Posts Tagged ‘field trip’

American History Ends!

May 14, 2012

Yes, the Mayans were right!  2012!!  THE END!  American History was the topic this past year for my homeschool class of high schoolers… and it ends day after tomorrow.  We started in 1440 (Go ahead and guess why we started there!) and ended in the 1970s.  I told the kids if they want to find out what has happened in the last 42 years, they are on their own!  The Vietnam War ended and we were done.  Kaput.  Finis. 

We did add a bit of culture and art to the study to keep it interesting (for me!) and we debunked several idols from these youngsters’ minds.  “Like what?”  you ask.  Well, it seems of few of them were drawn to the hippies…. the Jesus people… the Kennedy’s… the Beatles… all for glamorous reasons.  Then we studied some of their lifestyles, choices, outcomes and habits.  Not too glamorous after all.  Perfect!  That is why we homeschool!  To look at REAL history.

Another homeschool mom (who might just be crazier than me!) and I sat together today and did some planning for next school year… which we decided will start two weeks after all the public schools here in Arizona.  Because we can!  Yet another reason to homeschool!  We were at an Abeka display/sale in a nearby hotel.  If you don’t know anything about Abeka, it is a Christian based curriculum that is EXTREMELY thorough… so thorough that it actually contains TOO much school work for the average kid to endure.  It is great, in my humble opinion, as a “pick one topic each year” curriculum.  So we used it for American History and I loved it.  Next year we are using it for spelling and vocabulary.

Anyway, back to the two of us rockin’ cool moms sitting at the table amongst sold-out Abeka moms. We had another curriculum opened that teaches Godly character… and we were talking through a list of national parks that we hope to visit this coming school year.  We were discussing weather and what time of year would be best for us to go to each one.  She was explaining, and I was listening, all the science teaching that can be coordinated with the findings at each park.  We were planning our weeks of study at home… and our week at each park.  Eventually we noticed that the workbook moms sitting around us were all staring lustfully at our plans.  One finally blurted out, “I want to school with you two!”  hahahaha…. why do you think we do this?  We don’t want to be bored!  We don’t want to use ONLY books!  We don’t want to wear out the kitchen table!  We want to live learning!  I wanted to scream “Abeka is boring!  Look out the window at what God made for you to enjoy!”  But I didn’t.  The salesman was quite an impressive figure and I wasn’t sure I could take him, if need be.  The looks in their eyes solidified WHY we do what we do!  My friend whispered to me, “I think they just do school at home,” implying that they aren’t truly “homeschooling.”

We want our kids to love learning, to see creation as an organized and amazingly ordered system that WORKS, to appreciate great men and women who have endured and suffered and succeeded and lost and lived out their beliefs. But most importantly, we want them to know God.  To love God.  To serve others.  To use their individual talents for the kingdom.  THAT is why we do what we do!

Beachcombers R Us

April 26, 2012

We spent last week at Monterey, California and God blessed us with unbelievable weather for April on the coast!  Sunny and gorgeous!  My friend, Connie, got our whole family hooked on searching for sea glass…. I’m not quite sure why it is so addicting.  Possibly because it is FREE and the colors of glass are so amazing.  We found this little cove, after much climbing and crawling over large rocks, where the waves were bringing new pieces of glass with each crash and roll.  After my entire tennis shoe went under the water, in pursuit of a huge green treasure, even I joined the freezing barefoot ranks and took the plunge.  Usually I prefer to view the water, not feel the water.

The majority of our discoveries were green and brown….. 7-Up and beer bottles in past lives.  But we did find some rare gems in PINK!, red, yellow, white and royal blue.  My 15-year-old son saw a shining royal blue bottle in a thrift store and asked if we could buy it and throw it in the ocean…. for our next visit in three months!  GREAT idea!

What do we do with the sea litter, you ask?  There are mini jars at the beach house that have sorted-by-color sea glass…. so I added my finds to that happy color display.  For homeschooling we count this as math…. sorting.  :o)  It could also be categorized as history, science and social studies.  Whatever we call it, it was the BEST kind of schooling, in my humble opinion.  The rest of the family brought home their glass pieces …. I’m not sure why.  Possibly because they were FREE and the colors of glass are so amazing!

And no, we didn’t color coordinate our clothes with the ocean… it simply worked out that way.  It was a matchy-matchy sort of day all the way around.

Arizona History has Ended. Period.

May 20, 2011

This week brought the close of my Arizona History class …. I’m happy and sad.  Teaching this class was the most fun of all the classes I’ve ever taught.  Let’s face it, Arizona History is a small blip on any timeline of history… we’re not even 100 years old until next Valentine’s Day!  So I was forced into my creative mode to keep these high schoolers learning!  We only had 18 classes and four of those were field trip days!  That is my kind of learning!

On Monday I finished writing the final exam and on Tuesday I packed all of my resources into a box… headed for the garage.  Yesterday was the last class and today I sat down and made a note to myself of all the things I need to fix and change when I teach it again in four years. Wondering all the while, why am I such a history-loving nerd???

This is a huge relief to not have any student papers sitting on my desk, staring at me, whilst awaiting grades.  I know how important it is for students to learn how to research and write a report, but by golly, I hate marking them!  It doesn’t even take that long, but I have a pre-report-grading phobia that causes me to procrastinate like my own high school days of old.

History is always more interesting when you can dig up the funny pictures and weird facts.  Here are just a few for your own Arizona-History-loving-heart: We studied two very influential men to Arizona… each one only had one arm.  Seriously, what other state can boast about that??  And where else can you find small towns with names like Bisbee, Bumble Bee, Globe, Tombstone, and Strawberry?  I know I’m probably underwhelming you, so I’ll end with my favorite picture… of my favorite General from the Civil War…. Gen. George Crook.  Imagine how seriously you would be taken sporting a beard like this?!?

BAM!  Believe it!

Most Talented Mother of the Year!

January 10, 2011

The City of Phoenix gives out cultural passes at the libraries so uncultured people can go to museums and attractions for free.  They are trying to upgrade the average Phoenician’s cultural experience.  And it’s working.  At least in this house.  “If it’s free, it’s for me!” is a famous quote from my sister…. and I borrow it on occasion.  When the homeschooling bus hits a bump in the road, we go on field trips. It’s a no-brainer…. get out of the house… pronto!  The get out of jail free passes are so handy!

Last Spring, when Spring fever was burning our house down, I gathered passes to the Natural History Museum and the Children’s Museum in Mesa, Arizona.  My then-16 year old daughter was NOT interested, so we kidnapped a fellow 12-year-old friend and ventured off for a day of cultural learning.  I was quite astounded when my then 13 and 11-year-old sons believed me when I told them that they were to assemble ALL of the mammoth sized wooden floor puzzles of dinosaurs in the museum.  They did it.  And I didn’t laugh out loud once.  Then they panned for fake gold for 45 minutes in the hot sun.  If wonders never cease.  They were probably thinking that if they didn’t use up their time, I would drive them back home to their math books.

We exited the Natural History Museum and discovered a gigantic music shop across the parking lot.  It was enormous and contained every musical instrument known to me… and a few more!  Hundreds of horns, drums and guitars in all shapes and colors.  The boys wandered in awe claiming which ones they would buy!  At one point I heard a banjo call my name.  It was just sitting there tempting me like a piece of white chocolate with almonds… I had to touch it and taste its goodness.  The store was pretty noisy, so I figured I could get away with a bit of pickin’ and grinnin’.  I know just enough about stringed instruments to stay in one key…. and then it happened…. my unknown inner-banjo talent played like hot grease on a skillet.  I laugh just thinking about it.  I picked as fast as I could and all three boys turned to face me in absolute amazement… jaws all hanging slack.  “I didn’t know your mom could play the banjo!” our guest spit out.  Without taking their eyes off of me and my banjo, both my boys responded, “I didn’t either!”  It was priceless.  I didn’t know I could play the banjo either.  Well, I really can’t.  But I am a supreme faker.

My boys are writing a book called “The 100 Funniest Things” and my banjo playing made the list!  (Right next to the dog eating a pancake off my son’s head……. don’t ask.)

Taliesin West

March 13, 2010

This is the studio/school/home of Frank Lloyd Wright in Scottsdale, Arizona.  It is so beautiful out there!  Enjoy!

Quad Sandwiches, Fake Gold and Haircuts

March 11, 2010

The boys made their own lunches today for field trip day #3 this week.  I’ve never seen a quadruple turkey sandwich before.  Austin could open his mouth wide enough too.  I also didn’t realize that his hair is very Star Trekish.  Every blinkin’ person in this house needs a haircut.  Larisa and I go tomorrow…. the next time I catch the boys it will be their turn…. and Rick is bordering on a mullet.  SCARY!

We went to the AZ Natural History Museum today and can I just say that I was totally taken by surprise that my 13 and 11 year old boys panned for fake gold for an hour.  If wonders never cease.  And they knew it was fake!  Amazing.  I just never know what to expect.  On the way home we stopped at Toys R Us and the very same 13 year old bought a Lego toy…..  see why I’m confused here?  THIRTEEN!

A Photo Tribute to the Cave Creek Museum

March 7, 2010

High schoolers in Arizona need one semester of Arizona History on their transcripts.  I have been perusing AZ HIST curriculum for a time and what I have found is somewhat lacking…. ok, downright boring.  I realize the history of the Baby State is not that in-depth like, say Mass. or Virginia, but come on, there were people with the pioneer spirit here back in the day that are worth “meeting”.  I mean really!  Who in their right mind would sit in a covered wagon for months all across the plains and then decide that Arizona is worth settling?  This was before air conditioning!  My keen sense of intrigue was piqued, to say the least.  And, being the quality-curriculum-loving-homeschooling mom that I am, I decided to write my own curriculum for my kids (and interested others) for their required AZ HIST credit.  SOOOOOOOOOOO, I’ve been reading old, smelly books and looking at ancient maps and reading some more.  I decided a trip to the Cave Creek Museum was indeed mandatory last week for my boys and I.  I suspected their interest level might wane, so I assigned Chief Fieldtrip Photographer duties to my sons to keep their senses heightened.  With that, may I present to you, my faithful readers, a photo tribute to the not-highly-exciting Cave Creek Museum.

The first photo above is the back of my head walking into the museum.  See what I’m dealing with here?  Albeit, this was the view they witnessed most of the time in the museum.  This wasn’t one of those attractions that had them running ahead of their teacher/mother. I was thankful it was just the back of my head and not my backside.  I’ve trained them well.

Next we have a miner.  He is sitting in front of a reconstructed mine with real-life water running out of his pipe so he can pan for gold right in the museum. He also has ALL of his mining tools displayed at his feet, including, but not limited to his 5 foot long contraption to catch rattle snakes.  But you’ll just have to imagine all that good stuff.

Here is the aforementioned rattlesnake.  It is fictious and behind safety glass, so don’t worry.  Notice the little vertical stick by the tail.  As Keeve and I were admiring the lame plastic snake the tail rattled loudly and scared the beejeebeez out of us.  Austin had located the little step-on button while we were mesmerized by the snake.  The boys found this HILARIOUS!

This is how you know it is the mining exhibit….. MINING. In case you couldn’t figure it out from the miner, the mine, the gold panning equipment, the faux river, etc.

There was a lovely pioneer kitchen display with all the kitchen tools of old, pots and pans, washboards, large wash barrels, etc……. and a tin of Ritz crackers on the shelf that captured my son’s interest.  It was the only thing in the entire kitchen exhibit that was captured on Kodak.

Next we have something that said Enterprise on it.  I don’t remember seeing this.  However, there were several items that I didn’t exactly take the time to read thoroughly.  I’m aware that the only reason this was photographed is because of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. 

Here is a man……….. holding plans for something………… and pointing?  This was also a discovery that I missed in the museum.

Here is the lone picture that I took.  It’s my boys sitting calmly in the bandshell.  That was a new vocabulary word for me.  But it is now in my memory banks and I look forward to an opportunity when I can use it in the correct context.

There were other pictures that didn’t make the blog photo tribute to Cave Creek Museum.  Believe me when I say they were even less interesting than these.  Thanks for taking this stroll down Arizona’s history with us.  Please stay tuned for more titillating blogs on other museums I drag my children through.  Next week we are off to the AZ Museum of Natural History!  Dinosaurs in Arizona!  How exciting!  (Eye rolls from my children are predicted.)

Fall is Here – Part 1

October 30, 2009

Apple Harvest

Sign of Fall: The apples have been harvested.  Somewhere.  Not at our house, but I did reap the benefits of someone harvesting apples somewhere.  They were on sale at Fry’s for 99 cents a 3 lb. bag.  How can you resist that?  I don’t know either.  I got four bags.  And since I’ve been consumed with reading Amish stories lately I had visions of apple butter, dried apple leather and apple pie and the such.  Jah!  Late last night, I dug through the crock pot cookbook and found plenty of Amish-like apple recipes.   I chose Spicy Chunky Apple Sauce… and it simmered all night long.  I looked forward to waking up just to smell the spicy goodness.  A big glop was added to my morning oatmeal (as well as a spoonful of flax seeds left over from Terry’s waffles) and it was scrumptious.  Made me feel domestic too.

I wish I had the little gizmo I’ve seen on tv that swiftly and effortlessly turns dough and apples into baked little half-moon pies.  Or am I thinking of he PB&J sandwich maker?  Anyway,  some dough is needed or crumble crust for the next step in this apple extravaganza going on here currently.

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One Fall we took the kids up to Sedona and Slide Rock State Park.  Where the park is today used to be an apple orchard complete with a huge old barn were they processed the apples.  I remember the kids being surprised that they could just pick apples from the trees and eat them… bypassing the migrant workers, packers, truck drivers, food handlers, grocers and Mom.  It was comical. 

DAR Sedona 9 2008 030

Anyway, enjoy the bounty of the gardens and orchards this Fall!

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned…

September 25, 2008

in the fiber weaving store on a field trip.  Yes, we are still studying sheep and today’s journey led us to a spinning lady way across town.  I figured the boys would be bored stiff, but I was looking forward to learning how this ancient craft is done.  I’m prone to try any new fangled craft set before me, so now I’m itching to get my eBay fleece in the mail.  The window to the wool spinning world was opened to me this afternoon…. and never shall I be the same again.

So here’s what I learned today from the weavers and spinners:

1.  KoolAid can dye wool and it contains the same poisonous dye that is in RIT clothing dyes. Scary.  (I did comment to the spinner at that point that it is similar to eating Saran Wrap… you have to eat twenty-four boxes to have traces of cancer.)

2.  If everyone in the world would learn to spin and participated in spinning for ten minutes a day, there would be no wars.  (Gandhi taught all his followers to spin…..  on the flip side, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”   hhhmmmmmm.)

3.  Bright HOT pink bougainvillea when boiled, dyes white wool yellow.  Go figure.  Here is bougainvillea, for those unfamiliar with this gorgeous flowering desert vine.  (And that’s my first published book too…. please go read excerpts and order one at

3.  You do not eat with a Navajo fork.  It is strictly used to bat down the hills of wool in the loom.

4.  A Hip Spindle is not a dance, however my husband has a few un-named moves that this could apply to.  Here is a hip spindle.

There were several other techniques and truths learned, but I’ll spare you just now.  I will for surely blog about my fleece’s bath, dye, carding and spinning as the action unfolds.

A Baaa-aaa-aaaad Field Trip

September 24, 2008

That was Baaa-aaa-aaad in the cool sense of the word.  We are studying sheep with the boys right now and ventured to a sheep farm 45 minutes from our home.  There were about 100 sheep on the farm and they are hair sheep, not wool sheep.  They shed and don’t need to be sheered.  A few of them were cross-bred with wool sheep, so they look fluffy.  But the wool falls out like the hair.  They looked like goats to me, but I’m a citified girl for sure.  These sheep are raised for their meat and the ones at this farm are for training sheep dogs.

When we arrived there were several large fields with sheep dogs being trained and little groups of sheep running in circles.  Reminded me of the boys’ first years of hockey.  We got to hold sheep and feel the difference between hair and wool.  We learned all about the four stomachs and how the sheep are called different names after surgery.  (eeeweee)  The grand finale of the day was when the 12 kids were put in the huge field to do the job of a sheep dog and herd the sheep into a small pen in the center.

It was highly entertaining.  It was obvious which kids have played defence in some sport.  The kids lined up and got the sheep moving in the right directions, but at the last moment the sheep passed the pen and went back to a safe corner of the field.  Back to the drawing board.  Much discussion was had and lines were formed again.  They did get the sheep in on the second attempt… after only 10 minutes.  The lady at the farm told us that a group of adults from American Express were doing the same thing for a team building experience.  It took them 45 minutes to get the sheep in the pen.  Figures.  Adults all have their own hair-brained ideas of how everything should go.  They probably needed to shed a bit of the wool over their eyes.  Puns fully intended.

There were also five month old sheep dogs pups that needed to be socialized.  It was providential that we had 12 homeschool kids that also needed to be socialized.  :o) 

We were invited back in the spring when the lambs are born!  Yippy Skippy.