Living Science

Homeschooling moms have an incredible knack for bringing out the educational components of simple day to day living.

You can spot her at the end of the grocery store aisle – mid-morning – kids in tow having the kids calculate the best deal on beans. She’s in the produce aisle watching her children weigh the produce and calculate the costs. She’s also seen at checkout grading her children’s projections of the shopping trip costs.

She’s an educational maniac… always keenly aware of her surroundings, looking for something to glean a bite-sized morsel of education from.

Life is school. There are opportunities in every day, everywhere.

Living on the plains of Colorado, we have found our share of wonderful educational opportunities. We’ve studied our native bugs. We’ve enjoyed watching the location of our sunrises and sunsets (both fully visible from our home) change as our seasons have changed. We’ve had opportunities to study weather first hand. Some opportunities are a joy to study and others can be downright tapping into Fear-Factor-levels!

Rattlesnakes are an unwelcome, but tolerated, part of our lives here on the plains. One sense that they are anywhere near and Ho-Hum-Momma-Bear instantly transforms into Alice-in-Wonderlands-Queen-of-Hearts screaming, “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”

The first time I was informed that a snake was encroaching on my property I quickly became some sort of gun-toting cross between Annie Oakley and Rambo. Satisfaction overwhelmed me as I trotted across the property in an effort to protect my children from the unwanted visitor.

Those days are gone, however.  I quickly learned that blasting a rattlesnake leaves you with a myriad of questions, including “is it even dead?” as oftentimes they are blown into oblivion leaving no evidence of their existence. We are a little more humane around here now as we have recognized the value of a good rattlesnake educational experience. They are simply scientific opportunities crawling around us and awaiting discovery!

Here we go...

Early October was one of these discovery times. After months of comfortably believing there were none on our property, we suddenly found over five in just a few days – within feet of the areas our children happily play. Yes, we did “off with their heads” and this time we decided to bring them into the kitchen – for science class, not cooking class (at least not yet)!

20151018_120224Skinning a rattlesnake is not for the faint at heart – but then again, neither is homeschooling. So we held back our fears and we cut away. The fascination of discovering the organs inside was an absolute priceless experience. The ewwws and ugghhhs quickly turned into WOWs and COOLs. It was simply amazing.

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One of our volunteer science experiments (hey, if they are near my kids, they are donating their life to science) happened to be an egg-bearing momma with over 20 eggs! There was a a moment of grief that swept over me20151018_120114 as I realized her young would not be born (rattlesnakes do not lay eggs like their reptilian counterparts – they birth their young). At the same time I was appreciative that we had saved ourselves from 20 young rattlers so close to our play area next spring.

Tell me about your living science experiments… what have you found in your environment that became a homeschool specimen?

Bugs and Hairspray

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! They have been everywhere this summer. I know, they are around every summer, even all year. This summer, however, we seemed to have been particularly plagued with an abundance of bugs of every imaginable kind.

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Sweetness, Bookworm Beauty & The Boy showing off our amazing bugs!

After swatting and batting needlessly (because it never really helps anyway), I began to see them for what they really are… amazing creatures created by God and meant to be studied by little homeschooled minds!

Thus, our collection began.

Don’t think for a second that this is for the younger kids only, I assure you that even Angel, my 21 year old, is in awe of the delicate intricacies of each bug to be inspected. She has reminisced about the days that we had a bug board for her, Princess and Sunshine years ago.

All you need to start a bug board is:

  • Bugs!
  • Containers
  • Corkboard
  • Stick pins
  • Hairspray (or clear coat spray paint)
  • Paper
  • Magnifying glass
  • Intrigued kids

As you begin to collect bugs, be prepared for the unexpected delight and fascination of them still alive! We often catch a really cool bug and put it into a makeshift terrarium prior to its fateful demise. We enjoyed Katy our katydid for months last year. She stayed in the terrarium in our classroom, allowing us hours of enjoyment! We ended up doing a complete unit study on her and watched in amazement as late one evening she began to lay eggs!

This year, our favorite terrarium resident was a praying mantis. Although we never did give him a name, we enjoyed observing him nonetheless.

As you capture your bugs, decide how you are going to put them to rest. The easiest, quickest and most painless method (at least for us) is to put them into a container and straight into the freezer. In a few short hours it will be ready to prepare for your board. Although this may seem to be the most humane method, we have found that freezing tends to discolor the insect. You might avoid discoloration by removing it from the freezer before it completely freezes, I just never seem to remember that there is an insect in the freezer until I open the door for something else and am greeted with the little fella.

Once we had gathered enough bugs to feel it was worth the effort of putting the bug board together, we grabbed our supplies and got started. First, we decorated the corkboard. We then carefully pinned each insect with a stick pin and gave them a good spray with extra super hold hairspray… I’m envisioning a need to pick up a good ol’ silver and pink can of Aquanet – the 80’s hair withstood everything back in the day! The hairspray simply helps – a bit – to keep the bug intact, giving them a tiny bit of protective coating.

After they have been pinned to the board, the kids made name placards with the common insect name as well as the scientific name. Researching the scientific names has allowed us to begin identifying different insect classifications by finding commonalities in the names. Oooooh, I feel further studies coming along and a great segway into a full-fledged insect study!

The magnifying glass is a definite essential to this project as it allows you to get really up close and personal with the bugs. I am always fascinated with the delicate web-like structure of wings, especially the dragonflies.

I’m still trying to figure out if this project was for the kids or more for me!

What cool bugs are in your neck of the woods?

Why Homeschool On Purpose?

Find the greatness in you

GREAT, adj. It may be a simple word, but the meaning is tremendous! This seemingly simple word is one that I ponder frequently. Frankly, it’s a word that outright haunts me. There is so much wrapped up in these five letters that motivates me, encourages me and inspires me. I often hear words from years past echoing in my head, “the single greatest enemy of GREAT is good enough…” or “GREAT things are worth the hard work required.” This always leads me to think of the areas in my life where I desire greatness… my faith, my marriage, my children, my health, and my relationships… sure there are many more things that I’d long to be great, but one must prioritize so that the truly important ones are the ones receiving the attention needed for the effort.

Years ago, I discovered the serene quietness of gardening. It was there in that first plot of designated space that I remember having a season-long conversation with myself and my Lord. It didn’t matter if I was preparing, planting, watering, weeding, or harvesting… the time was filled with great conversations pondering life. I remember a specific vision I had while planting the seed (yes, I converse with myself in pictures). I saw the ludicrousness of one thinking that they could simply throw the seed out over the land and expect nice, neat, tidy rows of organized vegetables at harvest time! I still chuckle at the thought. I have yet to meet anyone in my life that believes such a thing could happen. Yet, surprisingly, I continually meet people that live their lives with the exact expectation! I have met people that put little effort into their marriages yet somehow think that they are going to wake up and live happily ever after… parents that are simply walking through 6,574.36 days anticipating their release of wise, skilled, productive human beings into the world… even people putting much effort into ignoring every imaginable danger sign while tending to their diet with the full expectation of avoiding disease. It is here that we often lie to ourselves that good enough is good enough.

Not for me! I don’t want good enough! I want GREAT things in my life! I want GREAT children! The gardener that prepares and plants their seed with purpose is going to end up with a more organized and purposeful harvest. It’s truly that simple. Yes, the gardener will have weeds, bugs and even disease attempting to devastate the crops, but the harvest will still be closer to the plan than it would have been otherwise. Great things are never a result of some cosmic happenstance, but rather the result of purposeful planning and purposeful effort.

I have made many commitments throughout my life, some big, some not. However, raising children is by far the single most important task I have ever committed to… again… and again… six times. I have always desired great kids (which requires great parenting) but unfortunately I have spent many of my days as a parent settling for good enough. I have had the joy of releasing three of my six children into the world to spread their wings. Throughout the years of raising children, I have experienced three different seasons: knowing everything about everything, knowing nothing about anything, and knowing something about some things. With three little ones still at home, I am back in the season of knowing everything about everything. On the surface, being so highly esteemed by our children is like a badge of honor. A smile creeps upon my face when I hear “just ask my mom.” Yet, deep down, this badge of honor is a burden and a heavy weight… a constant reminder that everything I do is modeling behavior for my children. Bottom-line, being a parent makes me one of the greatest influences on my children and a primary example of what it means to have character. I fall short. The burden is great. It is with this humbling reality that I continually remind myself of our overall purpose… raising great children.

Although we have a plan for raising these awesome children, the imparting of knowledge into them is only a fraction of that plan. Today, where opportunities for education abounds – public schools, private schools, charter schools, alternative schools, and even homeschools, we have chosen to homeschool. Whether we are conquering math, studying spelling or Early American History, we HomeschoolOnPurpose! For us, we simply HOP one day at a time…

What about you? When you think of greatness in your life, what do you long for?