Homeschool Update: Coyotes, Turtles, and a Failed Field Trip

This week was a doozy! I was super excited about it – we had so much material to cover that I absolutely loved and couldn’t wait to introduce to Wyatt. For the most part, it all worked out very nicely. Except for that field trip…

This week we took a mini-break from math to work on a special focus topic based on the book We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. It was so comprehensive, including bits of social studies and geography and science and nature. We read the book first, then “dove” right in. Wyatt learned about the importance of water (back to that whole idea of how all things are nature and all things are connected) – how it is important to all living things, to our planet, to every part of our bodies. About how the amount of fresh water compared to salt water is vastly different, and how we need to protect these resources, to be good stewards of our world. We talked about different bodies of water, and of course created a few art projects as well. We did not manage to get to it all, but I hope to include the rest next week. I am actually in love with both paintings Wyatt worked on this week – he did a mixed media watercolor of a pond, and then later in the week we did a similar project with coyotes. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about warm colors and cool colors!

For our coyote study, we covered their anatomy, diet, habitat, and listened to a few videos online of their yips and howls. We finished up with his research notebook page, and the other mixed media-esque painting. (Note – I drew and cut out the coyote silhouette for him, but that painted background is all him. As is the placement of the coyote. Also note- I am not an artist. Lol)

I was also excited because we read three Indigenous/Native American based books this week. It actually just worked out this way which was a cool coincidence. In language arts we read When Turtle Grew Feathers, which is the Choctaw tale of Rabbit and the Hare. I let Wyatt inspect and handle my turtle shell that I found a few years ago, as part of the lesson. We also imagined different animals wearing the shell, as turkey did in our story.

Books We Read:

(Contains Amazon affiliate links)

Coyote Sings to the Moon by Thomas King || Blast Off Readers Turtle or Tortoise || Blast Off Readers Coyotes || When Turtle Grew Feathers by Tim Tingle || We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

So… lets talk about that failed field trip! On Wednesday the plan was to head to the nature center at a local metropark early in the day to work on science and nature. The nature center has turtles and tortoises, a stuffed coyote to view, a river out back, a display about the local indigenous peoples who once lived there – we were going to cover all the bases! My mom was going to come too, as she hasn’t really been out out in a while and I thought it would be fun. And it still was, just not what we had planned! We got there to find out that school year hours are different than summer and weekend hours, and it was closed! We decided we would just take a little walk on the overlook, check out the river, then head back to the car. Which we did, and it was a grogeous view, and all the leaves – it was such a perfect fall morning. Until the mosquitoes found us! My poor boyo was covered in welty mosquito bites, he has such a bad allergic reaction to them. I felt horrible! I hadn’t put on insect repellent as we were literally out there five minutes, and that was really all we were going to be out there, so I didn’t even think about it. Plus, it is October! So we left as fast we could. Somehow in all our hurry, my license slipped out of my back pocket onto the trail, unbeknownst to me. We were about fifteen minutes away when one of the interpreters whom we have known for years texted me that my license had been turned in. So, I turned back around to get it. I got it from her, and on the way home drove thru McDonald’s for some much needed coffee and french fries! So all is well that ends well!

Next week is all about wolves and skunks, Little Red Riding Hood, Ninjas, and subtraction! It should be an interesting week!

Field Trip: Fossil Park, OH

One perk to homeschooling – being in charge of your own field trips. So if we felt like packing up early and driving to Ohio to check out a fossil park on a Monday morning, no big deal. Bonus – going at that time pretty much assured we would have the place to ourselves. Which we did.

I had been looking for some places to take Wyatt to introduce him to the idea of fossils and rocks- we are about to begin a whole rocks and minerals unit in science and when I can get him outside or hands on, I do. I found one north of us, about four hours away, and then my brother sent me the link to another, this one only an hour drive south. This is where we ended up going – Fossil Park, Ohio.

I will admit at first look it is a bit underwhelming. Like a place teens would go to have fires and beers or like a crumbling parking lot somewhere. I was like, well, regardless of how this turns out, Wyatt will have gotten out to play in an environment that is unlike any other he has been to before. There wasn’t too much to see, just gravelly ground, a large container of water, and a few little tables and benches. Pretty simple set up.

We were optimistic, as we generally are. I had read the website and printed out a few materials before we left, including an information sheet that had illustrations and descriptions of the types of fossils we could hope to find, which we had reviewed in the car on the drive. Fossil Park is the remains of a shallow sea bed from the Devonian Era, 375 million years ago. No dinosaurs. We had our milk jug with the top part cut off, also suggested per the website, to use to keep our treasures in. After a brief glance around, we plopped onto the ground and started searching.

I found a piece of a trilobite right away, and I felt very victorious. Giddy almost. Billy was systematically combing through the dirt, I was sort of attacking things a bit more energetically and also trying to teach Wyatt, who was busy stuffing his overalls full of rocks and fossils, neglecting the milk jug in his excitement. He was pretty proud of his collection.

Let me stop a second and talk to you about these overalls. This is not an ad or affiliate or anything, I just really love them. I bought them for him in the spring – as Wyatt scoots a lot right now while we work on walking, he literally goes through pants like crazy. Anything harder than grass just tears the seat right up – and eventually, him, if I don’t watch. These Key Apparel overalls are like the toughest purchase I have ever bought him. They have withheld an entire spring of playing outside, and now, a rock quarry. They are a little worn but still intact. I can’t stress enough how durable these overalls are! They are from a farm supply outfitter, so they are made for hard work, but if you have an active kid that goes through clothes like crazy, I highly recommend these overalls. I only wish he could wear them in the summer – but the very thing that makes them so durable would also make them too hot for the summer. So we will count our blessings and be happy that he can wear them at least in the spring and fall.

Back to the fossil hunt. We were busy at work, Wyatt and I near the top of the quarry, Billy near the bottom, sifting and examining. I was explaining different things to Wyatt, showing him different pieces. We were alone in the quarry for quite a while before a man came walking in, and after a few minutes he came up to us. It turned out that he was the Parks Project Manager and super nice! He told us about what we could find, and even dug with us for twenty minutes, giving us his finds and telling us what they were. It was really cool and like having a personalized guide. He was telling us as well, that they have big plans for the quarry and next year it will be built up more.

We stayed quite a bit longer than I anticipated, almost two hours. Wyatt had fun, and so did Billy and I. I felt sort of like a kid again, sitting in the dirt, just exploring and looking for neat things. I think Billy did too.

We came home with a nice collection in our milk jug! We found a bit of trilobite (top of the big rock), brachiopods (the shell looking piece), and then lots of crinoids, which are bits of sea lilies. I am holding a bit of stem (the long cylinder) and then bits of the stem, the flat washer looking cheerio thing.

If you plan to visit: Expect to get dusty! We were cracking up at how much dust we had on us. Also, when Wyatt’s overalls came off at home tons of small pebbles fell all over the floor, so expect that too. You can only take your collection jug/carton, and water on hot days, no eating or drinking is allowed in the quarry. You can take a brush to dust your specimens. As for being ADA accessible, I would say it is pretty accessible honestly. There is a wheelchair ramp leading down to the quarry, and while it would be a rocky ride inside it can be done. It would be trickier if using a walker or crutches, unless the person scooted like Wyatt. Alternatively, you can sit at the tables and benches and collect from the pile behind the tables as well. Also check the website – it is really informational, and has great printables available, including how to use your visit in your lesson plans.

Overall, we had a really good time! We would definitely go again.

First Day of School, Flowers, and a Frog

Last week we started homeschooling again – I can’t believe this kid is in first grade! Where does time go? I am pretty sure he was just a tiny baby like yesterday. Here we go again, barefoot and crazy hair and all!

We are still finding our rhythm, the pace of our day. First grade is a little more demanding but I still want it to be enjoyable and not a chore. I want Wyatt to look forward to our learning time everyday, and with only week one under our belts, we are still muddling through. We will get it though. I am hoping to do a homeschooling curriculum post this Friday; I am so excited about what we are doing this year and want to share!

We visited Belle Isle and the new garden installation, the Oudolf Garden. It was so beautiful! This garden was designed by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, after he received a “love letter from Detroit” written by the volunteers of the Garden Club of Michigan. Apparently he was impressed by the energy of our city. Oudolf has designed places like the High Line in New York, as well as the Toronto Botanical Garden to name a few. It was pretty neat to see this four season garden and know that a famous garden designer was behind it all.

I enjoyed walking around the gardens with my family, but I was also really excited to move on to the next part of our day – adopting a Pacman Frog. As you all know, I am a lover of all creatures and my sweet little Dash passed away recently. My butterfly project will be finished soon, and I feel like our house will feel sort of empty, or as empty as it can feel with three people, three senior cats, two leopard geckos, and a ghost mantis sharing 900 square feet can feel. But there is always room for a few more, right? Especially a Pacman frog. These frogs are not really a pet you can interact with physically. In fact, handling them is not good for them. And sort of not good for you, as they have teeth and can bite as they are aggressive eaters. They also spend a lot time just sitting in one place burrowed down. Am I selling this frog or what? Lol. However, they are super cute and easy to care for and kind of just what I was looking for. They can live in a smaller tank, and don’t require too much. Plus, cute, again. I think she might be a chocolate mint pacman, but she could just be the “normal” version. Either way, we loves her already. So without further ado, meet Freddie the Frog!

Now you see her, now you don’t! I am seriously considering making some videos or designing an Outschool class with all of my creatures – I would love to share them and their care with elementary students somehow. One day it might be neat as well to share them in person with elementary schools as well!

I have a whole “wish list” of reptiles I would love too add to our home wildlife classroom – a Russian tortoise (a rescue one), a crested gecko, mourning geckos and dart frogs… they bring joy to our whole house, honestly. Even little crazy frogs like Freddie here. And eventually we will! For now we are very happy with all of our menagerie as it stands though.

Italy in July

Salve!!

We have been having a blast exploring Italy this summer! Not in person sadly, but learning and reading and yes, eating Italian food together. Every few months we study a country where our family has roots, as part of an intro to geography type thing, and Italy has been so much fun.

If I started at the beginning, I would have to say it was with watching Luca. I love that movie, it is so good! I love how it is such a movie of friendship and acceptance. And even in cartoon form, Italy is gorgeous.

Then, our actual studies began – I wanted to keep it fun and sort of loose and unstructured, it is summer after all, so we are not working on it every day, and we have lots of books and videos and art projects instead of straight learning facts and worksheets. And I want to create a love for learning about other countries and cultures – geography was always a favorite of mine is school, and I really want to pass that on.

We started off easy, reading about Italy in general, making an herb flag of Italy, a pasta map out of macaroni noodles, and learning some basic words and phrases. I did buy a few resources online to help me out – the main one we are using is from Savy Activities, a maker I have never used before but will again in the future. I just love how they have the information presented and their activities are so fun!

From here, we zoomed in for a closer look. Last year we built an Eiffel Tower from wafer cookies. This year, we built the Colosseum.

Wyatt did great, although he did want to eat our building materials. He kept snacking on our walls! We did have it for dessert that night though. Lol.

And we had a Strega Nona day! I love Strega Nona. They are such classic picture books and remind me of my childhood. We read the book Strega Nona, did some story sequencing, and did a little craft of Strega and her magic pasta pot. For dinner, we had spaghetti, but I was careful not to flood the streets of our city with it. ( I can’t find the link to the materials I used for this although I believe it was from Scholastic. If I locate it I will update this post)

This week has been my favorite so far though. Monday was Pisa, Pizza, and Pizelles day. The kids learned about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, made their own personal pizzas, and tried pizelles.

Our tower crafts were not our best ever, so thank goodness we had the pizza and pizelles to follow it up. And seriously, that pizza was delicious. These picky eaters both ate all of it!

Wednesday was – are you ready – Michaelangelato day. Sometimes I crack myself up. The kids learned about Michaelangelo, did their own version of how he painted the Sistine Chapel, then we all had a gelato taste test! I bought five different flavors and we tasted them all, recording whether we liked it, didn’t like it, or were not quite sure. I bought Talenti Gelato in the flavors of Coconut, Mint, Peanut Butter Cup, Confetti Cookie, and Strawberry Cheesecake. The winner of best tasting gelato was hands down the Mediterranean Mint. It was the favorite of 3 out of 4 of us. I was the only one who placed the confetti cookie ahead of it. Wyatt was the only one of us to like the coconut, but he refused the strawberry. It was a lot fun.

Next week we are moving on to frescoes and music, and then we are finishing up in Venice!

This has been a fantastically fun month so far. We have a few other things planned, including a field trip and Billy and I have been conducting a local pizza survey as well, that I will write about later.

Until next time everyone, ciao!

Chit Chat Coffee Time

My week this week was just…blah. Not good, not bad, I can’t quite say what I even did this week. It was just sort of like a week on autopilot. This upcoming week we are taking a break from school, maybe I just need a refresh.

This morning we left bright and early to go to a different garden center. I was joking with Billy that this particular garden center is the one ALL the butterfly people talk about, so we had to be cool too and check it out. I am hoping to help raise monarchs this year so I needed to go to the cool garden center too. And honestly, it was really cool.

My friend who has done the whole monarch thing for years gave me a list of milkweed I needed, particularly common and swamp. I found those and grabbed them, and added some prairie milkweed and also a kind with a very interesting name. They had tables set up with types of butterflies and their host plants which made it really easy to shop. I also picked up a butterfly bush and a few forget-me-nots. They have a butterfly house but it is not open yet, so we will have to go back to check it out.

We went first thing in the morning and no one was there. I love having places practically to myself. We had just planned on Billy and Wyatt hanging out in the car but when I saw it was so empty and open, I called Billy and told him to join me inside, and I am so glad we did, we had a great time. I feel like they just needed to serve coffee and it would have been perfect. (Hint hint Barsons if you read here – set up a little coffee area for people to buy coffee, I am sure it would do well.)

However, now it is so humid and hot outside that we have unloaded it all and are waiting until it cools off a bit. I found a few butterfly eggs on my rue this afternoon and gathered it up. I am actually getting my mom in on this too, and I am taking her these first eggs from a black swallowtail. I think she will enjoy it!

I have spent the past few weeks working on our final month of lessons for kindergarten! I can’t believe this year is almost over! We are going to spend a month finishing up our regular curriculum and we will also be spending some time learning about the ocean and ocean animals. And mermaids, per the request of my niece. Then I get to start planning for next year, and I have to be honest I am really excited about that. We will also be continuing school throughout the summer but more informally. We are spending July immersed in learning about Italy, as part of our family ancestry studies combined with geography. It should be a lot of fun. And delicious as I am going to use it as an excuse to eat all the pasta and tiramisu that I want.

I hope you are all having a good day so far! Enjoy the weekend!

Homeschool: Rainbows and Sheep!

This was our last week of school before our Easter break! I wanted to finish up our month with some fun themes, so I went with rainbows and sheep – because March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. Plus, we had been talking about Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day last week and these tied in nicely. (I read that Ireland has more sheep than people! I am not sure if this statistic is correct but wow!) We always do extra themes in addition to our normal curriculum from Blossom and Root.

We didn’t have as many projects this week, it was just a rough week timewise for many reasons, but we did enjoy what we had time for. We started the week with rainbows, and followed up Tuesday with talking about colors and formation of colors and color mixing. Then we moved on to greener pastures and learned about sheep! Parts of a sheep, what a sheep eats, their life cycle, and the importance of shearing a sheep. I pulled out some of my wool roving as well, for Wyatt to handle and we discussed how it originated from a sheep! I am hoping to find somewhere to take him this weekend where we can see some sheep but so far I haven’t found anywhere to go.

Resource Round Up:

https://www.stephaniehathawaydesigns.com/freeprintables/primary-color-study

Simple Living Creative Learning – Sheep printables

Books We Read:

(This section contains Amazon Affiliate links)

The Sheepover || Brave Charlotte || Wally Does Not Want a Haircut || Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep || How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow || The Rainbow

I loved all of the books we read this week! Wyatt loved Wally Does Not Want a Haircut and Farmer Brown the best; I loved The SheepOver. However, for learning purposes The Rainbow and Farmer Brown were excellent! Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep is a fun fictional look at the process of where yarn and wool comes from, while The Rainbow breaks down the science behind rainbows in an easy to understand, entertaining way. However Farmer Brown might be hard to find in book form! All books mentioned are also available as read-alouds on YouTube.

I will leave you with Baarack the Sheep, who was covered in 80 pounds of wool!

Homeschool : Leprechauns, Clover, and Snakes, Oh My!

This week and next we are focusing on elements of Ireland – from farm animals to legends and folktales to clover, lucky or not. And some rainbows just for fun. This week we focused on a more St. Patrick’s Day theme for the week, learning about clover and leprechauns and of course, the kid version tale of St. Patrick’s Day.

We learned about the life cycle of a clover, planted a few seeds (ours have done nothing but the ones my mom and niece planted have sprouted already!), talked about the parts of a clover, and read and assembled a mini book about Ireland. We talked about vocabulary words relating to symbols of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland, and played matching games for letters, these symbols, and also about the clover. Wyatt loves a good matching game so it was fun to be able to fit three in this week. I find it really increases his vocabulary to play these games, and I make him say the words too, so it is great for speech therapy as well.

We read books and made a few crafts as well! I kind of love the snake he made – and the leprechaun turned out pretty cute too! He did want me to draw the face, I guess he didn’t want to do that part. But it was good practice for his cutting skills, something that is really hard for Wyatt with his cerebral palsy. And actually really hard for me to show him too, since he is a lefty and I am not. I end up sitting behind him and helping guide his hand that way, with my left hand. It is a wonder anything gets actually cut! It’s definitely a group effort. We also had quite a few fun worksheets this week, that included graphing, sorting, sequencing, and then a few lacing cards too.

Resource Round-Up!

The Life Cycle of a Clover Unit Study – The Masterpiece Studio

St. Patrick’s Day Early Years Set – Of Bee and Bear Shop

Books We Read:

(this section contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

Pete the Cat : The Great Leprechaun Chase || How to Catch a Leprechaun || There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover || How to Trap a Leprechaun

Art and Videos:

Snake pictured above

Paper Tube Leprechaun

Fiona’s Luck Read Aloud

St. Patrick’s Day

The Secret of the Kells

Next week we we are going to talk about rainbows, the color wheel, and sheep! I thought the sheep would be fun to end the month with, since March is supposed to come in like a lion, and out like a lamb!

Homeschool: The Arctic Week 2

Our Arctic Exploration, week 2 is coming to an end. Good thing we have two more weeks; we are having a ton of fun. This week was all about polar bears!

We started off by learning the basics of a polar bear – their anatomy, about their little ears which are little to protect them from frostbite, about camouflage, about how their skin under their fur is black (and why), that their fur doesn’t actually have white pigment, it is hollow, and how some arctic animals stay warm.

We had a fun week of activities and art..but it was also a very messy week!

This art project is one of my favorites that we have done. I think it looks so pretty! You can read about how to do it here. Wyatt used his fingers for most of it but then also wanted a brush. He hates having stuff on his hands (me too) so I try to have him do some like that, but then let him use a brush as well. Although, if you can see in the first photo he also decided to paint the table too..

He also made a paper plate and cotton ball polar bear. Who would have thought some glue and cotton balls could make a mess? But they did. My mom told me that she and my niece also made a giant mess with both of these are projects. Maybe we are just a messy family? Regardless, it was a lot of fun.

We also did a few activities! One about camouflage, the other about blubber! At least the camo activity was tidy, because the blubber one was super gross. Lol. I think Wyatt felt a little betrayed by that one. He had to put his hand in cold water, then also in crisco. It was pretty interesting though! I tried it and it actually did keep my hand warmer! I think I will just stick to wearing gloves though.

Before things got messy…

Our resource round- up is a bit of the same for some:

Note: If printables include penguins, save those for a separate unit, as they live in the South Pole, not North

Little Spark Arctic Animals

Preschool Mom Arctic Animals

Arctic Animal Fun Pack

Arctic Animals Like Cold book

Arctic Animals Learning Pack

Books That We Read:

(I have links to Amazon Affiliate links, but most of these can be found at the library or even as read alouds on YouTube)

The Bear Report by Thyra Heder || Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer || Over in the Arctic by Marianne Berkes

Activities and Extras

How do animals stay warm?

Why are polar bears white?

Polar Bear Cotton Ball Picture

Polar Bear in the Snow Process Art

And we also watched a few Wild Kratts cartoons on PBS (we have the PBS Kids app through Amazon), Polar Bears Don’t Dance and Snowy Owl Invasion

Next up: Arctic Foxes and Walruses!

Homeschool: The Arctic!

This week we finished week 1 of our month long Arctic unit! We are venturing far north, learning about the different animals that live there, how they survive, how they live, why they are white, and all sorts of cool things. Unfortunately, it seems like the Arctic heard about our plans and decided to bring the Arctic weather to us, with a possible polar vortex on the horizon. We don’t really need that much authenticity, thank you.

To get back into the swing of school after our holiday break, I began with narwhals, because narwhals are just fun. I knew the kids would be excited about these unicorns of the sea, and they were! We read some cute books (although the kids (my son and niece) did think that narwhals were born in clam shells after reading the book Not Quite Narwhal – whoops! Lol.) We learned about their tusks, which is really a front left tooth that protrudes from their lip, not a tusk at all. We also learned that the tusks are like inside out teeth, with the nerves on the outside, so they definitely don’t use them for fighting. That would be a big ouch! I have to admit I was fascinated by these creatures as well!

We also painted the Northern Lights, using frozen paint cubes. This was actually hilarious – it was fun and then as it started to warm up, changed how the paint flowed onto the paper. But then when it finally thawed it just plunk! fell right off. It also became very messy. It was still a fun activity!

The kids also created salt dough narhwals, and narwhals out of spoons. My niece also made a unicorn spoon, but Wyatt wanted to just make two narwhals, which is fine. I like to do some directed art but also let them feel free to be expressive. Today we are finishing up the narwhals, painting them. I am betting we will end up with another set of blue and yellow narwhals over here…

It was a fun first week back! Next week we learn about Polar Bears, and a really interesting experiment about blubber is in the plans.. and some arctic animal yoga!

Resource Round Up!

Note: If printables include penguins, save those for a separate unit, as they live in the South Pole, not North

Little Spark Arctic Animals

Preschool Mom Arctic Animals

Arctic Animal Fun Pack

Arctic Animals Like Cold book

Arctic Animals Learning Pack

Books We Read

(This section contains Amazon affiliate links)

Wendell the Narwhal || Not Quite Narwhal (about a unicorn but still adorable)

Arts and Crafts

Clay Narwhal (we shaped them using the dough from this recipe)

Narwhal Spoon

Videos and Other Resources Used

(This section contains Amazon affiliate links)

Wild Republic Polar Animals Nature Tube (just don’t use the penguins, they are South Pole inhabitants!)

The Girl Who Went to the Arctic

A Walk in the Arctic

Narwhal: Unicorns of the Sea

As always we also use Blossom and Root for our regular curriculum as well.