Relaxed Homeschooling: Exploring the Possibilities

As the years go by, I find myself leaning more and more toward the unschooling end of the homeschool spectrum.  When I first began, as I have said before, I was extremely worried about covering all the bases and making sure of grade levels and subjects.  The longer I teach my children, though, I realize that the simple love for learning can be cultivated and then anything they are interested in will be play and not work in a learning environment.  As we explore different interests, we discover new ways to learn and grow.  Finally, I am finding the confidence to allow that to just happen instead of scripting every experience.

Speaking of which, we took some extra time for science play today.  Rather than our regular school assignments, I got out a rock kit I had ordered from Rainbow Resources some time ago, and the book Geology Rocks! by Cindy Blobaum.  This is one of Lucy’s favorite books just for recreational reading, and the kids have been begging to look at the rock kit since I ordered it.  I thought I had ordered a lesson plan to go along with the rock kit, but unfortunately it turned out I had ordered the wrong one.  So we invented our own experiments, which probably was more interesting anyway.

The first test Max and Lucy performed on the rocks was a streak test.  The safety goggles were probably unnecessary but they were fun.  They dragged their rock across the back of an unfinished tile to see what color mark would be left behind.  They recorded the information they found on a chart, and then moved on to a scratch test.  The scratch test used their fingernail, a nail, a penny and a piece of glass to determine mineral hardness by scratching or being scratched by the various rock samples.

I especially liked the learning involved in studying and charting each step of the experiment.  After they had used all the rocks included in the kit, we started on some of the rocks we have collected.  They were equally interesting, although of less manageable size.  After the rock kit was thoroughly explored, they moved on to our shell collection, and sorted and explored to their hearts content.

It’s always amazing to me how educational my children’s recreation turns out to be.  Or maybe instead, just how recreational my children’s education turns out to be.  Good times!

Hope you’re enjoying your day!

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Along with Self Discipline: Live a Life of Exertion

I recently read this poem called “Men Untrained to Comfort” by Wendell Berry.  It made me think about how self sparing our society has become, and how important it is to instead spend oneself in work and play to live a life well.

Jane Addams described the life of ease and idleness which was the fate of most of her class of women as comparable to eating a sweet pastry before breakfast every morning.  In our society, that same life is available to people of all walks of life.   In Addams time, women of a wealthy class were condemned to spending their lives in embroidery, “visiting” and other activities which she did not view as important.  But now, people spend their leisure time, of which most of us have 5 or 6 hours per day, in front of the television, numbing our brains and watching other people live.  Just like eating that sweet pastry before breakfast, it dulls the appetite with unwholesome food and leaves a feeling of inertia and lack of energy.

What, then, would be like a wholesome breakfast that would energize us for the work at hand?  For our family, we have found that physical activity such as running or hiking, leaves us energized to work hard at other tasks.  During the time we are running, the mind “free-wheels” relaxing and brainstorming so that ideas flow freely.  Often, I come home from a run with all sorts of new creative ideas, and the energy to pursue them.  While that may seem counter-intuitive, ask almost any runner and they will tell you the same.  The run actually leaves them with more physical energy.  Hiking does the same thing to a greater extent because being out in nature is rejuvenating in itself, and compounded with the extra physical activity, leads to more energy.

Just as many people in our society do not have an appetite for a breakfast of oatmeal, but would gladly have a donut and coffee on their way to work, it requires self discipline to eat our “wholesome breakfast” of physical activity.  When the alarm rings to roll us out of bed, we have to require of ourselves to get out of bed.  But just as a wholesome breakfast is not enough to carry you through the day, continued self-exertion is at the heart of a happy life.  Of course it takes effort to choose a task and complete it, but the reward is a feeling of satisfaction that is not available in any other way.

What motivates me to self-exertion is thinking about the end of my life.  I think about whether I will be glad to think back on having watched several documentaries about summiting Everest, or if I would rather think about the time I climbed the mountain closest to my home.  Will I be happy to remember the sitcoms that I watched, or would it be better to look back on quilts that I made for my children.  I am convinced that only a life of action will leave me fulfilled at the end.  I imagine a grandchild asking me “What did you do?” and I want to have DONE something.

Are you a stay at home mom?  Lucky you!  Instead of letting the television keep you company and sap your strength and energy, why not choose some extra task you can do  with your children today?  Why not make cookies for Daddy when he comes home from work?  Take the time to play with your children at a park.  Get every room in the house cleaned.  Choose a difficult book to read for your own education, read it sitting at the table and taking notes.  Work hard!

Are you a working mom?  I know you come home tired from work.  But try out the energy building qualities of exertion.  Get started on a task that won’t take too long, and you will find when you have finished, that you have energy to go on to another task.  Set a timer and wash dishes for twenty minutes.  Iron 4 shirts.  Fold one load of laundry.

How much better to spend our time working hard at something!  Jane Addams started Hull House and devoted her life to social reform.  While this may not be an option we would desire to pursue, could we find an activity to work hard at and really give meaning to our lives?  Instead of watching others act, could we act ourselves?

Kids in the Kitchen — Breakfast Baked Oatmeal

We eat hot cereals 5 or 6 mornings a week.  We made this decision as both a healthy and frugal way to feed our growing family.  Now we buy cold boxed cereals only on special occasions.  We figure that to feed our family of six with the cold cereals we enjoy costs around $8, while a meal of oatmeal or farina porridge (Cream of Wheat) costs about $3 (including the milk for breakfast.)  We buy oatmeal, farina and 9 grain rolled cereals in 50 pound bags, while we buy bulgur, polenta and 5 grain cracked cereals in bulk at the local grocery store.

Besides being good for our checkbook, the hot cereals are lower in sugar and higher in fiber, and they encourage us to eat more fruit, because we nearly always put some fresh or dried fruit with them as sweetener.  Oatmeal is eaten with applesauce, raisins and brown sugar.  Farina is usually plain with milk, but I am waiting to try some with raspberry jam.  Polenta is good with honey or a little homemade maple syrup, and bulgur is WONDERFUL with butter and honey.  Recently, though, we discovered baked oatmeal, and this has become a breakfast treat that we serve often when we have just a little more time in the mornings.

Max helped me make blackberry baked oatmeal today, following this recipe.  Shirts are not required for baking, but an apron is!

Shirts are required for breakfast.

Our other go-to recipe came first from the Tasty Kitchen website, but has received some tweaks since then.  Here it is:

Peanut Butter or Nutella Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

3 cups oatmeal or 9 grain rolled cereal

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup peanut butter or Nutella

2 whole eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 pan.  Mix all ingredients together until well blended.  Spread evenly in the pan.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

We serve this with milk, and have added chocolate chips to the peanut butter oatmeal for an especially rich breakfast.

Hope you enjoy your day!  We have had an excellent day — finally some sunshine!  I got out for my 12 mile run at 2:00 this afternoon.  The sun was shining and it was hot at 36 degrees.  Hard time for a run, but a great way to enjoy the day.

Kids in the Kitchen — Chocolate Cake

We had friends over for lunch on Saturday. We spent the morning in the ministry, so we wanted something hot and yummy to come home and eat.  I made beans and ham with a ham hock my mom gave me last week, and we stirred up some cornbread to go with our beans.  But Lucy made the dessert that saved the day.

Besides cornmeal muffins, Lucy likes to make chocolate cake.  I have been making this chocolate cake recipe since I was Lucy’s age.  We called it “Busy Living Chocolate Cake”, and it is wonderful for when you have unexpected guests or come home with guests because it bakes up very quickly and there is no fussing with the frosting.  Instead, the frosting practically melts into the top of the fudgy cake.  This cake is wonderful warm or cold, with vanilla ice cream or without.  I have since found this recipe on the Blue Bonnet margarine package, and in the Pioneer Woman cookbook.  A great recipe lives forever.

Busy Living Chocolate Cake

Makes a 9×13 sheet cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

½ cup margarine or butter

¼ cup oil

¼ cup cocoa

1 cup water

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar and set aside.  In a small saucepan, stir together butter, oil, cocoa and water.  Bring to a rapid boil over medium high heat.  Remove from heat and stir into the flour/sugar mixture.  Beat well.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.  Pour into a greased 9×13 cake pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the icing.

Ingredients:

½ cup margarine or butter

¼ cup milk

¼ cup cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 2/3 cups powdered sugar

In the same small saucepan, stir together all frosting ingredients except the powdered sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Add the powdered sugar, and using a spoon or a handheld mixer, beat the frosting until smooth.

When the cake is cooked, pour the frosting evenly over the top of the cake, allowing it to soak into the middle and down the sides of the cake.  It may need a tiny spread to cover the whole cake.  Don’t eat it all – just a taste for the cook.  Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Hope you enjoy your weekend!

The Habit of Self Discipline

People so often ask me “How do you get your kids to ….?” eat their vegetables, read better books, cook dinner, clean their rooms, practice their instrument.  While I usually laugh, and reply, “I’m a Tiger Mother,” which not everyone understands, the real key is the habit of self discipline.  Before kids can learn to discipline themselves, the mother has to discipline herself.  When the parent has decided what necessary tasks the children must perform, or behaviors that must be formed in the children, she must have the self discipline to continue to require these tasks even if she is tired or does not feel like enforcing the rules.

I had often heard the idea that for a habit to be formed requires 30 repetitions of the behavior.  However, I believe it takes much longer than that.  Perhaps you can make a good beginning at forming a habit in 30 days, but it requires years for children to build up a habit of self discipline.  During all that time, the mother must continue to enforce her discipline upon them.  When they say, “I don’t want to eat tomatoes,” you have to be prepared to say, “You must.”  When they say, “I hate piano!” the mother must be prepared to say, “I don’t care.”

This is not unfeeling, and some allowance can be made for changes in schedule, sickness, or other exceptions.  For the most part, however, to ever stop fighting about something, no concessions can ever be made.  If the child wins one battle of the wills, they most definitely will try again.  Children are not stupid, and they have long memories.  Above all, no concessions can be made without a good reason:  the reason cannot be that Mama doesn’t feel like arguing.

So how do I start?  Start by determining what are absolute essentials in your home.  Perhaps it is not essential to have every area of the house  cleaned every day, but it is necessary to pick up all the dirty clothes and make the beds every day.  Make that determination known, and then don’t allow anything to progress until that essential has been completed. Before breakfast, before stories, before playtime, ask, “Have you made your bed?’  As soon as the realization is made that life has come to a stop until that task is completed, most children will cooperate.  They may not cooperate happily or willingly, but that is not one of the essentials.  Only cooperation is essential.

For something like the practice of an instrument, the parent may at first have to set aside the same amount of time as the student.  During that time, the parent should direct their attention to how the child is working.  The goal is good concentration, and as long as the student is concentrating, the parent can just listen.  However, once the child is distracted, the parent can jump in with a suggestion of how to practice.  “Why don’t you play that song again, using the dynamics this time?”, “Did you check your bow hold?”, “How is your fingering?”  This will require some attention on the part of the parent to know what the child has been doing, and what he should be doing.  It teaches children how to discipline their attention to the task at hand.

When you have achieved cooperation, it is good to congratulate your children on their completion of the task, but don’t over-exaggerate.  It is not the best thing they have ever done in their whole lives.  The EXPECTATION is that they will cooperate.  When they realize you expect their cooperation as a matter of course, they will be more likely to fulfill demands made upon them with little argument or pleading.

Another necessity is a good example from the parents.  Children cannot be expected to complete tasks that their parents refuse.  If your bed is unmade, you certainly cannot demand that of your children.  When children see their parents working toward the goal the children are working for, they realize that as a family, cooperation is necessary.  When the family does cooperate toward a goal and achieve it, let everyone know that they were a part of the achievement.

Does it sound like too much work?  While it is a lot of work to begin training children in the habit of self discipline, the pay-off is huge.  You will have trustworthy children who will reliably complete any task left for them.  When you need their help, you will be sure that they will come through for you.  What a reward for learning the habit of self discipline!

Homeschool Basics — Read aloud to your children

Rarely a day goes by in this house when we do not read aloud to our kids.  It was a habit that started when our oldest was brand new.  I was so excited to read some of my favorite baby books, I barely waited until we were home from the hospital. Even when Brett was only a few months old, he could be distracted from crying by listening to Dr. Seuss’ The Foot Book.  But the true joy of reading aloud came a few years later when we began reading chapter books to our kids.  For many years we commuted 30 miles three or four times a week.  This was before in-car DVD players, and since we didn’t have TV in the house, we probably would not have used one if it had been available.  Instead, I read myself hoarse, projecting my voice into the back seat.  Often, we would sit in the driveway for a few minutes when we got home to finish the chapter we were so interested in.

Later, we read a wonderful book encouraging reading aloud, The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  While we were already reading aloud, this book gave us names for the benefits our children were receiving.  One benefit was an increased attention span.  While most children are able to sit still long enough to listen to a picture book and discuss the pictures, children who have listened to longer chapter books have built up an attention span that covers hours and even days.  They are able to hold characters and ideas in their mind and wait for the next installment of a story.  Another benefit is the increased vocabulary that comes to children when they are read books beyond their current reading ability.  Having those words in their speaking and comprehension vocabulary, they are more easily able to read them when they encounter them in a book.

Reading aloud is a homeschooling basic.  So many good things come from doing such an easy, pleasurable thing.  In fact, I truly believe if you read aloud and discussed what you were reading from a wide variety of fictional and non-fictional books, that you would never need to add anything else to your curriculum.  Such varied reading would stimulate interest in investigation and imitation of writers, and lead to math, writing, and other skills being put to use.  While I have a planned curriculum for our other subjects including math and science, reading has always proved to be the foundation of our school.

Sometimes we picked books because they went along with our current curriculum.  We read aloud Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz to expand our study of early explorers, Stars, Mosquitoes and Crocodiles — The American Travels of Alexander von Humboldt selected and edited by Millicent E. Selsam, as we studied about South America, and Secrets of the Nest by Joan Dunning while we studied birds.  Sometimes we read fictional books to go along with our studies, such as Johnny Tremain while we studied the American Revolution, Moby Dick (yes, a very long a difficult read-aloud, not recommended) while we studied the ocean, and Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf (to an 8 year old and a 6 year old) while we studied the Far North.  Usually, though, we pick books because they are classic fiction, and we read them for pleasure.

Since we have two “sets” of kids, we often have read books more than once.  We read them aloud when the older two were the right age to listen, and read them aloud again when the younger two are ready for them.  Often, the older ones sit in and listen to the stories now, but then they finish the books by themselves.  For a special treat, we will take a short story that can be read in one sitting to the park or on a trip, and I read it to the whole family.  It is easy to find collections of classic short stories at thrift stores or yard sales, and then if the book doesn’t make it back from the trip it isn’t such a tragedy.

I find that for our family, ownership is important on read-aloud books.  If we can’t finish the book in the few weeks we are allowed by the library it is frustrating for everyone as we try to find another copy to borrow, or wait for it to come after we have ordered it from Abebooks.  I buy books in advance of the one we are reading currently, so that we never run short of the next book to read.  Usually Daddy is in the middle of one book that he reads for bedtime, and I read a different book during the day.  The kids never have trouble with this until we near the end of one of the books, at which time usually only one parent reads until the book is finished.

Some of our mostly highly recommended books:

the Little Britches  by Ralph Moody

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Owls in the Family and The Dog Who Would Not Be by Farley Mowat

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (this is a great, short read- aloud for the very youngest listeners)

Elmer and The Dragon  by Ruth C. Gannett (another really great book for young listeners: short, pictures, funny!)

Right now, I am in the middle of Inkspell by Cornelia Funke.  This is the second time through on this series, and we will again not read aloud Inkdeath.  This is a series in which the first book is wonderful, the second is less wonderful, and I won’t recommend the third.  Shandy is reading The Education of Littletree by Forrest Carter.  This book was recommended by someone Shandy was working for, and the kids are really enjoying this look at a different culture here in the United States.  It’s amazing how many people give book recommendations when they know you like to read.

Have you tried establishing a daily read-aloud time?  The next step is expanding the stories so that they cannot be finished in one sitting, but still are very interesting.  As your reading repertoire grows, you will soon find yourselves enjoying your daily time together.  Enjoy it now, because kids grow up so fast!  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t taught my kids to read, so that there would be more read aloud time now!

Hope you enjoy your day.  Have a book recommendation?  I’d love to hear it.

 

Book Review — There Are No Children Here by Alan Kotlowitz

I am pleased with myself.  I finished two books already this month!  While the book that I just finished might qualify as a somewhat “easy read,” it was beneficial to me in opening my eyes to a very different life than my own.  The book was There Are No Children Here by Alan Kotlowitz.

I found this book on a college bound non-fiction reading list, and thought I could read it even though I am not college bound.  Growing up and living in semi-rural Utah for my entire life, I have never personally seen the environment this book is written about.  In fact, I had never even seen pictures of this environment until I spent time researching Chicago’s housing projects on the Internet.  What I read and saw was horrifying, even though it appears that those projects are in the process of changing.

The book follows two young boys, the youngest a third-grader, and their family for several years as they attempt to lead a somewhat normal life growing up in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes.  This project consisted of 15 story high-rises, and other buildings totaling about 1600 units.  These were large apartments with up to 5 bedrooms built for low-income families with many children.  The original units were built for $17,000 per unit, leading to very cheap construction.  The walls were painted cinder block, and the closets did not have doors.  The cheap construction was the least of the problem in these projects however.

The Rivers family, described in the book, has lived in Henry Horner Homes since the mother’s childhood.  When her family first moved into the projects, the neighborhood was not so bad.  They were able to play outside, and her family was excited about having plenty of space in the apartment.  The funds were not available for upkeep of the apartments however, so the tenants just kept getting poorer and poorer—anyone who had the funds would move to a better area.  Soon, all of the tenants were unemployed, on public assistance.  The area became dominated by gangs and drug dealers, and the violence started.

The most terrifying part of the book is the description of the violence surrounding these children from the very beginning of their lives.  They are accustomed to gang shootings within and outside the buildings, knowing where to go in the building to be safest from stray bullets, and ready to drop to the ground outside to protect themselves when bullets are flying.  They have seen people beat up and shot by police and gang members.  They are not shocked by these things, it is a customary part of their world.  Even the very young teenagers – as young as 11 years old—are not only becoming part of established gangs, but working together in violence to establish new gangs.

Another area of this book that shocked me was the casual view of teenage pregnancy.  All of LaJoe Rivers’ older 3 children had children of their own, even though the one of them (Terence) was barely 18.  Her niece, who was graduating high school, had 5 children by the time she was 19.  No one seemed to think anything was odd, or harmful in that situation.  Instead, they applauded the young father who did a few odd jobs and took care of the children so that his children’s mother could finish high school.  Did no one understand that this was perpetuating poverty?

According to the research I did on the internet, including this article from the New York Times, as the Chicago Housing Authority began to tear down these buildings and move people out of the projects, many people protested against moving, claiming the projects as their heritage.  The problem has ultimately been very difficult to solve, because funding is not available to make a complete fix, and just tearing down the projects does not give people any place to go, work to do, or education or lifestyle changes.

I am glad to have read this book.  It helps me to be grateful for the place we live and the conditions we live in.  I shudder to think of raising my children in such a place, and hope that someday all children will be raised in safety and peace.  May it come soon.

Part of homeschool is teaching ourselves.  Teaching ourselves is opening ourselves to new experiences, and this book did that for me.  It was not a pleasant experience, but I did learn from it.  Is there a book you would recommend as highlighting a part of life many of us will not likely experience?  Please leave me a comment.

Easy Pack Food for a Great Hike — Pitas and Hummus

Dreaming and wishing we could have been here today instead of stuck in haze, inversion and cold:

Since I’m not hiking, guess I’ll keep planning ahead for the springtime.  Thought I’d share with you some of the ways we prepare for a hike.

Our family has some requirements for hiking food:

1)      It has to be tasty.

2)      It has to be easy.

3)      It can’t be too messy!

This recipe for homemade pitas with white bean hummus fulfills all of these requirements.  Anyone who makes bread can make pitas.  The dough is forgiving, and the key is cook them HOT!  Just don’t expect pockets.  We use these more like tortillas or taco shells, wrapping our hummus and spinach in them.  You can substitute store bought pitas or tortillas in a pinch in this recipe, but homemade is best.

Here’s the recipe:

Pita Bread

Makes 6

1 cup warm water

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

3 or more cups flour (I like at least half whole wheat)

 

Put the water in the mixer bowl with the olive oil and yeast.  Allow the yeast to dissolve for a few minutes, and then add flour and salt.  Add enough flour to make a soft dough, then leave the dough to rise for about 30 minutes.  After the dough is risen, turn it out onto the counter and divide it into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece between your palms into a soft ball, and let these balls rest on the floured counter for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Put a cookie sheet in the oven to preheat with the oven.

When the oven is hot, flatten the dough balls two at a time on a well-floured counter.  Using a rolling pin, make 6 to 8 inch circles.  Put the circles on the cookie sheet and allow to cook for 3 minutes.  Be careful taking these out of the oven – 500 degrees is HOT!  Remove to a cooling rack, and cook the rest of the pitas in batches.

White Bean Hummus

1 can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic

¼ jar green olives

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Enough juice from olive jar to allow the beans to mix in the food processor.

Put all ingredients in the food processor.  As you begin processing, add juice in a thin stream to allow it to stir without becoming too thin.

Pitas can be packed in a plastic bag in your backpack, and hummus should be put inside a plastic container inside a ziplog bag (for extra security).  I usually pack the hummus in my backpack because if the plastic container is against your back it’s not that comfortable, and I would rather that was in my pack than in a complaining kid’s pack.  Also, be sure to bring a spoon or a spork to spread the hummus, although in a pinch (pun intended) you can grab some up with the pitas and your fingers.

Another good hummus can be made by replacing the green olives with a roasted red bell pepper.

This is a good hiking snack because it gives you protein and carbs, with some salts to replace your electrolyte levels.  Add some apples and some Pringles, some candy or cookies for motivation,  and you are set to go for a great hike.

Hope you get a great hike soon!

First Marathon Registration

Just a quick post today — I just registered for my first marathon!!!  The Utah Valley Marathon on June 9, 2012.  I am very excited!

Shandy registered for the half marathon the same day.

Come race with us 🙂

Talk to you soon!

Homeschooling at the Museum

My older kids are doing school at home through Utah Connections Academy this year.  We reached the decision that I needed some extra help guiding them, and so far we have been happy with their high school program.  We especially like the accessibility of the teachers.  They had taken other online classes before, and the teachers had proved very slow to respond to any questions — this has not been the case through the Academy.  When the Academy organized a field trip to the new Utah Museum of Natural History, we were excited to attend.  We were able to meet some of the kids’ teachers in person, and to visit this beautiful new museum.

The Utah Museum of Natural History has been open a little more than a month.  It is built on the side of a hill next to Red Butte Gardens at the University of Utah, and is designed to blend into the hillside and the landscape.  Even from the outside, it is a very striking building.  The actual exhibit space inside is much smaller, however, and we easily explored it in two hours.  Although some of the exhibits were very crowded–this was a school field trip after all–we were able to give some good attention to the exhibits that interested us.

We started out on the the first exhibit floor looking at fossils found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument.  We were excited to see the turtle shells, and will definitely be giving fossil hunting more attention next time we go to Escalante.  So far, we have only found fossil oyster shells in our visits there.  One of the displays was a glass floor over dinosaur bones as they would perhaps have been found at an actual fossil dig.  The metal bars holding up the glass floor further lent to the illusion, as paleontologists lay out a grid over their digs to aid in describing location and distribution of their finds.

The next exhibit which caught our interest was about the Cleveland Lloyd quarry.  Years ago, when Brett was about 6, we visited the Cleveland Lloyd quarry and were able to visit with two students studying there.  They explained the predominance of allosaur bones found at the quarry, and some theories about why there were so many predators and so few herbivores.  This display discussed some other theories, and then allowed us to vote by placing a penny in a tube to show our vote.  Three of us voted for “Stuck in the Mud”, while Lucy decided she liked the “Poison” theory.

On the next floor of the museum, a large plant collection is on display in binders.  Eden and I noticed how specifically the original location of the plants were described.  For example, a plant was found “At the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon, in Albion Basin, on south slope above Cecret Lake, near buried water tank.”  We will work hard to make our descriptions that carefully if we are able to make a plant collection this year.  While we usually take photos, not specimens, that might be an interesting project for the coming hiking year.

Max and Lulu also enjoyed the display which explained how a marsh helps in cleaning salt water.

The museum has a living collection of Triops, small aquatic creatures that live in desert potholes.  We will definitely look for these in tinajes as we hike this year.  They move more quickly than you would expect, and might perhaps be mistaken for a tadpole, but on second thought look more like a soft shell horseshoe crab.

The top floor of the museum is dedicated to Native Voices, and has displays of both ancient and modern Native American products.

An excellent reason for us to visit museums as homeschoolers is that it give us ideas for more areas to study, or ways to study better.  In this trip, we found many things to go home and think about some more:  fossil hunting in Escalante and Fossil Butte, Wyoming (as recommended by the science teacher), plant collections, Triops, and a visit to Clay Canyon to collect varicite.  I highly recommend visiting even small, local museums for this reason.

Have you visited a museum recently?  Making such visits a regular part of your curriculum is one of the easiest ways I know to increase your love of learning.