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Entries in homeschooling (76)


Our very own cows

We have been using the same milk in our house since Calvin was first drinking it in a sippy cup from a high chair at the table. It comes from a daily farm not quite an hour from our home, and in those early years, before it was available in the local stores, we had it delivered. It came in glass jars, carried in a wire basket by a real milk man driving a truck painted with traditional dairy cow spots. It was a highlight of our day, especially when we added things to our order like ice cream, or their annual egg nog, so thick you could eat it with a spoon. 
These days the glass jarred Calder milk is available in a handful of our local grocery stores, but even though we no longer get visited by the milk man in the cow truck, I still feel loyalty and connection to our milk that I might not if it was a national brand in the carton. So it's a little odd that, with the dairy less than an hour away, we never visited our cows to actually see where our milk originated. I mean, that's a homeschooler's bread and butter, isn't it? (They have great butter, too, by the way, that comes in great big wax paper-wrapped blocks).
So today we rectified that educational omission. Our local homeschool field trip club organised an afternoon at the Calder Dairy Farm with animal feeding opportunities, cow and milking education, a hayless wagon ride, and a (very large) scoop of delicious Calder ice cream. The little bit of rain didn't hurt our fun. We fed farm ducks (I love farm ducks!), goats, sheep, and baby cows. We met amazingly portly pigs (they snore). We milked a friendly cow (with a lot of help from an obvious expert). We enjoyed delicious ice cream. 
And now we've met our cows.


Hiking highlights, early-mid April

The sunrise is creeping closer to our usual waking time, and for this I am thankful. These days, by the time I'm up and enjoying a cup of coffee light is streaming in through our slider doors, invigorating the spirit. On days when there's sun, that is. 

It's still early yet, but in anticipation our migrating friends, we've moved science to the out of doors again, watching buds slowly bloom out. We know from past observation about how long it takes for different travelling birds to arrive after the buds begin to show. Some are hardier than others, willing to face a frost for first dibs on baby greenery. Others stay snug in their winter homes until their meals, and their warmth, are more assured.

So far this year, most of what we've seen are our winter residents, those who will soon head north for cooler climes, and our most constant, year-round friends. But we're patient, and we're willing to keep heading out in search of our returning denizens, and the rarer sightings of those just passing through.

Black-capped Chickadee (year-round)

Northern Flicker (year-round)

Blue-gray Gnat-catcher (summer)

Eastern Towhee (summer)

American Coot (summer)

Golden-crowned Kinglet (winter)


Finding peace

I have been in the habit for many years now of telling people that our schedule is pretty easy to work around. We homeschool, so we're home, which makes us flexible, right? Just the other day I was scheduling an appointment and told the woman on the phone that I was pretty open, only Friday wouldn't work. How about Monday, she asked, but then I worried about having enough time for school with choir looming in the evening, so she offered Tuesday, but that's my running day, followed by evening meetings and theater . . . three options later and we'd finally settled on a time that might work, with some adjustment on my part. As I was hanging up I apologized for being the most difficult flexible person of her day. Thankfully she laughed, but I was aghast to realize that somewhere between toddler and upper elementary things had become complicated.

It's just a truth, this busy-ness that comes with the business of life, especially when you blend three people and all their required and requested activities, and especially, especially at certain times of year. Spring, for instance, when everyone prepares to mark the end of another school year with presentations and performances galore. For the past few weeks our every day has been filled with (fun!) (exciting!) (enriching!) activities that have kept us, if not always on the go, then at least getting ready or preparing for the going. Theater, then choir, then theater again, and homeschool group classes, with theater there. Calvin has two different stage plays in his pocket right now, plus three choir concerts on the calendar, then add to that Jon's off hours students and my meeting schedule. 

And I have been craving a bit of peace. Silence in this otherwise cacophonous world.

Last year we dropped our science curriculum in the spring in favor of a more in the world approach. We hiked a lot, identifying plants, trees, and mammal tracks, identifying birds, and learning more about what spring rebirth really means. It was so wonderful that this year I planned an even greater freedom, and scheduled many of Calvin's school subjects to be finished before or go on hiatus during the month or two of the spring awakening. We started that lighter schedule this week, as temperatures warmed again, coaxing buds from trees and migrating birds into our midst.

We hiked at least briefly every day this week, sometimes in multiple layers to keep the chill at bay, but we were rewarded with sunshine, glimpses of bright green, an inner peace that only nature can give, and a surprising amount of new energy for many other things that require our time every day.

American Robin

Brown Creeper

Blue Jay

American Tree Sparrow

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

American Coot

Brown-headed Cowbird (female)

Eastern Phoebe

American Robin

Northern Shoveler


Greenfield Village field trip

One event in early October was a trip to Greenfield Village with our homeschool group. Field trips for our group are somewhat of a free-for-all: take advantage of group rates the group arranges, but get there whenever and see whatever you want, the schedule is up to you. A lot like homeschooling in general, really. It was a beautiful, warm day. We started earlier than most of the other families, but found the others shortly after lunch time for fun with friends.


4H Youth Show 2015

Our homeschooling group, the one we gather with once a week, sometimes more, to pool our energies and gather in enough numbers to take classes and go on field trips, is ostensibly a 4H club. I, ostensibly, am their 4H club leader. In our group that's not a big job. Most of our members don't even seem to know that they belong to a 4H club, so that makes my job easy. But over the two years I've had the job, I've slowly gotten to know the 4H machine better and better, and most of what I've learned is really great.

First, while most people when they hear 4H think cows, pigs, and sheep (oh my!), there's really a lot more to the group than that. 4H is really just a state run umbrella group for all kinds of clubs. As the parent group, 4H provides registration assistance, insurance, and even sometimes monetary support to the clubs that pay their nominal dues. So there are all kinds of clubs under the 4H umbrella, including dog training clubs or word working clubs in addition to the standard young farmer or horse clubs. There's our rather substantial homeschooling club, for instance, and at least one other club that resembles more a boy scout type assembly than a farm hand guild. It takes all kinds, and the varieties are far reaching.

Second, once you've paid your dues through your own parent club (for us that's our homeschooling group), you may participate in any other 4H club or activity for which you are otherwise elligible. The door is wide open! Come check it all out! Both this and last year, Calvin participated in our local 4H archery club, where, for just $1 per Tuesday evening, he got to borrow their equipment and their expertise for two hours of archery fun. They also offer classes or workshops throughout the year. Next year we're thinking about taking part in the photography workshops. And the 4H mother office is considering adding some fine arts classes or clubs, including creative writing, theater, and music. I know he'd love that.

The 4H year is wrapped up late every July, just before the August last hurrah vacations and the beginning of a new school year. The wrap up consists of a week of activities that show off what the kids have learned or accomplished during the year. There is a day of still project showing (those being anying that does not include livestock in some way), a variety of contests and competitions throughout the week (some including livestock, some not), and a final fun day of tournaments and silly races. Calvin showed woodowrking, photography, poetry, and educational wildlife notebooks as still projects this year. He participated in the make something out of foam scraps challenge, and competed in the archery tournament. He also got a little crazy in the end of the week olympic game challenge. We ate ice cream, got face (or arm) paint, hung out with a lot of friends, and, yes, saw the obligatory cows, chickens, horses, etc. Oh, and rabbit agility. Can't miss rabbit agility.