This Month's Featured Resources...


Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Tuesday, May 29

Why Wyoming (Kellie Coffey)



Travelling from South Dakota to Colorado, we passed through southeastern Wyoming.  There isn't a lot to do in the area (at least, not much that's visible to passers-by), but we found this neat Stagecoach Museum in the town of Lusk.  We were greeted by a two-headed calf...........very unique!!
The museum houses relics from the 19th-and 20th-centuries, when Lusk was a notorious cow town and busy homesteader area.  There are dinosaur fossils, found in the area, as well as wildlife exhibits.
Outside the museum, we found a small town setting and some more petrified wood!
The general store was a wealth of old-fashioned inspiration!  I love looking around at all of the old things and getting ideas for how to tweak them and use them today.
It's road-school, so we stopped into the old one-room schoolhouse for a quick lesson from our teacher for the day.
Being a hot day, we had to try out the old-fashioned Coca-Cola machine....with a five cent bottle of pop!
The second floor of the museum features an authentic stagecoach that was used on the Cheyenne to Black Hills Stage and Express Line, carrying passengers and gold.  It was even robbed by road agents and shot at by Indians!!

Wyoming State Study



Monday, May 28

Vacation (Go-Gos)

I scream, you scream, we all scream for..........a vacation!

As you know, we gypsies travel throughout the year.  And while we're no expert, we have picked up some tricks along the way for making family travels go just a bit more smoothly.  Here are some of our...

Safe & Secure

  • It's easy to get lulled into the comfort of thinking that your hotel is as safe as home, but that would be very very wrong.  Check out our Public Service Announcement on Family Travel Safety.
  • You've probably been stranded in your car before...whether from a flat tire or a traffic jam...but what if disaster struck on a car trip?  Would you be prepared?
  • Road Rage No-Nos : You haven't experienced true impatience and frustration until you've sat in the car, on the parking lot that they call the interstate, for four hours.  With two kids bickering in the backseat.  With the car parked.  And everyone has to pee.

To Your Health

  • Some people can sleep anywhere, but travelling often throws kids off-schedule.  Here are some tips for Sleeping Well on the Go.
  • When you're traveling, take three minutes to stretch at each pit-stop.  It might add some time to the drive, but your kids, your body, AND your spirits will love you for it!!
  • Healthy eating on the road can be very tricky!  It's so easy to fall into the trap of fast food and convenience foods, especially on long travel days, when your only stops are at the gas station or to pick up a quick bite.
  • When you're out on the road, getting sick just isn't an option.  Who wants to spend their vacation trapped in a hotel room, or worse - in the hospital?
  • Taking a few days off can be rejuvenation for your body, but it's important to remember to get some exercise.  Here are tips for Hotel P.E.
  • Ran out of your favorite spa products?  Or forgot to pack them?  Try these quick cheats from hotel freebies...

School on Wheels

Thursday, May 24

I'm Into Something Good (Herman's Hermits)

Healthy eating on the road can be very tricky!  It's so easy to fall into the trap of fast food and convenience foods, especially on long travel days, when your only stops are at the gas station or to pick up a quick bite.

If you have a cooler, pack it with washed grapes, carrot sticks, apple slices, or any other fruit & vegetable finger foods your family will eat for snacks.  We typically throw whatever's in the fridge into the cooler as well - any lunchmeat, veggies, string cheese, etc that we can use up for lunches. 

It's almost impossible to travel with a pack of hungry boys and NOT have snacks on-hand in the car, but we buy these ahead of time, and try to stick to the shopper's guide for avoiding genetically-modified foods. (These are some of my favorite anti-GMO cartoons that have popped up over Facebook recently.)
  
The Eat Well online guide helps to find local, sustainable, and organic food wherever you go.  Some areas will have considerably more options, but it never hurts to check!  And should you happen upon a local Farmer's Market, here is a unit study (free) to keep the kids busy while you put away your goodies.
 
Often, we are unable to find such places, so we hit the a local store to pick up kitchen basics upon our arrival.  By eating breakfast at the hotel and packing lunches each day, we are able to save quite a bit on eating out - and we know (mostly) what's going into our meals.  Your cooler is a great asset...get some ice from the hotel and put it to work.  The bigger the cooler, the more money saved!  
One corner of our cooler is even dedicated to mom's kefir, kombucha, and herbalism concoctions!  (Follow those links to find easy ways to make your own...)  Just remember to that one of the best ways to stay healthy is to eat real food - if your great-grandmother wouldn't have recognized it, then don't eat it!

Tuesday, May 22

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish! (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

During our trip to Cabo San Lucas, the oldest, who has had an interest in marine biology for some time now, had the opportunity to take a full-day Dolphin Training course at the local marine center.  It was a bit pricey, but one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we felt would be worth the expense.  (It turned out to be...while he enjoyed it, he decided that this was not the career path for him after all.  I call that money well spent!)
While one of the kids spent the day in the (very cold!) water learning how to train dolphins, the others went exploring in caves and out for a day of sea fishing.  Then, we parents wrapped up the evening with a sunset cruise...   Ah, Cabo!  We miss you!


Facts About Dolphins:

  • Dolphins are mammals, they breath air, feed their young milk, are warm blooded, and have hair on their bodies.
  • Dolphins make clicking and squealing noises to communicate.  You can approximate a dolphin’s whistles with a balloon by letting the air out slowly with the neck stretched.
  • Dolphins like humans and can be trained to do everything from tricks in an aquarium to carrying the mail for underwater research labs.  Some dolphins have been trained to swim with handicapped children.
  • Dolphins can stay under water for fifteen minutes at a time.
  • If a dolphin gets sick or injured, other members of its family help it swim and get breaths of air until it can swim on its own.
  • Dolphins work together to protect the group from predators like sharks.
  • Dolphins use echolocation to find food.
  • Dolphins eat fish and squid.
  • Dolphins are really interesting mammals, especially when it comes to their interactions with humans.  They are incredibly friendly and trainable, so we can observe them and their behaviors.  They are used by the military to find mines, by many resorts that allow you to go swim and interact with them, and by Sea World and other similar attractions for shows.  They do amazing tricks.
Resources :
Be sure to check out our other Zoo Studies!



Monday, May 21

Trellis & the Seed : A Picnic Parade Fun Day!


Spring is here, and we're focusing heavily on gardening.  I think that, if you want the kids to understand plant growth, they should first understand basic plant anatomy.  So we're taking a picnic...enjoying some plant-based foods and a plant unit study!  But first - our read-aloud for the picnic...
Book

We're reading Jan Karon's The Trellis and the Seed.  (It has a free lapbook to accompany it, if you're interested.)  In this gently told parable, Jan Karon tells a story of patience, of the special rewards that come from being a little bit different from everyone else, and of the courage to believe in oneself.   In a picturesque and secluded garden, a tiny seed sits in thrilled anticipation of its destiny as a powerful vine, twisting and flowering through the white latticework trellis. But how could such a small seed ever thrive and grow into a strong, healthy, grown-up plant? "Don't worry," Mother Earth says. "God has planned something beautiful for you." But time passes, and the little seed doesn't believe it.  Beautifully illustrated and filled with faith and love, The Trellis and the Seed is Jan Karon at her very best-an inspiration for all ages and an important lesson on God's love for all creatures great and small.
Food
In the spirit of playing with our food, we're having Ants on a Log and Grape Caterpillars.  These are both super easy foods that your preschooler will be able to help make!  Ants on a Log are made by cutting a celery stick in half and smearing peanut butter on the insides - then line up some raisins like ants walking along it.  For Grape Caterpillars, put a skewer through ten to twelve grapes.  (Googly eyes optional.)

Activity 
We began by examining the flower, intact.  The kids drew pictures of the tulip, and labeled the important parts.  Then we dug a little deeper, and learned the plant classifications : monocotyledon and dicotyledon, commonly referred to as monocots and dicots.
 
Then we pulled out the scalpel and cutting board, and went to work!  We worked our way from the top down, examining the petals and plant reproductive system first.  There are great (free) resources to help you with this part at the bottom of this post.  If you look closely, you can see the teeny ovules.
We carefully pulled apart the leaves and checked out how the plant gets its nutrients by capillary action.  There is a fantastic Young Scientists' kit that demonstrates capillary action through multiple experiments.  For a quick & easy show, though, you can stick a celery stalk into a glass with blue or red food coloring - leave it overnight and watch the magic as the stalk turns colors!

Finally, we got down to the bulb - the seed of this tulip plant. The boys enjoyed peeling layer after layer off the bulb until they reached the stalk and fibrous roots.
Here are a couple of anatomical diagramming pages to get you started....

Resources :

If you don't already own the Magic School Bus DVD set, I highly recommend it.  Ninety percent of the time, I can find an introductory-level video that engages the kids in whatever science topic we will be discussing.  They retain a lot of information, without even realizing it, and all because Miss Frizzle makes it so fun!  This 8-dvd set has twenty-six hours of episodes!!
 

Experiment

Materials
  • 4 pots
  • 1 jar with a lid
  • 5 healthy plants  (same size & kind)
  • potting soil
  • water
  • labels
  • paper & crayons
Directions
  • Put one plant in a jar, with soil, and put the lid on it.  Label it "No Air."
  • Put a plant into a pot with no soil.  Label it "No Soil."
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Sun."  (Keep it in the dark)
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Water."  (Give it sun, but no water)
  • Put a plant into a pot and label it "Soil, Sun, Water, and Air."  (Give it all four)
  • Keep track of your plants' growth for 7-10 days.  Note any changes.
  • What did you learn about plant needs?

Friday, May 18

Custer (Johnny Cash)

After leaving Mount Rushmore, we were hot and tired.  But in a good way!  We headed out just a little ways and came upon the town of Custer.  This is a cute little town that's perfect for an day stop!
PizzaWorks, in downtown Custer, has fabulously delicious, handmade pies!  We enjoyed watching the pizza makers throw the dough, and took forever to determine which of the umpteen toppings to select!  The air conditioning was pretty sweet, too!
The Custer Museum showcases the history of this region of South Dakota, all the way from the earliest Native American tribes to today.  We also loved walking through actual historic sites, each with their own little history lesson above the door...such as this one at a main street cafe.
Admittedly, the rock shop two doors down from the pizza place was the boys' favorite stop in this town!  They have all kinds of rocks.  Not only that, but they have educational information about most of them, and the shop owners are extremely knowledgeable about their goods.  They spent over an hour talking geology, rocks, and minerals with the boys.  If you have extra time, I recommend this rock shop over some of the others!  (Unfortunately, I can't remember the name, but it's two doors down on the same side of the street as the pizza joint.)  
Check it out - the Rock Shop even has a clearance table!!!  My husband can find Martin Luther King Jr drive in any city (seriously...and always by accident), but the kids and I can find the clearance table in any store.  It's a gift!  We also popped into the Naked Winery, across from PizzaWorks, but didn't take any pictures there....not for the reasons you're thinking!  They are actually set up for entire families to enjoy the atmosphere, with chocolates and juice for the kids.  

No unit study today.....just enjoying a small, South Dakotan town!  If you want to find a related unit study, check out the one on General Custer and the Battle at Little Big Horn.