Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

In the Beginning – Part 4

November 11, 2010

The weather has finally turned cooler, the leaves are changing with the impending season of fall, and my thoughts return to the “falls” of yesteryears.  I admit that fall is by far my favorite time of year.  I’m sure growing up in New England has something to do with that love for this season!

I recently returned from a hiking trip with 2 of my girls and along the trail we were reminiscing about all the hiking we did when they were little kids.

I remember distinctly when I decided that I was going to give my children the opportunity to fall in love with the out of doors.  My friend Jan and I had taken our girls up to the lodge on Mount Rainier in Washington state to do some walking around.

It was a gorgeous day and the vistas were breathtaking.  Together, we walked along the paved pathways around the lodge.

I had Victoria in a backpack, Lauren (2) and Catherine (4) holding on to my hands.  Jan had Olivia on her back in a backpack.

Jan and I got to talking about all the hiking we had available to us and why did the fact that we had kids keep us from doing something that she and I both loved to do?!

On the drive home we decided we would start researching hikes around the area and what it would take to hike with kids.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this new venture so we had to be smart about our purchases.

Jan and I each researched different hiking books.  We finally decided on a hiking book of easy to moderate hikes in the Cascades.  We also bought a book of hikes for children.  This book had some great tips about hiking with children.

Next, I went to Goodwill and bought backpacks for Catherine and Lauren – the ones who were walking!

I couldn’t afford great, expensive hiking boots for my girls so I bought the best ones at a discount shoe store.  I did want them to last for a couple of seasons since they would be passed down to the next child.  When other people found out we were hiking, they would pass their kid’s boots along to us.  It wasn’t long before we were the “go-to” family if you were looking for hiking boots.  I kept ALL sizes to be passed from child to child.

Each child had a hat, a whistle and a towel for their backpack.  They also had to carry their own lunch and water, occasionally, a special blankie.  I usually had a baby on my back and couldn’t carry all the extra stuff for them.

Jan and I decided that we would hike once a month from May – Sept.  We switched from year to year, taking turns putting the hiking schedule together.  When other friends heard about our hikes, they wanted to join us.  We handed out schedules but it was funny.  A few went once or  they wanted us to take their children with us on the hikes while they stayed home.

Wading in the water with the kids after we ate lunch. That's me in the white shirt with Michael and Victoria. Jan is behind me in the yellow shorts. Cascades, WA

We had 3 rules which all children had to obey when they hiked with us:

  1. No whining
  2. Take it in, take it out
  3. Never get so far ahead that you can’t see an adult

Sometimes when we had a large group (Jan and I were suckers for taking kids without their parents), I would make badges for the best hiker or there was a prize at the end for those children who obeyed all the hiking rules.

We had the best time and the kids were wonderful!!  Jan and I agreed that our own kids had grown so much in character from hiking.  They often surprised us with their stamina and drive and good attitudes in “not so pleasant” conditions.

Our goal - the lake. Even though the water was cold (glacier fed) we still let the kids get in if they wanted to - their choice. Cascades, WA

Some tips that helped to motivate our kids –

  1. We chose hikes that had a goal at the end – a waterfall, lake, or river
  2. I’d read that special snacks were motivators.  I would buy something they wouldn’t normally get and we would stop at different intervals to partake of the special snacks.  I.e., if it wasn’t too warm, I’d get chocolate kisses and we would stop every 20 minutes or so to eat 1 or 2.  This was used more so in the beginning when we were training them to “keep going!”
  3. Sometimes they could invite friends, although they found out quickly which friends were fun to take and which ones weren’t 🙂
  4. I’d buy special treats for lunch like juice boxes.  It didn’t take much for them to be excited about hiking until it was time for lunch!
  5. Jan and I always made a big deal about our hikes and the fun we were going to have out on the mountain.
  6. She and I each wore a whistle.  Whenever the kids heard that whistle, they were to get to us as fast as they could.  We’d have practice drills every now and then to see how the kids would do and they loved it.

Victoria had just turned 4. Mt. Rainier in the background.

Once my first two girls got the hang of what was expected for hiking, it was a snap for those that came along after.  The younger ones never questioned the rules – it’s just what you did when you hiked!

Jan and I began to learn the different flora and fauna for our area and taught the children to identify the plants and trees.  We talked with hikers we met along the trails, our kids always getting kudos for all the hiking they had done.

Michael in the left bottom corner. This is the day he hiked for 2 miles all by himself! Mt. Rainier, WA

Jan and I both homeschooled our kids and this outdoor classroom had the greatest impact!  We also used the car rides to the trailheads for teaching – spelling games, math computation contests, music with grammar lessons or names of presidents.

Discovery!! Lauren (5) squatting down, Olivia (Jan's daughter), Victoria (4) in the white shorts, and two boys I don't remember. Cascades, WA

I loved sharing my appreciation for the outdoors with my kids and it’s been wonderful to see that appreciation carried with them throughout their growing up years.  Hiking with my children when they were small had so many benefits.

I personally loved the break from being inside and sitting at the table for school lessons.  When we were walking, there were a myriad of questions, “Mommy, what’s this?  Why are the mountains so big?  What is that bird?  Where does the water go?  Where does it come from?  Why is there snow in the summer?”  It was endless… and wonderful!

Catherine - had just turned 8. Cascades, WA

I loved the exclusive time with my kids, discovering, and exploring.  I wasn’t competing with a phone or the pressures of running a household when I was out in the woods with them.  They had my undivided attention.

It was a great time to spend with my friend, Jan.  Not that we had a lot of time for any deep conversations but just the fact that we were sharing this time together made our friendship stronger.

The physical benefit to our kids – unbelievable.  One time we were hiking in the Cascades and Michael was 2.  He really didn’t want to be in the back pack so I let him walk.  He hiked for 2 miles along the trails, climbing stairs that were steep, and he never complained!  I was amazed.  Competition with his sisters started young 🙂

Michael (age 2) in the backwards baseball cap. We were crossing a marshland. Mt. Rainier, WA

One of the greatest benefits from hiking?!  Those sweet, sleepy, tired faces after a warm bath in the evening.  My kids slept great and usually slept a little longer the next morning, and that meant a little bit of cherished alone time for myself.  Well worth all the planning that went into hiking with my kids.

I know I’ve kept track of all the trails we did through the Cascades and the Olympics in WA, but my favorite way to remember is to listen to my girls and Michael tell the tales – the time we got lost and walked a few extra miles; the time we went over the mountains to Eastern WA and hiked a VERY remote trail, crossing 20 some streams and how unhappy the daddy’s were because we were out of cell service and got home late;  the time our battery died way up on the mountain and we had to make a sign to see if someone would stop to help us; the time Lauren threw up on the way to the hike because the road was too windy; playing in the lakes until it felt as those your feet would fall off because they were so cold.  Priceless, precious memories…

I highly recommend hiking with kids.  Yes, it takes a little extra planning, and yes, it takes some training to teach them proper hiking behavior but in the end, it is so worth the effort.  It’s an activity you can share with them no matter the age. The memories for both you and them will last forever.


Chore Lists- a Very Helpful Tool

September 29, 2010

I have a confession.  I’ve been remiss the last couple of months of managing our home well.  Oh sure, I’ve sorta been doing my job – blurting out commands every now and then when the house seemed too out of control.  But the frustration level isn’t really worth this kind of management.  My true confession?  Sometimes I just get tired of managing and would like someone else to take charge – just for a little bit 🙂

So after I apologized to my husband and my kids, I got serious again about getting “life” back in order.  My kids have had chore charts all their lives.  Since before they could read they had chores to do – I used pictures to describe their different jobs.

My biggest challenge in all these years, is trying to be creative in how I presented the work that needed to be accomplished.

I needed something new…

Dave had picked up these graft note cards and he handed me a bunch.  Perfect!  Lines to write on, boxes to check off completed chores, not too big….yep, these would be perfect.

The hardest aspect for me in keeping chore lists is being consistent.  It takes time and forethought to make this system work.  I MUST remember that the time and effort is so worth the outcome – a cleaner more organized home, happy animals, a neater looking farm, and children who haven’t been nagged by their mother all day.

So I started with the new system….I always find it interesting how each child responds to the chore lists.  When they’re handed out, the kids read over the list, ask questions for further clarification, and work the lists into their own schedule.

How they each keep their lists also reveals some of their individual personality.

Victoria is a “checker.”  Finish the job and check it off….but keep the card neat and tidy, a minimalist.

Michael obviously calculates the time in his day, the efficiency of the tasks to be completed in that time, and then prioritizes his jobs accordingly with a number system.  Once completed – cross them off…

Megan is a line crosser – very neatly.  She also wants to make sure that there is credit for ALL the work that’s been done.  Notice the “x2″ on the first chore.  We have 2 cat boxes and she had to do both of them 🙂  The other day I verbally added to her list – please vacuum Mom and Dad’s bedroom.  She completed the task and them brought down her list for me to write that chore on so she could cross it off.  I asked her why she didn’t write it on there herself and she said,”because my handwriting doesn’t look like yours!”   …the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

And then there’s Alexandra!  She’s my “artsy” one…wanna guess what her bedroom looks like most of the time??  A lot like this card 🙂

I needed a place to put these cards once I had made them.  I’ve done all kinds of things before: magnets on the fridge, taped to the wall, left on the table….but I wanted something new.

I have these hooks under my cupboards for hanging herbs.  Why not chore lists?

By the look of this picture, I need to add “clean the walls under the cupboards.”

I hole punched each card and hung them up.

The kids liked the new system and I liked the convenience of the all the cards being in one spot.  Also, when the kids have completed the lists, they’re to hang them back up so I can check the lists and their work.  Follow through is important….I’m still working on that part.

My goal is to have the cards hung up each morning before they all get up out of bed.  I do carry around a small pocket notebook and write down jobs throughout the day that I see need to be done.  I often use that list to create their chore list.  I even write down the common ones that have to be done every day, i.e. – feed the dogs.  There’s such satisfaction in checking off each item and feeling productive!

Wanna know something interesting that I discovered?  Made me chuckle…

Michael is the only one of my kids who numbered his chore list.  Male/female thing?  Or just him….

I went into the laundry room to write down some items on our white board for the grocery list….

Guess who started this list???  Not me, I don’t number the items.

Dave!!   So maybe it is a male/female thing after all…..well, at least in our home 🙂

Life around here is a bit neater, more organized, and less frustrating when it comes to chores.

First item on my chore list every day?

Make up chore lists for the kids….

Victoria’s Senior Trip!

July 13, 2010

One aspect I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for creativity in teaching.  Several years ago, Dave and I decided that each child needed to have a Senior trip after they graduated from high school, but it had to be part of their homeschool curriculum.  We decided this would be the “project” that would help them transition into real life.

Victoria is our third child to graduate from high school and tomorrow she and I are leaving for her Senior trip.

This is her Senior project – she must plan the entire trip, front to back, all the details.

Dave and I give our kids a budget to work with and they plan their trip.

Victoria chose where she would like to go and we’re headed to San Francisco, California.

My brothers live in Elk Grove and we’ll be staying with them and their families for part of the time.

Tori had to get the airline tickets, call on the rental car, and check schedules with my brothers.

She planned our itinerary while we’re in the Sacramento area, searching the internet for available options.

We used to live in the Santa Cruz area and Tori wanted to go to the ocean.  So she booked a hotel in Half Moon Bay where we’ll stay for 2 nights.

She has her notebook ready with the itinerary for the trip, copies of reservations and tickets to different events, maps for driving, and necessary phone numbers, along with the budget for each day.  She even knows how much money we can spend at the Jelly Belly Factory!

This will be my third trip with the kids.  In 2006, Catherine and I went to Calgary, Canada and enjoyed the Stampede, white water rafting, horseback riding in the mountains, and hiking around Lake Louise.

Two years ago, I went to Bar Harbor, Maine with Lauren where we drove and hiked the coast through Arcadia, Camden, and Portsmouth while she took pictures of light houses.  We also went ocean kayaking in Camden.

And this year, Tori and I are off to California!  I absolutely treasure these trips, being completely available to my child.  I smile at how different each trip has been, indicative of their individual personalities and interests.

My favorite part about this week long trip…

the transition from teacher to friend and all the one on one time I will have with my most favorite Victoria in the whole wide world 🙂

Kennesaw Mountain Nat’l Park

May 21, 2010

To end the girls school year with their tutor, we decided to plan an historical field trip.  Michelle, their tutor, chose Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  She tutors the girls in history and science.

It took about an hour and a half to get there from the farm.

Getting to the park  reinforced my opinions about commuting – and it wasn’t even rush hour!  316 to 85 to 285 to 75 to the park.  Kennesaw Mountain is beautiful and was salve for this tired traveler.

Michelle had put together some worksheets for the girls.  In the museum, they had to identify pictures, find dates along the time line, and place in order some of the events of the Civil War.

Lolo came with us and commented about the richness of the history in the South.  The Northwest just doesn’t have this kind of history.

“Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park commemorates the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.  Begin at the visitor center.  Here you will find information, a short film, exhibits, and a bookstore.”  That’s exactly what we did!

After taxing our brains a bit trying to answer the worksheets from Michelle, we decided it was time for lunch.

They had a beautiful picnic area under tall pine trees.

After lunch – the hike up to the top of the mountain.

“The park trails offer short walks and long hikes.  Starting at the visitor center, the round trip distances are two miles, six miles, 11 miles, and 17 miles.  All trails require moderately steep climbing.”  This last statement is absolutely true!

We chose the two mile to the top….

“An overlook near the summit offers a panoramic view of the northern Georgia terrain, where Sherman’s and Johnston’s armies struggled in the late spring and summer of 1864.  Modern Atlanta dominates the southern skyline.”

The view was gorgeous!  The hike was worth it – thank goodness the weather wasn’t humid and most of the trail was in the shade.

Saw these flowers along the trail.  Haven’t identified them yet…

A short, moderately steep trail leads to the mountain top.  Along the way are exhibit and gun emplacements dug by the Confederate canoneers to command the Western and Atlantic Railroad.”

We discussed how tough it would have been to haul those canons up this mountain.

Did they haul them up with horses?  Human strength?

However it was, their strategy worked and the Confederates won this particular battle.

It was time to start back down the trail…

I wondered if the men saw these same flowers when they were setting up their gun emplacements.

We commented on the trees which were probably alive during the battle.  Michelle was telling us how wood wasn’t harvested in certain areas near battlefields because the shrapnel in the wood would ruin the saw blades.

While looking at the trees,  Squish spotted this grey squirrel who was bringing nesting material into the hollow of this tree.  Not too busy to stop for a photo op though!

We were back on the road by 3p and beat the rush hour traffic.  It was a great day and we learned quite a bit.

Definitely a fabulous way to end the school year!

UGA Vet School Open House

April 9, 2010

I must admit, we’re very fortunate to live so close to UGA.  Each year they open up the Vet School to the public and this year we were finally able to attend.  I was quite impressed.  The event is coordinated and run by the Freshman Class as one of their first year projects.

The day was beautiful and the crowds were huge!  The entire Vet School campus inside and out was full of all kinds of exhibits and demonstrations.

They had camels, llamas, a zebra, and various farm animals outside in pens.  The kids could take a tour of the hospital for large and small animals – fascinating.

This horse was hand painted to show the inside on the outside!

The first time I saw this cow, I was a bit taken aback until I understood how vital this cow is to other ruminant animals who’ve been through surgery.

For more information on a “fistulated cow”, look up this link:

Squish found a new friend and boy, is he cute!

It was a little warm on this day and the water was very good – we held his ears for him so they wouldn’t get wet 🙂

The Vet School put on all kinds of demonstrations throughout the day.

One of the demonstrations was showing how dogs were trained to retrieve birds.

This little 5 month old is a Flat Coated Lab from Denmark.  She’s being trained as a field dog and they brought her out to be socialized.

They had agility demonstrations with all types of dogs and skill levels.

This little Chihuahua was not fond of the teeter totter, mainly because it didn’t have enough weight to get it to tip!

Into the tunnel and out the other side…

I do believe the trainers got just as much exercise as the dogs!

They also had a demonstration for “Fly Ball.”  If you’ve never seen this canine sport, you’re missing out.

The dogs (most all of them are mutts) run over jumps, slam into a board at the end – a ball pops out , they catch the ball in their mouth, turn and run back over the jumps.  It’s a relay sport and there are 4 dogs on a team.  It’s a fast sport and very exciting!  The dogs love it!

This little terrier was in training and had a hard time remembering to go over the jumps on the return.

Not a problem for this one!  He was just so excited to have the ball 🙂

We had a great time at the Open House and will certainly be back next year.

Thanks Freshman Class – you did an outstanding job!

Turtle on the Loose….

March 15, 2010

It’s an unwritten law in homeschooling to pick up live animals from the road – unless of course, they are hazardous to your health or financial well-being.  Did you know, in the state of GA, you can get a permit for $25 that allows you to pick up dead animals on the roadside?  Think of all the science projects one could perform on a single carcass!  The first study  — bacteria and germs 🙂

Last week, Lolo and Toto were out shopping and when they came home, Toto jumped out of the van announcing, “Hey!  Look what I found!!”

They’d been driving along when  Toto spotted this turtle crawling across the road.  Lolo stopped and Toto rushed to pick up the turtle before anything happened to it.

Upon arrival at our home, there was much “investigating” and frustration with the fact that this turtle was not very sociable.

The kids tried everything they knew to get that turtle to come out of its shell.

Sawyer had a few ideas of his own!

Finally, the turtle was left alone on the kitchen table in a container with a few grapes, the rest of the family went on to their various activities.

Dave just happened to arrive when the turtle was trying to make a fast get away.

Unfortunately for that turtle,

he wasn’t as fast as my 10 year old who quickly snatched him up to have a closer look.

As you know – one of the best kinds of learning comes through observation.

After the turtle endured a little bit more poking and prodding….

We honored his efforts for escape and set him free outdoors.

Homeschool bookkeeping

March 12, 2010

One of the things I love about homeschooling is why my kids learn.  A lot of the time, it’s out of necessity or need.

Some of the greatest advice I ever received was from my mother-in-law who worked  in the public school system for 30 years.  I value her wisdom and insight immensely.

When my children were young and I was struggling with curriculum choices, she shared with me…

“Cyndi, they don’t have to know everything.  However, they need to know where to go and find the information and they need to love learning.”

My mother-in-law is a great educator and has been a fantastic role model of how to instill that love for learning.

Mae Mae came to Dave one day with a problem.  (she knew where to find the information!)

She had been saving her money but needed to learn how to use a ledger so she could keep track of her categories.

From a young age, our children are taught how to budget their money – a skill that I didn’t learn till I was an adult.

We ask our children to categorize their money this way: 10% to church or a ministry, 10% for college, 10% for savings, and 70% for spending.  Savings could include anything from funds for a car to a horse.  Often, they move the percentages around between savings and spending, depending on what they’re saving for and how fast they want to get there!

Mae Mae had a “need to know” and during the time she spent with Dave, she was extremely attentive, asking all the right questions.

She was unaware that this was “school”, nor did it matter to her that “school” was happening after dinner.

She wanted to learn and she knew the source who could offer her answers.

Dave and Mae Mae spent time discussing how a ledger worked, what it looked like to put all the numbers in the right columns, and how to calculate each of those columns to achieve the information she needed.

This is real life learning – she won’t forget this lesson because she’s using it.

This is useful education that’s pertinent to her everyday life.

This is the typical type of learning that happens with my homeschooled kids on a daily basis.

As their teacher, I don’t have to have all the answers.

I just need to know where to send them to find the answers they’re looking for and to help make the journey of searching a little bit fun!

Country Kids

February 10, 2010

I suppose some would consider life in the country a disadvantage for kids…

After all, my kids don’t have the latest new fangled toys.  In fact, they don’t even know what they are because we don’t have t.v.

But my little one seems fairly content with masking tape, a tarp,

an unused turkey tractor…

…and an imagination of her own to create whatever she wants…

With only the wind to be a bit of a disturbance.

True, there are no clocks in her classroom, no bells ringing to tell her she must be finished, think no more about this subject…

Quick – hurry to the next activity!

Perhaps some would argue a lack of time management skills.

But she’s only 9.

The pressure and stress of time will come all too soon.

Some realists might argue that she should play with real replicas of kitchen items.

However, my little one thinks over-turned buckets make a great kitchen counter and stove top,

and an empty laundry detergent continer filled with water is a terrific faucet.

She’s adored by her playmates.

They hang on her every word, agree with her suggestions and ideas – and they love to hear her sing!

They won’t cruelly criticize her or call her names or tell her she’s not their friend today…

They won’t make fun of the clothes she chooses to wear.  They don’t care if they are her brother’s hand-me-down shorts.

Nope, her playmates love her unconditionally and are very content to be with her.

They like her just the way she is…

No grades will judge her neatness or originality…

…or ingenuity

There is just the country freedom to be who she’s been created to be-

unique, wonderful, artistic…

my little girl.

I suppose maybe my country kid is missing out in something —

I just haven’t figured out what it is yet.

Contra Dancing??

February 8, 2010

I’m always looking for something fun and new to do with my kids.  To me, it’s part of my “mom job” to expose them to as many different activities, people, music , arts, etc. that I am able.

I love to dance and so do my kids.  However, I’m not very good at “free form” unless I’m trying to get my kids to laugh – really laugh!  I remember square dancing as a kid and how much fun it was.  Last year, someone mentioned Contra Dancing and I wasn’t sure what kind of dancing that was.  I looked up videos on youtube and it looked a lot like square dancing.  Also found out that they had some Contra Dancing in Athens.

When I was up at the John C Campbell Folk School, Saturday night was Contra Dance night and all the townsfolk came over to dance.  I watched from the window…

It looked like a lot of fun but I would want some lessons before I attempted the dance.  I don’t mind making a fool of myself – I do it frequently, but there’s a difference between being ignorant and informed and I would rather be informed!

When I got home from John C, I told my kids about the dancing and they were interested enough for me to keep pursuing this activity.

Colbert, the Old Gym, February 6th at 6:30.  Yes!

Now, the typical format for the evening is to have the caller give a half hour of instruction and then the dancing begins.  Also found out that contra dancing has it’s roots in New England with Scotch-Irish music.  It was dear to my heart already!

We pulled into the parking lot and walked toward the building.  Admittedly, we were all a little tentative – a new place, new people, new activity…

We walked past the big windows of the school.  My kids turned and looked at me.   “Mom???”  I was walking to catch up with them and looked in the windows – a whole lot of older, older people sitting at tables.

“Kids, we don’t know anything.  Maybe this isn’t the right place.  Let me see…”

Come to find out – it was the local Lion’s chapter and they were holding a dinner.  The gym was across the street.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief as we walked over to the gym. As we got to the door, I met Elizabeth, the lady I had talked with on the phone to find out if the dance was still on for the night.  She was so friendly and ushered us in the door to the gym.

Within minutes, we were talking to people and realizing this was going to be a fun evening.

The caller for the evening had everyone come to the middle so he could give dance instructions. The gentleman in the hat in this picture was the caller.  He was showing my son and his friend how some of the moves were danced.

“Contra” means opposite.  A lot of the dances were danced in 2 lines that faced each other.

But there were also several square formations.  We learned the Virginia Reel, the Grapevine, the Yellow Cat Jig and some others.

We all had a blast!!  We laughed and smiled till our faces hurt.  We were sweaty and exhausted…this was like aerobics for 3 hours!

And we were hooked…

Even my son came to me a couple of times and said what a great time he was having – he’s a good dancer and caught on quickly.

The gym was full of people (at least 80 or more)- all kinds of people.  Young and old and in between.  I met a couple that had been to the farm for some classes, another gentleman who I had ushered with at the local theatre, and another gentleman who had bought pork from us!

Squish danced with a friend that she had acted with in “The Sound of Music.”   (Squish was Gretl and her friend was Brigitta.)

LoLo danced with a boy who was from Nicaragua and had been in the States for 2 months.

And the best part, we made new friends, friends who assured us we would all see one another at the next dance.

It was very family friendly and I didn’t worry about my kids once.  The music was fantastic and the caller was great – demonstrated all the moves with willing dancers before we began a new set.  There were people who’d been contra dancing for 20+ years and those like us who were there for the first time.

We danced and laughed till 10 pm, said our goodbyes and piled into the van.  We chatted about all the great people we had met and danced with that night and all agreed that we were a little stinky and a shower was going to feel great!

Yep – Contra Dancing was a hit with the kids and this will definitely become a new family favorite.  The next dance is already on the calendar!

Homeschool Birthday Gift

February 1, 2010

Let’s face it – homeschoolers, in general, come with a certain stereotype.  We’re a bit “unconventional”, and that’s the nice word!  It’s never bothered me because, as I’ve confessed to you before, I’m not conventional.

And so, it is with great joy and exuberance that I share with you the “unconventional” gift my daughter, Mae Mae, received from a dear friend for her 13th birthday this year.  I must first let you know this about my Mae Mae…she loves, adores, is obsessed by, passionate about, “eats, breathes, sleeps”  horses.  Life had no meaning until she had her own horse!

Mae Mae also wants to be a vet someday.  She volunteers at a vet hospital every Friday and is learning Latin for all those medical terms.  It’s gifts like this one that thrill my heart because they mean a great deal…

Wanna take a guess as to what this is?!

These are all the bones that make up the front leg of a horse.  It’s a horse leg puzzle!

My friend, who had access to these bones, cleaned them and wrapped them up for Mae Mae.  Then she and Mae Mae looked through an anatomy book until they found a picture of the skeletal structure of a horse’s front leg.


Those pages were all that Mae Mae had to go by when figuring out how to put this leg together.

I love looking at the bones, touching them.  They’re beautiful!

The other day, I found Mae Mae, bones in hand, studying intently the drawings of the leg.

It thrills my heart and makes me want to jump and shout when kids learn by discovery.  That look of “ah ha!!”  The excitement in their voice, the boost of confidence – it’s so rewarding to those of us who teach.

That’s what I observed as I saw Mae Mae begin to fit all the pieces together.

Learning to take what she saw on the 2 dimensional paper and translate it to the 3 dimensional bones in her hands.

And with each piece fitting properly…

The determination to complete the task grew…

Unbeknownst to her – she’s learning!!

And she’s questioning… “Mom, can you believe all the weight of a horse is carried by this one tiny toe?”  “How strong do  you think these bones are, especially when the horse is jumping and putting all that pressure on the front?”

Good questions, good critical thinking – the quest for more knowledge.

Now she’s figuring out what part all these smaller bones play in the overall structure of the front leg.

And the best part?  Mae Mae figured this all out on her own, without any help from anyone – not even Sawyer who was asleep beside her!

Unconventional gifts for unconventional learning – part of the joy of homeschooling!