Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spelling and Hair Cuts

"Mom, can I go with you to your haircut?"

Sure. Impromptu date with one of my littles. Who could pass up such an opportunity?

On the car ride to the salon, the little discovered she had a small tablet and pencil in her "purse". She pulled it out and exclaimed, "Mom, I can do my spelling! I will just look for words."


The drive went unusually fast, probably because we were busy looking for words, spelling.

We arrived and parked.

My daughter eagerly carried her tablet into the salon, dreaming aloud of the words she would find.

As I took the salon chair and greeted my stylist, my heart warmed as I noticed my daughter walking, pausing at each station to write.



My stylist watched my daughter intently, thoughtfully, perhaps a bit too intently as I watched ALOT of hair fall to the ground.

He finished cutting my hair. I noticed the cut was a bit shorter than usual.

Short hair. Four pages of words.Natural spelling. A testimony to the unique opportunities home education provides. Nothing beats a child excited about learning, smiling at her accomplishments. Those moments are valuable. The hair, it will grow back.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Foil Floaters Experiments

"Mom, do we have aluminum foil?" 

Questions. Thinking aloud. Bending foil. Hypothesizing. 

Several questions and answer later, we were building floaters.

All different sizes and thicknesses, some with two sheets of foil.

Imagine the variety of floaters! Each as different as the mind which created them.

Questions kept coming.

"How many marbles will my floater hold?"

"What if the base of your floater was wider?"

"What if I used three layers of foil?"

Possibilities endless.

Clock ticks by 1 hour.

Learning. Thinking. Testing.

A great day for science!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Power of Experiential Learning- Medieval Life

In co-op we joust (with plastic weapons and pool noodle horses) and role-play classes of Medieval society.

One learner requests a vocabulary and spelling list of the words learned. Gladly!

A week later we attend the Renaissance Fair not far from our home. Great family trip of discovery. Thankful for the timing!

At the fair we talk to people in period dress, shoot bow and arrow, learn new skills.

A fun unit. History lived, history learned.

Inspired by the activities at the fair, determined to "own" a bow and arrow,  PVC pipe and weed wacker cording were found, crafted into a bow. Blunt-end dowel rods served as arrows. I marvel at the ingenuity. Thankful for the Saturday they have to create together. Time is a precious commodity.

Old pizza boxes (repurposed from the pretend store in the garage) painted as targets. More creativity. More learning.

Targets dry, eventually, due to thick coats of paint. Hung on the backyard playset. Safety rules considered.

Ping! Ping!

"I got a 100!"

"I am a pretty good shot!" One learner boasts.

"This is the most fun sport ever!" A little learner announces.

"Seems like we are Medieval!" Another little learner proclaims.

I smile thankful for the moms who, with their efforts and enthusiasm at co-op, started us on this two-week study.

From the other end of the house, I hear a little learner wonder, "Do you think mom will let us get out the tepee?"

Moving right along in history.

Flashlight Fun (and learning)

Flashlights light paths, investigate places unseen, illuminate learning.

Flashlights were one of my favorite "tools" growing up. My dad used it to fix things. My mom used it to find things. Modeling, I experimented, looking here and there, in nooks and crannies, places I couldn't see. Places I wondered about.

And my oh my, the findings I found. Dead bugs, pieces of leaves, screws, dust bunnies.

Then there were the broken flashlights. Bottoms missing. Bulbs unscrewed. Experimenting with how batteries were placed to make it light.

"Does this work?"

Little learners love flashlights. Flashlights illuminate learning.

Shadows to discover. Reflections to make. Things to fix.

Broken flashlights become experiments in fixing things, teaching electrical circuits.

Fixing what is broken.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           "What's in there?" 
What was dark, broken, hidden, is now lit, ready to illumine and discover.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Toilet Paper Tubes and Thinking Skills

A few handfuls of tubes. 

"Mom, can I use the masking tape?"


Trial and error.

Marble makes it to the cup!



A few more days. A few more tubes. 

Make changes.

Try again.

Grows in length. 

"We need a longer door!"

"We need more tubes!"

Ten days of thinking, determination, collaboration.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Measuring in Snickers

Have you ever measured in Snickers?

Young children, generally preschoolers, often learn to measure in non-standard (inconsistent) measurements before they measure in standard (consistent) measurements. Non-standard units might be blocks or perhaps toy cars.

Why not Snickers?

Seeing a little learner build a tower of blocks, a not-so-little learner remembered an extra Snickers bar in the cabinet.

"We could measure the tower of blocks with the Snickers!"


Now EVERYONE was engaged!

Yes, we could.

Within seconds we discovered the little learner's tower was two Snickers tall.

Soon we were measuring the lengths of books and tables, and then the height of the kitchen counter.

"The book is three Snickers long. The table is 15 Snickers long."

"Five books would be as long as the table."

Math was fun!

Drawing visual representations helped conceptualize the measurement.

Before too long, a not-so-little learner asked the question I knew would surface eventually.

"How long is the Snickers?"

Get the ruler.

End-to-end, not including the wrapper, the Snickers measured in at just a one-sixteenth short of four inches.

Wonderful. Now for a discussion on "approximate length", followed by the conclusion drawn by one little learner.

"If the Snickers is four inches long, then the block tower is eight inches tall!"


We understand. 

I realized our Snickers would be a great motivator for learning our "fours" (multiplication tables). Again, an object of interest (the Snickers bar) was the perfect motivation for learning. Boy, did we learn those facts quickly...not soon to be forgotten either!

1 Snickers bar is 4 inches long                                            1x4=4
2 Snickers bars is 8 inches long                                          2x4=8
3 Snickers bars is 12 inches long (yes, one foot!)                3x4=12
4 Snickers bars is 16 inches long                                        4x4=16

and so on...

Our last Snickers measuring experience involved dividing the bar up evenly. Since we found the Snickers to be four inches long and there were four people with whom to divide the treat, it was easy to figure each person would receive one inch of Snickers (and let me tell you, this part of the measurement was deemed the most accurate of the day since everyone wanted to make sure the bar was divided evenly). But what if the bar needed to be divided into five parts, or even six? That take division to the remainder level! We didn't have to go there.

Several important lessons were learned:

  • Visual pictures or representations help visual learners create a mental picture of a specific unit of measure; in our case the approximate length of four inches. I have found this helpful in my children as well as children I have tutored. Later when estimation becomes a necessary life skill, the visual representation will have created the immediate association. For example, my children "know" the approximate area of one square inch because they know a small square cheese cracker (picture Cheez-It) is approximately one square inch.
  • If you don't have a ruler or yard stick (standard unit of measure), be resourceful and use what you have (a string, a foot, an arm's length).
  • One concept can be used to learn another.

Now for another curious question raised by a curious learner.

If a Snickers bar is 4 inches long, is a Milky Way the same length?

Guess we need to find out!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Skittles Math

Skittles, 49 cents at the local Walgreens.

Breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. Mom has a surprise!

Bag opens. Mom pulls out five small bags of .....SKITTLES

Time for Skittle math. 

First we sorted the colors. The littlest learners loved this!

We counted.

Then we used mom's circle cutter to cut out construction paper circles in corresponding colors.

Then we graphed the colors. 

Oh no! Problem!

13 circles don't fit on the paper.

One learner's solution: 
one circle = 2 Skittles
1/2 circle = 1 Skittle

Problem solved!

Counted and graphed.

We discovered of the five bags of Skittles we opened (each child had their own bag), two bags contained 61 Skittles and three bags contained 62 Skittles. I asked the children to look at the weights on the bags. Same weights. Interesting. 

Could a machine deposit Skittles in each bag according to weight? 

Great question asked by one learner. Others agreed this must be the case. 

One learner added Skittles of two different colors. 

Two-digit addition. Visual representation.

One learner decided to represent each color as a fraction of the whole bag. 

Each learner used their empty package to create a unique cover to their Skittles Math book. 

Problem solving


Measurement: My Newest Math Resource

My children are excited about Measurement, the second book in my Month of Math series.

I think your children will be, too! 


Candy bars measure length. Rice compares quantity. Square cheese crackers teach area. 
Bicycles peddle miles. 

Measurement is real, part of life. Not a concept stuck on a page, obscure. 

The activities in this book were enjoyed in our home with objects and items we encountered every day.

We measured, drew visual representations, discovered, walked perimeters. 

Now, we understand!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Creating High School Photography

Doesn't matter the subject, learning happens naturally, everyday.

A year ago, our daughter became increasingly interested in photography. A real interest. One she thought about every day. One she spent time researching, and then talking through her ideas. Home educating, I knew we had the freedom to explore her interest as part of our day, every day, if she desired. And she did!

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a photography course. So, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I joined in the learning. Together, my daughter and I researched possible content, brainstormed life experiences which could cultivate and refine her craft, and dove into photography contests she could enter. She thought she would like to upgrade her camera. She researched pros and cons of brands and features. Her interest drove the learning, I simply learned alongside. 

She wanted a road map, so to speak, of things she could study. As we brainstormed, we researched and wrote down these topics:

My daughter began her study of photography independently in ares of personal interest. We found safe online tutorials she could access (most camera companies offer tutorials and resources). Eventually she did enroll in an on-line high school course.

Finding a helpful "book" resource was difficult due to the nature of some of the specialty photography topics. At a used book store we did find Digital Photography Master Class, a DK hardcover publication. As a reminder, be sure to look through resources careful. Family guidelines vary. *

She became curious about pursuing further learning as well as potential career options in photography. Daytona State College offers these descriptions of their courses which helped understand the depth and scope of post-secondary study. Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant at a wedding or larger event was a definite possibility. Of course, there are always the options of writing a research paper, reading a biography, making a pinhole camera, setting up a darkroom, and experimenting with mounting techniques. Perhaps the best education is the hands-on practice of taking, critiquing, and editing photos. We found on-line editing programs. The one we like best was Pixlr which didn't have to be downloaded to the computer. She also began compiling a portfolio of prints should she be asked to provide examples of her work. Practice is essential. Creating a yearbook for a co-op or working with a blogger to communicate content visually would be two wonderful ways to gain practical experience.

How could we communicate all she had learned and experienced to college admissions or perhaps a perspective client? Reading through sample course titles and descriptions on-line, I was able to write a concise course description of her work. Wow, to see on paper what she had accomplished. It was rewarding for her as well as confirming for me. She learned and understood foundational aspects of photography.

A curiosity revealed an interest, a catalyst for learning.

*The information in this blog is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are the overseers of their child's home education.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beaches and Tide Pools

Just getting home from a few days at the beach; watching tides go in and out.

Perfect time to expand on sea life we observed, salt we tasted, and shells we collected.

I remembered a resource I bought a few years prior. Sure enough the resource included a seashore mini-book. I printed one for each child.

Easy Make & Learn Projects: Animal Habitats | Main photo (Cover)

Working on our mini-books, the little learners wanted to know exactly what the shells and sea creatures looked like. They want to make sure they colored the organisms the proper color (well, some did!)

To answer their questions, we headed to our home library and found our shell field guide, actually two. Didn't realize we had two! The children and I reviewed how to use an index which enabled the little learners to independently look up the information they needed. Each found desired information and helped one another, excited about the uniqueness of each specimen. One of the field guides included maps, leading to geography discussions and dreams of one day finding "rare" shells we had never seen before. The conversation led to naming continents and oceans, all in an effort to find the most unique shells. Bonus!

One of the learners remembered seeing the tide move in during one of the beach walks. That revelation led to a discussion about tides, when they occur and why.

We talked about several of the shells and fish we found left behind when the tide moved out. We located and watched several online videos about tide pools.

After a few days our shell collection began to smell. We hypothesized about what might be happening. Laying out our shells, we made a discovery. Some of the shells had been alive when they were placed in the sand bucket. Finding a closed shell, one little learner asked if we could pry open the shell and take a look inside. EEEWWW! Impromptu dissection.

Often the best learning lessons are those we stumble upon! Other times they are the times we look, discover, and wonder together. This week has brought us a bit of both, and then some!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From Interest to Credit

Course development and content varies from high school to high school. The same is true from home school to home school. When developing a high school course for a student, a parent educator can access many resources as guides for content.

This year, due to the talent and interest of one our children, we will be developing a high school drawing and painting class. Drawing and painting? What would a drawing and painting class entail? My mind takes off, thinking of the possibilities.

My first quest, find out what a typical high school drawing and painting class might include. Visiting the DOE site I found Drawing and Painting I, a one-credit course. According the Florida DOE site, the purpose of this course is to "enable students to develop basic perceptual, observational, and compositional skills necessary to communicate a range of subject matter, symbols, ideas, and concepts using knowledge of drawing and painting media, processes, and techniques.The content should include, but not be limited to, the use of tools and materials, art vocabulary, elements of art and principles of design, critical thinking and analysis, historical and cultural perspectives, connections between visual arts and other subject areas, personal and social benefits, collaborative skills, and career opportunities."

I looked at the stated objectives for the course and immediately realized putting together an art class was possible. My daughter and I sat and brainstormed. What specific areas of art are of interest? What media and techniques would she want to experience? Where could we find information and instruction to create a high school level (or above) class? Who might be able to provide mentoring or instruction in this area of interest? What galleries might we be able to visit? How could we incorporate art appreciation and art history into her study?Where might she be able to display art pieces she creates? How is art, or one's knowledge of art, incorporated into various careers?

After our discussion, my daughter's interest turned to self-motivation. She began to dig and discover for herself. What resources we found! I realized her intrinsic interest in drawing and painting could be fostered at home as well as in the community. Real life. Real people. Real art media. Real learning. And, the best part, she had already begun her study...while I was busy finding ways and ideas to support her interest. 

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cumulative Folder: Organizing High School Records

Your high schooler has a unique story. 

No matter what home education philosophy you have chosen, the story of how your student turned the high school tassel will be unique. What he or she studied, courses completed, because of interests and gifting, will be different. The story will be told to employers and college admission counselors in applications, transcripts, and course descriptions. From where do we get this valuable content?

The cumulative folder. Records we keep.

Over the last several weeks as we have been walking with parents through home education annual evaluations, we have visited with many high school parents, or parents just about to embark on the high school journey. Each family choosing interesting teaching options, different curriculum. 

From our own experience of schooling a high schooler, almost 10 years and counting (2 graduated and one current high schooler) I learned I needed to keep important information handy, easy to access, before and after graduation. My experience leads me to encourage others so they may have the same success, with as little stress as possible.

I encourage parents gathering high school records to keep in mind that one day they may have to "write" the "stories" of their high school students. One mom might gather documents for employment, another called to prove her "good student" was eligible for reduced car insurance. Still another parent might be preparing a high school transcript and other necessary documents required for college admission. I encourage these moms to keep their high school records well-organized in a cumulative folder (hard copies and digital) making the high school story writing process less daunting as the last days of high school near, and potential new doors open. Accurate and organized record keeping is the key to being prepared to compile official paperwork any employer or a college admissions packet might require.

There are many ways to keep high school records. Research examples from parents who have journeyed high school successfully. Talk with them. Glean from their experience. Check important information from reputable sources, the primary source if possible. Keep up to date regarding current admission trends. Read when you can. Your high school "guidance counselor" hat, the one you earn while you have high schoolers, will serve you well!

We organize high school records as soon as our students begin taking (at home)  or enroll in high school level courses. For some that was eighth grade Algebra I and Drawing and Painting. We purchase a two-inch binder, fill it with notebook paper and plastic protector sleeves, and use dividers to create twelve sections, arranged alphabetically:

  • Activities (a listing of sports, scouts, band, choir, youth ministry, 4-H)
    • We keep a digital copy on the computer and print as needed or to "back up" records.
  • Awards (each award for Honors Student, Presidential Physical Fitness, Eagle Scout, Student Leader placed in a plastic protective sleeve)
  • Certificates (each certificate for Most Valuable Player, Band President, Varsity sports placed in a plastic sleeve)
  • College admission requirements (for the colleges we are considering)
    • More and more we don't need this section as requirements are all online. I do keep a document of current links for the colleges of interest to our students (especially if I have two high schoolers at the same time!)
  • College applications (the actual documents found online, printed out for easily reference)
    • Printing out the application makes for easy reference should the student want to work on essays- they make great English writing assignments.
  • Community service/volunteer hours (a log of hours and the supervisor's contact information from church, community, political, and service organizations where the student volunteered, as well as hours documented in letter format on the organization's letterhead with contact information, dates of service, and hours served)
  • Grades (for each subject completed or currently enrolled)
  • Letters of recommendation (letters, placed in plastic sleeves, from individuals/supervisors who know your student in an educational setting, church setting, work setting, or community setting who can speak to character, work ethic and academic ability)
  • Medical records (verification of shots and any important medical information, colleges will need this for admission)
  • Test scores (sent to your home from PSAT, SAT, ACT, CLEP and AP)
  • Transcripts (outside the home, perhaps online classes or correspondence programs)
  • Work experience (listing of employer's contact information, employment dates, advancements, job titles and description of responsibilities)
  • Writing samples (perfect references for college essays)

Important papers and information are filed in the appropriate section as soon as they enter our home (or shortly thereafter!). This system is easily expandable if we need it to be and there is no limit to what we can include. We consider all information necessary until we find out otherwise.

As our students journey through their high school years we file information into the notebook. Having the information in one place speeds the story writing process. To write a resume for a potential employer we reference the letters of recommendation for possible references and contacts. At the end of the student's junior year when he/she begins to write college essays, the writing sample section of the notebook is a valuable resource. To write a high school transcript, we format the document on the computer and fill in the needed information from the notebook. We also refer to the notebook as we complete community service and extracurricular sections on college applications. The notebook is a goldmine of nuggets!

Writing your high schooler's high school story is exciting! Whether you are creating a resume for a first job, calculating grades for reduced car insurance premiums, or compiling a college admission's package, your high schooler's notebook will lessen stress and frustration. All the information will be at your fingertips, in one place. The time spent with your high schooler writing his/her story will be a memorable one, one in which you can rejoice togehter. It is the culmination, the last chapter, of the student's homeschool journey. Enjoy writing it!

Please note: This blog article is not meant as legal advice or counsel, only a synopsis of what has worked for us. Every student's high school journey is unique, therefore their paper work will be unique as well. Colleges will ask for varied documents, some listed above, others perhaps not. Not all students will need every piece of paperwork above, however if you find you need the information you will be able to find it efficiently. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bird Adventures for All Ages

Spring passed, summer sunshine beams upon us. The morning comes alive with the bird chatter and song. Riding bikes or watering the garden, we are invited to stop awhile and listen. Our children notice the difference in tones. Some birds sound happy, others protect territory, still others mimic. What brilliant variety!

Sparked by interest, we gathered a few bird books from the library and listen on-line to bird song. Did we hear that bird? It's a dove! That sounds like the bird in our backyard? I know it is a blue jay!

Our adventures grow spontaneously out of our reading and listening together. After reading Cradles in the Trees: The Story of Bird Nests by Patricia Brennan Demuth, the girls gather found pillows, sheets and blankets, building three comfy bird nests throughout the house. They fly in and out of nests, visiting one  and bringing food to hungry hatchlings. Later we go on a "nest hunt" outdoors, taking the bird field guide to identify birds seen while on our hunt. One learner tries to build a real nest out of grass, sticks, string and mud. Oh, and while that was drying, it was requested we paint on giant paper with the feather duster. 

With the book list below, and the many other bird books waiting on the shelves of your library, you, too, can fly away on some exciting bird adventures.  

Watching Water Birds by Jim Arnosky

Cradles in Trees: The Story of Bird Nests by Patricia Brennan Demuth

Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert

Owls by Gail Gibbons

Ducks Don't Get Wet by Augusta Goldin

Where Do Birds Live? by Ron Hirschi

A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins

Counting is for the Birds by Frank Mazzola, Jr.

The Bird Alphabet Book by J. Pallotta

About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill

Unbeatable Beaks by Stephen R. Swinburne

Our middle schooler, still eager for ornithology, wanders to the bookshelf and finds The Story of James Audubon by Joan Howard, a biography from our favorite Signature series collection. We also found The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet at the library and some wonderful resources at the Cornell Ornithology lab site

Though we don't have children interested in high school level bird study, some high school learners might decide to study ornithology. Career study may be helpful to young adults interested in bird study. 

Families can continue study together through birding clubs in their area, sceduling a field trip to the local Audubon society, or dissecting owl pellets.

Additional resources:






Happy birding!

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Mom, I Want to Build Something!"

The most recent statement from our child who recently announced, 

"I want to be an engineer." 

How did that child come to that conclusion? Not certain we had ever done an "engineer" study. Must know an engineer? Did the child overhear conversation with an engineer? Hmmm. Where did the revelation come from? 

A child has a longing, a desire. Louis Pasteur asked questions and searched for answers. He got answers, and saved lives. The Wright Brothers wanted to fly. They experimented and they did. A child inspired. Where will that inspiration lead? Pondering how to fan the flames, like Jeanne Roqui, Susan Wright, and many other moms.

Another day another idea.

Finding some PVC pipes, elbow and connectors, a tent frame erected in the front yard. Same child.

Now, convinced this is more than a passing thought, I notice the common thread. Building is part of the unique design.

Almost immediately I remembered an older sibling designing with an extensive set of KNEX, 13 years ago. Dug out of the back of a closet, the set was reopened, rediscovered, pieces rumbling. Something was happening, like a mind-quake.

What is being built? The curiosity bubbled inside me. I couldn't wait to see the results of a imaginative mind, a curiosity.

Before long..

"Look what I built!"

Complete with a rotary dial, which was added after consultation with an older sibling.

"Mom, I want to build something!"  

What an ingenious builder you are!

How can I help you be the best builder you can be?


Friday, July 19, 2013

Problem. Solution. Others Benefit.

My daughter saw a problem. Our play set needed care in order for our littles to have any chance of enjoying it the way she did.

"Mom, what if make the repairs, add additional weather conditioning?" 

Not really how I wanted to spend my time, but she was right. I appreciated her initiative, her heart. I knew I needed to encourage and help in the process.

Our family embraced the idea. The littles would appreciate our efforts.

Off to the home improvement store. Call Pop for instruction.

In days, work started. In days, work completed. 

Ingenuity. Initiative. Collaboration.

Problem. Solution. Others benefit. 

In the process, relationships were deepened and my daughter initiated a project, saw it to completion while involving others, and learned new skills.

Where will this experience be documented in her high school accomplishments? Another day. Another blog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tampa Bay STEM Conference- August 22-23, 2013

Excited to be a part of this event

As a young learner, math and science were my enemies, or so I thought. Much later, I realized I really did like math and science, I just could not understand it as presented and taught in school. I needed to experience concepts, not just read about them.

Learning in my father's shop was a different learning experience. I could be innovative, creative, try new ideas. Experiment. Discover. Work toward new solutions. 

 Inquisitive, I wondered how things worked. Hours in my father's wood shop found me experimenting with pulleys, building "launchers" with wood scraps, using tools, collaborating with my brothers to find creative ways to "put things together".

As I peered out Dad's wood shop window, I pondered how I could pick fresh wild blackberries (as quickly as possible) to sell along the country roadside. So began my entrepreneurial pursuits. There were so many ways I learned math and science, from gardening and animal care to imitating Dad's bird calls and identifying plants.

Mom made math understandable, essential to cooking and canning sessions together. Then there was my hand-crafted beaded jewelry business, yet another entrepreneurial venture. 

My early learning experiences set a foundation for my future, from the way I process and apply information to how I educate my children. The experiences in Dad's wood shed and Mom's kitchen contributed to those abilities. I only thought math and science were my enemies.

That is why I'm

excited to be a speaker at this event!

Science, technology, engineering, and math can be real and meaningful. These topics can be understood. It just might not "look" how we thought it might. This event will encourage and inspire parents as they learn practical ways to teach these often intimidating topics.

Tell us about the meaningful learning experiences you have had in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Or, tell us about a unique way you have taught concepts in these areas. Readers who leave a comment to this blog post will be entered in a random drawing to win a copy of my book, Geometry

Follow my blog and receive another entry to the drawing.

Comments or follows must be generated by midnight Sunday, July 21 to be eligible. Winner announced Monday, July 22.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


 A one-hour adventure with the beloved Swimmy by Leo Lionni

The preschool and elementary age fish in our school listened eagerly to Swimmy. After the reading, we chose white construction paper from our paper tray and brushed cool-hued watercolors lightly over the entire paper. We had our sights set on a mixed-media collage we found highlighted in 25 Terrific Art ProjectsBased on Favorite Picture Books by Karen Backus, Linda Evans and Mary Thompson.

As we created we strayed from the collage instructions in the book, adding our creativity with twisted tissue paper, sponge- painted seahorses, and torn paper rocks.  The results were amazing! 

My favorite moment of the adventure was the six-year-old's reaction to the fishes failure to cooperate. She sighed, "How sad!" What a character lesson!

Check out Swimmy by Leo Lionni for a powerful example of the importance of working together.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

America's Birthday

As we put the finishing touches on a vegetable tray for a Fourth of July celebration, our inquisitive three year old questioned, "Where are we going?"

I looked down at her bright smiling face and answered, "To Uncle Brian's party."

Immediately she responded with yet another question.  "Who's birthday is it?"

Of course a three year old might consider that every party is a birthday party.  I smiled and chuckled inside as I replied, "It's America's birthday."

Before I could get another word of explanation out of my mouth, she questioned, "Is America going to be there?"

Looking for July 4th teaching resources? Check out  The Teaching Nook.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Experiential Learning: ECHO

What an amazing day!

On a recent stay in Fort Myers, at the encouragement of our friends, we visited ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization). What we learned was astounding!

Our morning began with a informational video about the organization. The guide explained the geographical barriers of cultivating food in such a way that our children understood the difficulty of growing food in urban areas or on mountain side villages, rendering farmers poor. Once we understood the geographical barriers, the guide escorted our small group out to the working farm where volunteers research and experiment to overcome geographical barriers with no waste. My children observed how problem solving skills, out-of-the-box thinking, can feed people. Their solutions, innovative.

The organization also provides seeds, plants, and agricultural knowledge to farmers struggling to provide food for their families. They research raising animals and finding ways to reuse or re-purpose everything, all in hopes to use what can be used naturally in areas where agriculture is difficult.

My children were introduced to turkens, a breed of chicken which can survive in tropical climates because their their necks are featherless. They stay cooler than the chickens with which we are familiar with.

Amazing agricultural engineering. Use what people have access to. Make is sustainable. Waste nothing.

The visit reminded me of my our friend John Drake whose creative genius, ingenuity, and determination brought self-sustaining windmills to Malawi. He recognized a problem. He surveyed the resources available to the people. He created a solution. Through his non-profit, African Windmill Project, John has not only designed a windmill to bring water to crops, but also has empowered the people of the area to use what they have available to sustain the equipment they install to help them solve their irrigation issues. Ingenuity.

At ECHO we learned geography, engineering, agriculture, science, and math. But perhaps the greatest take away was my children interacting and listening to people who were not afraid to ask questions, to recognize a problem, and then find a solution, using what was available. Reminds me of the biographies we have read about the Wright Brothers, Edison, and others who have used what they had available to them to make a difference: seeing a problem, finding a solution.