Hippie Homeschool

Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 2

Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 2 | LazyHippieMama.comAgriculture is science. If you’re growing something – whether flowers in a pot on the windowsill or vast fields of vegetables – you’ve got a ready-built classroom.

There are some obvious lessons: What does a seed require to sprout? How do plants “eat and drink” from the soil? Which animals are harmful/helpful to plants? Etc.  But there are other things that can be learned in the garden as well.  A good gardener has a grasp on chemistry, physics and math.

This post is the second in a series of three. If you’d like to read the first to get some ideas on garden chemistry and earth science you can click here.  Part three will be available next Friday, April 25.  These two are a few of my most favorite because they’re both bound to be extra fun!

Trajectory & force

image source: letterstonature.wordpress.com

image source: letterstonature.wordpress.com

We discovered this lesson out of necessity.  Rather than one large garden, we have several small garden plots around the yard.  There are 2 that can’t be reached by the hose.  We needed to figure out how to “shoot” the water further to reach those spaces.

Start by turning on your garden hose, with no attachments on the open end.  The water will just sort of fall out.  What happens if you make the opening smaller by covering part of it with your thumb? What happens if you angle the hose up or down?

Greatest lesson ever on a hot day!

Simple machines

image source: school-for-champions.com

image source: school-for-champions.com

In gardening you often find you need to move heavy objects.  For all of our wonderful modern technology it is still the simple machines that often turn out to be the best tool for the job.

Levers – Stick a long-handled spade deep into the dirt. Have the child sit on the ground and try to move that piece of earth by grasping the handle at the very base. Now do the same thing using the middle and the end of the handle.  Discuss why it’s so much easier to lift the soil with the end of the handle.

Wheel and axle - next time you need to move a big bag of mulch ask your child to carry it. When they see how heavy it is, put it in a wheel barrow and have them  transport it that way. Point out the simplicity of a single wheel with an axle through the center and note how much easier that makes it to move something.

Other simple machines include the wedge (an axe or log splitter), screws, inclined planes (ramps), and pulleys. As these come into use in your gardening, take the time to show your child what you are using and explain why it makes your task easier.  Understanding these basic ideas creates a great foundation for understanding the much wider world of Newtonian physics.

Don’t miss next Friday! We’ll talk about how the garden can help teach some of the trickier parts of math.

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“123 Tracing” Review – A Great App For Preschoolers

123 Tracing Free - A Review of An Educational App For Preschoolers | LazyHIppieMama.com*This is a sponsored post. I was compensated to offer my honest review of this product.

I am a big fan of keeping young children outdoors and encouraging them to move their bodies and play.  I’m also a realist.  We live in an electronic world and our children need to grow up knowing how to use the technology that is developing at an astounding rate all around them.  For that reason I don’t mind letting my kids – even my youngest – “plug-in” at times.  I consider it extra bonus points when they can have fun playing and the game is teaching them a valuable skill.

I downloaded 123 Tracing Free from the Amazon AppStore onto my Kindle Fire and Toddler-saurus Rex took to it instantly.  He loves anything electronic and he loves to read and count but, at 2 1/2 he hasn’t shown much interest yet in trying to write with a pencil.  This app allowed him to use his fingers to trace the letters and he was absolutely thrilled with it.

The colors and images were bright and clear and simple and the game was easy and instinctive for him.  He was delighted with the praise it gave him.  The hardest part was trying to console him when the battery died on the Kindle!

If you’re looking for a way to introduce the concept of tracing numbers and letters to your child I would highly recommend this one! You can get by following this link to the AppStore.

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Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 1

Chemistry, Physics & Math in the Garden - Part One | LazyHippieMama.comAgriculture is science. If you’re growing something – whether flowers in a pot on the windowsill or vast fields of vegetables – you’ve got a ready-built classroom.

There are some obvious lessons: What does a seed require to sprout? How do plants “eat and drink” from the soil? Which animals are harmful/helpful to plants? Etc.  But there are other things that can be learned in the garden as well.  A good gardener has a grasp on chemistry, physics and math.

Each Friday for the rest of the month of April I’m going to be sharing ideas for very simple, low-cost ways to use your garden to explore science and math.

1) Acid or Base?

Soil can become acidic or alkaline over time.  To find out which way your dirt is leaning you can take a handful of earth and mix it with water until it’s liquid mud.  Separate it into 2 cups. Add vinagar (acid) to one cup and baking soda (base) to the other.  Watch for a reaction.  If the mud is acidic the baking soda will create a foamy reaction. If it is alkaline the vinegar will do the same. If it is neutral (or close to it) neither substance will react.

Chemistry, Physics & Math in the Garden - Part One | LazyHippieMama.com

Why does the reaction happen? Because the acid will dissolve the bonds holding the molecules together in the base. That creates energy which is released into the liquid. When the energy is burned up, the reaction calms and the bubbling effect will slow and, eventually, come to a stop.  For a much more thorough (but still quite kid-friendly) explanation check out this website.

2) Absorbency/capacity

Different plants grow well in different types of soil.  Tomatoes love very damp earth. Pumpkins will sprout on a hot compost pile. Lavender loves dry, gravelly sand. The reason for the variation (at least in part) is that each of these plants have a different requirement for the amount of water needed to grow and each type of soil has a different rate of absorbency.

Go around the yard and see if you can find some different types of soil.  You may find that you have several kinds, naturally.  In my yard I have one streak of red clay, a sandy stretch and a lot of black loam.  Get creative. Do you have playground sand? Potting soil? Mulch? Gravel?

Put a sample of each type in a cup or bowl.  Using a measuring cup start adding water to each sample to see which types of soil are the most absorbent.

Wikianswers has a great explanation of why the different types of soil hold water differently.

3)  Erosion

erosionTake a plate full of earth and have your child blow, as hard as they can on the dirt and see if they can make it blow away.  Can they make it into shapes, like sand dunes? Discuss in what ways the wind shapes the dirt.

If you hold the dirt at a slight angle and run a small amount of water over it what happens? Can they cut a valley? Does it wash away entirely?

Now try the same thing with dirt that has something growing in it (like a piece of sod). Can you still move the earth?  How do the plants help “anchor” the dirt to the ground?

These experiments can offer a great opening into discussions about all sort of things. Why do farmers plant cover crops? Why are there stands of trees between fields in the midwest? Why do architects need to know about how erosion works when building bridges over rivers, houses on hillsides or planning cities in valleys?

Come back next Friday! We’ll cover trajectory, simple machines, measuring area and more!

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A Book Starring Your Child – A “Let’s Read About Me” Review

Anyone who has ever turned the pages of the family photo album with a little one on their lap knows that babies and toddlers LOVE to see themselves and others they know in photographs. What better way, then, to engage them in story time than by making them a part of the story?

That’s what the folks at “Let’s Read About Me” have done.  When they offered to make me a book for Toddler-saurus Rex in exchange for an honest review I was thrilled.

The process is very simple. You go to their website and choose from several different titles such as, “Who Loves?”, “Busy,” “Counting,” or others.  There are samples of each format for you to look through and choose from.  You can also choose from a few different sizes of books including a larger, hardcover “memory” edition or a smaller paperback that is just the right size for tiny hands.

Once you choose which story your little one will star in you have to do the only truly difficult part.  You have to choose which photos to include! Uploading them and personalizing each page’s script with your child’s name is very simple.

Your book will be shipped to you neatly packaged or you may request gift wrap at check out if you’re buying for a special occasion.

The process really is that simple. It only takes a few minutes and the instructions couldn’t be any easier to follow.

I was very curious to see what our books would look like!  When they came I tore them open right away. (I confess one of my most favorite parts of blogging is packages in the mail. I feel like one of the townspeople in “The Music Man” overtime the USPS truck turns the corner!)  I was not disappointed at all!

We got two copies of our “Days of the Week” book – one of each size.  Both of them seemed very sturdy and well up to being handled by my less than perfectly gentle 2-year-old.

If you look closely at the hardcover book you can see that the cover photo is not printed directly on the cover but rather on photo paper and then attached and covered with a transparent sticker of sorts.  It was extremely neat and well done. I can’t see any way it would ever come apart.

Let's Read About Me ReviewThe photos were not as sharp and boldly colored as you would see if you had them printed like snapshots but rather they were sort of muted and soft edged.  I don’t mean this as a criticism.  I liked it very much. I thought it made the book look more like a story book and less like a photo album.  I would recommend, though, that you choose very clear very well-lighted photographs for your book.  The only page I wasn’t thrilled with in ours was the page that included a poorly lit picture that I’d debated using in the first place. The better quality images you give them to work with the better your story will look.

I thought it was interesting that the little book was printed on waterproof paper.  It looks and feels like a regular high-quality paper but it’s actually much more able to stand up to being chewed on or licked. Not that I’m admitting that my strange little boy licks the pages of his books. I’m just saying you can trust me. We tested it. Totally saliva proof. (He must get it from his father’s side of the family.)

Considering that the last early reader that caught my eye in the store was $24 (Yipes! We didn’t need 6 pages of entertainment that badly.) I think these well-made, unique, personalized keepsakes are worth every penny of their $10-20 price tag. They would be absolutely perfect in an Easter basket!

Have fun creating your own “Let’s Read About Me” early reader book!

A Book Starring Your Child - A "Let's Read About Me" Review

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Top Ten Reasons You Should Shop In Thrift Stores

Top Ten Reasons You Should Shop In Thrift Stores by Lazy Hippie Mama#10 – You’ll save money.  

I had to go for the obvious one first.  Regardless of your financial situation it’s always wise to be frugal and you won’t find many places where your dollar will stretch further than it will at the thrift store.  The last time we went we ended up with a movie, a fairly fabulous like-new toddler toy, a pair of sunglasses and a stuffed space alien (Sweet Hippie Daughter has a thing for aliens. If you are one, and you happen to be hiding among us, and you’ve come in peace, my kid really wants to meet you.). Total cost – just under $5.

#9 - They’re an educational treasure.

Books, computer games, globes, maps, puzzles and so much more line the shelves at thrift stores, often on sale for pocket change. Those are great educational resources whether you homeschool or not.  But there are so many more opportunities for learning at thrift stores!  Walk around and look from a child’s perspective.  Why were so many clothes made from polyester 40 years ago? Why don’t TVs have dials any more? What’s the difference between the way a record, a tape and a CD record sound? What are those old wash basins and pitchers for? Why do mirrors lose their reflectivity in the spots where the paint chips off? There are an infinite number of discussions, experiments and ideas that can be triggered by just wandering among items that have known a long life.

#8 - They’re nostalgic.

Top Ten Reasons You Should Shop In Thrift Stores

Neither Handsome Hippie Hubby nor I went looking for a fake wooden barometer but when we saw this one, that reminded both of us of happy childhood days in our grandparents’ homes we knew that it needed to come home with us.

It’s a rare trip to the thrift store where neither Handsome Hippie or I exclaim, “Oh my gosh! My grandparents had one of these!”  We find toys that remind us of our own childhoods and visiting aunts and uncles and places we loved that we haven’t thought of in years.  Sometimes we laugh at the memories, or we celebrate that they’ve passed, or we mourn a bit for someone dear who is gone from our lives now.  It’s a great way for us to be closer to each other. You’d think after spending 1/4 of our lives together we’d know all there is to know about each other  but new stories surface after most every thrift store trip.

#7 – You can find things that may not otherwise be for sale in your region.

Do you love Disney World memorabilia? Japanese art? Southwestern decor? Those things can be hard to find if you don’t live in specific areas but, at thrift stores, you never know what treasures may turn up from all over the globe.

#6 – You’ll likely be funding a worthy cause.

Not all thrift stores are connected to charitable organizations. Of those that are, some give a significantly higher percentage of your sales dollar directly to the cause than others, but the vast majority of thrift stores do help fund some really great programs from schools to hospitals to research foundations and more.  It’s a fun and painless way to make a positive difference in your community.

#5 – It’s good for the planet.

I live in a tiny town, surrounded by tiny towns.  Within a 20 minute drive of my house there are at least 7 thrift stores.  Can you imagine if ALL the stuff they sold ended up in a landfill? How many resources would be burned up creating, packaging and selling new items to replace the perfectly good ones being thrown away?  Thrift stores are a great recycling tool.

#4 – It will spark your creativity.

Maybe you’ll find a frame you love and you’ll be inspired to make something special to put in it.  Perhaps you’ll stumble across some curtains made of a wonderful fabric and turn them into your new favorite dress.  It could be that the idea for your entire garden design will be sparked by a trinket on a bric-a-brac shelf.  Thrift stores are a wonderful place to let your imagination take hold.

#3 – You may acquire a new skill.

Have you been thinking about taking up knitting, wood working, stained glass window making, cooking, nail art or sculpting but you just weren’t sure if you would like it so you’ve been hesitating to sink the money into the supplies you need?  Go to the thrift store!  Odds are you won’t find everything you need to start your new hobby, all in pristine condition.  However, you can probably find some of what you need, in usable condition at a significantly lower cost than you’d get it new.  Then you can try your hand at it and decide if it’s worth a larger investment.

#2 – You can eliminate as well as accumulate.

Before your shopping trip, go through your house and toss all that old stuff that is no longer filling a need in your life into a box (or 10). Take it to the thrift store and drop it off on your way in.  Someone else will be thrilled to have your clutter and you get to head home with some new treasures, knowing you now have plenty of space to store or display them appropriately.  Everybody wins!

And the #1 reason you should shop in thrift stores….

Because you might find that one elusive item you never knew you always wanted.

Top Ten Reasons You Should Shop In Thrift Stores by Lazy Hippie Mama

Top Ten Reasons You Should Shop In Thrift StoresI recently found this Jesus action figure at The Salvation Army.  It made me smile. Then I started to giggle. Then I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants.  ”Gliding action!”  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!  He has little wheels on his feet so he can buzz around the table.  Who made this? Why? Is he part of a set? Oh, I must know!

Why is this so funny to me? Because it’s Jesus. And he’s an action figure.  WITH GLIDING ACTION!  

I’m giggling even as I type this.

How about you? Why do you love to shop in thrift stores? What’s your most favorite thrift store treasure?

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A Different Kind of Storybook For Early Readers – Bird and Butterfly

I was contacted by Dr. Amanda Stanford who asked if I would be willing to review a new book for very young children that was written in a different way. I was intrigued and agreed.  The book, Bird And Butterfly, came and I flipped through it and knew right away that I wanted to share it with Toddler-saurus Rex to see how he reacted.

The main difference in the book is that all of the text is kept entirely separate from the illustrations allowing children to focus, individually on each aspect.

After you read this statement and get the idea in your mind, you have the treat of turning the page to see the stunning illustrations by Kitty Van Oosten.  I LOVED that these pictures weren’t “cartoonish.”  They were gorgeous, artistic creations that T-Rex and I would both really look at for a long moment before turning the page.  Often he would comment, “there he goes!” or “He’s chasing him!”  Which let me know that he was making the connection between the words I had read to him and the picture we were looking at.

A Different Kind of Storybook - A Bird and Butterfly ReviewThese books have been endorsed by Dr. Robert Titzer, creator of Your Baby Can Read and I can see why. They truly show, in a more obvious way than traditional children’s books, the connections between the words and the story.

Dr. Stanford now has several books available.  If you would like more information, please visit her website, The Reworked Press.

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

Did you know that Lazy Hippie Mama is a Top Mommy Blog?  Your votes are a huge help to me in maintaining a high ranking, which allows me to connect with people like Dr. Stanford and share these great products and ideas with you. If you would take a moment to click the banner, below, it would mean the world to me. There’s no registration or anything required. One click = One vote.  Thank you for being a part of this little corner of the internet. It’s a joyful journey when we undertake it together!

Lazy Hippie Mama is a Top Mommy Blog

 

Using Board Games as a Teaching Tool

candy-landToddler-saurus Rex recently played his first game of Candyland.  He did a great job. He identified all of the colors correctly and, after a few turns with me helping, had the general idea that you move your little gingerbread man to a square on the board that matched the color of the square on the card.  He had a tendency to pick ANY random square on the board that matched the color but, you know, he’s 2.  He’ll figure it all out eventually. Sadly, he lost interest and wandered off to do something else ONE turn before beating the entire family.  There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

As soon as I’m reasonably confident none of the pieces will get jammed up his nose (we had a recent incident with a plastic bean from Don’t Spill the Beans) I may have to let him have a go at working on his counting skills with “Hi-Ho Cherry-o.”

See that bump on the side of his nose? Yup. That's the bean.

See that bump on the side of his nose? Yup. That’s the bean.

Playing board games can be a fabulous way to sneaky-teach!  I have never met a child who didn’t like to play them and they almost all have some educational value.  Here are a few of my favorites for older kids:

Monopoly and The Game of Life – Not only do these games both require constant counting of money and making change, they both have instructions that include things like, “pay 10x the amount of your roll.”  Also, in Monopoly, you have to add the totals of the dice together so it’s great for practicing quickly coming up with small sums.

Cadoo – This game is full of interesting trivia and pushes kids to think outside the box when communicating ideas in unusual ways.

Yahtzee – More math. I’m all about the math games since my girl is so resistant to anything numerical… unless she doesn’t realize it’s actually math. Then she’s actually quite good at it. Go figure. (Hahaha! Get it?  “Figure.” *ahem*)

Battleship – If you are trying to get a child to understand how to plot or read a chart this game is a gem! It is WAY more fun than any worksheet and it’s so visual that it’s quite easy to understand. Parent bonus points – it doesn’t take 1,000 hours to finish a game. This game gets far more entertaining if you act like the Grim Reaper from “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” while playing it.

Blokus – We only get to play this game when we visit my sister and Sweet Hippie Daughter loves it so much she asks for it every time we are there.  It is a simple concept but the task of working the pieces into just the right shapes and spaces is a brain stretcher every time.

Scrabble SLAM – This card game version of the classic board game is a little easier for kids, I think, because there’s no pressure to unscramble a group of letters into a big, complex word. Instead, you are simply changing a single letter in a word to create a new word.  It’s excellent for spelling and reading.

What about you? Have you ever used a game to help your child brush up on a skill?  

dolphySpeaking of games – this isn’t a board game, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to give a shout out to one of the site’s awesome sponsors.  Dolphy Games offers some of the best educational computer games I’ve seen.  Not only are they well made, fun and colorful, but each game is personalized to your child so it will instruct and encourage them using their own name.  My kids love it and I bet yours would, too and their prices are super-reasonable which is always a big bonus.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

LEGO KidsFest is coming to Novi, MI – Win Free Tickets!

***This is a sponsored post. I am receiving compensation in exchange for an honest review of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.***

LEGO KidsFest is coming to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan and I am so excited to be able to share some of the details with you as well as a chance to win FREE TICKETS!

I’m not sure that many toys can rival LEGO® bricks. Children can not only express their creativity and imagination but learn skills as basic as colors and counting and as complex as engineering. Little ones build fine motor skills by building with LEGO® bricks and for older children the sky is the limit. It is totally worth the risk of the middle-of-the-night risk of stepping on one of those bricks.

Here are the details:

LEGO KidsFest is returning to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, MI, April 25 – 27, 2014! LEGO KidsFest brings all of the creative hands-on, minds-on fun of LEGO building and experiences together in one activity- and entertainment-packed family event for children of all ages and builders of all skills and interests.

WIN FREE TICKETS!

One of MY followers will win (2) tickets to for the opening night session on Friday, April 25,  2014   (4-8:30pm).  I encourage you to LIKE and Follow LEGOKidsFest on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram for all the latest ticketing updates as this event has been selling out in prior cities.    Must be 18 to enter, 1 entry per day allowed, random drawing by USFG on Wednesday March 26!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO WIN TICKETS!

LEGO KidsFest

For the complete details, please visit the LEGO KidsFest website.  I hope to see you there!

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Road Schooling – The Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling, and one of the more compelling reasons we wanted to choose this path is the flexibility.  Our work schedules don’t fit into the Monday-Friday 9-5 mold.  Handsome Hippy Hubby is off on Monday and Tuesday and he works most holidays.  I work Monday, Wednesday and Friday at my church job and the time leading up to holidays is often extra busy. As far as writing… that comes in the very early mornings, very late at night and all the spare quiet moments in between I can find.

With a schedule like ours, we often struggled to plan trips when Sweet Hippie Daughter was in public school.  Either we would have to take time off from work, which we really can’t afford to do too often, or she would have to miss school.

Homeschool = problem solved.  We just take our school on the road when the opportunity presents itself.

Most recently, we headed off to Cleveland to visit the grandparents and do a review for US Family Guide.  That gave us about 2 1/2 hours in each direction for reading and discussion, which was lovely and passed so quickly I almost wished it was a longer drive.  When we got there grandpa talked a lot about aliens – it’s one of his favorite subjects – and Sweet Hippie Daughter had some really interesting input based on an article she’d read in last month’s National Geographic Magazine about black holes.  When she mentioned “the intense gravity in the singularity at the center of a black hole,” I felt like, just maybe, we were doing this thing right!

While we were in the Cleveland area we had some free time and decided to use it to visit the Lake Erie  Nature and Science Center in Bay Village.  I have written about my love affair with the Ohio Metroparks before.  They are an extraordinary FREE resource for anyone who loves nature, history, gardening, and beautiful places.  (I’m thinking that must be nearly everyone.)

"I didn't know there were rattlesnakes in Ohio, Mama!"  I didn't know either. Yeesh.

“I didn’t know there were rattlesnakes in Ohio, Mama!” I didn’t know either. Yeesh.

The Science Center isn’t a huge place, but there are fabulous things to explore and teach and provoke new thoughts around every corner.  There are several animal displays and aquariums inside the building including turtles, snakes, lizards, fish and more.  There is a gorgeous “tide pool” that drains and fills again, just like the ocean waves are washing over it.  Sweet Hippie Daughter and Grandma must have spent 20 minutes sitting on the edge of it trying to find all of the wild-looking ocean critters that lived in there.

While they were busy with that, Toddler-saurus Rex enjoyed looking at the fish tanks and playing with giant floor puzzles and coloring sheets that were laid out for younger children.

science center vultureWe got to meet a turkey vulture that was at the center recovering from a gunshot wound.  The animals there are all being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild or they are being cared for there because they are, for one reason or another, unable to survive on their own in the wild.

Sweet Hippie Daughter spent a few minutes checking out the gigantic globe of Mars.  She has said before that she wants to be in the first manned mission to Mars.  If that actually happens I will be unbearably proud and totally, completely terrified.  I will also, with no reservation, release this picture to the media and giggle every time I see it on TV.

Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

Since it was the first warm sunny day since we’ve had since Adam and Eve got kicked out of Eden (OK, not really, but, at a balmy 45 degrees and sunny, it sure felt like it!) we couldn’t resist visiting the outdoor exhibits, too.  We got to see different species of owls, hawks, eagles, ducks and other birds as well as rabbits, the cutest racoon in the universe (because he wasn’t strewing garbage on my lawn or eating my cookies at a campsite), a fox, a woodchuck and a mink.  The girl had a whole conversation with this deer who, I swear, understood every word she was saying.

science center deer

While she was bonding with Bambi T-Rex and Grandpa rested their feet on the little deck overlooking the duck pond.

Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

I found inspiration for a spring-time upcycling project in this butterfly house.

Science Center Butterfly House

And then we had to take a few moments to investigate the massive hollow log in the center’s entryway.

Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

We had so much fun and we learned all manner of things about earth, space and the creatures we share our space with.  We got to play and laugh and stretch our legs and feel the sun on our faces.  I can’t think of many better ways to spend a day!

If you want to visit or find out more about the parts of the center/park we didn’t get to see (including a planetarium), visit their website for all the details.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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7 Places To Sneaky-Teach Your Child (in SE Michigan & NW Ohio)

 

#7 - Cabela's

#7 – Cabela’s

My daughter is stubborn and resists “school work” at every turn. (I don’t know where she gets it. Must be from her father. *wink*)  She loves to learn and explore, but she wants to do it on her own terms.  If she’s got a burning curiosity about space, trying to get her to complete a lapbook on history is nearly as grueling as wintering over at Valley Forge.  

Part of the beauty of homeschooling is that we have the flexibility to follow her lead, which eliminates a lot of those types of arguments. Honestly, if she turns out to be a 30 year old astronaut with the ability to successfully research topics of interest who doesn’t understand the “Valley Forge” reference, above, I’m OK with that.

On the other hand…

Sometimes I have to pitt my stubborn Mama will against her stubborn kid will and insist. There are two reasons:

First, I only insist when I feel it’s something she needs to know to be a contributing member of society.  She has to be able to do basic math, write out a thought with clarity, understand the basics of how our nation’s government works, etc.

Second, I believe that learning to do things that you don’t like while keeping a cheerful heart is one of the great keys to a happy life.  I don’t like to wash dishes or mop floors. I find no joy in changing poppy diapers. I’m not especially fond of balancing the checkbook. Every day we, as adults, are required to face countless tasks that don’t spark our passion but that really just aren’t optional.  We deal with it. We put on great music or work together with a friend or use a particular tool that makes the job more enjoyable for us or we motivate ourselves with the reward of time spent doing what we love once we get our “chores” out of the way.  I think that learning to buckle down and practice her trombone when she’d rather be playing video games is a super important part of her education.

So some days are led by our children’s interest.  Some days are busy with to-do lists. But the BEST days are the sneaky-teaching days!

Sneaky-teaching is when you tell your child, “we’re going to do something SO FUN today!” And you do something that they think is a fabulous, grand adventure and at the end of the day your child says, “Wow! That was really cool!” and, inside, you do your best mad-scientist laugh because you know they just learned all sorts of new information and they don’t even realize it.

Muhwa-ha-ha-ha!

Muhwa-ha-ha-ha!

Here are 7 great locations in the Southeast Michigan/Northwest Ohio area for sneaky-teaching outside of the home.

1. Imagination Station, Toledo, OH 

Imagination StationThis is actually the place that inspired this post.  We just went for the first time this past weekend. I’d resisted for a long time because I’ve been to other places that were similar (so I thought) and I’d looked at their prices and thought it seemed a little expensive.  Within 10 minutes of walking through the front door I was ready to buy a family membership so that we could go back again and again!

Imagination Station is huge. No matter what your child is interested in, there is something there for them.  If they are quiet sit-and-figure-it-out types they will find tons of work spaces filled with challenging experiments. If they are the kinds of kids that never stop moving there is everything from a high-wire bike to a giant hamster wheel to burn up energy.  There is a large area just for little ones to climb and splash and explore.  There is a piano that plays “music” made entirely from bodily noises.  Your child will love this place!

As the mother of a very active 2 1/2-year-old and a very inquisitive 9-year-old I was concerned that everything would be too advanced for the little one or too babyish for the big one.  No such worries!  There was never any place we visited where there wasn’t something for both of them.

A little pricey?  Perhaps. It’s the only thing on this list that you have to pay for but, in my opinion, it’s totally worth the splurge.

2. Pearson Metropark, Oregon, OH

Pearson Metropark is one of the first places we went on a homeschool field trip.  It is the last remaining stretch of the Great Black Swamp.  It is vast and beautiful.  It is a great opportunity to be out in nature and learning the history of the area at the same time.  Throughout the park there are signs and stations that tell the story of what’s there and what once was.  You can read more about our first visit here.

3. Blissfield Model Train Exhibit, Blissfield, MI 

Tiny little Blissfield has some really amazing railroad history. There is the old depot and the train that still carries passengers through town but the thing I really love is the Model Train Exhibit.  This is a massive scale model railroad with a focus on the Chesapeake & Ohio and Clinchfield railroads in northeastern Kentucky and western West Virginia.  I can’t imagine anyone, of any age, being less than totally delighted by this display.  The detail is extraordinary and the builders strive very hard for total authenticity.

blissfieldmrcorg

photo via http://blissfieldmrc.org/

Whenever we have visited, members of the club that built the model are there and eager to point out new or special parts of the exhibit.  They’ve spoken with us about the various types of trains and their functions, the electrical circuitry involved in making the models work, the communications systems used by the real railways, the history depicted by certain pieces of the model and the crafting process for creating the models.  They are invariably patient and kind and knowledgable.

Recently, they had to relocate and they are still in the re-construction process but their website says they hope to be open to the public once again this spring.  The old building was a little cramped and only accessible via a rather horrifying ancient staircase. I have a feeling the new space will be a great improvement.

Extra bonus points – the second best pizza in the universe is available at the restaurant (Lena’s) across the street and a half a block east so after your family has soaked up the maximum amount of history, building and engineering knowledge for one day you can dig into some fabulously cheesy goodness!

4. Robinson Planetarium and Observatory at Adrian College, Adrian, MI 

This planetarium seems to be hosting one special event or another practically every other day.  There are shows based on the ancient folklore of various cultures, shows that focus on the times of dinosaurs, shows that discuss the future of space exploration and opportunities to see what’s happening in space right now and it’s all free and open to the public.

They’ve recently undergone a major re-model and I haven’t visited since it was completed but we are looking forward to a trip very soon.  Their website notes that the new handicap accessibility features will not be fully completed for a few more months so, a phone call may be in order if you have special needs.

5. River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Monroe, MI 

I’ve only recently learned about this US park in Monroe, MI and I’m excited about visiting soon.  The Monroe area and the River Raisin were a big part of what was going on in the Midwest during the war of 1812 and the entire first half of the 19th century.  This park offers several programs teaching the history and nature of the area.  They also have a wonderful website with curriculum materials, background information and stories that will keep anyone enthralled.

6. Fossil Park, Sylvania, OH

Photo via http://www.olanderpark.com/pages/Fossil.htm

Photo via http://www.olanderpark.com/pages/Fossil.htm

“Park” is a bit of a grand term for this slab of concrete.  There is a lovely walkway around the perimeter but that’s about it.  Still, it is one of the most fascinating places we’ve found in the area.  Big loads of rocks and dirt from the nearby quarry are dumped in piles on the concrete and visitors are encouraged to bring buckets and brushes and dig through the dirt looking for fossils.  You will find them.  They are there by the thousands.  The area was once a vast lake bed and so the dirt, taken from such a great depth in the quarry, is full of ancient shells, trilobites and other sea-life.  There are some great informative signs that help you identify your findings and understand which part of our planet’s history they came from.  It’s dirty work.  There’s little shade to be found on hot days, so wear a hat and bring your own water.  For all that (maybe because of all that if you’re a kid who loves to get dirty and find treasure – which, let’s face it, is most kids), it’s worth going back to over and over again.

7. Cabela’s 

Cabela’s is a sporting goods store but it’s so much more.  From the enormous statues in front, that offer great climbing fun, to the extraordinary 2-story displays of taxidermy inside, to the river that runs through the middle of the store and the huge aquariums full of local species your family could spend hours exploring.  My daughter loves to try out the various bows in the archery range and love to look at the stunning hand-crafted coo-coo clocks.  There are nature-related toys and books and video games.  This is a place that will inspire any child to wonder about nature and our relationship with the world around us.  Sit inside the ice shanties and try to figure out why they’re designed like they are.  Climb aboard the boats and give some thought to why a boat built for skiers is a totally different shape than a boat built for fishermen.

Technically, it’s free to visit but I find it’s very difficult to leave without a box of their fabulous chocolate fudge!

Have you discovered a sneaky-teaching gem?  Share it in the comments!

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