A Morning in the Woods

Ledges October


We traveled along a familiar path


past our favorite rocks and trees.

Along the way we reviewed things we’ve learned together and shared jokes.

October Mushrooms

“Why should you invite a mushroom to a party?”

“Because he’s a fun-guy”

The one about a mushroom going into a bar and being related to the yeast (in the beer) was a bit of a flop, but had potential.

October Ledges 2We talked about history and geology and chipmunks and Chronicles of Narnia vs. The Hobbit.

Red Leaves on GroundWe joked about me taking too many pictures of leaves.

These are the moments my mother heart will cherish forever.  Moments made possible by the courage to follow a different path.  I’m so glad we are able to share this journey together!

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!

This Present Moment

Yellow sunflower and bee along meadow trail

A beautiful walk.  Bees buzzing about flowers.  A symphony of warm weather insects.  These are the moments of late summer I cherish.

Wild purple new england asters along meadow trail

Each day brings the passing away of beauty and the appearance of a new wonder.  The coneflowers fade as the mums break forth in riotous blossoms.  Soon the green will fade from the trees to reveal the diverse palette of color, hidden as the leaves went about their work.


This is life.  Each season, each year, each month, each day – they all bring the appearance of new wonders and beauty as well as the passing of cherished time.   Perhaps happiness lies in appreciating this present moment.

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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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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Spring Migration at Magee Marsh

By now you know we are always trying to learn more about animals and nature here at Learning with Boys.  We’re fortunate to live near Lake Erie, which happens to provide us some fabulous birding opportunities.  I’ve never been a birder, but the boys are curious about all types of animals.

Magee Marsh Bald Eagle in parking lot

Nesting Bald Eagle picture taken by one of the boys

This week we visited Magee Marsh and Old Woman Creek Estuary.  We were thrilled to see bald eagles at both locations, plus a bonus sighting along the highway before we even reached our first destination.

Black-throated Green Warbler (?) @ Magee MarshMagee Marsh is a hot spot for warblers this time of year.  In fact, the local tourism boards and birder associations put on a big festival that draws people from all over the US.

Blue-winged Warbler (?) Magee Marsh 5/6

If you don’t know anything about birding this is actually a great time to go.  The board walk at Magee Marsh is filled with people who have some serious optics and considerable bird knowledge.

Tennessee Warbler @ Magee Marsh 5/6

Normally I’m the type of person who likes to avoid crowds, but as an amateur I found it really helpful to clue in on where other people were looking and ask what type of bird they were seeing.  Magee Marsh - UFO 1

Most of the time we didn’t have to even ask what type of bird people were watching, because when they saw children, they asked, “Have you spotted the…..?”

Magee Marsh - UFO 2

Photographing the birds was exceptionally challenging.  Many of them stay on a branch fractions of a second less than what it takes me to center and manually focus the camera. The black and white warblers are exceptionally cute, but they hop around branches so quickly I ended up with photos of empty branches.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

In addition to warblers, we saw a rose-breasted grosbeak, a winter wren, and some thrushes.  We also saw lots and lots of robins and red-winged blackbirds.


We’ve been learning about migratory flyways and the importance of marshes and estuaries, so the boys were delighted to get an entire day devoted to a field trip.

To top off our great week of bird watching we put out our hummingbird feeders and saw the first ruby throat of the season!  Maybe this year I’ll succeed in getting a picture at our feeder.  If you have a chance to visit Lake Hope, Ohio they have a wonderful hummingbird program where you can “hand-feed” hummingbirds starting in July.

Rainy Nights

Not to talk about the weather but…..


I super love this time of year, when the weather warms up, and we are doing field studies for biology and geology.  Monday we set off for Magee Marsh near Toledo, Ohio to see if we could find any migrating warblers.  I promise I checked the forecast – Rain in the late afternoon, high near 60 F.  I may have missed the wind speed.  When we got there it was 40 F with the wind howling off the lake at 30+ mph and steady rain.  The drive home was steady rain too.  SO… Our hike was a very short mile.  We did see a few warblers.  The warblers can’t to fly across Lake Erie in that kind of weather, so they were tucked in some low branches.  I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the warblers – I hope to remedy that within the next two weeks while the migration is still going.


The trip wasn’t a waste – We saw a couple of bald eagle’s nests (pictured) and actually saw an eagle land in the nest, disappear, and leave again about 5 minutes later.  We saw lots of egrets and what we think was a cormorant.  We are looking forward to making a return trip next week hopefully with warmer weather.

Egret at Magee Marsh

We spent some time reading Marvels in the Muck  by Doug Wechsler.  It’s a great book about salt water marshes and estuaries.   Of course now we are wondering, “What are the differences between salt water marshes vs. the marshes and estuaries around Lake Erie?”

FLL CollageAll the stormy weather this week was a great reminder how much E’s team learned during this past year’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) season.  The theme for 2013-2014 was Nature’s Fury.  Each team selected a natural disaster, researched it and presented an innovative solution.  The solution isn’t just for FLL competition.  The kids share the solution with the community it is designed to help.  E’s team researched tornadoes and developed a Debris Protection System.  There’s no substitute for a safe shelter but the Debris Protection System can help because – “Wearing a helmet during a tornado is a no brainer.”

I was working on my end of year summary, and it was great to see how FLL contributed to some really great unit studies.  I love that these kids are encouraged to research, reach out to experts, use their creativity, and make a contribution to their community in addition to developing programming skills.  Sign up for the 2014 – 2015 FLL season begins May 5th.  The theme will be:


The promo says, “Teams will teach adults how kids want and need to learn.”  I’m really excited about this challenge.  I hope educators and policy makers are paying attention, because the kids are going to come up with some great ideas.

Speaking of great ideas – if you didn’t have a chance to check out the finale of the Angelic Scalliwags  Medieval study it is amazing.  Claire does such a great job guiding her kids through project based learning studies.

Much of our week was spent shivering beside soccer fields.  I really appreciate the coaches and all the time they put into coaching and encouraging the boys.  Wednesday night practices were rained out and I found myself walking around the house singing, “I love a rainy night.”  It was such a joy to have a relaxed dinner with the kiddos.

What places are you exploring?

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