mama scout lab e-course

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

old me, new me (best mom gift ever)

This is the picture my brother and I made for my mom for Christmas. I think she really liked it. I know I would. We were inspired by this site and this one. The details are what make it. I should have worn a blue hoodie - but I was thinking dark would do it. Getting the space in between us along with my hand on his shoulder was impossible because he is not a little boy anymore. If I could have gotten it you would have seen my ring and bandaid.

Monday, January 30, 2012

make a world in a pop bottle

My learning co op made these super cool ecosystems last week. There are many versions all over the web, but I think I simplified it. 

What you need:
2 pop bottles
duct tape
garden soil and tiny plants/weeds
pond water/with some little creatures and plants
little piece of material
rubber band

Basically, you cut the top off one pop bottle and invert another pop bottle into it. You will also have to cut the bottom off the inverted bottle to put in the dirt. Then you duct tape (the duct tape allows you to reopen your ecosystem easily in case you need to make changes) it all back together. That is it! Simple.

In the bottom, we put pond water, minnows, water bugs, water plants, a ghost shrimp and some snails. The snails and shrimp will keep the water clean, the plants will provide oxygen and a bit of food (along with micro-organisms) to the fish. We put enough water to barely touch the spout of the inverted bottle.

The top layer is the earth. We used some very open weave fabric rubber banded at the spout (think tulle, cheese cloth, panty hose - what ever you have around). Then a few handfuls of gravel and some rich garden dirt. We added a few weeds, some moss, pill bugs, a worm, a piece of rotting wood and a little layer of leaves. 

We used a piece of cotton string to hang from the dirt into the water. I am not so sure if is is necessary - but I guess the idea is that it aids in the transfer of water and micro-nurtients. 

Ours has been going strong for a over a week, complete with condensation and rain, and new things growing and moving. 

We were originally inspired by this post and several others on the web. 

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

rendevouz time travel

Each year we attend the Alafia River Rendevouz, which is a historical re-enactment camp in central Florida. The participants spend a week together sharing skills and culture from the early 1800's meetups that brought Native Americans, fur traders, merchants and frontiersman together. The last few days are public days and it is as close to time travel as you can get. Luckily, this year we attended on a field trip day, so the crowd was light and was made up of primarily home schooled and a few private schooled kids. 

Before filling up on homemade root beer we talked to several re-enactors who taught us new skills. Like how to haul water with a yoke, how to brain tan leather and how to spin and dye yarn. 

We also learned some Indian sign language and drumming. 

We experienced how loud musket guns are. 

But most of all, after a full day, we came home excited and inspired by all we had seen and done. My daughter is really into chewing on licorice root. One son is thinking about getting a throwing tomahawk, while the other one is practicing his sling shot aim. And this mama has been constantly practicing her flint and steel fire starting skills (no such luck yet - but I am close).

These historical re-enactments fuel creative play (that is basically what is is for the adult participants) for my kids in such huge ways I tend to think of them as a big component of our life schooling "curriculum." 

We also attend a local Medieval festival and loved both Jamestown and Williamsburg in the last few years. And I can not wait to take them to the Tenement Museum in New York.

What about you? Are you a fan of historical re-enactments? Are there some that are not to be missed near you? Please share!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Surprise! My kids made me waffles!

My husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary with a surprise breakfast made entirely by our kids.

The banging and shouting woke us up and as soon as we started downtairs my daughter, who was in charge of the caper yelled, "DON'T COME DOWN!!!!!" GO BAAAAACK!!!

So, I took a bath and finished The Kitchen House and then came down to a set table complete with candles (!), OJ with Perrier (kid mimosas) and the best waffles ever.

My middle son gifted me with dozens of documentary photos of the process. I loved looking through them later and tried not to say anything about the counter sitting or white chocolate chip snacking or mess. In fact, it was the one mess I have cleaned up that had me smiling the whole time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

let's be friends

an unrelated and sorta creepy photograph

I love connecting with people and sharing resources on Facebook.  I feel like I get at least 3 great ideas a day from FB.

If you want to hook up - you can just like me here. I send out blog updates and links to other great blog posts and resources. Some great stuff gets shared there that never makes it on my blog.

Also, I am pretty active on Pinterest. You can follow me here. I will follow you back - and we can fill our boards with fabulous inspiration!

So, give me your links so I can keep up with all your greatness too!

black violin

We just went to see Black Violin in concert and loved it. If you are looking for some upbeat, classical, hip hop, dance music - they got it.

One of the best parts of our daytime show was the message they delivered to the kids. First, they encouraged everyone to always think outside the box and not to blindly follow their friends. Good advice. And secondly, a point which I truly believe and preach, is that in order to succeed you have to work harder than everyone else. Talent is not the key - perseverance and hard work are. It is like the 10,000 rule. If you do it right, the hard work will be fun and fill your life with passion.


Friday, January 20, 2012

this moment:: leaving

image from the week. no words. via soulemama.

make your own lego kit

My five year old son came up with the best project, I had to share it. He decided to make his own Lego kit. He designed the model and drew the schematics. And then I was asked to complete it (which was a little harder than you might think).

Wouldn't it be fun to expand this activity to include the whole family? Each person who was into it could make their own kit, and then trade them around and see who could complete the project? This project works as well for pre-writers as it does for more fluent writers.

Have your Lego loving kids done something like this?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

let's science some pond water

We have recently spent hours upon hours looking at water underneath a microscope. We might need to get another one because we are all fighting and jostling to see each new creature. We have found amoeba, diatoms (little glass houses) and whirling spheres of some sort of algae that rush out of the viewing field as soon as they are spotted.

We have this microscope and have been very pleased with it. It allows you to light items from above as well as below. So you can look at slides as well as more three dimensional objects like leaves or cloth.

I remember the highlight of college biology (and maybe of all my first few years of college) was finding and watching an amoeba in a microscope. It was a little mind blowing to see this very tiny life force just doing its thing. Makes you wonder about all the unseen universes existing around (and on) you. I think if I had been given a more inspiring science education in school I might have pursued it. Unfortunately, I hated science. It brought up so many questions that my teachers refused to answer.  For my kids, it has always been their favorite subject to study. And why wouldn't it be? The study of science helps kids understand the world they live in, which is something I believe all kids are driven to do. They even use the word "science" as a verb, meaning to explore and think deeply about something. The will say, "let's science that mushroom/flower/machine..."

Do you look under the microscope much? Ever surprised at what you see?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

think inside the box: paint a horse

In the town where I live, there is a studio where you can paint a predetermined picture with a group of people, all while being led step by step by a teacher. In my open ended, exploratory, process oriented mind this does not sound fun. But, my mom was interested and so I decided to go with her and some other family members. 

Surprise! It was great and so much more enjoyable and interesting than I imagined! My mind was able to relax and completely focus on color, line and texture (as opposed to laundry and parenting). I left feeling refreshed, energized and getting as close to flow as I have in a while.

I often think about breaking rules, challenging assumptions and questioning paradigms of mainstream culture. I love rabble-rousers and extreme originality. This did not seem like the place to cultivate those ideals. But then again, the owner of the studio has some of those exact qualities I admire. So, even though we were all crowded in, painting the same horse, we were each able to connect with some good energy and access some new creative insights.

I have to remember that sometimes you can be creatively inspired by thinking inside the box, conforming to some rules and guidelines, and following. It was a good lesson for me.

What about you? Have you taken a class like this? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

exploration lab:: fizz and color

In exploration lab posts, I plan to share open ended activities that are suited for older children. I see so many great sensory experiences for younger kids all over the web (and many I remember doing with my kids when they were little). I want to highlight the ones that work with older kids too. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes you can add a little something extra because the kids are older. 

A classic is vinegar and baking soda. My kids have loved this lab since they were really young. We love using muffin tins and baking sheets to pile on the baking soda. Droppers, syringes and straws are great for controlling the amount of vinegar.  We like to color the vinegar and mix colors. Also, we add lots of glitter, colored sand, flowers, plastic animals and by the end, our hands to really feel the fizzing power. 

This is not a science lesson. The material are simply provided and the experiments change each time. If your kids want to know the WHY, you can read here.

Do you play with vinegar and baking soda? Any new ideas that your explorations have led you to?

Monday, January 9, 2012

tent camping

A beautiful weekend in the woods. I took no pictures except for these few in the very last hour.

That was on purpose.

But, if I had I would have shared images of:
deer and eagles,
fires and wool blankets,
champagne and burnt marshmallows,
historical "crackers" snapping whips at scrub cows,
endless mock battles and impromptu plays by the fireside.

Sometimes it is better to experience it all without trying to capture it.

I hope your weekend was as good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

take your kids to a protest

I believe that part of the job of adults (parents, teachers, leaders) is to show children how to effectively and lawfully exercise their voices in a democracy. Some ways our family has done this is by taking our kids with us when we vote (and talking about the candidates and procedures) and writing lots of letters to companies that have let us down or city commissioners that are making decisions that effect us.

More recently, we have taken to the streets. 

When I received a call from PETA telling me there was a protest opportunity outside the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, I mentioned it to my daughter and asked if she was interested in attending. "Of course!" she exclaimed without missing a beat. And so, our family was sucked into the vortex of a new project (this happens all the time with interest led learning). 

We spent the next day talking about the issue of wild animals in entertainment, organizing a transportation schedule, and creating signs. Excitement was high and the next morning when the temperature dipped to freezing, I thought my Florida kids would balk at standing in the cold. But no, they were still ready, so we loaded up two parents, one grandparent and three eager kids. 

With a few dozens other folks, they stood holding their signs and received an overwhelmingly positive response from cars honking and giving the thumbs up sign. While some people might be apathetic, I can not think of anyone who really supports the treatment that elephants receive in order to make them perform in the circus. The other protesters and reporters were very generous with their interest and compliments of the kids. The whole day was a success and they returned home feeling really satisfied. 

Our family has strongly opposed using wild animals in entertainment since our Roots and Shoots group visited the Center for Great Apes (a retirement facility for chimps and orangutans from circuses and the movie industry). Kids are sensitive to many oppressed beings and if they had any clue as to what really happens in order to make that elephant sit on a stool or a chimp "play" a violin, they could not be dragged into the circus. It is not entertaining and we as humans should be so much better than this.

But please don't believe me. Research it for yourself. After I did, I quickly decided that I am not willing to pay money to ensure that baby elephants are separated from their mothers, beaten and psychologically broken so I can see them do inane tricks. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


"No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary."
Annie Dillard


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