Wednesday, January 31

Wooly Bully (Sam the Sham)

Not exactly a ZOO study, but we got to take a field trip to Just Right Alpacas, on a very cold day!  The owners, John & Janice Robinson, are just the nicest people you'll ever meet.  They taught us all about their alpacas, including how they got into alpaca farming, all about the animals, and how the fibers are harvested and used.

Alpacas are :
  • green & sustainable
  • herd livestock
  • very easy to care for, with minimal shelter
  • thrive on a few acres
  • produce organic fertilizer
  • produce soft, versatile fibers
  • are naturally hypoallergenic
Be sure to check out our other Zoo Studies!

While we were there, the kids got to take a hayride and ride on a horse.  For some of them, it was the first time they'd ever ridden!
At the end of the day, the kids got to make wool dryer balls out of alpaca fibers and old pantyhose.  It was a neat, easy craft, and we're still using them in the dryer today!

Want to know more about these cool creatures? Here are a few pieces of information we’ve learned:
  • An alpaca is a camelid. Other camelids include camels, llamas, vicuñas and guanacos.
  • Alpacas are native to South America, especially Peru.
  • There are two types of alpacas: Suri and Huacaya. Gia and all the animals we work with are  Huacaya. Suris have a different texture of fiber – almost like dreadlocks.
  • Alpacas are herd animals, so you really can’t and shouldn’t keep just one. But you can raise as many as five on a single acre. Interestingly, many alpacas develop particular “friendships” and will make noise if they’re separated from their friend.
  • An adult alpaca might weigh between about 120 and 200 pounds. Bigger than 200 is Alpaca Diet Time!
  • Alpacas eat primarily grass and hay, and in fact, some of the ones from our local farms are used by a nearby farm market in their solar panel field as “grass-mowers!” 
  • An alpaca is like a cow in that it has a multi-chambered stomach and chews a cud. This helps it get the most nutrition possible even when the foliage they’re eating isn’t particularly great.
Resources :

Monday, January 29

Under the Weather (KT Tunstall)

It's hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, we were hanging out on a sunny, warm beach, soaking up the atmosphere....  The gorgeous days were outweighed only by the peaceful, mild nights.

These days, we're battling the roller coaster of an Oklahoma winter, with seventies on one day and snow the next.  It's a different kind of gorgeous, and we've been enjoying running through the freshly fallen snow singing Walking In a Winter Wonderland, followed by a perfect cup of hot chocolate.

We've been using the weather to our advantage for school as well.  For art class, we took the Christmas candies that were leftover and began making sculptures, like this sleigh!



As part of the knot-tying exercises for Boy Scouts, we built a rope bridge in the back yard.  It only spans the creek, but it's just as thrilling to cross!

There's nothing better than getting out as a family and mussing up all that new snow.  We enjoyed a very long (and somewhat vicious toward the end!!!) snowball fight with the boys, and then traipsed around the acreage, enjoying the beauty that God had laid out before us.  Tomorrow it will probably be in the sixties again, but today we will enjoy snow...

Monday, January 22

Strange Attraction (Cure)

If you do any amount of travelling, then you know how important an accurate map and compass are.  This week, we studied the history and applications of magnetism to maps & globes...including latitudes / longitudes and a funny Cub Scout movie about reading a compass.

We started out with a lapbook on the basics of maps and globes.  This was a great opportunity to continue working on continents and oceans with the youngest.  My oldest fashioned his own globe out of a styrofoam ball that we found laying around and two toothpicks.
We read the Magic School Bus : Amazing Magnetism and completed an accompanying unit (free!).  The boys built their own compass using the same methods from as Miss Frizzle.  We also used the Young Scientist Series : Magnetism kit.
For our field trip, we took a trip to the zoo to test our map skills.  Not once (including this trip) have we visited the zoo without getting lost!  While we were there, we stopped in to see the baby rhino that was just born.  (Everybody say "awwwwwww.")
We learned about how magnetism helps animals, such as butterflies, with their migratory paths.  And we finally got to see the chameleon at the herpetology house.  While in the herpetology house, we brushed up on our knowledge of local (and venomous) snakes.
The front of the zoo has an enormous world map.  The boys were challenged to find someplace they had recently visited, and go stand on it.  One is at the Great Lakes, while the other is by New York City.
We enjoyed a nice little hike as we attempted to find our way out of the maze that they call the zoo....it's always an adventure!
We walked next door to the Science Museum to take this adventure into cooler, and less humid, temperatures.  At the entrance, we found an extra-large globe, and enjoyed pointing out where different family members live.  See the world's largest globe in Maine!
We talked about different types of maps, as well.  Here is a cute map of the solar system and an astronomical chart of the stars during different seasons.
In the hands-on section, we learned about magnetic fields, how magnetism and electricity are related, and how magnetism affects gravitational pull.
We have been studying Leonardo da Vinci for history, and reading the Magic Treehouse : Monday with a Mad Genius .  In the book (spoiler alert), Leonardo's secret to happiness is his perpetual curiosity.  As we had just completed the book, I found this wall mural to be relevant and fascinating.
Back at home, we created maps of the zoo and learned about animal classification.  There were some great sections in the animal classification unit about how the earth's magnetic pull affects different animals.  It was a nice, albeit unintentional, segue.
My youngest took this photo.  He says that I never put pictures of myself on the blog posts.  I told him that it was because I took most of the pictures, so he decided to put his own artwork online today.  In my defense, it was very hot and humid!!

Tuesday, January 16

Debunking Myths About Latin...

You’ve gotten the hang of this homeschooling thing…and then, you enter the high school years.  One of the changes is the addition of foreign language.  About half of families begin foreign language in the elementary years, while the other half wait until high school.  If you’re trying to decide which language to select, may I make the case for Latin?

Let’s look at some common misconceptions about Latin…
  • It isn’t practical.
I really have to laugh at this one!  Have you been to a doctor recently?  How about a lawyer?  Read any higher-level books recently?  Been to a church?  If you’ve done any of the three, then you’ve already been encountering Latin in daily use.  Maybe your student is interested in other Romance languages, but can’t decide which to choose…Latin is the foundation for Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Romansh.  Learn the one, and they’ll have a leg up on several.  

But maybe your student is just a struggling learner who has difficulty making sense of the English language.  Why on earth would you want to try and teach them another one?  (I had the same question with my struggling learner, with some amazing results.)  By getting that good foundation with words that they don’t know – thus having to really put the effort into paying attention – your student will come away with a better grasp of the English language and how it works.  They may not master the language, but you will see results in their English reading and writing abilities.
  • You should have begun teaching prior to high school.
While it’s true that exposing a child to a foreign language early on can be very beneficial for fluency, it isn’t really necessary with Latin.  Many families start in middle school – and that is when we began, as it helps to provide a strong grammar and language mechanics foundation.  Even if you wait until high school to begin, that same foundation is going to bolster ACT and SAT scores.  By then, too, your student’s brain will have developed enough to be ready for some of the more advanced reasoning skills needed for true success.  Don’t sweat it – start in ninth grade and put in the required two years…or three or four, for brownie points!
  • It’s only for the ‘smart kids.’
Are we really going to go down that road?  I like to tell my kids that “it’s only easy if you know it,” and Latin is no exception.  All learning requires determination, but if you’re interested in learning something, you’ll make the effort.  I would argue that Latin can be a big boon to the below-average student, particularly those struggling with language arts, as it will help to provide a stronger grammar and language usage foundation than the typical English class.  Maybe it’s not the ‘smart kids’ that make up a Latin class….maybe it’s the class that turns them into the ‘smart(er) kids.’
  • It’s a dead language.
Well…not in this house.  We actually have a book called How to Insult, Abuse, and Insinuate in Classical Latin.  I kid you not…it is the most popular book in our car (that would be – books that stay in the car for those “are we there yet?” days).  It’s true that Latin is usually an unspoken language, but my children wield their Latin phrases like swords against each other!  And, (ducking my head), they’ve even been known to insult others in Latin, too.  Thankfully, said folks were unawares.  My point is, it’s NOT a dead language if you don’t want it to be.  You can choose to get caught up in the (unfounded) stereotype that Latin is boring and drudgery, or you can choose to make it fun!


Click on the pics below to access some of our favorite Latin resources!
 Resources

Monday, January 1

Slow Burn (David Bowie)


Whoa!  Does anyone else feel like 2017 just WHIZZED by?  Maybe it's all of the technology.  Maybe it's because we're always travelling.  Maybe it's just because we have teens....

All I know is that 2018 is going to be the year we make a concentrated effort to slooooow down.  Slow living is about turning away from the materialistic and busy lifestyle and focusing more on quality than quantity.  It is about awareness...the consciousness of our surroundings and what we are doing...appreciating all of the little things in life.

The term slow is used as an acronym to show different issues:
  • S = Sustainable – not having an impact
  • L = Local – not someone else’s patch
  • O = Organic – not mass-produced
  • W = Whole – not processed
Here are the ways that we consciously slow down....along with some of our favorite resources for you to learn more!

Food

Eat slower. 
Be mindful of each bite. Appreciate the flavors and textures. Eating slowly has the double benefit of making you fuller on less food and making the food taste better. 

Eat real food.
It may take some adjustments in your shopping and cooking habits, but eating real food (and not nuking it in the microwave) is so much healthier for you!  Your body will appreciate the difference, and after a little bit your mood will improve as you begin to feel more energized.

We use the crockpot to throw together dinners quickly at night.  A bit of prep work, toss it in the pot in the morning, and it's ready to go in the evening!  We also do freezer cooking, so that healthy homemade meals are possible when time is short.  It takes a day of prep (or sometimes, a few hours here and there spread over several days), but is so very worth it.  Does that mean we never eat out or grab something fast?  Nope.  Everything in moderation....
                     


A Slow-Cooked Year
This book includes : the whats and whys behind crockpot cooking, how-to tips and tricks, safe crockpot guidelines, printable planning sheets, and more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!
Another Year of Freezer Cooking
For anyone who wants to get a leg up on getting healthy meals on the family table, without much fuss...this book includes : the whats and whys behind freezer cooking how-to tips and tricks pantry freezing guidelines, printable planning sheets more than thirty seasonally-appropriate, kid-friendly recipes!
Lifestyle
  • Do less. 
    • It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. We choose to focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest. I used to be the 'yes' mom...always agreeing to do whatever needed to be done.  Now, I'm the 'nope, I don't think we can make that' mom...and we're a lot happier.  We also build in a cushion between errands and appointments, so we can move through your days at a more leisurely pace.
  • Turn off the technology.
    • It's one of the great modern-day ironies that the technology which was invented to save us time is actually costing us our lives.  We are now expected to be connected all of the time...to be caught up with everyone everywhere...and to respond within seconds of receiving any sort of communication. 
    • Personally, I don't have a cell phone and I absolutely don't want one.  In spite of a continuous string of taunts from those around me to 'get with the times,' I stand firm, and even a bit proud, in eschewing the smartphone.  Sure, we miss out on things sometimes, but our family connectedness - actually being present with each other - is worth so much more than those things we missed from not being tethered to technology.
    • I'm a bit of a rebel, I know......those who've know me best, and longest, aren't surprised.
  • Get outside. 
    • Ok.  It's January, so we won't be outside nearly as much as in May, but we still take the dog for a few walks each day and attend to the chickens.  A little Vitamin D from the sun can go a long way in teh winter!  
    • Many of us are shut in our homes and offices and cars and trains most of the time, and rarely do we get the chance to go outside. When we do, it's usually to walk to the car, and we're multitasking by making a phone call or sending a text during that short jaunt from building to car.
    • Take the time to go outside and really observe nature, take a deep breath of fresh air, enjoy the serenity of water and greenery. Exercise outdoors when you can, or find other outdoor activities to enjoy.  Close your eyes and feel the wind and sun!
Slowing down is a conscious choice, and not always an easy one, but it leads to a greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness.


Reading List

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Barbara Kingsolver)
Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.


Sacred Slow (Alicia Britt Cole)
If yesterday’s word was “simple,” tomorrow’s word will be “slow.” Our culture is shifting from fast food to health food both physically and spiritually. Self-care, soul-care, life coaches, and spiritual retreats all show our dissatisfaction in quick fixes and fast faith. The Sacred Slow is an invitation to unhurried honesty before God. Formatted as 52 experiences, The Sacred Slow reminds readers on every page that God never wanted to use them: He always wanted to love them. Experienced devotionally or in small groups, each chapter features a short but unexpected reading and two options for application: a thought focus or a heart exercise. The content is the overflow of Dr. Alicia Britt Chole’s thirty+ years as a spiritual mentor to leaders and learners. The tone is personal, practical, and penetrating. The fruit is sustainable (as opposed to event-based) intimacy with God.

Slow Down (Nichole Nordeman)
No matter if it’s your child’s first step, first day of school, or first night tucked away in a new dorm room away from home, there comes a moment when you realize just how quickly the years are flying by. Christian music artist Nichole Nordeman’s profound lyrics in her viral hit “Slow Down” struck a chord with moms everywhere, and now this beautiful four-color book will inspire you to celebrate the everyday moments of motherhood. Filled with thought-provoking writings from Nichole, as well as guest writings from friends including Shauna Niequist and Jen Hatmaker, practical tips, and journaling space for reflection, Slow Down will be a poignant gift for any mom, as well as a treasured keepsake. Take a few moments to reflect and celebrate the privilege of being a parent and getting to watch your little ones grow—and Slow Down.

Simply Tuesday (Emily Freeman)
Our obsession with bigger and faster is spinning us out of control. We move through the week breathless and bustling, just trying to keep up while longing to slow down.  But real life happens in the small moments, the kind we find on Tuesday, the most ordinary day of the week. Tuesday carries moments we want to hold onto--as well as ones we'd rather leave behind. It holds secrets we can't see in a hurry--secrets not just for our schedules but for our souls. It offers us a simple bench on which to sit, observe, and share our stories.  For those being pulled under by the strong current of expectation, comparison, and hurry, relief is found more in our small moments than in our fast movements. In Simply Tuesday, Emily P. Freeman helps readers

· stop dreading small beginnings and embrace today's work
· find contentment in the now--even when the now is frustrating or discouraging
· replace competition with compassion
· learn to breathe in a breathless world

Slow Food Revolution (Carlo Petrini)
Founded in Italy in 1986 by charismatic Italian gourmand Carlo Petrini, Slow Food has grown into a phenomenally successful movement against the uniformity and compromised quality of fast food and supermarket chains. With nearly 85,000 members in 45 countries around the world, Slow Food has developed from a small, grassroots group into the most influential gastronomic movement in the world. Known as the "WWF of endangered food and wine," Slow Food not only focuses on a slower, more natural and organic lifestyle that complements nature, but also works to preserve dying culinary traditions, conserve natural biodiversity, and protect fading agricultural practices threatened in this age of mass consumerism. The book takes the reader on a gastronomic journey through the practices and traditions of the world's ethnic cuisines, from the artisanal cheeses of Italy to the oysters of Cape May and the native American turkey. It includes testimonies from Slow Food representatives—such as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse—illustrating exactly what they are doing—and what still needs to be done—to preserve them.

Slow Family Living (Bernadette Noll)
Have you ever wished you could slow down the daily grind—and even find a way to enjoy it?  All too often, the hectic pace of modern life turns our households into a blur, leaving many parents—and kids—feeling depleted and disconnected. Enter Slow Family Living, an inspiring guide for parents who want to rediscover the meaning, comfort, and contentment found in the day to day of family life.  Offering 75 simple ideas for reconnecting, this upbeat and invaluable resource can help turn even the most bustling of times into an opportunity to create a moment of calm—and a connection that will last a lifetime.  From holidays and other stressful occasions to bedtime, vacations, and everything in between, Slow Family Living will help even the most harried parents and kids pause, reflect, and find joy, satisfaction, and inspiration in each other.

Chasing Slow (Erin Loechner)
You’re here, but you want to be there.  So you spend your life narrowing this divide, and you call this your race, your journey, your path. You live your days tightening your boot straps, wiping the sweat from your brow, chasing undiscovered happiness just around the bend. Higher! Faster! Better! Stronger!  And on and on you run.  Viral sensation and HGTV.com star Erin Loechner knows about the chase. Before turning 30, she'd built a fan base of one million women worldwide and earned the title “The Nicest Girl Online” as she was praised for her authentic voice and effortless style. The New York Times applauded her, her friends and church admired her, and her husband and baby adored her.  She had arrived at the ultimate destination.  So why did she feel so lost?  In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. Through a series of steep climbs—her husband's brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace.  Life's answers are not always hidden where they seem. It's time to venture off the beaten path to see that we’ve already been given everything we need. We've already arrived.

Making Home (Sharon Astyk)
Other books tell us how to live the good life—but you might have to win the lottery to do it. Making Home is about improving life with the real people around us and the resources we already have. While encouraging us to be more resilient in the face of hard times, author Sharon Astyk also points out the beauty, grace, and elegance that result, because getting the most out of everything we use is a way of transforming our lives into something much more fulfilling.  Written from the perspective of a family who has already made this transition, Making Home shows readers how to turn the challenge of living with less into settling for more—more happiness, more security, and more peace of mind.  We must make fundamental changes to our way of life in the face of ongoing economic crisis and energy depletion. Making Home takes the fear out of this prospect, and invites us to embrace a simpler, more abundant reality.  Learn simple but effective strategies to:
  • Save money on everything from heating and cooling to refrigeration, laundry, water, sanitation, cooking, and cleaning
  • Create a stronger, more resilient family
  • Preserve more for future generations