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Estes Park Aerial Tramway

One of the fun things we did while we were in Colorado was to take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. It’s an older tram and fairly small, which probably makes more fun.  My older kids had been on a tram several years ago at Sandia Mountain in New Mexico, but not all of them even remember it, so this was a new experience or at least seemed like a new experience for a couple of my kids, and they loved it!

There was a beautiful view from the top and a picture just does not do it justice.

View from the top of the Tram

But the favorite part of the tram experience was that the gift shop at the top sold peanuts that could be fed to the animals that lived right outside their door. You’ve never seen such fat birds and squirrels, or at least I never had.

Feeding Fat Squirrels in Estes Park

Feeding Fat Squirrels in Estes Park
If you wanted to learn the ill effects of feeding wildlife, this was a great place to study it. The animals there were fat, demanding and way to comfortable around people, but I guess as long as they stay in the back yard of that gift shop, all will be okay, other than that they will have heart disease from being obese.

Summer Junior Ranger Badges

Junior Ranger Badges bring mixed reactions in my family. I think they are a fun and educational project. Some of my kids agree with me. Some, well, maybe we won’t go there. So some of my kids had fun getting Junior Ranger Badges this summer, and all got them. We (meaning my kids) earned three badges this summer from the following National Parks: Rocky Mountain National Park, Denali National Park, and Kenai Fjords National Park. They also were able to visit two new states that these parks were in—Colorado and Alaska respectively. A couple pictures of taking the pledge: (Rocky Mountain NP and Kenai Fjords respectively).

Rocking Mountain NP Jr. Ranger Pledge

Kenai Fjords NP Jr. Ranger Pledge

A few pictures of the fun we had on our different trips. (Climbing trees in Colorado, standing by an elevation sign that we hiked up to from the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park, and setting up camp in Denali NP respectively.)

Tree Climbing in Colorado

Trail Close to Alpine Visitor Center Rocky Mountain National Park

Camping in Denali NP

Learning About Seeds

Scooter is studying Exploring Creation with Botany from the Apologia Elementary Science series. I mentioned that my baby girl started kindergarten this year, and she is doing the Astronomy book from the same series. I rather love the Astronomy book, but unfortunately, I found the Botany book a bit difficult to slog through when I did it with my oldest two several years ago. But we are giving it a try again this year, and hoping for a change of perspective. Scooter is older than my oldest was when we attempted it before, so maybe that will help. The first few experiments have definitely been enjoyable. Here are a couple of fun experiments that we have done so far. The first two pictures are of a light hut that we built, as per the instructions in the textbook and the put in “pots” of newly planted basil, chamomile, and lemon balm. It was a lot of work, so we hope it works!


Watering Seeds to put in the Light Hut

Inside the Light Hut
The next three pictures were from our seed anatomy examinations. We soaked beans and sunflower seeds in hot water for half an hour so that we could carefully peel off the testa and see the inside of the seeds. We also identified the hylum (the seed belly button) of our seeds. The most interesting part of the seed anatomy examination was looking at our seeds through the microscope. You can easily identify the plumule and radicle in the picture that we took through the eyepiece of the microscope.


Wrinkled Seed Testas

Sunflower Seed Hilum
Plumule & Radicle of a seed

Well, I have to admit, so far so good on this Botany book. Maybe we’ll really enjoy it this time.

Solar System Song

Surprise! I’m posting on my blog! It’s been way too long. I decided that maybe I could sneak in a post, but only because this is a really easy one.

My youngest is studying Apologia Astronomy. This is my second time through this book, but I don’t mind, because I have to admit that it is my favorite from the Elementary Exploring Creation Apologia Series. We are just now in the process of blowing up an inflatable solar system. I don’t know why that is so fun. I think it’s because they are actually just beach balls in a bunch of colors and can be safely thrown at the nearest sibling in the house. Oh, well, hopefully some education is taking place in the midst of this dodgeball that is being played in my house.

While the kids have been throwing planets around at each other, I remembered this really cute solar system song that we sang when we did the Astronomy book four or five years ago. I have been hunting for it for the last half hour, but ta da. (I realize that there are a few things that are not entirely scientific in the lyrics, but I still just think it’s a cute tune to learn the solar system to.)

Albert Einstein

Learning about Albert Einstein is one of the assignments in the Noeo Physics 1 curriculum. The book that comes with the curriculum is Did it Take Creativity to Find Relativity, Albert Einstein? Unfortunately, we found the book to be too dry, so decided to find a different one. Since we wanted to start reading right that minute, we went for a kindle book. We chose the book Who Was Albert Einstein? This book had 106 reviews with the average being 5 stars, so I figured it was a safe bet. Indeed it was. For a short fun read on Albert Einstein, this book was a great pick. Perhaps it was a bit more history and less science than the previous book, but I really don’t think that my third grader needs to understand relativity or E=mc2 too thoroughly, and he definitely enjoyed the history. He was most intrigued that Einstein’s theory of mass to energy conversion played a pivotal roll in the atomic bomb creation, and that Einstein petitioned Roosevelt to develop the atomic bomb, but was an avowed pacifist.

Ace did a notebook page (front and back) on Einstein.

Everything was narrated by Ace and I wrote it out for him. The top picture is just his overall report on what we read. The inside of the compass mini book is about how a compass that was gifted to Albert when he was young sparked his love of science. The orange mini book is about the atomic bomb. The cover is a drawing of a mushroom cloud by Ace.

Sources for the notebook page:

Albert Einstein page from Hold That Thought Notebook Pages (out of print)
Compass and Lightbulb mini books from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Atom Bomb mini book by Ace

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is such a special time. We want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family.

And whatever you do today—don’t overeat!

Thanksgiving Food

Thanksgiving Juice

Thanksgiving Pie


Packing Tips From Me for Flying With Kids

I know there are dozens of blogs out there about travel, and that’s not what this blog is about, but travel is on my mind, so I decided to share my own travel tips. Well, partly because I couldn’t find any blogs about traveling with a bunch of children. A few, posts here and there, so here’s another one like that. This is my official kids pack and don’t pack list.

I’m not going to debate whether to go carry on or to check your luggage. I’ve done both when traveling with my whole family and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I will say that one of the disadvantages is that sometimes I have to carry everybody’s luggage at once, because little backs get tired (and my husband always has his computer bag) and no matter how light each bag is, light x 6 = heavy. One of the disadvantages to checking the luggage is that checked luggage x 6 = expensive. On the last trip that we went on, we had intended to go carry on, and then my husband and I were just tired thinking of carrying everybody’s stuff through the airport, so we put most of the duffels into two large duffels, and then manipulated them to exactly 50 pounds each and then checked two bags. Perhaps if we all had rollers, it wouldn’t be so daunting to all go carry-on, but then you have the hassle of finding space for six rollers in the overhead bins. We haven’t tried that yet, but we may someday. We don’t own six rollers right now though. Not sure if there is room in our trunk for six rollers either. That’s partly why we have taken the duffel bag route.

What I’m going to share is a few things I’ve learned to take and a few things I’ve learned to leave home for the kids. This list is assuming they are traveling with a parent, so some obvious things are not on the list (like toothpaste.) If you’re trying to figure out what to pack for yourself, check out onebag.com or herpackinglist.com. This is just a list of things for my kids. Most of our experience has been within the United States. Some alterations might be necessary for international travel with kids. Even our international travel hasn’t involved a flight longer than four and a half hours.

Things to take

  1. Swimsuits (Lots of hotels have swimming pools and the kids will want to swim. Remember your own too.)
  2. Inflatable floaties for the younger kids
  3. Drawing pad and pencils and a dozen crayons or colored pencils. (No more. I promise it will be enough, besides half of them will fall through the cracks in some seat in your journey.)
  4. One book to read for the older children. (Only one book. They won’t read on the plane, unless you’re flying across the ocean. They won’t read at your destination, because there is so much new to see. So they definitely don’t need two. If you have an ereader for your child, then I guess, you can have different rules.)
  5. iPods. (Take time to load some new audio books on before trip. And consider some lullaby music even for the big kids.)
  6. Clothes (Duh! Not going to define what kind of clothes to take or how much. It really depends on the trip. Just don’t take more than you need. Quick dry clothes are very nice and light though, sweaters are super bulky.)
  7. Baby shampoo in a tsa approved bottle
  8. Toothbrush
  9. Bug spray & sunscreen (That might be in the parents’ bags, but don’t forget it. Sunburned or bug bitten kids can ruin a vacation.)

Things to leave home

  1. Toys (They’re probably going to want to buy some souvenirs anyway.)
  2. Toys (They’re really heavy.)
  3. Did I mention toys? Okay maybe one Matchbox car would be acceptable for both boys and girls. Dolls are just a headache.
  4. Extra changes of clothes for anybody over three, but have enough underwear. (I have learned from some of these packing blogs that it’s not too bad to have to wash a few clothes out in the sink and hang them over the shower rod to dry. It works out quite fine, and saves money if your checking or saves your back if your carrying.)
  5. Diapers (Take enough for the plane trip. It’s easiest to purchase the rest at your destination, because diapers are very bulky. Now if you’re traveling to a place that charges three times the price on everything in their little tiny corner store, then maybe you should take diapers, but if you are flying, then the town you land in is large enough to have an airport and therefore should be large enough to have a grocery store.)
  6. School work (Well if you must, you must, but none of it will get done. If it’s due the day after your trip, they’ll do it in the middle of the night after you get home. I once hauled an entire suitcase of school work. It was way too heavy, and gave me an unforgettable backache. Next to nothing got done, and I promised myself—never again! Besides, the whole point of travel is to create memories, if all your kids remember from making a trip to Yellowstone is working on their math, you failed.)

George Washington Carver


Ace has fallen in love with audiobooks. Can’t blame him, I rather love them myself. It allows for him to “read” books that are considerably beyond his reading level, without my having to sit down. Of course, I still take time to sit and read, but the boy has been listening to audiobooks for hours a day, and I can’t read to him for several hours a day, unfortunately.

Last week he listened to the book Man’s Slave Becomes God’s Scientist: George Washington Carver. He loved it! George Washington Carver is just every boy’s best friend. After all, he escaped kidnapping; he got beat up and lived to tell about it; he was smarter than his teachers; and he loved dirt and bugs and all those boy kinds of things. That all aside, he makes for a worthy hero, so I love for my boys to admire worthy heroes. And he loved school, which is not a bad thing to encourage boys to love. (I said “boys” because actually others of us enjoyed the book, because we couldn’t escape it as it was being played over speakers loud enough for all of us to not be able to ignore, but fortunately we were all hooked.)

This was a total rabbit trail, and has nothing to do with any of our curriculum, but while we were on a role, we also checked out a book about George Washington Carver for younger kids: A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki and read that. That is a super well illustrated little book that I had read to my older kids once upon a time, and just had to read it again.

Rabbit trail or no, Ace did a notebook page about George Washington Carver and if you ask him to tell you stories, you’d better sit down because it’s going to take awhile. Here are a few of pictures.

George Washington Carver Notebook Page  George Washington Carver

US Famous People: George Washington Carver  US Famous People: George Washington Carver  George Washington Carver

Caption for bottom pictures: Left and center bottom pictures are the inside of top mini book in top right photo. Right bottom picture is the inside of the “An Amazing Scientist” mini book.

List of resources:
Hold That Thought World & US History Notebook Pages (Out of Print) (George Washington Carver Notebook Page)
U.S. History Little Books: Famous People — George Washington Carver (Free) (George Washington Carver 1864-1943 Mini Book)
Literacy-Building Booklets: Famous Americans (An Amazing Scientist Mini Book)
Man’s Slave Becomes God’s Scientist: George Washington Carver (Audio Book) (Sad to see that the price has gone up.)
A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver (Well illustrated children’s book about Carver.)



Paper Plate Fish

I’m loving having a preschooler around again to make crafts with. I think I have as much fun with her crafts as she does.

We decided to make fish the other day, because we have been enjoying this great music album for kids called God’s Treasures Under the Sea. (And yes, I paid shipping from Australia to the USA for the CDs. It was very worth it. I’ve ordered more to give as gifts.)

God's Treasures Under the Sea


Here you are fishy-fishy!

Paper Plate Fish

And I’m not the only person in the house who is having too much fun with preschool crafts, so are my older kids. This next fish was made by Ace.

Paper Plate Fish (by Ace)


Force and Motion Lapbook

For science, Ace and I are doing the Noeo Science Physics I curriculum. This curriculum was written specifically for homeschoolers, grades one through three. So far, we are enjoying it. It pulls together several different books both on science and biographies on scientists. This curriculum includes Young Scientist Club Kits for experiments. I really like the experiments, and making notebook pages to go along with some of them is great practice too. We did not do a notebook page for every experiment, because being that Ace is nine years old, he still considers writing and bookwork to be boring, but he loves doing the experiments. (At my age, I actually still agree with him, but if nobody recorded their findings, we wouldn’t have science.)

This science curriculum claims to be a Charlotte Mason style curriculum with all “living” books. I will agree that some of the books qualify as “living” books, but some are a bit dry, with mostly little text boxes around pictures. That works, but I was hoping for something more fun to read. I am thinking about trying to figure out what sections of The New Way Things Work book correspond with the different units in the Noeo Physics. That is a really great book, and I already own it. We read it some last year, and loved it. I was really hoping for an open and go science curriculum that was really interesting and fun to read, and while this one is really good, I think it still has room for improvement.

Okay that is my review after doing one unit, now on to a few pictures from our first unit. The first unit was “Force and Motion.” There were lots of fun experiments about friction, gravity, Newton’s third law of motion and more. We enjoyed things from racing cars on sand paper to slamming coins into a line of other coins to see what happened.

Here is the lapbook that we made to go with this.

We laminated the cover image and then glued it on the left side of the lapbook with glue dots and attached it to right side of the lapbook with a velcro dot.

Force & Motion Lapbook Cover

Force & Motion Lapbook Spread

Newton's Laws of Motion Mosaic

What is Friction  What is Friction
Centrifugal Force Wheel  Gravity Mini Book  Gravity Mini Book

Force & Motion Lapbook Spread 2

Unbalance Force Drawing

Excuse that I misspelled “Centrifugal”–bad teacher moment.

The list of sources for the lapbook: (no affiliate links)
Newton’s Laws of Motion from Jimmie Langley (Scroll down to find Newton’s Laws of Motion Book)
Cover for Gravity Mini Book from Crayola
Both Friction Mini Books from Tools & Technology Book by Dinah Zike
“Force x Distance = Work” Mini Book also from the Tools & Technology Book by Dinah Zike
Balanced & Unbalanced Flap Book by Haley Grant (Scroll down quite a ways to find link.)
Cover art by Phillip Martin

I have to admit that we looked at the lapbook that was done by Jimmie’s daughter from Jimmies Collage quite a bit since hers was also based on the Noeo Physics 1 forces and motion unit. If you’d like to take a peak at hers, here is the link.

Overall, he seemed to enjoy this unit a lot. He especially enjoyed the experiments. Next is Sound and Light.