Entries in homeschooling (7)


Bone collector

In the two years our backyard has been a construction zone, J has been digging around here and there, coming up with some very interesting artifacts. Our house is somewhere between 150 and 200 years old, and along with bits of broken pottery, the livestock of previous tenants have revealed themselves. Teeth, ankles, and vertebra of what we think are horses have been piling up, and today we took the bones to our vet.

Most days, our homeschooling is a lot like Pawn Stars. We find something interesting, and I may not know a lot about it, but I know someone who does. I keep a file in my head for everyone I meet. If we've talked more than once or twice, you can almost guarantee I'll be calling upon your expertise one day to help with something my kids need to know.

I worked in news for a decade before I had kids. The greatest benefit was not some great wealth of information, but learning how to get that information beyond just Googling. Everyone likes to talk about their job, even if they don't like it. I just have to find the right people and point my kids at them. The rest is cake.



Owl Pellets

Last week we had some friends over to dissect owl pellets. I'd ordered a bunch back in October, and illness and inconvenience kept us from using them until now. Ideally, we'd wander through the woods collecting our own. But we are embracing imperfection, (starting with the housekeeping, OBVIOUSLY), so a kit complete with food chain and bone identification charts was good enough for us. Also, they had been sterilized, so no barfy smell.

It went even better than I'd hoped. J's first pellet had a fantastic vole skull in it.

 I'd gotten so many so we'd be guaranteed a skull, and it turned out almost ALL of the ones we opened had skulls. Owls, of course, swallow and digest their small prey whole.

 After C went to bed, J got out his Anatomy Coloring Book to identify some of the different parts of the skull.

He used his microscope, a gift from his great-grandfather, to look at the bits of fur and the ridges of the teeth.

The two of us stayed up way past bedtime, chatting about mammalian bone structure, forest creatures, and just hanging out. He's such a lovely boy.






I See the Moon

A beautiful night tonight. And an excellent opportunity to break out the underutilized telescope.

J and I saw a gorgeous moon while walking the dog, and when we came home, he and his Daddy walked back out with the telescope. He's had it a few years, but between early bedtimes and being in the middle of the city, it spent most of its life in the back of a closet.

He dug it out about a week ago, and after carefully setting it up every day since then, we finally got to use it. Back home, he and H and had a discussion, complete with flashlight, globe, and moon-representing ball, about why the moon is bright, and the phases of the moon. Science from Daddy. They get a check plus.



We do most of our "schooling" in the afternoons. This seems to be opposite what most people do, but it works for us. We like to get out in the mornings, when we have the most energy and the most time, and use the afternoons to do things around the house. Sometimes we throw in a  worksheet or two, sometimes we just hang out and play The Baby Bat Game.

Lately, C has been very frustrated that she can't do EXACTLY what J is doing, and so I've been specifically targeting some things for her alongside our regular work. This afternoon, I took out a number card set for her. After counting each one together, I handed it over to James. He flipped the cards and set up either/or situations for her to match, like the 1 or the 7, the 6 or the 9. She, of course, was delighted to have her favorite teacher.

One of my absolute most favorite things about homeschooling is this kind of stuff. Of course this happens in every family, but we have the luxury of time together, and I am grateful every day.


Beech, Oak, Chestnut, Lizard, Spock

It's important to me that we have a thorough knowledge of the plants and animals in our immediate environment. Not just naming and cataloging them, but how they work together, why they are where they are, and how their life cycle is impacted by the environment. We notice which trees drop their leaves first in Autumn (C insists on calling it Autumn), and talk about how each tree is affected by exactly where it is. High on the hill, next to a building, or down by a creek, each piece of the puzzle makes a different picture.

We spent time with friends in Howard County Monday, and were very lucky to go on a walk around a lake with little plaques describing certain trees. Not just the names, but the major distinguishing features, like seeds and Fall foliage. The kids had fun shouting out names and moving on, and I tried to read as much as I could and still keep up. I also finally might remember what poison ivy looks like, thanks to a good discussion with my friend.

As usual, J remembered more than I did, and at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore today reminded me which was a beech tree, an oak, a tulip poplar. He also, of course, noticed things not explicitly pointed out. "The other way I know its a Beech," he said, "is they always have things written on them."