Friday, December 21, 2012

Home for the Holidays

Our holiday break started Wednesday.  I'm not entirely sure how long we will take off.  Last year we ended up adding an extra week to our planned Christmas vacation, so it could end up being longer than I think.  The holidays are so hectic, I can't really say I'm doing much resting while we aren't actively schooling.  So extra time off is always good.

My birthday also falls in the week prior to Christmas.  This year I am turning 40.  It still surprises me when I look in a mirror and find I am not the 16 year old me I expect to see.  To celebrate, I planned my own little party.  My two sons, daughter and her husband, my husband and I all went to see The Hobbit in 3D at the IMAX theater today.  Afterwards, we went for dinner at the Cracker Barrel restaurant.  Tomorrow I will have to get back to serious holiday preparation.  But tonight it's nice to know there are no lessons to plan, no workbooks to correct and no science experiments to organize. 

I won't be posting for the next two weeks, so have a happy holiday season and I hope to see you back here in 2013!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Time Well Spent

pie chart guilt
Saturday has traditionally been the one day a week the boys have unlimited computer time.  On days we are schooling, they can't use the computers for games or watch videos that I haven't assigned, until after their school work is finished.  They rarely finish school work before 5pm.  When you add in the time we spend eating supper, potential away from home evenings, and bed time prep beginning no later than 9:30pm, they really aren't racking up that many hours most days.

But then comes the weekend.

My children are two very different individuals.  EM has generally been up with the sun most of his life.  JT will sleep until I drag him out of bed.  But on Saturdays, they share a mission.  EM sets his alarm and, with JT's permission, wakes him up so they can squeeze as many hours of computer gaming as possible into one day. 

I sleep in and am happy to let them interact with glowing screens.

Saturday evening, around 8pm, we were having a discussion about the number of hours they had wasted (my word) on screens that day.  They were trying to argue that they hadn't spent most of the day in front of their computers.  I started drawing a pie chart to prove them wrong.  The green sections in the picture represent time spent either playing computer games, using the Wii, or watching videos.  We don't have television service in our home, so it's only what we own that they can watch.  But they weren't watching documentaries on Saturday.  They were watching the Three Stooges.  So they can't even try to argue that was educational.  When they saw the percentage of time they had spent on computers was nearly double the time they had spent on other activities that day, they made the wise decision to spend their last waking hour playing with LEGOs.  They also planned to wake up early Sunday, before we needed to get ready for church, so they could spend more time playing together with the LEGOs...not on computers.

Ah, the clarity that cold, hard data can give. 

But...computers also played an important role in creativity this week.  It all started when JT got in trouble for picking on his brother and lost his computer privileges for the day.  During the desperation of withdrawal, he had to come up with a way to be allowed to touch his computer...even if it meant in an educational sort of way.  When they lose privileges as punishment, we do allow them to continue to use computers for schooling.  Otherwise, they might not regret the loss quite so much.  Playing the system, JT knew if he told us he needed to work on a project, he might be able to fill his need for computer interaction.

ready for battle
LEGO armies are a familiar sight in my home.  Both boys must have rooms with tardis-like capabilities, otherwise the volume of LEGOs they own could not possibly fit in a small bedroom.  Usually, there is at least one battle going on in the middle of someone's floor.  Conquering armies travel from one room to the other.  When I'm not feeling especially prone to tidiness, they even end up in other rooms.  The games they create are elaborate, with point systems and more rules than any normal human can keep straight.  They are also big fans of Pokemon and have regularly played the card game together.  They haven't branched out into other collectible card games yet, thankfully for my credit card bill, but they love the concept of these types of games.  This week JT decided to make his own game using his LEGOs for inspiration.

rough draft
JT created a few different characters from his LEGOs.  Then he employed EM, the photographer of the two, to take a few pictures for him.  JT then asked if he could use the computer to make his template for the cards.  Up until now, whenever he came up with an idea for a card game, he always wanted to draw them by hand.  I'd suggest making templates to simplify the process, but he didn't want to invest the time learning to use PaintShop Pro.  Having to choose between using computers to design his cards and having no computer time made him suddenly see the light.  He asked for a little help from his dad getting the pictures into the program.  From there he quickly created a sheet of cards for a test run on the game.  A couple days later he had a full deck ready.  They have played the game several times and it seems to work well.  Soon he will make a few grammar corrections on the cards and reprint them on card stock instead of regular printer paper.

The battle is about to begin.
It always amazes me how the boys work so much harder on a project that they have designed on their own.  I know that's the way it's supposed to work, but my traditional school thinking wants them to be just as committed to writing an essay that I assigned as they are to creating some incredible bit of work from their own imaginations.  If I can just push those voices screaming, "They'll never make it to college if you let them spend all their time playing games," to the back of my mind a little more often, maybe they'd manage to get a valuable education.

Plus, it won't hurt if they keep losing their computer privileges from time to time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Expected Results

good idea
The problems we have had this week in science have been almost entirely my fault.  I did not spend enough time preparing for the hands-on portion of our study.  In the past, I have found that a quick check to be sure we had all of the necessary items for any experiments or demonstrations was enough to guarantee successful activities.

Nope.  Not this week.

My first mistake was changing from our favorite tried and true science guru, Janice VanCleave, to something unfamiliar.  While the Photon U book appeals to our sense of humor and desire for quick and easy demonstrations of scientific concepts, it does not seem to produce the same level of learning for my boys.  Also, out of the five experiments we tried, only two gave anything close to the kind of results we were expecting.  With the Janice VanCleave series, we have had a few experiments fizzle in the past, but it has been a very rare occurrence.

fudged data
Our first lesson in the light portion of our current science unit focused on the different colors that make up visible light.  To demonstrate that each color has a different wave length, the Photon U book had an activity called stretching rainbows.  We had six different colors of thread representing six colors in the visible light portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.  The directions were to line up the thread along its corresponding wave on the diagram, then cut the thread.  When we had a sample of each, we were to lay out the threads and compare the lengths.  This idea sounded fun when I quickly paged through the book a few weeks ago.  In reality, you have no idea how difficult it is to keep a piece of thread in place well enough to get accurate length pieces to compare!  In the end, JT's blue thread was much longer than his indigo, so he trimmed a bit off to get the desired result.  That is really not what I want to be teaching them about science.  We do NOT want to alter our data to meet our expected results!  I should have spent the time and tried it myself before handing the assignment over to the boys.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?

I guess I forgot that bit before we moved on to our next lesson.

Lenses were the next topic we covered.  The book had a nice little model of a lens you could make using cardboard, tape, and saran wrap.  Once you cut a round hole in your cardboard square, you covered the hole with saran wrap, secured it with the tape, and added water until you had a lens.  Trying to get the perfect amount of water on that piece of saran wrap, that kept getting too wrinkly to see through, also turned out to be a bit of a flop.  EM did enjoy pipetting water all over the classroom, so I guess it wasn't a total loss.

romantic candle light experiment
Our last attempt at using the book came yesterday.  Looking at how our eyes interpret images and use light was actually clearly demonstrated with this activity.  We filled a glass candle holder with water, placed a candle about 10 cm away and observed the upside-down flame on the piece of paper held another 10cm behind.  However, the table we were to fill out in the book was unclear and not really much of an addition to what we were learning.  Mostly it just confused us.  We decided to scrap that part and instead played with our display for a bit on our own.  I had an old bottle of corn syrup in my science supply cupboard, dated 2009, that we deemed sufficiently aged for such an experiment.  We replaced the water with corn syrup and observed how the reflection seemed clearer with the thicker liquid.

close up
Overall, the boys still learned some things about light this week.  It would have been a much smoother journey had I taken the time to try out each experiment on my own in advance.  Sometimes I know I rush through my prep time, hoping the magic homeschooling moments will carry me through.  Many times they do. But, being a good scientist, I can't fudge the data when they don't.     

Thursday, November 29, 2012


welcome to the jungle
Today there was very little home in our homeschooling. 

We were out the door by 8:45am heading to our first event.  As a side note here, any time we have morning activities to attend, I am thankful for all the days we don't have to rush out to catch a bus.  Most mornings in our house have a very casual beginning. 

One of the local libraries has been hosting a series of classes called Healthy Holiday Cooking, presented by a community educator from Penn State Cooperative Extension.  We have been learning about healthy menu choices, correct portioning of foods, evaluating ingredients through label reading, and tactics for frugal grocery budgeting. The kids also get to make cool recipes.  Today they made pumpkin pie in a bag!  Here is a link to a similar version of what we made:  pumpkin pie in a bag.  We have one more session in the series.  One nice benefit is that the boys get a chance to visit a library other than our usual one and spend time with other homeschoolers.

We left the library at 10:45am and headed out to a local coffee house with a play area for the kids.  Today was our first visit to this establishment.  It is run by a church as a community outreach.  We were impressed by the food, friendly staff, very nice facilities and beautiful murals in the parent area near the play equipment.

hanging around
The place was fairly busy since it was right around the lunch rush.  Quite a few preschool age children were there when we arrived.  An event had been planned through our local homeschool Meetup group, but only one other family came.  I was a little disappointed since there were no other kids close in age to my boys.  However, they didn't seem to mind that much.  JT asked me if anyone else his age would be coming, when I told him no, he just went back in to play.  He told me he was nearly run over by a 'swarm' of little kids.  EM spent his time policing the younger ones.  He used to tell me he wanted to be a policeman when he grows up.  That boy loves rules.

impressive detail
 I had a good time chatting with the other adults and drinking my iced mocha.  Mom definitely scored some socialization points today.  We spent about two hours hanging out, then set out for one more stop.

I needed to make a quick trip to the mall before we could go back home.  I remember the days when the boys were very small and a trip to the mall took all the energy I had.  Sometimes it surprises me to realize how much different things are now that they are nine and eleven.  We were in and out of the mall with only a short, unplanned stop in the bookstore.  It is pretty much impossible for our family to go in a mall without a visit to the bookstore.

When we finally returned home around 3pm, the boys quickly worked on the few items I had put on their lists for the day.  I knew we'd be busy, so I kept the assignments to a minimum.

So often, I hear misconceptions of what homeschooling is like.  The idea that we spend all of our days sitting at home, drilling the boys on times tables and preparing for national spelling bees, is nothing like what we really do.  In fact, I'm fairly certain our homeschooling days have more variety to them than what the boys could expect from a day in our local schools. 

Homeschooling is definitely a journey for us... more ways than one.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Short Week for the Holiday

Ninja with a slinky
Since we were only schooling Monday and Tuesday this week, I decided to make it a fun school week.  We packed the days with math puzzles, reading, hands-on science, art, and documentaries.

Our art project for this week was taken from the website Art Projects for Kids.  The boys both used the tutorial for drawing the Mayflower.  This is the closest we came to incorporating Thanksgiving into our schooling.  Like most Americans, we enjoy a big meal and family gathering to celebrate this holiday, but JT and I both have big problems looking at the early history of the United States with anything less than outrage over the way our ancestors treated the native peoples of this continent.   Our study of American history often turns into discussions on the possession of land and atrocities committed by early settlers.  I sometimes wonder if he would be able to contain himself in a traditional classroom if he wasn't given the opportunity to express his opinions about these things.

Both boys spent time on their reading assignments.  JT is reading the young reader's edition of Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy.  EM is working on My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.  We are also currently reading John Quincy Adams by Jane C. Walker aloud for our study of American history.  Math has consisted of a review worksheet on multiplication of fractions and a puzzle sheet involving Mayan math for EM and puzzle problems involving addition of positive and negative integers and exponents for JT.

Our science unit right now is covering sound, light and energy.  The first three weeks have been focused on studying sound.  This week we have been reading the chapters related to sound energy in Janice VanCleave's book Energy for Every Kid and doing the related projects.  The slinky demonstrations were especially fun for the boys.  And let me tell you, it isn't easy to get a good picture of a slinky in mid-wave!

boys think they are funny

We have  also been looking at diagrams of transverse waves and longitudinal waves.  When I asked JT to show me how he could represent a wave with an increased amplitude, including a source for the sound, he proved he understood the concept and can be quite a stinker all at the same time.  He will need to work a bit on his portrait drawing; I really don't look that much like Pac-Man.

Finally, we watched some interesting documentaries online this week.  I sometimes forget how many great programs are available for free.  PBS is one site with a good selection for viewing.  On Monday we watched Can I Eat That? and on Tuesday we enjoyed Magic of the Snowy Owl.  We also watched a short program called The Science of Picky Eaters.  I now know that EM's extreme resistance to eating vegetables is more than likely genetic.  There is a good chance he may grow out of it, but for now I can rest easy knowing I am not a parenting failure just because my boy will not eat certain foods.

And that is a good reason to celebrate and be thankful this week.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Music in the Air

state capital building
The boys and I went on a field trip to Harrisburg last Friday.  The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra puts on two Young Person's Concerts every year.  Maestro Stuart Malina does an excellent job sharing his love of music with the children in attendance.  He is always engaging and entertaining.  Before the performance, a guide is posted to the website that allows me to prepare the boys for the pieces that will be performed.  We can watch videos of performances of the music or read about the life of the composer. 

full house
One of the pieces played was Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.  Maestro Malina explained the concept of a musical theme.  The orchestra then demonstrated what was meant by a variation in theme. When the performance of the piece was about to begin, the  audience was instructed to try and keep track of how many variations on the theme they could detect.  JT managed to correctly identify seven variations.  I wasn't so lucky.  I was a bit busy being distracted by the kids who kept clapping when the piece wasn't over.  It was funny the first couple times, but grew tedious quickly.

view from less than optimal seats

After the concert, we went for a walk around the capital.  It was a gorgeous day; beautiful blue skies, sixty degrees, perfect day for a walk.  After we were sure the crowds would have cleared out from the lunch rush, we went to the food court at Strawberry Square and ate unhealthy fast food.  I try to avoid that kind of thing, but sometimes I just can't resist. 

The day was a nice break from our usual at-home routine.  I'll be looking forward to the spring concert and another trip to our state capital.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rooting out the Meanings

spelling practice with a twist
I continue to teach spelling to both EM and JT, even though JT is no longer required, according to PA homeschooling regs, to include spelling instruction in his portfolio.  JT is a master of words.  He has always had an extensive vocabulary and he is not afraid to use it.  Often.  As in, no stop to the talking.  All day.  In fact, you could call him loquacious or verbose.  Both being recent words on his spelling lists.

But that is not exactly the point of this particular post.

I decided from the very beginning of our homeschooling adventure to focus on learning new spelling words based on the roots of the word rather than learning spelling patterns.  We also spend much more time looking at the meanings of words rather than just how to spell them.  For the first two years, I created our spelling lists using the English from the Roots Up flash cards.  I would make a new list each week, usually using two or three roots to make up a list of 15 words.  I would give JT a pretest on Monday, have him study definitions on Tuesday, write sentences on Wednesday, review on Thursday, and have a final test on Friday.  This worked well for a while, but he grew tired of writing sentences and definitions.  I needed to find something with more variety.

That's when I discovered the Vocabulary from Classical Roots series.  These books have been the perfect fit for JT.  There are three or four exercises per lesson.  Typically I have him do exercises A, B, and C each week.  We also have our pretest on Monday and our final test on Friday.  Today we worked on our review for the test.  JT usually will write each word on the white board as I call it out.  Any words he misses, we go back over again until he knows the spelling.  Today he decided to add illustrations to his words.  The great thing about this new idea was that I could really see that he understood the meanings of the words he has been studying.  When we came to the word sycophant, his initial drawing did not include bags in the hands of the man to the right.  We talked about how sycophant doesn't just mean someone who flatters someone else. Instead, it is someone who flatters for favors or gain.  JT quickly added the money bags to the man on the right.

You are SO handsome!
I see evidence that his early study of word roots has really helped him to discover the meanings of unfamiliar words.  I am hoping this skill will help him do well on tests like the SAT and ACT in the future.  In the present, it helps him when we study science and even in his leisure reading. 

JT is currently working in book D of the series.  EM will be starting in book 4 in January.  Up until now, EM has been using the Harcourt spelling series our local school district uses.  He works closer to grade level in spelling, so they were a good fit.  Now that he's getting more proficient in his language skills, I'm ready to move him into this series.  The book levels are 4, 5, 6, A, B, C, D, and E.  The first three lining up to their numeric grade levels, the letters running from 7th to 11th grade starting with letter A.  That means next year JT will be in his last book.  I'm hoping to find something along the same lines at a more advanced level when we reach that point.  I'm thinking there are bound to be good SAT prep materials that focus on vocabulary through etymology.

No dear, that is not correct.
One more thing about the word sycophant.  I'm glad my son could see the difference between the root syco and psyche, so we didn't end up with a picture like this one of the psychophant, drawn by my husband.

I'd hate to meet one of those in a dark alley!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Electricity Unit

fuse experiment
Tomorrow we will be concluding our study of  magnetism and electricity.  This ten week unit was the first of four science units this year.  The boys and I did quite a few hands-on activities including making magnets out of things like hack saw blades and sewing needles, making a compass and an electroscope, wiring series and parallel circuits, making a fuse, an electromagnet, and a generator.  Most of these activities were done with items we had lying around the house.  I love it when it works out that way!

retro Radio Shack
Ages ago, when I was in middle school, I had a cool Radio Shack electronic project kit.  I loved the orderly way you had to wire the components together to create fun little projects.  A couple years back, EM was showing a great deal of interest in electronic devices, so I bought a used one for him on Ebay.  Up until now, we had mostly left it in the closest.  We pulled it off the shelf for this unit and spent time on many of the projects. Radio Shack does make a newer version, the Elenco EP-130 Electronic Playground, but I prefer the retro model from my childhood.

schematics for every project

The boys would carefully follow the instructions, but often ended up making mistakes that resulted in a failed project.  Then they would have to trouble shoot their work.  Persistence was a required virtue.  The best thing about the manual is that schematics are included for every project.  The boys even learned how to design their own simple drawings for circuits they built. 

The first part of our unit relied heavily on one book, The Watts Laboratory Library Experiments in Magnetism and Electricity.  Later on we used Janice VanCleave's Electricity to add to our study.  Both books are wonderful in that they explain what you will do, the results you should see, and the why behind the experiment.

This unit also became the platform for my first endeavor in teaching the boys how to take notes.  At least one day each week, I would present material in lecture format.  While I was speaking, I would discuss how they could know when to write something down in their notes.  For example, when preparing to explain series and parallel circuits, I told them I was about to introduce them to two different kinds of circuits.  I would help them decide how they might put that down on paper.  Perhaps they would like to add a diagram, outline or list of examples of each kind of circuit.  As the unit went on, they started developing their own style in the way they took notes.  Earlier this week, I told them I would be putting together a test for the end of the unit.  I explained that it would include all of the topics I had taught while they took notes.  I showed them how they could study what they had written in preparation for the test.  Tomorrow we will see how that preparation has paid off when they take their tests.

I tend not to give the boys many written exams.  Learning has been more about discovery and discussion in most subjects.  I believe that sometimes too much testing results in incorrect motives for learning.  I don't want them to learn things only so that they can spew them back out on paper at the end of a unit and never think about them again.  Things they have learned should become a part of who they are.  But the rest of the world, including the part of their world that will include college education, involves testing.  So I want to equip them for that future.  Maybe by integrating note taking now, it will be a natural part of their learning process later in life, allowing them to put down on paper the things that are being added to their character.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trying to Make it Stick

Math was causing a lot of stress in our home this week.  Last year I struggled to find a good fit for JT when it came to math instruction.  Around February, I made the decision to move him into something less structured for a bit.  That seemed to allow him time to renew an interest in math again.  Before I made the plan for his math for this school year, I asked for his input on curriculum.  He liked the look of the Key Curriculum Press Algebra series.  In the past, he used some of their other books and liked the way new ideas were presented.  We started the year skimming through book one, Operations on Integers, as that was mostly review work for him.  We completed that book by mid-September and moved on to book two, Variables, Terms, and Expressions.  This book started out being easy, but somewhere along the way, JT missed something essential and started to struggle.  I am not sure if I failed to explain a concept fully or if he just wasn't listening when I did.  Lack of attention is becoming a more common problem in our daily routine.  I know this is true, not just because I am experiencing it, but also because my husband has been frustrated by JT's lack of attention on several occasions lately when they are working together on computer programming instruction. It is maddening to spend an hour explaining something in great detail only to ask JT to generate some simple bit of work from the lesson and hear him say, "I don't know how to do that."

But that's a frustration we can deal with at a later time.

So, last week book two introduced the concept of like and unlike terms.

3xy and 2yx are like
3x and 2xy are unlike

He answered every one of those problems correctly.

Next lesson- Combine like terms.

8a + a = 9a

No problem!  He got all of those right.

This week- Simplify the expressions, just add like terms.

3x + 6y +2y + 8x = 11x + 8y

But that's not what JT did.  He answered it like this.


So, I asked him how he came up with that answer.  He had NO memory of learning about like and unlike terms.  We reviewed.  I did lovely sample problems on the white board showing how his answer and the correct answer would not result in the same number if we gave values to the variables.  He stared at me blankly and said, "I don't get it."  I explained again.  I had him write out the problems on the board as I talked him through it.  I thought he was starting to understand.

I gave him more problems to do.  ALL WRONG.  I banged my head on the desk a bit and questioned my ability to ever get through to this kid.

Then I turned to the best tool any homeschooling mom has...homeschooling mom friends.  The first friend suggested substituting tangible things, like silverware, for the variables.  So we did.

2forks + 3forks +knife/fork + 3knives +knife/fork
2a + 3a + ab + 3b + ab

5forks + 3knives + 2knife/forks
5a + 3b + 2ab

This visualization seemed to help him a bit.  So I sent him back to work on another set of problems.  A little better, but still a great deal of confusion, especially when negative numbers were in the problems.  So I asked another mom friend for suggestions.  She recommended highlighters to make it easier to see the different components in the expression.

Free highlighter from a conference pays off!

This idea, combined with the cutlery computation, finally made the difference.  He only had one mistake on this set of problems.  

I know this is not the last difficult week I will have on our homeschooling journey.  But I also know I am not in this alone.  There is such a wealth of been-there-done-that knowledge in the homeschooling community.  I need to remember to draw on it when I am struggling.  

And maybe someday I'll have opportunity to give back to those who have so graciously shared their ideas with me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Is Something Important Happening in November?

We do not have cable television.  We do not have a dish on our house to pull hundreds of choices in viewing into our home.  We don't even have an old antenna out there to pick up fuzzy broadcasts.  Because of this, we are relatively immune to the constant onslaught of political ads currently blasting out of most American televisions.  This has not kept us from knowledge of the election process.  In fact, I believe it gives our family a chance to get a broader picture than the carefully crafted commercials can give.  We can listen to our local talk radio station or NPR and we can find more than our share of political news online.

When I planned my school year this summer, I decided civics should be taught at the height of the presidential campaign.  We will cover the unit in six weeks, ending the week following the election.  I also made the decision to spend the majority of our unit really digging into the electoral process and our responsibility as a United States citizen in this process.

My outline is heavy on BrainPOP videos including these titles; Presidential Election, US Constitution, Branches of Government, Political Beliefs, Political Party Origins, Voting, and, Citizenship.  We are also doing quite a few of the corresponding activity sheets and printable quizzes.  I can't express how much I love the BrainPOP site!  Of all of the homeschooling tools I have purchased, BrainPOP has more than paid for itself.

We are also using the iCivics site again this year, as well as the Sheppard Software government games.  We have spent some time reading about past presidents using a little book I picked up in Target's bins at the entrance to the store.  My boys call those the 'cheap junk' bins.  I love that cheap junk!

The final piece in our study has been watching the presidential and vice-presidential debates at 2012 Election Central.  The boys watched the first debate and when I asked JT what he thought about it he said, "They keep saying the same things over and over again."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Later the same evening they watched the debate, I came upstairs and found they had set up their own debate using their LEGOs.  The LEGOs were choosing a new tyrant to rule them.  It was interesting listening to the talking points the boys had come up for each of the parties.  Many promises were being made.

Candidates on stage

How does one win the cave troll vote?

It always makes me happy to see the boys taking what they are learning and turning it into a play situation.  I know that children learn best through play.  I am glad that we have the flexibility in our schedule to allow these moments to happen.  Serious things can often be understood better when a little play and humor are thrown in to the mix.

Maybe the candidates could learn a thing or two from my boys.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vacation Photo Journal

We have been home from the cabin at Lake Pymatuning for one week today. It was a wonderful break from our day to day routine. I want to share a little of what we experienced. I think you will be able to get a better picture of our trip using pictures instead of words.

Lake Pymatuning

Hiking Trail along Shenango River

Fun for boys!

Record low water levels

Who was here?

Fish hatchery


Thick with fish

End of day one

Great Lakes Science Center
on the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland

Fun physics!

Frog exhibit



They look like our plastic toys at home

Met this guy one morning at camp

Packed up and ready to head home

Goodbye cabin 17!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Homeschool Travel

Shenango River
We returned home from our annual autumn camping trip this evening.  The laundry is stacked nearly to the ceiling, my body is beat, but I am a happy momma.  JT told me that he has carefully thought it through and this was our best trip yet.

I'm only going to have a little to say tonight.  I want to spend more time sorting through my pictures before I share our experience.  For now I can tell you that if you are ever in western Pennsylvania, be sure to check out Lake Pymatuning.  The cabin was the nicest out of the four parks we have visited.  This was also our longest stay ever, four nights.  The mattress in the room my husband and I shared was awful, but that's the price you pay for dirt-cheap accommodations.  That was our little bit of 'roughing it'.

box o'goodies
We spent two days in the park, one day in Cleveland where we went to a science museum and had dinner with friends, and one day at the home of our long-distance fellow home-educated friends.  My friend is an avid collector of curriculum and whenever I see her in person, she loves to share.  I came home with a box full of great textbooks and workbooks thanks to her!

In my opinion, traveling off-season is definitely one of the highlights in our homeschooling lifestyle.  However, I'm starting to think we'll need to take the boys on a 'real' vacation during the traditional time of year.  Several of the places we visited were not running all of their attractions this late in the season.  The boys complained a couple times that 'nothing is EVER open' when we visit.  We reminded them that that was the trade off we had made to not have to deal with crowds.  They weren't 100% sold on that line of reasoning.  But when they were playing on the flight simulators at the science museum and didn't have to wait for it to be their turn, we tried to remind them what it would be like to wait for other kids to be finished and then to only be able to take a quick turn before someone else came along. They doubt it's as bad a we say, so we might just have to let them experience it to really make them understand. 

But that's a lesson for another day.