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Brave Writer Lifestyle, Our Homeschool Week in Review series, S.T.E.A.M.

Our Homeschool Weeks in Review: January 28 – February 10

The Big, Fat Field Trip Extravaganza

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Right now, my life is consumed with highlighters, red pens, stacks of printed pages, and piles and piles of books. I am up to my eyebrows in final edits for our second grade curriculum, as well as a dozen different Book Seed issues. I love the madness of creation, and I even love the tedium of the editing process. But it’s called for a temporary shift in every other aspect of my world, including homeschooling.

I used to fret about this sort of thing, but thanks to Julie Bogart (of Brave Writer) and her ever-reassuring wisdom, I no longer do. Homeschooling is not a year-long steady pulse. It has seasons, tides, and rhythms. We are in the season of the field trip.

When half of the hours in a day (a 24-hour day, mind you) are spent bent over papers, I get a little antsy. When the time comes to “do homeschool,” I’m ready to run amuck. And so we have been. I’ve set aside a pretty hefty chunk of our regularly scheduled programming to go on almost-daily adventures instead. It’s been a big, fat field trip extravaganza, and it’s been awesome.

Studying Invertebrates at the Butterfly Pavilion

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One of our first field trips was to the Butterfly Pavilion. My parents got us a membership to it (as well as the Children’s Museum) last year and we only had about three weeks left of it. So off we went to explore the world of invertebrates. We’ve taken many, many trips to the pavilion this past year, but this trip was by far the most magical. We were fortunate enough to watch an entire slew of butterflies take their first flight, post-emergence. Brice held Rosie the tarantula (for the second time) and Blake finally mustered up enough courage to touch a beetle larvae.

On this particular trip, I really enjoyed looking at the displays of mounted invertebrates that flank one end of the museum. I’d never really taken the time to do that on past trips, but the girls were having a great time in the adjacent play area, so I had the opportunity to really explore the displays. I love mounted nature displays. Something about them is so magical to me–looking at a dozen different species of butterflies or moths or beetles right next to each other, real ones, with their names written neatly beside each one. It’s so satisfying!

Interest-Led Learning at the Children’s Museum

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Field trip number two was the Children’s Museum, our second expiring membership. It was a relatively peaceful day, with very few people there. We ended up staying until they closed. Blake spent most of her time in the little workshop they have there, building an airplane out of scrap wood. Brice danced from the woodland play area to the bubble factory to the kinetics lab, back and forth, for hours.

We really have enjoyed our year of the Children’s Museum. It’s been such a great experience to be able to come as often as we want, and not feel like we had to do everything all in one visit. They are developing a really interesting-looking outdoor play area, so I’m sure we’ll be back again this summer. I think memberships to places like this are one of the best gifts for children. This particular one has given us SO many great homeschooling days!

Exploring Ancient Life at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Research Center

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On a chilly Tuesday last week, we decided to have a “surprise adventure” day with my grandma, Gigi to my girls. A surprise adventure day is a day when we set out for a great adventure without really knowing what we’re going to do. We just sort of pick a direction and drive until inspiration or curiosity strikes. We pointed our car west and drove up to Woodland Park, where we stopped for lunch. As we ate, my grandma mentioned the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Research Center, just up the street.

Being born and raised in Colorado, and spending the majority of my adult life here, I was surprised I’d never heard of it. We eagerly agreed that this was the place to go, but I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it would be a little one-room museum with a glass case and a handful of artifacts, charming but tiny, like so many tucked-away museums are around here. I was wrong.

The RMDRC houses an impressively large collection of fossils, an interactive play area for children, hands-on discovery carts with actual fossils that children can touch and hold, a windowed lab to watch the process of uncovering and preserving the fossils, and so much more. I was stunned by the sheer volume of their collection. We were pretty much the only people there, so we got to ask the friendly guides lots and lots of questions. Blake and Brice held a real wooly mammoth tooth (and a hunk of dino poop, much to their amusement) and we learned a lot about the fossils that were found right here in our own backyard.

If you find yourself in the Colorado Springs area, I highly recommend a visit!

Digging into Geology at the Pikes Peak Rock Shop

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We’re deep into our “rocks and minerals” study with Blossom and Root First Grade, so naturally we had to stop by the Pikes Peak Rock Shop during our “surprise adventure” day. By far the coolest rock shop I’ve ever visited, Pikes Peak Rock Shop boosts ample displays of rocks, minerals, and fossils at incredibly generous prices. We loaded up on a bag full of gorgeous specimens to add to our growing collection: obsidian, desert rose selenite, ammonite, jasper, gypsum, and dozens more.

Once again, if you’re in the Colorado Springs area, definitely visit the Pikes Peak Rock Shop!

Mud Puddles and Sedimentary Rock Study at Deer Creek Canyon

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We live in an excellent area to study geology, especially sedimentary rock. With the gorgeous sandstone formations of Red Rocks, Deer Creek Canyon, the Flatirons, Roxborough, and the Garden of the Gods all within a short drive from our home, we are very fortunate to have weeks upon weeks of adventurous field trips to fill out our first grade geology unit.

Over the past two weeks, we visited both the Garden of the Gods and Deer Creek Canyon. Our Deer Creek Canyon hike was especially fun, as it was positively littered with deep, muddy puddles the whole way. The girls were hesitant at first, carefully stepping around each puddle. I laughed and asked them why they weren’t splashing in them like proper children. Their eyes lit up and then they cut loose, jumping into each puddle with joyful abandon. We came home soaked, muddy, and happy. It was a good day.

Gameschooling: The Coziest Learning There Is

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In addition to our ample adventures, we spent a lot of time gameschooling in our pajamas. Our collection of games is small in comparison to other homeschoolers, but we love the ones we have. We played phonics games and math games, Wildcraft and Bird Bingo, Sight Word Splat and French bingo. Often, when we are feeling a bit sluggish, tired, or uninspired, gameschooling is just the thing to “do homeschool” with an extra dose of coziness and fun.

Learning to Needle-Felt

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Blake has been watching me teach myself how to needle-felt for months, and finally mustered up the courage to try it herself. She started small, making a beautiful, little mitten with the help of a cookie cutter mold. The exhilaration of making her first piece lit a fire and she was eager to try something more difficult. I had made a felted doll to celebrate St. Brigid’s Day / Imbolc and she wanted to try her hand at making one, too.

This project required quite a bit of assistance, as a doll is far more complicated (and stabby) than a mitten made from a cookie cutter. But Blake was in “the zone.” She worked on that doll for the good part of an entire day, not even remembering to ask for a snack five times in four hours, like she usually does. She was so proud of her finished doll! This is the first handwork project she’s really been excited about.

Getting to Know Charles Darwin with Blossom and Root Book Seeds

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We kicked off our Book Seed issue on Charles Darwin with two fun activities. The first was meant to be a demonstration on natural selection, done with jelly beans. I couldn’t find proper jelly beans, only the Starburst kind, so I substituted with a mix of sour Jelly Bellies for the “desirable beetles” and Good & Plenty for the “disgusting beetles.” Unfortunately, my youngest seems to have inherited my love of licorice flavored things (who knew), which kind of skewed the experiment. I tried to save the lesson by saying that some birds preferred the taste of one kind of beetle, while others preferred the sour beetles. In any case, we had fun.

The second activity addressed the various types of bird beaks, and how each beak is adapted to certain foods. This one was far more successful, and we learned a lot together. I’m looking forward to doing the other activities from the Book Seed issue throughout the next month.

Implementing The Brave Learner with My First Grader

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One of the best parts of the last few weeks has been reading The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart’s new book. I’ll be posting a full review of this excellent guide soon, but it has already had a dramatic impact on our homeschool.

Blake’s been doing just fine in math using our Singapore curriculum. But…she’s bored. Math isn’t lighting any fires for her. I understand that sometimes that’s just the way it is when we’re homeschooling, and it’s not exactly bad. It’s just that I want math to mean more to her. I want her to see that it applies to the things she’s excited about, not just to our Singapore workbook. The Brave Learner was really speaking to me about the continents of learning, so I decided to try this a little with math.

In place of Singapore, I pulled out our storytelling basket and a box of Blake’s toy horses. You see, Blake is positively horse crazy, like so many girls her age can be. It’s all she thinks about. When I pulled out her horses, she said, “I thought we were doing math.” I told her we were, then I spread out a large “pasture” of green handkerchiefs and told her that today, she was a horse rancher. I asked her to set all of her horses out in the pasture, which she did eagerly. We spent almost an hour playing “ranch.” I sneakily added math in, asking her to divide barrels of apples amongst her horse equally, or to figure out how to split the horses into four grazing meadows.

I foresee a lot of “horse math” in our future. 🙂

We also continued our playful, artful exploration of shapes with hexagons. We made honeycombs, played with tangram blocks, and constructed tiny bees from modeling beeswax.

Fun with Blossom and Root Early Years Vol. 2

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Brice has been pretty much into math and math alone for the past several weeks. I’ve indulged her, setting up stations inspired by Blossom and Root Early Years Vol. 2 every morning. Her current favorites include playing with tangram blocks, clipping out quantities of clothespins to match the numbers on playing cards, placing the correct wooden numbers next to piles of buttons, and making numerals out of play dough.

She’s also enjoying writing her name in paint on a cookie tray. 🙂

Snowy Day Play

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We haven’t had as much snow the past few weeks, but when we get it, we take advantage of it. We had one beautiful, snowy Monday morning where the girls spent hours playing in the front yard. Of course, we warmed up with hot cocoa and poetry teatime when they were finished. It would have been a perfect day, had the afternoon not gone so wrong.

My husband came home early in the afternoon and wanted in on the snow fun, so the girls geared up all over again to head out with him and our dog Ringo. Ringo loves snow more than any dog I’ve ever known, and he loses his mind a little in his euphoria. Running through the fluffy drifts, he managed to collide with a parking sign. It was so sad! We thought he’d broken something, but he had only bruised his little arm.

Just as we recovered from the stress of his injury, Brice tripped and fell right into the glass cover of the fireplace–the one that had been burning all day long–and burned her forearm. Needless to say, it was a stressful evening. She recovered very quickly, but we were a bit shaken for the rest of the evening.

Overall, it was a great two weeks. It’s funny–I didn’t feel like we’d done much for homeschool, and was feeling a bit anxious about it. But when I looked back while writing this, I see how wrong I was. We did SO much, we just didn’t do it sitting down at a table. 🙂

Resources We Used This Week:

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