Sweet Rewards of Reading…

Simply journeying deep into our imaginations as we get caught up in a story certainly is rewarding in and of itself.  But sometimes it’s fun to add a sweet surprise at the end! 🙂

A few months ago, we read and fell in love with Homer Price!  His quirky antics captivated the boys and I found that the structure of the book is very conducive to a young child just venturing into the world of chapter books since each chapter could almost stand-alone.  Trey, 3.5 at the time of reading this book, was totally taken with the story.

Obviously, as you can tell from the cover, one of the chapters deals with a doughnut machine that his uncle orders.  Inspired by my {usually extremely healthy} sister, Rich and I surprised the boys with their first trip to Krispie Kreme early on a Saturday morning.

They stood transfixed as hundreds of doughnuts took shape before our eyes.  And they were thrilled when we told them that they could each pick out their very own doughnut.

Other fun ways to enjoy some good books:
Winnie-the-Pooh ~ go find a little creek somewhere and play ‘pooh sticks’
Paddington Bear (unabridged) ~ enjoy some orange marmalade on french bread while you read this out loud!
Wonderful Wizard of Oz ~ find some straw and try making your own scarecrow.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins ~ Toboggan down the slide, face first.  (make sure the slide isn’t too steep!), practice waddling like penguins by walking with your knees ‘stuck’ together!
Charlotte’s Web – go on a spider web hunt.  Spray the web with water and watch it glisten in the sunlight!

I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite read-aloud books!!!!

FYI: The Child-Training Bible giveaway ends on Friday.  Be sure to enter for your chance to win!

Simple Trips

Field trips are a wonderful thing and I’ve found that simple ones oftentimes work out best at this age because I can cater it to their interests and attention spans.  At this age they are soaking up their environment and making connections with the world immediately around them.  So there is something special about live experiences that you don’t get from a book or video.

Yesterday’s fieldtrip was a trip to our local Mexican ‘mercado’ to get ingredients for tostada’s and fresh salsa.  If I had planned better, I would have tried to get a quick tour of the tortilleria (where they make their fresh tortillas), but I didn’t.

Instead, we just soaked up the colors, smells and ambiance.  There was so much to observe and talk about.

We loved the colorful garlands. I might just have to try making some of those! 🙂

The boys loved checking out the piñata’s. Ever since reading The Piñata Maker, the boys have taken a special interest in them. (I think we might tackle making one of our own this weekend!)

In all of my years of living here in the southwest, I’ve never encountered a Spiny Chayote.  Apparently, it is similar to zucchini but retains it’s crispness when cooked. It was seriously prickly. This is one of the benefits of family learning. I discover new things too!

And of course, we couldn’t leave without stopping at the panaderia (bakery) and picking up a cookie to share!


Horsing Around

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the term “living books”, but it refers to the concept of reading interesting well-written books by authors who are passionate about their subject instead of reading summaries of topics in a textbook.  We learn more and enjoy the process when education is centered around living books than an average textbook. 

While reading “living books” is interesting, interacting with people and the things they are passionate about and getting to experience a bit of their passion is incredible!

Today, we had the most amazing fieldtrip ever.  It happened quite by accident.  I called a friend looking for horseshoes.  She didn’t have any but called a friend of hers who does.  Long story short, we were invited to her home to meet her two miniature horses and three full-sized horses.   This woman is passionate about her horse friends and it was contagious.

The kids loved getting to know Cody, especially since he was just their size. 
They had the opportunity to help groom him.

… take a look at his hooves and learn why it’s important for her to remove rocks from the frog.

 And then help saddle her up for a ride.  Even Treyton had a turn.  His giggles of delight as horse and boy set off still make me smile.  (Sniff, sniff.  He’s definitely not a baby anymore.)

The kids also had a lesson in horse anatomy as she showed us Hookie’s tendon injury and let the kids compare the feel of the injured leg vs. healthy leg.

We ended our time with the horses by giving Cody some special treats!  Squeals of surprise and anticipation were prevalent as the kids learned how to palm a carrot.  Cody didn’t seem to mind the extra attention or special treats! 🙂

One of the cool aspects of an experience like this is getting to watch how each kid takes to it.  For all of his bravado and excitement leading up to our outing, Xander wasn’t overly interested.

Keegan on the other hand, my adorable cowboy Keegan, was just mesmerized with the horses.  At one point pony and boy were nuzzling each other.  While the other kids had gone off to explore the fire pit,  Keegan stayed with the horses.

We learned so much today in a way that is just not possible from a book or computer/television screen.  Nothing quite takes the place of ‘experience.’  We’ll be looking for more of it and excited to see what unconventional opportunities are in our future!

Explore, Discover, Collapse.

We rediscovered a state treasure this week!  The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a fabulous place to stop for a day trip!  The boys and I drove for an hour and landed in an oasis in the middle of the high desert! 
We met a group of lovely ladies there…
…and set off to explore
hidden paths

an old Austrailian shepherds shanty in the “outback”
an old rock house
…and discover!
While admiring some roses, we discovered a baby grasshopper.  The kids had fun admiring the little guy and passing him around before Keegan accidentally (dropped) released him back to the wild! 🙂
Whew.  It was a tiring, but beautiful day.  I can’t think of a better way to jump into our study of Creation than by going out and enjoying it!

Of Stories and Snakes

One of our favorite haunts these days is Veteran’s Oasis Park.  Surrounded by a riparian preserve and stocked fishing lake, this has been a gem of a find for us. After a short 5 minute drive (which in Phx is a big deal) we can enjoy hiking trails, a beautiful waterfall, lake and story time!The Environmental Education Center hosts all kinds of classes. Being the frugal mama that I am, FREE has been sounding mighty fine these days. So on most Thursdays, you’ll find us enjoying Mother Nature Story Time. (It’s free, but pre-registration is required online if you ever want to join us.) The boys love the animal or nature related crafts, books and games.

Today they made name tags. They were supposed to pick an animal name that started with the same letter as their name. I could not come up with any animals that started with ‘X’ so we reverted back to ‘A’. Even with that we couldn’t think of any desert animals except ants. Alexander the Ant. Keegan was a bit easier and became Keegan the Kangaroo Rat.

Mr Matt, the asst naturalist at the park, conducts the story times. With the education world pretty well dominated by women, it is so cool for the boys to see men who value learning and want to pass on knowledge of the world around us.

Finally, just as they have been sitting long enough, we wrap up story time with a game. Today we played Animal Olympics.

Competing with a hummingbird who can flap his wings over 300x in a 10 second period of time. Despite their best efforts, the hummingbird still won.

Trying to jump higher than a jackrabbit!

Did you know that lizards do push-ups to talk to eachother. The boys really got into this one.

Trying to jump at least 6 ft, like a Kangaroo Rat!

Feeding time for the kingsnake. YUM!

A Free Ride…

For those of you with small children living in the Phoenix area, I wanted to make sure you knew about the grand opening of the Metro Light Rail. On Saturday and Sunday, they will be hosting all kinds of fun activities and you can ride the metro for FREE.

I thought it might just be a boy thing, except that my sisters and I have VERY fond memories of riding the metro in DC when I was a girl. In fact, in the early years, we enjoyed that more than any of the sights in Washington DC. Sad, I know.

With Keegan’s current obsession with trains and Xander’s past infatuation with the DC Metro, we’ll be there. I’m not one for crowds, so we may just head down some day the following week because you can ride FREE through the end of 2008! But who knows, maybe we’ll be brave enough to strike out this weekend!

14 month old Xander at the start of his metro infatuation!


We went to the Arizona Museum of Natural History, formally known as the Mesa Southwest Museum. I have many fond memories of visiting there as a child, so it was a treat to be able to take my brood. God was so faithful, because I had been having a really hard week (4 weeks of very little sleep had finally caught up with me) and there wasn’t a way to back out since I had organized the field trip and we needed a minimum of 10 people for the homeschool discount and we were barely there. I had hoped that my mom could go with me to help with the boys, but she needed to work. My other attempts to find some help didn’t work out either. So I was just a bit nervous to attempt a museum with a curious 3.5 yo, a wild child 20 month old and a frequently nursing 4 weekold. Thankfully, God’s grace was there and all three boys behaved beautifully and we had a delightful trip.

Xander wasn’t too scared of the dinosaurs. We prepped him beforehand reminding him that all of the dinosaurs were dead and what we would be seeing were just bones or

 replica’s (aka really BIG toys!). He loves dinosaurs, but based on our previous experience with the large animals and animal noises at the Smithsonian, we decided to prep him just in case. Here are a few pictures from our trip.

They also have an area where you can pan for gold. As an adult, it was readily apparent that the “gold specks” were fake, but I remember being so convinced as a child that it was real that I even planned out what I would “buy” with the money I made from selling my gold pieces… ok, I’m gullible! Xander was really too young to even understand the concept of panning for gold, but he sure had fun playing in the water.

Keegan also enjoyed the break from the stroller!

Fall Fun!

I love fall. Although we don’t experience fall in the stereotypical sense, it is still so refreshing to finally have a break from the blistering heat of summer!

In an effort to try and explain the concept of fall and harvest time to the boys, we went to a farm that has a pumpkin patch (of sorts) and a corn maze.

Xander enjoyed picking out his very own pumpkin!

Although I wouldn’t recommend this with strollers EVER again, we still had fun at the corn maze. If it hadn’t been for all of the contractions, I probably would have just packed Keegan on my back. The boys still had a fun time running around and inspecting some of the corn that was still on the stalks!

And we even found a fuzzy caterpillar. This little guy was very fast. Xander loved having the chance to let him run up his arm!

For some reason, I waited until the end of our day (right before naptime) to try and capture a cute picture of my two boys amidst the pumpkins. I’ll remember next year to try this when they are fresh!
This place over on Power and Warner had such a wonderful mix of things to do. There was also a sand pit for the little kids, a cow barrel “train” ride, a jumper, small petting zoo, tractor to climp all over and a miniature hay barrel maze. We’ll definitely be visiting this place again next year! We also went and painted our pumpkin with some friends and then had some other friends over the next day to bake and decorate fall leaf cookies!!!


Dairy Learning

October has been “Farming” month for Learning Day. I’ve gone all out and really tried to incorporate our theme into everything that we are doing. We’ve been reading A LOT of books on all aspects of farming! Raising dairy cows is one kind of farming that is really common down where we live. So we decided to tour a dairy. Superstition Farms is a small (approx 1000 cows) family owned farm. The brother, sister and mom ran the tour! We had a blast and I highly recommend this as an outing option for those here in Phoenix. I learned so much about cows! (For instance, milk cows only get 2 months “off” during the last two months of their 9 month gestation period and have a new calf about every 2 years starting at 2 years old. As a nursing mom who is currently “off” while growing this new little one, I found this quite interesting.) The tour made me wish that we new someone who farmed. I loved the pace out there and wish I could expose my boys to it more often.

Here we are at the entrance!

The mom is talking to us about chickens. The kids got to sit on hay bales and learn all about the different animals on their farm and both see and touch the different kinds of food that a cow eats. I had no idea that they ate such a complex diet. Xander did very well sitting and listening. His brother on the other hand just wanted to run. I ended up pouching him so he’d stay put.

Here the boys are getting ready for our hay ride tour of the actual dairy. Since this is a working farm, we toured this way so

as not to disturb the cows or workers…After the hayride tour, we had the opportunity to feed the animals. Even Keegan got a piece of the action. All of the kids LOVED this part!

Xander laughed each time and thought it tickled. We fed a cow, goats and the horse.

We ate a yummy picnic lunch there and the boys enjoyed flavored milk from their Milk Bar!

If anyone has any ideas for creative outings for preschool aged kids, I’d love to hear about them. It’s exciting to watch him absorb everything!

Little Grocers

Today for Learning Day, we had a tour at the local grocery store. We were so pleased with how the tour worked out. Our host took us to the bakery where we got to watch a cake get decorated…
…and a pizza being made.

We also learned about the Butcher’s Shop and got a sneak peak at the produce and dairy refrigerators. The boys were pretty enthralled. After letting each of them pick out a fruit and purchase it on their own (with a little guidance from the mom’s), we were surprised with a gift of the pizza and cake that they watched them make/bake.

We then left to go back to my house and eat our yummy lunch and play “store”! A friend lent us a little cash registar. Xander and I had fun taking turns shopping and then coming and paying for the items. It was a wonderful opportunity to work on our counting as he paid a play dollar for each item he bought. Although, I’m really missing my shoe rack (er, make shift grocery holder), I will probably leave this up for another day or so before reclaiming some of my items. The boys also really enjoyed the crates that I tied onto the push toys to make carts.

Sadly, poor Xander learned a difficult lesson when I put Nemo in the store as our fish item…

Since we had so much fun, we would love suggestions for other fun (preferably free) places we can take our boys!