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Entries in homeschooling (77)


Heifer Global Village

If you've ever sought to give in honor of someone you love, you may have run across Heifer International. This is the organization that allows you to give the gift of livestock (a goat, a water buffalo, a rabbit, you name it...) to an impoverished family, and wrap the giving of gift as a gift for someone else who will greatly appreciate not having another vase to store only to remember at the last minute to drag it out and dust it before you come over. The gifts are fun (who doesn't want to give away a water buffalo???) and mindful, and Heifer will even provide you will a printable certificate so you have some. We have purchased gifts through them in the past for family members at Christmas.

But Heifer International is not only involved in helping the impoverished around the world, they are also into teaching in order to raise a more mindful and involved next generation. We are fortunate enough to have one of their Global Village education centers very nearby (there are only four such sites in the United States), and last week we took a homeschooler's field trip to the Howell Nature Center's Heifer Global Village. The "village" is a collection of authentically erected and sustained shelters or homes that would be found in outlying areas around the globe: an adobe hut from Africa, an elevated house from Indonesia, a traditional structure from Peru, and a shack from the Appalachians.

We were given a guided tour of the site by a very well-informed docent who did a great job of pulling the kids in with games and tantalizing factoids. They also had llamas. Llamas make anything an easy sell. And while I think our tour was completely worth the afternoon, probably the real meat and potatoes of the site are the overnight and shelter building group programs offered for older kids. 


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.