Bee Friendly

I was afraid I wasn’t going to have anything to share this week.  After having an awesome vacation last week we needed to “catch up on our paperwork.”

Bee Collage

Thankfully FIRST LEGO League, FLL, added interest to our week. Our normal FLL meeting time was spent doing a field trip related to our project.  We visited a local organic farmer to learn about bee keeping.  He was great with the kids and we had a good time learning about bees despite the rain.  I learned quite a few things about the farm even though I’ve been a member of their CSA program for a couple of years.  I also learned some new things about bees.

EV3 PBL Mission World Class

The local public school had the day off for election day, so I invited C’s team to our house for some “open table” time.  The kids came two at a time for a couple of hours each to work on their programming.   While we get a lot done during our normal meeting time, sometimes it helps to have an even smaller group.  They can concentrate better and spend more time testing their results.

If you want to gain hope for the future spending time around FLL is great.  The kids come up with some great solutions / innovations.  It’s also super fun to watch them as they learn how to program the robot.  They get such a sense of accomplishment as they solve problems and make things work.  Because gracious professionalism is one of the core values of FLL, we also set a high standard for behavior and manners.  They are still high energy kids and a bit wiggly and silly sometimes, but they are practicing kindness and respect.

Model Trebuchet

This week E built a trebuchet as an engineering project.  Apparently it’s been a bit hard to tune, but the boys and their friends have had a great time building cup towers and walls to attack with the trebuchet.  I wish I had known sooner how much fun kids could have with a few packages of plastic cups.

This week I asked C what he likes about homeschool.  He quickly answered, “We get to learn from TV.”  I’ll admit it has be a long road for me to accept watching documentaries / educational programs as more than just a supplement to “real” learning.  As I see how much information C learns and stores in picture form, it has helped me understand that we really do have different learning styles.

How have you learned to respect and accommodate your kids’ learning styles?

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Intentional Leisure


Way back in January or February my husband and I discussed plans for the year.  One of his objectives for our family was to “spend more time relaxing.”  At first glance it might seem like an odd goal, but he wanted to be intentional about making sure we planned outings as a family to go camping and mountain biking.

Too often we want to do fun things as a family, but the weekends seem to slip away and our calendars fill with other commitments.  Our goal this year was to schedule family time first – to make it one of the big rocks in our container and fill in the other stuff around it.

In March or April, I started making reservations at various places within a three hour drive of our house.  Our original goal was to go camping twice per month – the amended goal quickly became to “cottage camp” once per month and add additional single track riding close to our house.

Almost as soon as all the reservations were made, we had to start making adjustments.  Soccer ran a week longer than planned, our family reunion weekend changed, other conflicts came up.  Mostly we were able to adjust, but sometimes we chose to honor our plans and miss out on other events.

As we come to the end of the year, it’s clear our planning paid off.  We spent the night on a battleship, visited Niagara Falls in winter/early spring, and added the state of Kentucky to the boys travel list.  We created a ton of memories together.  Hopefully we will all be able to laugh about some of them given enough time.

We plan to do something similar next year, but I think we may focus less on camping and more on just taking a weekend trip together.

Admittedly it can feel a bit odd planning short weekend trips months in advance, but it helps us live life according to our priorities.   The time we have with our kids is short and it seems even shorter when we let other people schedule our time.

What about you?  Do you plan ahead or do you manage to be spontaneous and still get out of the house?


Fall Fun

Monarch Butterfly on SunflowerI absolutely love homeschooling on beautiful fall days.  We like to soak in as much sun, warmth, and color as we can before the days become dark and cold.  The goal is to have productive mornings then head out for some sunshine and exercise in the afternoon.

Tuesday our afternoon went delightfully wrong.  I wanted to go to an apple orchard on the opposite side of town from where we usually go.  Tuesdays are also farm pickup day for our CSA and I didn’t want to drive one direction only to turn around and drive the other.  Unfortunately when we got to the new orchard, we found out the orchard only allows “pick your own” on weekends.  Implementing plan B, we headed toward the CSA farm to a trail we know well, but on the way we found a “new” park.

Hinkley Ledges

We had great time exploring ledges at the “new” park.  The boys were great about posing for pictures, but the lighting conditions were a bit challenging.  After an hour or so of climbing around we were heading back to the car when we found FOSSILS! They were small (about 1 cm), but they were still a really cool find.

We spent several hours this week on FIRST LEGO League.  We took part of C’s team to a workshop on Saturday that was really productive.  We also had a team meeting this week.  I think the team is really starting to understand how the robot works and what we will be doing.

AppleThursday was another gorgeous sunny fall day.  We went to our usual apple orchard where we can pick apples any day of the week we wish.

Patterson Fun

We also had a great time playing around on some of the fun stuff they have at the orchard.  (Yes, that is me in front of the camera!)  After a nice lunch together,  we headed home for a little school work before soccer practice.

All in all it was a great week!  Hope you are enjoying a beautiful fall as well!

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Science Finds Us

Fossils - Devonian Era(?) Hinkley Reservation

This might look like just a rock BUT if you look closely those are little coral fossils.  Want to know the best part?  We found these fossils in the middle of a hiking trail on a Tuesday afternoon.


There were actually several fossils in the immediate area.  Cool huh?

When we keep our eyes open, science lessons find us everywhere!

Experiencing History – Canal Fulton

As a family we enjoy biking along the towpath trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Well – C enjoys visiting the ice cream store located along the towpath and doesn’t mind biking there.

Canal Fulton 4So what is the “towpath”?  The name towpath dates back to canal days when horses or mules towed boats down the canal.  The path to the side of the canal walked by the horses was the “towpath”.

While I love biking along the towpath in the National Park, the canal is mostly dry and the locks appear merely as walls along the dry ditch.  It’s difficult to imagine the history of the canal just by biking the towpath, so I was thrilled when our local homeschool group scheduled a trip to the City of Canal Fulton and a ride on a replica canal boat.


The city of Canal Fulton and the Canal Fulton Heritage Society have built two replica canal boats.  The St. Helena II was built in a historically accurate method with a wooden hull.  After several years of service, it was in need of repair and has been retired.  The replacement, St. Helena III, has a concrete hull for a longer life span.

Canal Fulton 5In the early 1800s farmers from Ohio had a difficult time moving their goods to market due to a lack of reliable transportation.   To solve the problem of transporting agricultural products to eastern markets, the state of Ohio developed two separate canals connecting the Ohio river to Lake Erie.  The Akron to Cleveland portion of the Ohio-Erie canal was operational by 1827 and the entire canal was completed in 1832.   The canal system in Ohio not only helped farmers find a market for their goods, but saw mills and grist mills sprang up along the canal as well.  Eventually railroads replaced the canal systems as a primary transport system for goods.

Canal Fulton Lock 4

Our tour took us down the canal to Lock #4.  Unfortunately the lock is not operational at this time, however we were able to see the upstream gate holding water in the canal and out of the lock.   The little building in the photo is the “lock house” where the operator of the lock lived.

The couple of hours we spent touring the museum and riding the canal boat brought a piece of history alive for us.  Thanks to the City of Canal Fulton and the Canal Fulton Heritage Society for providing such a rich and vivid experience!

Field Trip: Cleveland Botanical Gardens

I love spending time in nature.  There is nothing like time outside in a beautiful setting to rejuvenate my soul.  I sincerely wish I were better at gardening, unfortunately I’ve never developed the consistency to create beautiful well maintained gardens at home.  I’m so thankful the Cleveland Botanical Garden offers such wonderful spaces we can enjoy without having to do the weeding and watering ourselves.

Botanical Garden Birds

We enjoyed visiting the Glass House to get a taste of Madagascar and Costa Rica.  The boys spotted larvae in the cockroach display.  I have to admit I’d never given any thought to the life cycle of a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.  We really enjoyed the birds and butterflies in the Costa Rica section.  Of course we had to take a picture of a chipmunk hanging out in the gardens.

Botanical Garden Butterflies

I always enjoy seeing the chrysalis display.  The boys arrived just at the right time to see one of the butterflies as it emerged.


Botanical Garden BromelaidsI’m also a fan of bromeliads.

This trip the boys were much more interested in the plants and structures throughout the garden.  In the past, they had reserved most of their interest for the Hershey Children’s Garden, which is absolutely fabulous.  One of the things that increased their interest this trip was the addition of LEGO sculptures throughout the garden.   We were amazed by the  complexity of many of the structures.

Botanical Garden LEGO and fairies

The LEGO sculptures were all part of the Nature Connects exhibit by Sean Kenney.  Unfortunately the display of Nature Connects has already completed its time in Cleveland. If you are near San Antonio or San Francisco, you will have the chance to appreciate the display in person this winter.  Otherwise, check out Sean Kenney’s website to see even more examples of his amazing work and check the future schedule.

What field trips have you taken lately?  Are you planning something for fall?

Summer Fun

Ahhh!  Summer….


 time for hiking,


checking on vernal pools,


observing insects,



and visiting special places.

Hope you are having a wonderful summer full of exploration and relaxed learning!

What adventures are you on?

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The Great Outdoors


It’s been a great couple of weeks here.  We took a nice weekend trip to do a little cabin camping.  We went to a wonderful wildlife preserve,  “The Wilds”, near Columbus, OH.  It was a really incredible place.


The animals live in large pastures and they keep some endangered species in addition to the normal giraffes and zebras.

Sichuan Takin

I was particularly fascinated by the Sichuan Takins.  They are currently listed as vulnerable and share the same habitat as Giant Pandas. We first saw one from across a small lake and it looked like a bear.  They are actually relatives of goats and antelope.


We also had a chance to see Pe’re David’s Deer, which are now extinct in the wild.  In addition to the large pastures containing mixed herbivores, The Wilds also has a carnivore center where they keep African Painted Dogs, Cheetahs, and Dholes.   We really enjoyed the chance to see the animals in such a natural setting and look forward to visiting again when the boys weigh enough to do the zip line tour.


Across from the Wilds, Appalichia Outdoor Adventures has created a system of mountain bike trails that are fantastic for a family ride.  The trails are designed for a variety of riding skills, but frequently loop together.  I promise it gets easier after the initial two hills.  We also enjoyed riding trails at Dillion State Park.  I managed to catch a picture of my husband riding next to the lake at Dillion while the boys were playing at the playground.

We’ve set a goal to go camping at least once per month during the summer/fall.  During college and for a few years post, we enjoyed tent camping and mountain biking.  We used to have a well oiled tent camping routine.  Honestly I’ve never managed to adjust to tent camping with kids, so I’ve made plans for cottage camping and mountain biking this summer.

Hope you’re having a wonderful summer!




Weekly Wrapup with Fun Facts

Fun Facts:

Male anglerfish are a fraction of the size of females and don’t have a light for catching prey.  They bite onto a female and permanently attach.  The front part of the male dissolves and the two share a circulatory system.

Lactose tolerance varies widely by country.  Here’s a map of lactose intolerance. It’s probably not a good idea to invest in a pizza chain in China.

Jumping Mice can jump 3-4 Meters!

Geckos don’t use suction.  It comes down to molecular adhesion.

Painted Lady Butterfly

We released our butterflies this week.   They were in a hurry to leave, so this is the only open wing picture I was able to take.

Science Center Collage

We took a field trip to the Science Center this week.  The kids all made wooden key chain fobs in a homeschool Fab Lab class.  Things went much smoother for the boys using Corel Draw program this time.  They made a Lego Mini-fig and a Curiosity Rover with the laser cutter.

Ledges Collage

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright 

We enjoyed the wonderful weather this week.  The boys amazed me again with their powers of observation – from studying what was living in a small water hole in a log to enjoying the texture of young leaves.  Of course, there was plenty of jumping and climbing and running as well.

As always it was a delight to spend time with the boys this week – exploring nature, enjoying a good book together, and learning about fascinating animals.  When I look back at life, these are the memories I will always cherish.

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A visit to Old Woman Creek Estuary


This week is one of our first truly beautiful weather weeks.  We’ve had a great time birding and generally exploring the outdoors.


Tuesday we took a “field exploration” day and spent the entire day birding and walking at Magee Marsh and Old Woman Creek Estuary.   We thought the tessellated pavers at the OWC visitor center were really neat.  It was so much fun to just walk and look for nests and signs of wildlife.  We were sitting on a little bridge taking a rest for several minutes before we noticed the raccoon prints. Wildflowers@OWC

The woods are finally starting to green up and it is really beginning to feel like spring.


The highlight of our trip was seeing 4 bald eagles in one day.  While we were at the estuary, there was an observation point where we could see one eagle perched in a tree while another was soaring around.  We could also see their nest, but not all from the same angle.  In a world where so many animal populations are in decline, it’s nice to see a species that is recovering.

These are the days I really love homeschool.  We’ve done plenty of math, reading and grammar.  Now during these nice weather days we have plenty of time to be outdoors adding experience to our learning.  In turn, the experience we gain on days like these helps us ask fresh questions and spurs us on to learn even more about the world around us.

Check out the Magee Marsh post for more pics – including a bald eagle on its nest and lots of warblers.

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