Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carl Linnaeus

"There are places on the Moon named after him. His face appears on Swedish currency, and an era of scientific history bears his name, but Carl Linnaeus is best known for creating the system of classifying living organisms that became the international standard.

Often called the father of taxonomy, Linnaeus laid the foundation for a new classification of plants and animals based on their reproductive systems. His famous book 'Systema Naturae, classified 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants.  He is, also, credited for distinguishing humans as Homo sapiens, and as primates in the class of mammals.  Linnaeus' ideas have influenced generations of scientists, and even those opposed to the philosophical and theological roots of his work.

Mattias Klum and Folke Ryden created a film to honor Linnaeus, in 2007, the 300th anniversary of his birth.  The film is titled The Linnaeus Expedition.

Why not try a unit study of taxonomy?   Here are some resources:

Related books:
Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork (elementary)
Linnea's Almanac by Christina Bjork (elementary)
Linnea's Windowsill Garden by Christina Bjork  (elementary)
Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and William Munoz
100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names  by Diana Wells and Ippy Patterson  (adult)

Books for the adventurous

The Redwall books are wonderful.  The setting is Redwall Abbey, in medieval times.  The characters are all animals, so if you hate talking animals, this series is not for you.  If, on the other hand, you are not bothered in the least by animals that talk and cook and fight, you will love the Redwall series!  

We listened to the first book in the series, which is titled simply: Redwall.  Brian Jacques had a background in theater (among many other things) and he and a number of his thespian friends, portrayed the various characters in the story.  Each actor was so perfectly chosen for his role.  My daughters and I were mesmerized listening to the gentle voice of the mouse warrior, Mattemeo, the terrifying voice of Cluny the evil rat and the rasping voice of the very dangerous and creepy snake, Asmodeus. Filled with suspense and drama, as well as just the right amount of humor, these books are classics.  I highly recommend them!  

My daughters and I were fortunate enough to meet Brian Jacques, the author, and he was a rare and wonderful treat.  He told tales filled with dramatic emphasis, and wore a cape to add to the drama. He autographed every book, that every reader brought with them, despite a very sore hand and wrist, posed for pictures, answered questions and left every person feeling that Mr. Jacques had been there just for them.  Mr. Jacques passed away February 5, 2011.

Recommended ages for the Redwall series, pre-teen, teen and adult.  Younger children may enjoy listening to the stories, however please read the note below regarding content.

NOTE:  The books contain violent scenes.  The animals who live at the abbey must fight for their lives, however in the course of their struggle, they learn the importance of cooperation and respect for others.

If your family enjoyed the Redwall series of books, written by Brian Jacques, you may enjoy cooking some of the foods described in the stories.  Visit the Redwall Kitchen, the original and most comprehensive compendium of reader-created recipes based on food described in the books.  You will find 4 categories:  Main Course, Desserts, Beverages and Miscellaneous. Enjoy! 

An Amazing Feat

In an exhibition game a pitcher named Jackie Mitchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on seven pitches. Such a feat would predict a great future in the major leagues, but the hurler never made it to the big time. You see, Jackie Mitchell was a girl.  Read the rest of this interesting story at this site.

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring."  ~Rogers Hornsby

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Too much complaining?

The Rev. Will Bowen from Kansas City, MO, thought that there was a lot of unnecessary complaining going on in his church. Realizing that by pointing a finger at his congregation, he was pointing three more fingers at himself, he decided that he was as guilty of complaining as anyone in his church. He came up with a plan.

Rev. Bowen challenged the congregation to go 21 days straight without mumbling a complaining word, including gossiping and criticizing. To remind them of the task, he passed out purple bracelets imprinted with the word "spirit." If anyone forgot their pledge and complained, they had to switch the bracelet to their other wrist and start anew.

Most of the congregants, including the Reverend discovered that this was far more difficult than they had imagined. Rev. Bowen was the first to complete the 21 days, although it took him nearly two months to reach his goal. He, also, said that he thought a 3 day silent retreat contributed to his success.

Some congregants gave up and said it was too difficult. Most persevered, and those that did said that their lives were more enjoyable. Many said that they always thought they were very positive people until they slipped on that wristband. Then they began to notice how often they complained.

The church adopted a quote from poet, Maya Angelou, as its motto: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

This doesn't mean that you should never speak up if something is wrong. Rev. Bowen points out that there is a difference between a factual statement and complaining. Saying, "That was a big snowstorm the other evening," is fine, but saying, "I hate snow! Why does it have to snow? It's awful!" is complaining.

Rev. Bowen set 21 as the number of days, because he had read that it takes 21 days to make something a habit. He is hopeful that if enough people make "not complaining" a habit, it will eventually lead to "a complaint-free world." In fact those words are now imprinted on the bracelets instead of the word, "Spirit."

"Mignon Bullington of Camarillo, Calif., who ordered bracelets for her family, said the complaint-free challenge 'struck strong emotions' in her. 'I noticed that when my husband and I were being negative about any such subject, our kids (ages 19, 17 and 11) would chime in,' she said. 'How horrible that is to see and realize how our children are being taught to act, react and live.'

If this idea strikes a chord with you, visit the website.

You can even find a 10-lesson curriculum designed for kids grades K-12.

Town Hall of Cleveland

Town Hall of Cleveland celebrates the 2013-2014 season with the following line-up:

The Lessons of History
Every Leader is an Artist
When China Rules the World
Political satire group
The DNA Needed to Succeed as an Entrepreneur
America: Too Stupid to Cook
Price of Politics

Tickets for students and chaperons are Free. Tickets are normally priced at $45 each! 
Homeschoolers are welcome, and can receive free student tickets. Parents may attend as chaperons.  

All lectures are held at the Ohio Theater in Playhouse Square at 6:00 p.m.     

For tickets, contact: Town Hall of Cleveland, 1120 Chester Ave. #470, Cleveland, OH  44114     
     Phone:   216-241-1919                email:

***When you contact Town Hall to request tickets, be sure to indicate that you are a Home Educator.  You will receive a phone call, fax or email to let you know if there are tickets available for the speaker(s) you wish to hear.  You may not know if you are getting tickets until just a few days before the program.  The free tickets are provided on an "as available" basis.

***We have been going to these programs for several years, and they are outstanding!  They are most suitable for teens, and mature 10-12 year olds.  It is helpful, but not necessary, to have your teen(s) do some research on the speaker they are going to hear.

Great Family Vacation Spot - Cedar Point/Sandusky area

My brother,  Gene and our cousin, Wayne, were somewhat prone to adventure seeking. One summer, when they were in their 20's, they decided that they would get summer jobs as speed boat drivers at Cedar Point, in Sandusky. Interestingly, neither of them knew how to drive a boat, but somehow, they talked the owner of the business into hiring them. Their job was to take people for fun and exciting speed boat rides across the lake.

Our family went for a ride with Gene one Sunday afternoon. The lake was a bit choppy, and we bounced across the waves at a speedy clip. At that time, no one in my family knew how to swim, except Gene. Soon, my dad became nervous as he saw the mainland fading into the distance, so he asked Gene to take us back to the dock. My mom had rested her arm on the side of the boat, as we bounced along, and by the time we returned to the dock, she had a bruise that started at her wrist and ended near her shoulder. I'm sure when my mom saw it, she said, "Aye, yi, yi!"

Now, speed boats have been replaced by sleek and speedy catamarans. Cedar Point is no longer in the boat ride business, concentrating on their amusement park and waterpark instead. There are still many, many things for families to do in the Sandusky area. Some are expensive and some are not.

Miller Ferry

Great Family Vacation Spot - Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

The word “Shenandoah” means, “beautiful daughter of the stars,” and it is truly a beautiful place. The Shenandoah Valley is bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains in the east and the Allegheny and Appalachian Plateaus in the west.

Almost every road that passes through, or around, the Shenandoah Valley, offers endless scenic vistas, including the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway and the just-as-famous Skyline Drive. The area is filled with motels and beautiful Bed and Breakfasts. There are museums, Civil War Battlefields, Revolutionary War sites, the Luray Caverns, Natural Bridge of Virginia, Shenandoah National Park and much more.

Skyline Drive

Great Family Vacation Spot - Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells are large sandstone formations located in and along the shore of the Wisconsin River. They have been a tourist attraction since 1856, when Leroy Gates began offering boat tours of the region. Today, boat tours continue to be the best way to see the beauty and wonder of the Dells. There are several types of boat tours available from flat bottom boats to exciting jet boats to the always popular Ducks. Ducks are six-wheel drive amphibious trucks, built for the U. S. Military, by General Motors, during World War II. The name was originally DUKW. The “D” signified that the vehicle was designed in 1942, the “U” meant that it was a utility vehicle, the “K” denoted that it was all-wheel drive, and the “W” signified that there were two powered rear axles. Everyone called them Ducks, and civilians soon started spelling the name, Duck, since it seemed like a perfect name for an amphibious vehicle.

The atmosphere around the Dells reminds me of Niagara Falls, in that there are many highly commercialized areas, but there are also, places of quiet, scenic beauty.

If your family enjoys waterparks, the Dells are advertised as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” featuring both outdoor and indoor waterparks. You will also find amusement parks, spas, shopping, auto racing, golf and many other indoor and outdoor activities.

Wisconsin is home to many Native American tribes. You can learn more about what tribes are located in Wisconsin and Wisconsin's history at this site.

Learn more about the history of the Dells.

Wisconsin Duck Tours:  Original Wisconsin Ducks

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reading Weather Maps

Ohio’s weather seems to constantly be changing. Hot, cold, breezy, calm, rain, sun, snow...
Visit this link to learn the meanings of the symbols on a weather map.

Highlights for High School (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's free Open Courseware now offers Highlights for High School which provides resources to improve science, technology, engineering and math instruction at the high school level. Highlights for High School features more than 2,600 video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes and assignments taken from actual MIT courses, and categorizes them to match the Advanced Placement physics, biology and calculus curricula. Demonstrations, simulations, animations and videos give educators engaging ways to present STEM concepts, while videos illustrate MIT's hands-on approach to the teaching of these subjects. Highlights for High School organizes the course materials currently featured on OCW—including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments and exams—into a format that is more accessible to high school students and teachers. All materials are available free of charge.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Sandy Puc is a photographer who received a very special calling. In February, 2005, she was contacted by Cheryl and Mike Haggard. Their newborn son was dying. Cheryl had seen beautiful photographic portraits of newborns in the hospital's maternity ward, and she wanted to have a professional photograph of their son, Maddux. He had only days to live. The parents asked Sandy to come to the hospital and take the photo. Reluctantly, she agreed. When she arrived at the hospital, she was met by Mike, who asked her if she would be willing to wait a few hours. Maddux was still connected to tubes and machines, and he felt that the photos would be so much nicer if they waited until after Maddux died, so that he would be free of the medical apparatus and they could hold him.

Sandy was shocked that they wanted her to take a picture of their son after he died, but she agreed to do it. She cried throughout the photo shoot, but when it was over, she thanked the Haggard's for allowing her the opportunity to do it. She painstakingly touched up each photo until it was perfect. She created a slide show, and set it to music. The Haggards watched it over and over again, and finally, in tears, Cheryl told Sandy, "Do you know what you've done? You've given me my son."

A few months later, the hospital called Sandy to tell her of another family, in a situation similar to the Haggards. "Will you come?" they asked. She did.

After talking to Cheryl Haggard, the two of them decided that this was a service that was so needed and so appreciated, that it should be available to anyone who asks, and it should be free of charge. Together, they established the organization, "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." It is now a nationwide network of more than 3000 professional photographers who take beautiful portraits of babies born too early, babies born dead and babies about to die. Before this organization came into being, parents were left with only the little plastic hospital bracelet to remember their child. Now they have photographs to help them keep their memory alive.

For more information, or for help in finding a photographer in your area, visit the website for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

Flat Stanley and Friends

Flat Stanley is a fun kids' book by Jeff Brown. Stanley, a little boy, is flattened one day by a falling bulletin board. He is fine, but quite flat. There are advantages to flatness. Stanley finds he can now be folded up and sent to new and exotic places by mail. He also fits easily in a suitcase.

Where will your Stanley go? Take him on vacation! Send him to faraway friends and have them photograph Stanley where they live! Take him on all your summer adventures!

Print your own Flat Stanley here. The site may have a pop-up telling you that you can get an app. Just click beside the note, and the pop-up disappears. It will also tell you to sign up for an account, but that is not necessary to print a template. Click on "Resources" at the top of the screen, then look on the left-hand side of the screen and click "Templates." Choose the Flat Stanley you want to print..

Other ideas:

If you're not interested in Flat Stanley, why not create your own "Flat __________" and send your creation around the world. It could even be a character that looks like you! Be creative!

A group of homeschoolers that I know were very creative. All of this group, except their good friend, Joseph, went camping together this year. Since Joseph wasn't able to go with them, he decided to send his sock along. His friends took Joseph the Sock with them everywhere they went, including the pool, on hikes, to the campfire, to camp parties, and many other places. Each place, someone took a picture. Joseph was able to look at all the places his sock went and could almost imagine that he had been there himself... Although everyone missed the real Joseph on the trip, they had fun including Joseph the Sock in all of their activities.

My daughter, Kylia, wanted her friend, Megan to know how much she would be missed when she left for Wittenberg University a few years ago, so Kylia bought a small stuffed kitten, which she named Witty Kitty. While Megan was away, "Witty Kitty" accompanied Kylia on all her adventures. There were many pictures taken, and Megan was able to participate vicariously in Kylia and Witty's activities.

What ideas do you have?

Anna Comstock's "Handbook of Nature Study"

Charlotte Mason fans may be familiar with Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. Considered by many to be a very thorough resource, it will help you to answer most of the questions you and your children will encounter while studying nature. If purchasing a print version of this large manual is too costly, you will be glad to learn that you can download this guide for free at this site.

For activities based on information in this book, visit this blog.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Easy to learn programming language for kids (and adults)

"Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create and share Scratch stories, games and animation, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.”

How is your international eating etiquette?

Do you think you have good manners?  How good do you think your international eating etiquette is?  You will have fun and learn a lot about other countries' dining etiquette when you take this quiz. Fun! 

Interested in a foldable house?

Habitaflex presents a new and unique home concept: a folding and transportable home! New looks, dimensions, colors and options are available.  The homes can be shipped anywhere, moved at any time  (according to the website), and is easy to set up.

The company is Canadian, and their website is in French, but the language can be changed to English.  Check the upper right corner of the site to choose the language you prefer.  Google also offers you the opportunity to translate the page.

Family discussion questions:
Would you like to live in a foldable house?
What other types of unique and convenient homes could be built?
What will homes look like 50 years from now?

You might want to visit the Henry Ford museum site to learn about another unusual house: the Dymaxion House designed by Buckminster Fuller.


The folks at Recycleatee are pioneering an apparel recycling program that takes responsibility for the full life cycle of its products -- and rewards customers in the process. Wear their clothing for as long as you like, then return it in any condition for a 25% store credit. Shipping is free both ways. 

Teens for Planet Earth

Teens for Planet Earth (T4PE) is a social networking site which helps teens carry out environmental service-learning projects. Members can connect with teammates and friends as well as many other T4PE members in their area and around the world. They can share photos and videos of their projects; start or comment on a blog, post upcoming events related to their projects; find resources to help them carry out a successful project; start a group to communicate with team members, keep track of tasks, and encourage reflection; offer and receive advice on conducting service-learning projects; and much more. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Helping Ships Avoid Endangered Whales

Did you know that the world's last 350 North Atlantic Right Whales live along the East Coast. Collisions with ships are a deadly hazard, but new listening buoys designed and monitored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are helping. 

Here's how: 

This is a fantastic resource for educators who want to show students conservation in action. Find out more about the lives of Atlantic Right Whales: where they live, what they eat, why they're endangered, and why there's still hope.

BANNED BOOKS WEEK: September 22−28, 2013

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States.  Find book lists and many related resources at the American Library Association site.  

Information is also available at Banned Books Week.

Interested in Construction Equipment?

Calling all builders (and anyone else interested in big equipment)!!!   

Kikki’s Workshop.   This site has it all!

View interactives, videos, the "Great Picture Book of Construction Equipment," "Everything about Construction Equipment," Q and A, and printables.

Booger Soup!

About a month ago, my friend, Diane, told me that her children were not feeling well. She said that she had just put a big pot of "booger (sometimes spelled 'bugger') soup" on to cook. Sounds yummy, doesn't it. She had mentioned this soup to me often in the past, and I knew that it was basically a chicken soup, meant to ease the symptoms of a cold.
Because it seemed that everyone I had talked to that month seemed to have a cold or had children or a spouse with a cold or flu, I decided to do some online research to see how many types of "booger soup" I could find.

There were quite a few recipes listed under that name, and those recipes led me to more of the same type, but called by other names. I, also, learned that researchers at the University of Nebraska had created a chicken soup recipe that, according to their study, really did help relieve colds and flu.

We made Grandma’s Chicken Soup Recipe (above), with a few modifications, and my oldest daughter and I loved it. My younger daughter said it would have been better without all of the vegetables. We chopped the vegetables very fine when we made it, and we left bits of chicken in the soup. We, also, added cayenne pepper and garlic.  Delicious!  And a big help during cold and flu season!