We’ve been studying aquatic mammals and the kids became really interested in determining what makes a mammal, which mammals live near or in water, and how water is important to them. We read that moose are great swimmers and eat aquatic vegetation, that a muskrat’s tail is covered in scales to help it swim, river otters close their ears when submerged in water, and that beavers are second only to humans in their ability to alter entire ecosystems by building dams. We decided to create our own beaver dam model in the backyard on a cold wet day. We knew we needed tons of sticks and mud and collected it all on a couple of trays. We built a structure with a moat to provide protection for our imaginary beavers and we discussed how it needed to be insulated to keep them warm in the winter. The kids could not resist a chance to dig in the mud and make a mess and we all learned a lot about the process of building a dam. Adding water to our tray was a real test in how our dam would hold up and we had to make several adjustments. It was the perfect wet day experiment.
We’ve since discussed field trips we could take to follow up on our lesson and saw that Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo has otters. We also discovered that Barnhill preserve offers an otter swim encounter where kids get to swim with Asian small-clawed otters and that seems like a very exciting opportunity. Our homeschool group recently visited the Barnhill Preserve and they do offer discounted prices for field trips. We didn’t get to make that particular trip with them but hope to revisit the possibility in the spring. The Barnhill Preserve is located in Ethel, La and they have many other amazing animals including sloths, giraffes, and kangaroos. Their website can be found here: https://barnhillpreserve.wixsite.com/barnhillpreserve.
We really enjoy hands-on learning and sometimes I turn to store bought kits when I need inspiration and guidance. Some of our favorites include Playz Kaboom Explosive Science Combustion Lab Kit, National Geographic Science Magic Vanishing Test Tube, and Green Science Weather Science Mini Observatory. Having the tools and instructions provided makes things simpler for me when I’m in a funk and struggling to get creative in presenting lessons. The older kids are also great at using these kits to take learning into their own hands with little help from me. I find most kits at Hobby Lobby, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
If you have little ones, there are several ways to get toddlers and preschoolers involved in the fun. I keep on hand a little “nature” basket to contain all their finds on our nature hikes. We look at them from time to time and identify them. Big kids can attempt to draw them. I also have a few bugs in blocks of resin that little ones love to handle. We name them together and I pull out a big picture book of bugs for the kids to compare them to. Big kids can read about the bugs. I also like to play color games with the little ones. We make big squares of common colors and they hunt for toys to match to the squares. Older kids often enjoy helping and encouraging the younger ones. I find that singing songs with very young kids can help develop language skills and memorization. We have a few favorites we sing here often. Some videos include: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmUQHhPAwRY, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e0Je3afC-M, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcWydzBGM6k.
I’m a homeschool mom of two, ages 11 and 5. We’ve been homeschooling from the beginning for 6 years and our preferred method is unschooling with a Charlotte Mason twist. I love homeschooling for the freedom it gives us and because I enjoy learning alongside my kids. Our favorite ways to indulge our interests are by exploring the world around us, doing experiments and activities, talking to people who are passionate about their fields, and reading well written books. I believe so much in what we do, I’ve kept it through divorce and now working full time from home. It’s my hope to continue our journey until college or whatever next step my kids choose to take.
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