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A Review of The Amazing Caves at The Pink Palace

It all started about 2 months ago when I watched a video on deep, underwater caves called blue holes. It has sparked a huge interest in caves and diving for me. One day I was telling mom about all the different caves when she mentioned The Pink Palace has a movie about caves playing right now. About the same time, I was working on my bucket list for our creative writing class blog posts, so I asked mom if we could go see the movie soon and she said absolutely.


After hearing about the movie, I started researching it.  It is called “The Amazing Caves”. The movie is about two cavers, Nancy Aulenbach and Hazel Barton who travel to three different remote areas of the world to collect samples of extremophiles, which are bacteria that have created immunity and adapted to their harsh environments. They hope to study these to help identify cures for diseases.

On the day before we go to The Pink Palace, mom researched the time of the movie and discovered that it is going to play at 1:00 but it will be going into the vault (storage of past movies) on Saturday! The next day when I woke up, I was filled with excitement, I quickly got ready and headed downstairs to eat a quick breakfast so we could get on the road!

Pink Palace

When we arrived at The Pink Palace, we went to the ticket window where we were greeted by the extremely polite staff. After getting our tickets, we decided to stroll around since we had a few minutes before the movie started. We found ourselves looking at their amazing collections of skeletons from snakes to a tiny hummingbird, they had a ton!

Soon it was time to go downstairs to the IMAX.  We all went and chose our seats in the back but inline with the giant IMAX screen. After we got situated, I went around photographing the humongous screen and movie player, and the vast room. After a while, the movie hostess came in and told us all the rules (like stay seated, please don’t take photos, turn off your phones, etc.).  After waiting a few more minutes, the lights dimmed.

The movie starts in the Grand Canyon with you suddenly flying over the breath-taking canyon! With a bird’s-eye view of the canyon, you see every stone in the enormous formation. After soaring through the canyon a while you see two floating Amazing Cavesspecks on the side of a cliff. Slowly, as the camera zooms in, you can see two people dangling from ropes!  Under them is a hole into the side of the mountain, a window where you can see the inner beauty of this rock formation. The two people on these life-preserving ropes enter the cave, here we meet Nancy Aulenbach and Hazel Barton.

Grand pillars stand tall in this vast cave, which formed over thousands of years ago. This cave might have started as a small hollow hole in the rock, but as water seeped in, it cut away at the rock which turned it into the massive cave we see today. Then, when the cave mass is formed, the mineral-rich water that drops in, leaves sediment that builds up into pillars and spikes called stalagmites and stalactites.  Stalagmites grow from the floor and stalactites grown from the ceiling, and if two meet together, it’s now called a column. In the very bottom of the cave is some water which the two cavers take samples of in search of extremophiles.

Next we see Nancy and Hazel in cold weather gear getting ready to travel to Greenland to get their next sample of extremophiles. As their helicopter approaches camp, Nancy describes it as a few specks on the frozen horizon. When they land, the helicopter leaves and they start talking to the man who has ice caved deeper than anyone alive, Janot Lamberton. They can not go to the cave they want to explore for a week, because when the water melts it flows straight down the ravine-like cave. After 4 days of the temperatures dropping, they head to the cave.

ravineThe cave does not look like a cave at all. It just looks like a crack in the ice.  However, it really leads to a steep, ice ravine that drops hundreds of feet. They have to use cliff climbing gear to repel into the ravine to obtain the samples they want. Janot goes first, breaking away all the stray or weak ice. He is also the one who is going to go to the bottom of the cave and actually gather the ice sample that Nancy and Hazel want. After he collects it from the bottom of the ravine, he starts the long climb up. When he gets back to the surface, they take their samples and start preparation to leave. Nancy explains why cavers have such a strong bond… “When you and another caver depend on each other for your life, you get an unbreakable bond that will last forever”.

Finally they travel south to Mexico Quintana Roo where there are underwater caves running under a lot of the peninsula. Some of the water in these caves is fresh water, but there is also salt water. When the two meet there is a blurry wall called a halocline. They hope to find some extremophiles living in the halocline there. Only Hazel and their guide will be diving because Nancy promised her family she never would cave dive.

The first place they are diving is in a pool of water that leads down into a deeper underwater system of the cave. After searching for quite a while, they reach a dead-end. Later they return and explore another cave with a pool that leads to a deeper system. When they dive in this one, they find a guide line already laid. A guide line is a long strand of thin rope that cave divers release so they can find their way back out, sort of like bread crumbs. Most cave divers give themselves a set of rules that they do not break. One is always set down a guide line and hold on to it. The reason they hold onto the rope is, if stray mud and particles blur the water and cause a blackout, you can easily lose sight of the line and you may never be able to find it again.

After a while, they enter a bigger chamber where in the back they see another passage, in the passage is the blurry wall. Finally they found the halocline.  After collecting the samples, they head to the surface. Now, seven years later, they have developed several cures for leukemia from their samples and they hope to find more cures to different diseases.

Boys pink palace

I also have an interesting fact about Nancy. She is a teaching assistant at a Montessori school in Georgia. The entire time they are exploring caves, she is reporting back using her website to teach her class about caves and all the interesting things they were doing. Before we started homeschooling, we attended a Montessori school in La Grange. The fact that she is a teacher in a Montessori school, is extremely cool!

If you want to visit The Pink Palace you will have to wait a couple months because they are now in the middle of renovating and changing the IMAX projector to be digital and 3D. I am excited about these changes happening at The Pink Palace, I don’t know what all they are doing except what little information the hostess shared about what is happening to the IMAX. But I do know the first movie playing is called The Flight of The Butterfly in 3D. I can’t wait to see it because my favorite butterfly is what the whole movie is all about, the Monarch butterfly, and it’s migration!

Have you ever been to The Pink Palace? If so, tell me about your visit?  I recommend You go see Flight of The Butterfly. It looks amazing from the trailer!

So, I now have only six things on my 2014 bucket list instead of seven … and I still have 11 months to do them!

See ya soon!

Edmund Scientifics and Hip Homeschool Moms

Just wanted to be sure my readers saw this fabulous giveaway happening thanks to Edmund Scientifics and Hip Homeschool Moms!  The first giveaway is for a Tech Light Kit.  It is fantastic!   Jennifer, a local friend , sister soccer mom, and teammate on Hip Homeschool Moms, reviewed this product and she said her son, River,  just loved doing these experiments!  Be sure to check out her review and share your thoughts on it!

We covered the study of Light in our Astronomy curriculum from Apologia!  I wish we had this kit to help us study the bending, blending, reflection and refraction of light back then!  It is so much fun to watch their eyes light up when they have the “aha” moment that happens with understanding… the moment  we are all addicted to!

Edmund Scientific Tech Light Lab

As a Montessori homeschool mom, my goal is to ignite my children’s interest, to spark their imagination and offer tools that encourage exploration… these products do just that!  If you are not familiar with the products from Edmund Scientifics, you should get to know them!  When I was the Chairman of the Board for my boys’ former Montessori School, I purchased so many of their items for the school… and have continued since we brought the boys home to homeschool!

This review / giveaway is  only the first of 9 weeks of giveaways from Edmund Scientifics!  Be sure to watch for all the fabulous reviews and giveaways coming up for the weeks leading up to the holidays! We celebrate Chanukah and it comes early this year… it starts around Thanksgiving!

The Hip Homeschool Mom team and their families are thoroughly enjoying writing these reviews!  Thank you Edmund Scientifics for the opportunity to partner with you!


Another Reason I love homeschooling

Tuesdays.  They are not my favorite days.  Not because of the day of the week, but because we are on the road for 40 minutes one way to our local homeschool co-op.  I love how much the boys are getting out of their art Class (Thanks Ms. Mary), but I just hate driving that far for one class.  This is our second year taking art classes and the boys’ skills are improving dramatically. (Remember, I am determined they will not grow up to be an art vacuum like me, so we will soldier through.) However, this Tuesday was different. It was one of those days that remind me of why I love homeschooling.

This morning we worked on their Institute for Excellence in Writing, Student Writing Intensive A. it is really review, but is a great place to start before they leap into major history writing via Trisms.  Because it is review, success is almost guaranteed. We love those scenarios! After we finished IEW and lunch, we piled into the car for the drive to co-op.  Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the book my nine-year old has in hand. This book.

Light Reading

Blake brought it along for the boys to quiz each other about the elements… for FUN! Have I mentioned lately I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING! I’m sure over the course of writing I’ll end up sharing the other 999,999,999 reasons along the way.  

Until next time!  


Homeschool Curriculum, Schedule and Checklist 2013 – 2014

Homeschool Schedules, Curriculum and Daily Checklists 8th, 8th and 4th Grades


We are very hands-on (Montessori-ish) homeschoolers and have been homeschooling for four years, headed into our fifth! This article is all about our homeschool curriculum, schedule and checklist for 2013 -2014. Chase and Gage both are taking high school level classes so we are now using transcripts. Thankfully our umbrella school, HomeLife Academy makes it easy with their new AppleCore Reporting System!

So many people think Montessori homeschooling is akin to chaos or unschooling without structure… But that is just not accurate, as you will see with the boys’ curriculum and schedule! It is FAR from unschooling and nothing remotely close to chaos! I have included with each of my sons’ curriculum section, their schedules and their daily checklists (which includes their home chores). Montessori focuses on independence in education and the realization that we are life long learners. The tools we are using (schedules and daily checklists) are very effective at keeping them on track, holding them accountable and giving them freedom within their daily schedule. You will notice lots of study halls on their schedules. With the exception of those virtual or co-op classes that have specific times that the boys must attend at a specific time, we allow them to do their work at any time each day, as long as it is done that day. Thus the study halls sprinkled throughout the day allow for that flexibility.  

Another aspect of a Montesori education is a particular focus on life skills. You will see on the boys’ daily checklist a variety of daily chores they do from vacuuming to washing clothes. And we regularly swap out chore lists to allow for the boys to learn all aspects of running a home. We have also taken practical life skills to the next level with a focus on entrepreneurship. We realize our children will be part of the next generations’ leaders. We believe they will be the generation that gets America back on the right track, from a spiritual, economic, moral, government and academic perspective. So we are teaching them the skills they will need to achieve that goal! Each of our sons has their own business.  Their businesses focus on agriculture simply because we live on a farm (and it is a great, wholesome and healthy place to raise boys). So, it is natural for all of their businesses to be farm-based… thus we call it “farmschooling”. However, if we urban, they might not have these same businesses, but they would have some sort of business to teach them about capitalism!  

We have gotten a bit creative in how we encourage the boys to grow their writing skills… we allow them to blog about their businesses and our homeschool on our homeschool blog. All comments on our blog are moderated by me and all of their emails forward to me, so it is very controlled and protected (as much as they can be in this fallen world). The boys are really loving this new avenue of communication with the outside world called social media! It will be a part of their world when they are grown, so we might as well teach them how to use it responsibly now!  

All of our boys have a focus and desire to go to college, so you will notice they are pretty aggressive in their workload. This is primarily based on what they are capable of. Do not use our classes or our schedule as a model of a typical child in these grades. Children all learn at different levels and at different paces. Don’t ever prevent your children from running ahead if they want to. My yougest son wanted to do algebra in 3rd grade because he was chasing his older brothers.  So we let him. He has since just completed the Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra curriculum (in third grade) and has started the Teaching Textbooks Algebra before entering 4th grade. Let them run and only slow them down if they are setting themselves up for a huge failure that you know they would not recover from. Don’t forget what our founding fathers were by the time they were sixteen years old. Be sure your children research them and know their character!  We have got to realize, as a society, we have failed miserably in preparing the next generation. It’s up to us to turn this around!  

I can assure you, we don’t have homeschooling or child-rearing figured out, but we are in a pretty good place right now.  We are so very blessed and realize where this peace and prosperity originates!

If you have any questions, leave a comment below or email me!  I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have!  

Chase 8th Grade Curriculum

8th Grade

Algebra 2 (VideoText)

Exercises in English H (Loyola Press)

Vocabulary in Action H (Loyola Press)

All About Spelling

Classics Club via Virtual Homeschool Group

Teaching Writing Structure and Style (Institute for Excellence in Writing) 

Biology (Apologia) via Virtual Homeschool Group

Spanish II Descubre via Spanish Clicks

Finish Paths of Exploration / Start TRISMS History Makers / Masterminds

Logic (Fallacy Detective and Books from Critical Thinking Company)

Biblical Worldview  (Philosophy Adventure and Young Historians Introduction to Worldview and our Bible)

Art II via Local Co-op

Photography II via Virtual Homeschool Group

Economics (Capitalism for Kids, Commonsense Business for Kids and Starting a Micro Business Carol Topp IEW)

Photoshop via Virtual Homeschool Group

Creative Writing: Blogs at and Teen Book Reviews (Psalm onenineTEEN Reviews)

8th Grade Schedule

Daily Checklist 4th, 7th and 8th Grades

Gage 7th Grade Curriculum

7th Grade

Algebra 2 (VideoText)

Exercises in English G (Loyola Press)

Vocabulary in Action G (Loyola Press)

All About Spelling

Classics Club via Virtual Homeschool Group

Teaching Writing Structure and Style (Institute for Excellence in Writing) 

Physial Science (Apologia) via Virtual Homeschool Group

Spanish II Descubre via Spanish Clicks

Finish Paths of Exploration / Start TRISMS History Makers / Masterminds

Logic (Fallacy Detective and Books from Critical Thinking Company)

Biblical Worldview  (Philosophy Adventure and Young Historians Introduction to Worldview and our Bible)

Art II via Local Co-op

Photography II via Virtual Homeschool Group

Economics (Capitalism for Kids, Commonsense Business for Kids and Starting a Micro Business Carol Topp IEW)

Illustrator via Virtual Homeschool Group

Creative Writing Blogs at and chronicals his business and homeschool at Deluxe Clucks

7th Grade Schedule

Daily Checklist 4th, 7th and 8th Grade


Blake 4th Grade Curriculum

4th Grade 

Algebra 1 (Teaching Textbooks)

Exercises in English D/E (Loyola Press)

Vocabulary in Action D/E (Loyola Press)

Handwriting without Tears Cursive

All About Spelling

Study of Classics 

Teaching Writing Structure and Style (Institute for Excellence in Writing) 

Exploring Creation Physics and Chemistry (Apologia) 

Spanish (K-6) via Spanish Clicks

Finish Paths of Exploration / Start TRISMS History Makers / Masterminds

Logic (Fallacy Detective and Books from Critical Thinking Company)

Biblical Worldview  (Philosophy Adventure and Young Historians Introduction to Worldview and our Bible)

Economics (Capitalism for Kids, Commonsense Business for Kids and Starting a Micro Business Carol Topp IEW) NOT REQUIRED

Art II via Local Co-op

Photography II via Virtual Homeschool Group

Creative Writing Blogs at 

4th Grade Schedule

Daily Checklist 4th, 7th and 8th Grade

Curriculum spreadsheet for all three boys that we use as a GUIDE to keep us on track.  

Homeschool Daily Checklists

POE Columbus Lesson 2 Our Sailboat Adventure


For Lesson 2 of the Columbus Unit of our Paths Of Exploration study, we are learning about explorers and their ships. Mom assigned me the project of writing about our sailboat adventure a couple of years ago. This is my report on our sailboat trip.  

Our NC Sailboat Adventure

In 2010, we were visiting our granddaddy in North Carolina and rented a beach house on the beach in Emerald Isle. Close to the end of our trip, we rented a sailboat called the Good Fortune for the day. It was docked in Beaufort NC. We left Emerald Isle and traveled to the dock. There we met Captain Ron and his dog Rudder. It was his boat we were going on. We talked a little and then he had to get the ship ready. While he was doing that we explored the waterfront. Once the boat was ready, we left the dock.  Good Fortune

On the way to Cape Lookout, we saw many sea creatures like jellyfish and dolphins and red algae. We tried to get pictures of the dolphin, but we never got a good one. Captain Ron told us that this dolphin was released from Disney World and was tagged. The ride was gentle and calming I actually fell fast asleep with his dog, Rudder. When i woke up it was only a few minutes till we got to the island.

Apologia Swimming Creatures and Rudder, the dogAs we were anchoring, we were surrounded by pelicans! Captain Ron said they were looking for an easy meal. We had to ride in a dinghy to get to the island, once there we saw tiny black ovals everywhere! When we got a closer look they were actually snails… TONS of them! Then we starting exploring the island and saw an under water lizard, some crabs and a conch shell with another mollusk. Mom even brought the Apologia Swimming Creatures book for us to look up creatures we found!  

We hiked to the other side of the island and found a huge tide pool. We investigated the tide pool and swam in it… and saw that there was a sand shark in it with us! Luckily sand sharks don’t bite people. Mom spent her time shell hunting up and down the beach. She found beautiful whole conchs and many unusual shells. Dad, my brothers and I investigated some large boulders along the shore. When Captain Ron told us it was time to leave, we all were sad. We were all having so much fun on this island. 

On the way back, I stayed awake the whole time and we got to see wild horses. We were going to go to the island where the wild horses were, but we stayed on the first island too long. Once we docked back at Beaufort, i was glad to be on land again.  

I found out I LOVED sailing and want to go back again!   

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Name that Spice Game

Name that Spice


Can you imagine how fabulous (and pungent) it would be to walk into a spice tent?  As you know, we are hands-on (Montessori-ish) Homeschoolers, so we decided to create a “Name that Spice Game” to experience that blend of spices smell on a small scale. In Lesson 1, Part 2 of our Paths of Exploration Columbus Unit, we studied about ancient open-air bazaars, such as the ones you might find in Middle Eastern countries today.  Explorers liked to bring home spices from bazaars to sell in their own countries.  

This game is a spin-off of a Montessori work, Scent Jars. If you have younger students that have not used this activity, I highly recommend using it with this lesson first.  Remember, all Montessori works are teaching a life-principle or concept that is much deeper than the obvious work itself.  For example, for the smelling jars, your child is not just being taught how to be able to identify a specific spice smell, the lesson’s goal is to help your child become aware of scents in their environment.  Another reason younger students should do the traditional work can be found in the WARNING at the bottom of this article.  

Over the last several years, we have studied why our olfactory system (our sense of smell) is important to us in our various Apologia Textbooks: Human Anatomy and Physiology, an elementary study and human anatomy is the entire second half of General Science, the first middle school science book.  The sense of smell is a way for us to gather messages about the environment around us. So, literally, with each breath we take, we are sampling our environment for smells that would indicate various dangers, food, or other individuals, etc.  

Since my boys are older and have already had the luxury of using the Montessori primary curriculum (including the smelling jars), we made an extension for our purposes.  Here is a list of spices you can use, the spices that are in bold type are the ones we used.    

  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Bay Leaf
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Celery Seed
  • Chili Powder
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Mustard Seed
  • Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Peppermint
  • Poppy seed
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Thyme



12 Spices

Party Cups (Read the Warning at the bottom of the post)


Notebook paper


Stickie Notes 



1.  Choose 12 different spices.  

2.  On the bottom of each cup, prior to pouring in the spice, number the cups 1-12, with a sharpie.  

3.  Pour a small amount of spice into one cup.  Place a stickie note on the spice jar with the number that corresponds to number on the bottom of the cup that contains that spice.  

4.  Share one cup at a time and request that your children use their hand to wave the smell toward their nose.  It is called Spice Game Waftingwafting and here is a demonstration.  You will see why you should not put your nose over the cup and sniff when you read the warning at the bottom of this article.  

5.  Have your children number their paper 1-12.  As they finish exploring each spice, ask them to write the name of the spice they think each smell is.  I did not blindfold my boys, but this would narrow the senses being tested down to just their sense of smell (and, in the process, protect those eyes)!  Since I did not blindfold, my boys could see the color, texture, and features of each spice, which did make it a little easier)!

6.  Once your children have explored all 12 spice scents, reveal what each spice is, starting with #1. 

Spice Game Blake I was a little bit surprised with the results.  Blake loves to cook and is in the kitchen with me cooking most meals.  So, I expected him to do extremely well (and he did, 10 out of 12 he got right).  But Gage came in a close second and he rarely cooks. However, Gage has always seemed to have heightened senses, so maybe this was just further confirmation of that theory.  Chase was a distant third!  He needs more time in the kitchen cooking, apparently!  

Spice Game Warning

WARNING!!  When dealing with anything you are smelling, there is always a chance of getting too strong a whiff or getting it in your eyes. Therefore, I’ve always been taught and taught my boys that to smell an unknown item, you should do so by waving their hand over the item to draw the scent to you (wafting). Well, even with this lesson firmly established and us using this practice throughout this project, Gage, my 12 year old son, on the next to the last spice, got that spice in his eyes, not once but TWICE.  Gage decided he couldn’t smell the spice with just the light scent his hand was able to direct toward his face, so he put his nose over the cup of spice.  Well, he breathed into the cup accidentally and the Ground Clove flew right into his eyes. I’m still thanking our Father in Heaven it was only Clove… it could have been MUCH worse. So, if you have young children I recommend NOT using open cups with spices.  

See why we named the blog (and our farm) “Live and Learn” Farm? We are always learning…. sometimes, the hard way!  I’m not sure who learned this lesson more, me or Gage!  

Until Next time…


How to Make a Compass

How to Make a Compass


As part of our Paths of Exploration curriculum for the Christopher Columbus unit, we decided to research how to make a compass. We found an easy 20 minute project and decided to make it!!  The boys completed a Scientific Speculation Sheet from our Apologia Curriculum and added this to their Paths of Exploration Student Notebook.  Below are the details for how to make a compass! 

Materials List:

  • A Small Piece of Cork
  • A Sharpie
  • A Plastic Lid
  • A Needle
  • A Magnet


1.    Write the initial for the cardinal directions on the inside of the plastic lid (see picture at the top of the post).  

2.    Place the lid on the table with the “N” pointing North.  

3.    Once the ink dries, fill the lid with water.  
Magnetize Needle

4.    Take the magnet and brush the needle over it moving your hand in the same direction several times (do not go back and forth, just one direction).

Compass Needle Cork

5.    Push the needle through the small piece of cork.  Be sure the cork will be able to float freely in the water in the plastic lid before you push the needle through.  

6.    Place the needle and cork in the water.  One end of the needle should be pointing North.  

7.    Turn the lid now to see what happens.  Document the results.

So What Is happening?  

Magnetic fields contain a force that is created by moving electrical charges. The Earth produces a magnetic field  and this field is quite weak. It is sufficiently strong enough to align magnetized objects, such as the needle in our compass. By floating the needle on the cork, you allowed it to rotate freely. So the needle became lined up with Earth’s magnetic field and points toward the north or south pole of the planet.  

For a very detailed middle / high school level explanation of what is happening with the magnetism, see this GREAT article on Magnetism by Dr. Lensyl Urbano (PhD Geology and Geophysics) from Montessori Muddle.  I’ve been following this blog for a while and it is one of my favorites for upper level science with a hands-on perspective.  

As we work through the Paths of Exploration curriculum this summer, there will be lots more hands-on posts, so stay tuned!  

Until next time…. 



Paths of Exploration Columbus Lesson 1 Part 1

Columbus Study



Launch Day!  We started Paths of Exploration by Trail Guide to Learning today!  As most of you know, we homeschool with a very hands-on (Montessori-ish) approach to education, so we are using lots of  supplemental resources to augment this course.  We are doing the entire Paths of Exploration as an intensive study over the summer, so there will be lots of territory covered in my posts!   As I post these articles, I will also be giving reviews of their product in a real-world, running review of this curriculum. This article is about Paths of Exploration Columbus Lesson 1 Part 1.


Steps for thinking


We decided to do the upper elementary section for all of Columbus first and then circle back and do the Middle School supplement curriculum after we finish Columbus Upper Elementary curriculum.  That way, all of the boys have the foundation that the Upper Elementary curriculum lays first before we jump into a more extensive Columbus Middle School study.  Besides, we are just figuring out the style of this curriculum and I’m already seeing areas that need to be refined and cleaned up! But we are going to do Columbus Unit pretty much as it is presented in both the Upper Elementary and the Middle School texts with a few minor modifications. After we have completed both texts, we may decide to modify our approach.   

Section A is Copywork/Dictation with “Language Skills” being the area mentioned as the target for this section.  I really thought I would skip this section before we started, but I decided to teach ColumbusHandwriting without Tears pretty much as it is presented and I am glad I did (at least for this section).  It is good for them to hear poetry and to try to transcribe it from my dictation. Any missed words become part of their vocabulary words for that week. It was fun and it is a great way for me to keep their handwriting skills up. All of the boys are excellent at writing (Thank you Handwriting without Tears!)… and yes, they learned how to write cursive!!  The dictation was from an original poem by Debbie Strayer (one of the authors).  

Section B is Reader with “Language Skills, Thinking Skills, and History” listed as the areas targeted by this work area. This is where everything was terribly mixed up!  There are two required reading books about Christopher Columbus. One is Meet Christopher Columbus Meet Christopher Columbusand the other is Christopher Columbus.  Since the names are so close, it would have been helpful if they explained which one to read from (maybe giving the author each time).  

Section C is Read-Aloud and Discussion and the targeted areas for this section are “Language Skills, Thinking Skills and Writing”.  I have no idea why there are two sections both with a focus on reading aloud.  This is why it was confusing.  In Section B it says “read one or two pages aloud” but in Section C it states “listen as your teacher reads pages 1-6 aloud”.  The boys JUST read pages 1-2 aloud and now I’m reading these same pages again? I thought maybe I had the boys read the wrong book aloud, but no, it’s the same book Christopher Columbus.  So, this was confusing.  We have two hard copies of both these books for us to use but I also purchased a Kindle version of Meet Christopher Columbus and the boys all downloaded it onto their Kindles for Christopher Columbustheir read aloud sections.  I had all three boys take turns reading paragraphs.  The Bennie Rhodes book was not available as a Kindle download.  Anyway, they really enjoyed being able to read it from their own Kindles (and even figured out how to have their kindles read to them… LOL)!  The discussion question was terribly basic for this age group (What do you think Christopher Columbus’ dream was when he was a young boy?”.  Both books we read aloud provided the answer.  If you were paying half a second of attention, you would have this question answered.  Maybe that was the point for the first Lesson, but the boys could have handled a much more thought-provoking question!  

Section D is Word Study. The areas focused on with this section are “Spelling, Phonics and Vocabulary”. For this one the authors discuss “long I” words from the original poem that were part of the copy/dictation work from Section A.  This was very basic also for upper elementary students.  We did it but we will augment the next lesson to add more challenging words!  There was also a discussion here about the prefix “un” and how it was used in the reading from Sections B and C.  They provide an area for the students to list 6 words that start with “un” and define them.  This was pretty fun for them, but still very basic. 

un equals not


Also as part of Section D we located cities in Italy on the globe. We loved this part and the boys did great… just one thing, the next section (section E) is Geography.  Why did they put this under Section D, Word Study?  I have to assume it was a mistake.  They also had to identify port cities in the US after defining what a “port” is.  With the help of the globe, they listed out several from both coasts.  That was a fun activity as well.  

Like I just mentioned, Section E is Geography with the area targeted being listed as “Science”.  Here we are learning about a compass.  We did the worksheets for the CompassRose-MPScompass but we also printed out this great compass work from Montessori Print Shop. Since we love hands-on learning, we decided to create our own compass. Here is that post.    

Section F is Writing with “Thinking Skills” being listed as the area being targeted. The boys were to list the details of Columbus’ birthday as described in the text.  Then list the details from a typical birthday for them.  In the student notebook is a Venn diagram where they would list the individual traits for each and the common traits.  Great exercise!  

Finally, Section G is Independent Reading.  At the beginning of the provided student notebook is a reading list. The independent reading section is meant to be just thirty minutes of fun reading. However, this is exactly what they do every night already, so we have modified this a little bit so they can read anything about Christopher Columbus for thirty minutes on Wednesdays and Sundays. We have quite a few Columbus books in our library from coloring books and picture books to exhaustive studies … so they should not run out of material to read for a while. I wrote a post to share our library resources, you can find it here.  One other modification I have made is I added in an art component.  All of my boys took Drawing this past year as an elective, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they are going to spend thirty minutes each day drawing something that is applicable to the subject we are studying.  They do not have to complete their drawings the same day or even the same week. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!  

We are year-round homeschoolers, however most of the curriculum the boys were working on during the year they have completed.  So this curriculum is a great way to keep many of the skills the boys have acquired over the year fresh and to dive into a new subject.  In addition to this curriculum, the boys are keeping their math going all year.  So their workload is dramatically reduced during the summer.  I know some may be wondering why we do this.  Well, we quickly realized after that first summer off from homeschooling that it was quite hard to get back into the routine.  We decided (with the boys) that we would have a dramatically reduced schedule, but would keep going during the summer months.  For me, this curriculum is an experiment.  I have been toying with the idea of using an all-inclusive curriculum for a couple of years;  one where all the subjects (with the exception of Science and Math) are covered and are integrated.  This curriculum may or may not be the right one for an all-inclusive, but this was a great one to test the concept with.  I’ll give you more feedback on that as we work through this curriculum.  I hope these posts will be a blessing to you and your family!  If so, leave me a note!  

Until next time…. 

We are connecting this week with the Ultimate Homeschool Link-up.  Be sure to visit them and the other bloggers linked there, they all have GREAT posts!  I especially love the Firefly one!

 The Homeschool Village

Help with Identification and Treatment of Bumblefoot

Good Afternoon! The other day I was outside playing and my brother, Blake, came out and said “we have a problem with Rocky!”  Rocky, our Rhode Island Red Rooster, was limping.  Rocky is about 3 years old.  He was limping so much that I could catch up with him and sit him in my lap (which I have never been able to do before).  I inspected his feet to see if I could see a problem and it appears he has an infection called Bumblefoot.  Bumblefoot is an infection chickens and chicks can get from walking on hard surfaces which can cause cuts to the chicken/chick feet where bacteria can enter and cause an infection.  What I’ve read doing research says when a chicken has Bumblefoot there will be an iconic scab.  I think this is what Rocky has on his foot.  Here are some pictures of Rocky’s foot:




Bumblefoot Identification Top View

I am not sure how to treat the infection.  I have seen and heard many ways to clean out the infection and stop the pain.   I have been researching what to do and I found this list on the Chicken Chick‘s site where she describes one way to treat Bumblefoot.  I’ve copied it below:

  • peel off the scab after soaking the foot in Betadine mixed with water
  • then squeeze the infection out
  • if it is stuck, cut a little bit with a sanitized knife until you get the infection out of the foot
  • then apply Vetericyn
  • after applying Vetericyn wrap foot (or pinkie toe in our case) with vet tape or gauze.

Please, can someone confirm that this is Bumblefoot.  And please let me know if this is the right treatment!  Or if I need to do something else.  

Thank you!   See ya’ soon….

Homeschooling on the Beach Part 2


Homeschooling on the Beach Part Two



In Homeschooling on the Beach Part 1, we spent some time laying the foundation of geography and travel prior to taking your vacation.  In Part 2, I’m picking up once you are at the beach.  If you have not read part 1, you can find it here.

Blue Crab Exploring Nature

One creature you will most likely find on any beach any where, is the crab.  Crabs are crustaceans as are shrimp and  lobsters.  Crustaceans have exoskeletons… “Exo” refers to outside, so an exoskeleton is a skeleton on the outside of their body.  But did you know barnacles are crustaceans too?  Heck, I’m not sure I even knew they were alive until we did this study!  Montessori Materials has a free download of nomenclature cards for Crustaceans.  Science Teachers has some cards as well (not 3 part cards).  Exploring Nature has some great coloring pages and labeling pages for Crustaceans as well.  If you have never gone crabbing, now is the time!  You can either crab off a salt water dock or do what we like to do… get a net, a flash light and a bucket and catch them at night by catching them on the beach in the dark!  It is so much fun!  This is one of our pictures from years ago of two of our little ones examining the crabs after we have been crabbing.  I love those little faces!!!  


Beach 4 edited


Seashell Nomenclature by Desert CrafterI’m from the coast of North Carolina and I remember the first time I went to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico, I was shocked to not find any shells!  I am a sheller, big time!  I was completely lost that vacation not being able to shell hunt!  This is a great study, and for a sheller like me, a MUST do!  There are primarily two kinds of shells, Bi-valves and gastropods (sometimes called uni-valves).  Here is a Shell Sheet I saved when we took our trip a couple of years ago.  I’ve hunted online to find where I got it so I can give credit with no luck.  If you happen to know, send me an email so I can give credit!  I found these 3 part cards for sea shells and couldn’t wait to share them!  These were made by Desert Crafter who has a ton of other wonderful Shell works!   Montessori Print Shop has a beautiful free set as well!  


Be sure to pick up lots of shells to bring back with you (and maybe even a bucket of sand and a bottle of salt water)!  You can use the shells for various sorting works, for identification, for counting, and for matching to the 3 part cards above.  Here is a great site to help with the identification of shells.  


Seashell frame insructionsOr you can use them to make a frame to put your favorite vacation picture in!  Here is a lesson on doing that!  Confession:  I still have all the shells and picture frames to make our frames from three years ago and haven’t yet!!  Maybe if we can’t go to the beach this year, we can at least do that!  If I do, I’ll be sure to post the how to’s and the final pictures when we are through!  

Once you are at the beach, always look for the tide pools!  They are brimming with all kinds of life and other interesting items that got trapped from the ocean!  Look for living creatures first… and try to identify them.  


Have you ever wondered what the secret is to those fabulous sand castles you sometimes see on the beach?  Here is your answer!  

There are several videos in this series, so be sure to watch them all!  Now, after learning how to build these fabulous sand castles, it seems appropriate to study why the water and sand work together this way.  Here are a couple of interesting links on sandcastle physics and thermodynamics!

There may be one more post in this series.  I’ll try to get it posted before summer, LOL!!!!  Have a great trip to the beach with your little ones! Our goal is for school and life to blend into an indistinguishable blur of fun, challenge and education!  I hope you guys can find that balance!  

Until next time…

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