Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Connecticut Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Hike

August 2004

Connecticut Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Burr Street, Fairfield, Connecticut.

Ages and Grades: 7 (rising 2nd grade) and 4 (Pre-K)

My neighbor and friend invited us to go visit the birds in the rescue center and to take a hike through the wooded trails.

The white plants are monotropia unifora, the rarely seen Ghost Pipe or Indian Pipe. They only grow in certain conditions and they fade fairly quickly and turn to mush. They are very delicate and so low to the ground that they are difficult to photograph.

Peregrine Falcon

Barred Owl "Who cooks for you?" 
I saw one in the wild for the first time in 2011 and it was an amazing experience.

Red Tailed Hawk

The birds are amazing to see up close. There were many feathers on the ground, especially hawk feathers. My friend asked if she could take one home and the reply from staff was that it is against federal law to own bird feathers and that the center must catalogue every fallen feather and sent a report to the government to account for it. I can't recall if they have to mail the feather in or not, maybe they promise to destroy it. Anyhow my point is that day I learned a lesson about well-intentioned laws (not allowing wild bird feathers to be used to make hats or clothing to protect the birds) getting out of hand.

It was a fun day. Seeing live birds and animals with young children is a fun experience. They get so excited and happy to watch the mannerism and actions of the birds. It is inspiring to see kids get so happy over something so simple.

The Connecticut Forest at the Audubon Center

As for the hike my kids always love them and especially when they could run around in the woods with a friend.

Monday, July 30, 2012

American Museum of Natural History

August 2004

American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York.

Ages and Grades: 7 (rising 2nd grader) and 4 (Pre-K)

A friend invited us to drive to AMNH on a day in August before school started. Her kids were homeschool high school, homeschool elementary, private school middle, and public school middle school students.

The problem with going to museums with friends is that the kids seem to have more fun just socializing with each other and they put the actual reason for being there second. They wouldn't care if they were sitting around in a field talking, they just want to talk and be with their friends. I find we learn a lot more when we go on educational trips alone, especially ones where you guide yourself along through the place. A docent-led tour is another matter.

The museum is dark and most of it is not the best for taking photographs. The kids moved so fast and it was kind of crowded this day. The place is so large it is hard to see everything and read every plaque in one visit. You also have to decide if you want to see a planetarium show on the same day (this time we did not).

I recall seeing everything having to do with dinosaurs, as that was the thing they were most interested in. We saw a big exhibit on oceans and ocean life.

We also paid extra to go a special exhibit with live exotic frogs such as tree frogs from the Amazon.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cabot's Candy Making Shop

July 2004

Cabot's Candy Shop, Handmade Salt Water Taffy on Premises, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising 2nd grader) and 4 (Pre-K)

This is an annual stop for us when we're in Cape Cod.

If you are lucky you will be there when staff are making salt water taffy. There is ample room to view the process.

Bins of what seem like a hundred flavors of salt water taffy are there for you to pick and choose to buy and pay for at a per-pound basis.

It is good for kids to see how things are made and to connect real people to the products they consume.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tidal Pool and Bay Shore Exploration

July 2004

Eastham, Cape Cod, a bay-side beach at low tide

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising 2nd grade) and 4 (Pre-K)

Exploring the shallow bay side beach at low tide reveals tidal pools and shallow waters whcih are teeming with life. Every year then and now we walk these beaches and look for hermit crabs, moon snails, various larger crabs, and anything else we stumble upon.

The only real concern is not over-stressing the hermit crabs by overcrowding. They start to fight if in too close quarters in a bucket or in a child-made pool. When it gets really bad they shed their shells. I have always taught my kids to be respectful and to not hurt them so sometimes their captured hermit crabs spend just a short while in the bucket before they are set free in a large space where they can return to a safer environment. They now watch for signs of stress to determine how long they can keep them.

Kids need to learn boundaries. I have told them the goal with catching them is never to do things that make them die and they agree that's a reasonable thing. Left to their own devices, out of sheer ignorance, kids sometimes don't realize what really is happening when they think they are just having fun catching hermit crabs. Kids can learn to see the world through other perspectives if you talk to them about it. I'm not a parent who just yells, "Let them go!". I explain why it's time to let them go and make it a teachable moment. They then comply without protest because they don't want them to be harmed.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Whydah Museum in Cape Cod

July 2004

The Whydah Museum, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising 2nd grade) and 4 (Pre-K)

After a half day walking around, shopping, eating and people watching in Provincetown, we headed to The Whydah Museum, a museum featuring items found on a sunken pirate ship. (Note the military gear my younger son begged for at the military surplus shop.) Due to the ages of my sons this was really exciting stuff. It brought to real life, the things they'd been reading in children's picture books. Actually my husband and I foung it interesting also. There were a lot of things to look at and the displays were educational. The museum is located near the end of a fishing pier, kind of an exciting and intesting place to house a museum.

Since my kids were born I've tried to expose them to interesing things. A key is to expand their view of life starting with what interests them. So when they are 6 and 4 it is right and good to go to a museum filled with pirate's bounty. Life is big and interesting and learning can be fun and exciting. Open up kid's world by showing them real life even when they are little. Give them exciting things to do and make learning fun for as long as you can.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dig a Hole. Then Eat Dinner In It.

And talk to each other in it.

Such are the things that made me love being a mother of two boys. No one ever told me that siblings could be such great friends. All I ever heard about was sibling rivaly.

Before having children I didn't know kids did funny things like this. Simple things make them happy.

Truth be told my sons didn't start being nasty until the oldest hit puberty and started being rude to his brother who then retaliated back and didn't want to take that crap. Now the younger, at 12 has started to have some of the puberty nastiness so I am really doomed.

July 2004

Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising grade 2) and 4 (Pre-K)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thornton Burgess Museum in Cape Cod

July 2004

Thornton Burgess Museum, Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising grade 2) and 4 (Pre-K)

This is a small museum  on the shores of Shawme Pond on Water Street (Rte 130) in Sandwich village. I didn't know what to expect. It is small and took us about 20 minutes to see everything.

What I learned was that even in the 1900s-1910s children's stories were not apart from marketing. What I mean was these stories that appeared daily in newspapers were accompanied by a slew of toys advertised and marketed to kids. Who knew? This museum has some of those antique items and advertisements. Somehow I imagined that advertising to kids started in the 1950s or later. I was wrong.

There is a gift shop. If you want to buy books that Burgess wrote, they are here. Of special note is the Society has been reprinting the books that were out of print and they are sold here. They were not available in other places back then, just at the shop or by internet sales directly with the Society.

The pond is lovely. You can bring a picnic lunch or just hang around and enjoy it.

If you do the walking tour (for an extra fee) this is where you meet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thornton Burgess Tour

July 2004

Thornton Burgess Society and Walking Tour Around Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising 2nd grade) and 4 (Pre-K)

We had started doing Charlotte Mason homeschooling and were reading some of the Thornton Burgess books. My own grandmother was raised on Cape Cod and met Burgess when she was ten years old. She then raised her kids on Burgess' books and as a child I was passed down my mother's hardcover books. Now I was reading them aloud to my children.

I was curious about the places where Burgess lived and worked. Real places inspired the settings of his stories. As a family we attended a walking tour of Sandwich, Massachuetts given by a man in character acting as if he was really Burgess.

Truth be told my kids were too young for this tour. It was excellent and long, over three hours if I remember correctly. Little kids who love the stories are just not as interested in the history of the real man. At least I enjoyed it. My husband could have cared less and so he was happy to keep the kids busy and quiet. You have to listen to the guide for all those hours so noisy rude kids would ruin the experience for the other tourists. The happiest tourists were elderly and recalled these stories from their childhood.

We went in the little museum first then did the tour. These photos are from the tour. It started with us "finding" Thornton Burgess hanging out watching the lake and the wild creatures.

This actor was fantastic in his role. You can ask him any question. I asked about his writing process and was told that he wrote early in the morning then had the rest of the day to do whatever he wanted.

I think this is the house he was born in and raised in his early years.

Sitting and listening to lectures. You actually stand up most of the time.

The church in Sandwich where everything happened such as weddings and funerals.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Whale Watch in Cape Cod (2004)

July 2004

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, Cape Cod, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Ages and Grades: 6 (rising 2), 4 (Pre-K)

As always my older son talked to anyone who would talk back to him. He was used to adults caring about what he had to say and he spoke to them openly. A married but child-less woman on the ship talked to him nearly the entire ride. I was tired from mothering 24/7 so was relieved that I was not the one having all the conversations. Mothering just is tiring sometimes and I was trying to have a vacation, and our vacations have never been child-less ventures. I think the woman thought I was a disconnected mom who didn't care but I knew that was anything but the truth and I didn't care what someone else might think about me. She enjoyed talking to my son the whole time.

It was cold on the ship and it turned gray after we got out to sea. It was not a great day for photographs so I have just three from the entire trip. I remember doing a lot of watching of the waves and thinking and just being quiet.

I also was busy at other times hanging out with my younger son since our older son was busy talking with that woman the whole trip! (In hushed tones I asked the woman if my son was bothering her and she said no, that she was enjoying it.)

We didn't see any whales but I think we saw dolphins. This place lets you ride another time for free if you didn't see any dolphins or whales, so that's good. Dolphin Fleet is the only ship that has working scientists on board. They are doing research. They also give educational lectures during the ride.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Battleship Cove in Massachusetts

June 2004

Battleship Cove, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Age and Grade: 6 (1)

My husband and older son went on this overnight trip with the Cub Scout Pack to Battleship Cove. Kids under six are not allowed due to safety reasons so sadly the younger son had to stay home.

They toured the ships then ate as a group. They watched a movie outdoors on the deck of the ship. Then they went to bed in cramped sleeping quarters. Some beds had springs and my husband said every time anyone moved it echoed through the metal sleeping chambers. Men shored like crazy. My husband usually can sleep anywhere and through anything but this was the worst night of sleep in his life. They had a breakfast in the morning then left. But it was a great trip for our son who had no trouble sleeping. This was a highlight of his Cub Scout days.

I was home with our younger son and begged my husband to take some photos, there were five so here are three of them. I'm the photographer in the family and I take far more than necessary now that they are digital and free of charge.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Strawberry Pick Your Own Farm Trip

June 2004

Jone's Family Farms: Strawberry Picking, Shelton, Connecticut

Ages and Grades: 6 (1) and 4 (Pre-K)

Sometimes we have gone with a mother at home group and with a homeschool group but you spread out when you're on the field and you can''t really spend time with the people you're with and then they want to leave earlier or later than you do. I recommend going just as a family unless you need that group peer pressure to actually make the time to get there and just do this awesome thing.

This strawberry picking in Connecticut happens in June (call their Pick Your Own hotline to see what fields are open for what fruit that day). They take you out on a truck to the fields which are ripe and ready for picking. You pick your own then pay for them by the pound.

If you go when it's sunny it usually is hot and humid and you die and wonder how people can do that job for a living. You had better wear your sunscreen and maybe also bug repellent. If you go when it's overcast it's better and we've even gone in light rain and cool weather which made the work easier and more enjoyable, even though you are crouching in dirt that's turning to mud. The berries are so fresh and delicious that as soon as you are home you forget how hard it was and are happy you went.

Thanks to homeschooling we had freedom in our schedule that allowed us to pick strawberries on quiet weekdays. The place can be a zoo on weekends when most people go. With more days available to go you can pick the day whose weather best suits you.