An Interest Led Week


The early part of the week was devoted to reading The Hobbit.   The boys pushed almost  everything else to the side while they devoured the book.   They took a break from reading to do math each day and go to soccer practice, but that was about it.   Personally that is my favorite way to read a great book, so I was happy they have space in their schedule to binge read.

This was their first book using the Kindle with Immersion Reading and I think it was a great experience.  Immersion reading combines a kindle book format with an audiobook.  The text is highlighted as the professional narrator reads.  I’m really excited about this format, especially as a support for dyslexia.

I will admit I was hoping to get out of reading The Hobbit.  I know a lot of people enjoy the Lord of the Rings series, but I’ve always felt like I was slogging through them.  I did try reading it myself again, but barely made it through the first chapter before setting it aside.  While the boys were reading and listening, I tried to tune in without success.  They loved it and of course want to discuss it with me, so I suppose I will give it one more go.  Wish me luck!


Zoo class this week was about zoo careers.  I had a great time doing a brief tour of the zoo myself and visiting with some of the moms.


This was the last week of a special exhibit at the Natural History Museum so we made some time to visit there as well.

Misty Soccer Field

The days are definitely getting shorter.  Wednesday’s soccer practice ended in a moonlit mist.  E observed that it would have been a perfect night for Trick or Treating.

This week we watched PBS Nature: Penguins – Spy in the Huddle.  The series is a fascinating look at Humboldt, Emperor, and Rockhopper penguins.  The researchers used a variety of hidden cameras including animatronic penguins to collect the footage.  The Rockhoppers in particular are completely hilarious.

Do your kids completely immerse themselves in books or projects?  Do you read that way?

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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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Weekly Wrapup

Liberty Park - Early Fall Meadow

The air is getting crisp!  The days are getting darker and practice is ending sooner.  We’ve had some cooler weather this week and I’m determined to enjoy fall in the present.

Last Friday we went on a field trip with a local homeschool group.  We rode a replica canal boat and learned about the importance of the Ohio-Erie canal in Ohio history.  It was a great trip and really brought history to life.

This week we did the “normal” stuff plus zoo class and FIRST Lego League (FLL).   It is so nice  to schedule classes and activities that appeal to their interests without worrying about overload.

Tiny Red spotted newt

Unfortunately most of my cool nature finds this week were without the boys.  I have no idea how I spotted this tiny little red spotted newt, but he was so adorable I had to take a picture.  I also saw two raccoons backing down out of their tree (the picture turned out blurry) and a meadow vole darting across my path.


This week we read about termites, llamas (I actually learned quite a bit) and porpoises.  We also had an interesting discussion about fruits and vegetables that led to this quirky internet find:  The Carrot Museum.   I bet you will learn a thing or two (or in my case ten) about carrots if you take a visit to this virtual museum.  Isn’t it a great world where people who know vast amounts about carrots can share that knowledge with us whenever we become curious?

Weekly Wrap-Up WUH     Mary_CollageFriday

Weekly Wrap-up – Dining Room “Makeover”

The big news at our house this week is that our dining room makeover is complete.  I’m pretty sure this makeover takes us over to the “geek” side.

Dining Room Makeover

Both boys are participating in FIRST LEGO League (FLL)  this year.  I’m coaching C’s team and we are meeting at our house.  Every team needs a practice table – so my handy husband built the FLL table to fit over our dining room table.  He really took a lot of care and did an excellent job.  The boys enjoyed helping by painting the boards and doing some sanding.  My husband built a frame on the underneath side so the FLL table fits snugly over a packing blanket protecting our dining table.  We can “easily” move the FLL table if we want to use the dining table.  Since our dining table is mostly used for building new LEGO sets at birthdays and Christmas, I think it is excellent use of the space.


Last Friday we went for a hike at one of my favorite metroparks, South Chagrin Reservation.  As you walk along the creek there is a quirky sculpture carved by Henry Church back to 1885.  I’ve never understood if he had permission to carve it or not.  My readings of the story seem to indicate it was something he just did.  It is named “Squaw Rock” though I don’t know how it got the name.  A woman, a snake, an eagle, a quiver of arrows and a baby in a basket are all still visible.  Apparently a dog and a skeleton are included in the sculpture, but I never see them.

South Chagrin

We took along thermometers to test some of the things we are learning in our atmospheric studies, but our measurements were a bit haphazard.   The boys had a great time playing about in the creek.  They were able to find a crawfish and a toad.  I enjoyed watching them play while listening to the calming rush of water.

Zoo 9-10

This week we attended a zoo class at Cleveland zoo.  This particular class was about fossils.  We learned the Dunkleosteus on display at the Cleveland Natural History Museum was found locally.  During all our trips to the museum I had never realized that.  We made use of our zoo time to visit several animal exhibits.  Isn’t the underside of the gecko cool?   The boys spent a long time watching the leaf cutter ants busily going about their work.  E was able to spot the queen and a larvae being carried off by workers / drones.   Later in the week C made a perler bead bat as an art project.  I’m not certain if he was inspired by the bats at the zoo or by Minecraft, but it turned out very well.

This week’s PBS finds were: Operation Maneater – Polar Bears,  Her Majesty’s Secret Service MI6, and Secrets of Westminster Abbey.    All were really fascinating for different reasons.  Weirdly enough both boys asked questions independently this week that led to discussions about how the British political system differs from our American one.  One started with the Harry Potter books and the other with questions about the Queen.

Hope you are having a great week and wishing you lots of good discoveries!

Weekly Wrap-Up WUH    Mary_CollageFriday

Big Airplanes and a Tiny House

What did the engineer say when his prototype drone crashed?


“Back to the droning board.”

My 9 year old really wanted me to share his joke with you.  He even left a note on the computer to make sure I wouldn’t forget.

Airshow for blog

We had a great time watching Blue Angels at the air show this past weekend.  They are just incredible and it was great to have the air show back this year.


Several months ago we purchased a “Power House” science kit.   Because many of the experiments involve solar power and outdoor experiments, we thought we would save it for warmer weather.   We pulled it out this week to see what we can get accomplished before winter sets in again.   We did several experiments centered around the temperature under various conditions and the effect of insulation.   This year we are focusing more on making sure we record the results of our experiments.  Since technology is always appealing, we are learning to use spreadsheets to create data charts and we will eventually use the spreadsheet to graph data sets.


The best addition to our school routine this year is trampoline time.  We’ve wanted a trampoline for a long time, but thought it would increase our home owner’s insurance.  I finally called our agent to check and was pleasantly surprised to find out that as long as we have the net there is no premium increase.  The boys enjoy taking break time on the trampoline and come back in ready to focus.  They were surprised when I told them physical exercise enhances learning.

Later start times and the benefit of physical exercise were big topics at our house this week.  The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for school districts to move start times to 8:30 am or later for high school and middle school students, citing teenagers natural sleep patterns and their need for 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.   Even though we don’t have teenagers yet, one of the things we like about homeschool is well rested children.

Otherwise the week was filled with the usual stuff: math, reading books about animals, going to a zoo class, and getting back to a bit of grammar and writing.

Hope you are having a great year!

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Weekly Wrap-up – Lots of Science

This week we concentrated on science and easing back into math.

Botanical Garden Butterflies

We took a field trip to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to visit the Nature Connects Exhibit before it closed.  I sometimes forget how much I enjoy going to gardens and arboretums.


We continued our unit study of atmospheric science.  This week we drew representations of the layers of the atmosphere and learned more about the phases of water and hydrogen bonding.

Solar Bag in Flight

It has become a yearly tradition to do a solar bag experiment at the local park.  This year it tied in really well with our science unit.

We’ve added back in math.  One day C practiced his math facts by putting post it notes around the trampoline and running to the correct answer.  It was fun and active, but still a great review.

The FIRST LEGO League challenge was released this week.  This year the challenge is “World Class Learning Unleashed” and the teams will be figuring out an innovative way for people to learn about a topic of their own choosing.  Both boys met with their FLL teams and I’m confident we will be off to a good start.  We don’t have our table built yet, but the boys laid out the robot game configuration anyway.

Hope your year is off to a great start!

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“First” week of school

The local school system went back to school this week.  We  ramped up our “school” activities and crammed in some field trips we hadn’t gotten around to this summer.

I’ve learned we need ease into things after a long break.  This week we did our reading in the morning followed by science activities and documentaries. (Once again I was blown away by how well they process visual information.)

Science Center August 2014

We took a field trip to the science center with friends to enjoy the Lego Travel Exhibit one last time before it leaves next week.  You can check the schedule to see if it will be coming to a town near you.

Atmospheric Science


We had fun learning about atmospheric science with M&Ms.

Carol Birthday Collage


It was my birthday this week.  Scott and the boys treated me to dinner out twice.  E crafted a cake topper for me and C helped me bake the cake.  Plus they gave me really nice presents.  PLUS no one had soccer practice.  What more could a girl ask for?

Hope you are having a great start to your school year!

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It’s been a great summer !  At the end of July we took our semi-annual trip to visit the grandparents and extended family.   We went fishing at Grandpa Joe’s pond and caught several bullheads.  The boys had a chance to climb a fire tower that my mom climbed back when she was a kid.  It’s been moved and shortened since then, but it was neat to share the memory.  All the boys had a good time playing in a creek catching minnows and crawfish barehanded.



This summer the boys are really old enough to enjoy mountain biking and we’ve managed to enjoy a few trips out to new trails.  We also enjoyed our old favorite of biking down the tow path to the ice cream store.   We checked out the BLUE exhibit at the Pittsburgh science center and decided it would be fun for a school day field trip.  AND we FINALLY  found some inflatable Hamster balls at a local fun center.

Hocking Hills Collage

So far we’ve met our goal of camping once a month (cottage camping that is).  My absolute favorite place we visited the summer was the Hocking Hills area of Ohio.  Last time we visited we went to Ash Cave and the Rock House.  This time we went to Old Man’s Cave as well as Ash Cave.  Old Man’s Cave was exceptionally beautiful and well worth the stairs.

It has been such a delight to be able to spend time with friends and enjoy the relaxed days of summer.   Hope you had a great summer too!

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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 – Flexibility

Isn’t the flexibility of homeschool great?   This week we were very thankful for flexibility.


We took a day off school to celebrate a birthday!  We headed to the mall for eurobungy and mini-golf.

We also took advantage of homeschool flexibility to sleep in a bit after a night of severe weather kept us all up late.  It was nice to know I could let the boys play games in the basement and not worry about what time they needed to be up in the morning.


Since we used our time well this year, we can be relaxed at this point.  Our friends are still in school and the pools won’t open until next month, so we are still doing some school work every day.    We’re also taking more nature walks and the boys are starting an online computer class.


We visited our favorite vernal pool location this week.  In addition to caddis flies and mosquito larva, we found several tadpoles.  I was hoping we might find salamander tadpoles, but I think these are green or wood frog tadpoles.

At home we are growing butterflies.


E made the most beautiful Mother’s Day present.  A Monarch Butterfly in polymer clay.  He enjoys using polymer clay and comes up with some really nice creations.  I love when the kids create presents completely on their own.

This is probably worth a post on it’s own, but as we near the end of the school year I couldn’t be happier with our decision to homeschool.  It is wonderful to to see the boys personalities shine as they pursue their interests.  Two years ago I had a lot of trepidation about homeschooling a child with dyslexia.  Now I see the benefits and I’m so glad we had the courage, freedom, and ability to choose the homeschool path.  As I look over the list of books he read this year and see how happy he is,  I know without a doubt we made the right decision.

I hope you are having a wonderful week of learning!  What fun activities do you have planned for the end of the year?

weeklywrapup125     Mary_CollageFriday