriculum goals for the year.  The weather tends to be beautiful and we are all longing to be outside again.  The learning doesn’t stop, the balance just shifts even more to interest led learning.

For Mother’s Day we went to Mohician State Park in Ohio.  It was very beautiful.  We had a cottage right next to a scenic river.  Unfortunately it was very chilly and kind of rainy while we were there.  We are all looking forward to going back when the weather is warmer.


The sound of the water rushing past was so relaxing.  We were excited to see a heron(?) come to feed.  A few people floated by in canoes.

Lyons Falls

We took a hike to Big Lyon Falls.  It was so nice to be out in the woods with the leaves back on the trees.


Adjacent to the park, a volunteer group has restored a grist mill from the 1830s.  We frequently find grist stones on some of our hikes but had never seen them in action.  It was very neat to see old equipment and the massive size of the gears.  Thinking about all the machinery in use before electricity was amazing.


On the grounds of grist mill there was an old wagon.  We spent a few minutes marveling over how brave/desperate/adventurous the pioneers must have been to fit everything they would need to start a new life into such a tiny wagon and head west.  I thought of how full we loaded the mini van for a weekend trip!



Orchid Mantises by Andrew Hipp

The Mysterious Universe by Ellen Jackson  from the Scientist in the Field Series

April Adventure by Ron Roy from the Calendar Mysteries series

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Linking to:

Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers