My mom and I went to Washington DC. My favorite thing was the Washington Monument. I enjoyed the night bus tour, too. I loved to go swimming every day. You should go to Washington DC.
Ok, I’ll admit Washington DC wasn’t on my personal list of travel destinations but now that we are homeschooling what better way to get a ‘civics and government’ lesson than a trip to DC, right? Sebastian and I both agree this trip was fantastic! By the end, we were so sore and tired from all the walking, but happy and impressed!
Here are a few summary suggestions: 1. Do not rent a car. Stay close to the National Mall. Traffic is bad and parking is expensive. While staying close to the NM may be more expensive, the convenience and access to popular sites is worth it. 2. You HAVE to submit your request to tour the white house 3 months in advance to even get a shot at getting a tour. We were under that window and could not get one. We DID get a tour of the Capitol which I was not that excited about, but would now say was the highlight of the trip. I will elaborate later. 3. DO make reservations and take a tour bus early in your trip. This will give you the lay of the land before you venture out on foot and help you better plan the rest of your time in DC.
HOTEL. I wasn’t sure what to book being a first-timer to DC. I knew I wanted to stay close to the National Mall, close to all the museums and Sebastian wanted a pool. I am a Marriot member, so I do tend to look at their hotels first and found a Residence Inn by Marriot three blocks from the National Mall with an indoor pool. I was able to get it for around $250/night. We arrived at the hotel after a $15 Uber ride from Reagan (DCA) and were promptly checked in two hours early. I was surprised to find a complete kitchen (except oven) in the room! It also had a small 2-seat bistro table, pull out couch, desk, queen-size bed, sink dressing area and bathroom. We were able to use Instacart & Safeway to have groceries delivered to our room. Mon-Wed the hotel did a food and/or drink give-away from 6p to 7:30p and again were pleasantly surprised to find a full hamburger, chips, and drinks bar served on one of the nights. Our room was clean, well serviced, quiet and comfortable. What more could I ask for?
GETTING AROUND. I am so thankful a friend recommended this tour, it was another highlight of the trip. Thanks, Sherry! Ideally, you have temperate weather as the tour runs from 7:30p to about 10:30p with the large picture windows typically open. Our evening tour begun during sunset with pick-up at Union Station, drove East to the Capitol and all along the National Mall to finish up at the memorials West past the Washington Monument. Our driver was entertainingly knowledgeable and stopped to allow us time to explore the monuments. If I would have known how valuable the perspective was, I would have booked our tour the first night. It gave me a comfort level of knowledge that would have been nice to have before tackling the area by foot. If you don’t think the ‘night time’ tour may be for you, you could consider Big Bus tours. We did not use them, but Sebastian wanted to because they were the company with the double-decker, open-top seating. By our last day as the fatigue was really starting to set it, we spontaneously bought tickets for a boat tour by DC Cruises. It was nice to get out on the water as we love boating, but the tour itself doesn’t show you much since most of the monuments are set farther back or off the tidal basin not accessible by boat.
CAPITOL TOUR. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. SUPREME COURT. If you are a Texas resident, book your Capitol tour here and do it three months before your travel date. We did it just over 2 months out and were able to still get the staff-guided Capitol tour, but not the White House tour. We thought we knew where we were supposed to meet for our tour guide, but we were way off. We were to meet at Cruz’s office in the Russell building, 4th floor. This building is near the Capitol, but about a block off. We ended up being about 30 minutes late after initially going to the visitors center inside the Capitol. Cruz’s staff was still more than happy to give us the personal tour despite our tardiness. While politicians may not get a lot of things right, the staff was wonderful to us. It was exciting to see the underground tunnels that the Senators use to get to and from their offices and the Capitol. The architecture, murals, and statues inside the Capitol were beautiful and reminiscent of scenes inside the Vatican. After a great lunch at the Capitol cafeteria, we waited in line to see and sit in on the Senate floor. We only stayed about 10 minutes observing the day’s agenda and then made our way through the connected corridor over to the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is equally decorated and ornate. The ceiling murals all interconnect by theme. The area of books is off limits unless you hold a library card. You are able to get a card if you are 16y or older with the purpose of research. Finally when you leave the LoC you exit and can walk next door to the Supreme Court. If you take a tour then you can go inside the Justices’ courtroom, otherwise, you can walk up to the entrance. A common theme in all of the buildings is the cherry blossom ceilings. You will see them on the ceilings in a dark pink or light blue and gold in all the buildings.
SMITHSONIAN MUSEUMS. It is such a treat to have so many (19 total) free museums in DC! The Air and Space Museum was running extended hours so we were able to run over our first day and see things like the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer, space shuttles, nuclear missiles and so much more. Another day we visited the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, and the Portrait Gallery. This was a lot to see in one day, not sure I would do this many again in one day.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS. We were fortunate to be in DC during the blooming of the cherry trees. We were told by our tour guides that there are 9 varieties and he ID’d two for us. The soft pinkish white petals float around like snow and cover the streets in pinkish-white. It is a lovely sight. While they are all over the National Mall, one of the best places to see them is on the Tidal Basin with the water and various memorials in the background.
WEST SIDE MEMORIALS. The WWII memorial, the Korean Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial are all on the West side of the Washington Monument. The nighttime tour I mentioned earlier will take you by all of these monuments and give you time to get off the trolleybus and explore the monuments. Great way to see them all in one shot. We returned to see the Lincoln monument in the daytime and it was a lot more crowded so the nighttime tour may be the better way to visit.
Expect crowds and lots of tourists. I’m not sure there is any way around it. We saw lots of school groups of mainly teenagers. I was hoping they would thin out after 3p, but no they were still in full effect through the evening hours. Just get a good night’s sleep and pack along your extra patience.
Do save one evening for dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill. I highly recommend reservations. It is a very old DC tradition around since 1856. No need to dress-up they took us in casual sight-seeing garb. It is an easy walk from the White House so plan your day accordingly and end up here for dinner.
Here is a map of the National Mall area and some things we did not see that I would recommend if you have the time.
1. Mt. Vernon – You will need to buy tickets and from DC is about a $35 Uber ride. A fellow homeschool family and our Capitol tour guide said it was well worth it. I suggest spending a day on this adventure.
2. Arlington National Cemetery – Friends recommended 2 hours. Visit the Kennedy graves, see The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, watch the changing of the guards, and take-in in the overall impact of the cemetery. It is just across the Potomac from the National Mall so an easy taxi ride.
3. International Spy Museum – “It is the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history and continues to have a significant impact on world events.” -from Website. There is an entrance fee, but we have heard great reviews of this museum from several sources.
4. Newseum – A fellow traveler recommended this museum for the amazing photography. You will explore everything from current events to the role of a free press in a free society. Reserve your tickets online.
4. Any of the other Smithsonian Museums such as, but not limited to:
–African American Museum (time passes required)
Skateboarding is hard, but when you learn it’s fun. Then when you’re good at it you can do tricks. Also, skateboarding is a sport. The five major elements of the board are the deck, grip tape, trucks, wheels, and bearings. The gear that you should wear is a helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. Skateboarding is fun!
I wanted to share a random, happy shot from one of our mornings. As a family, we place much value on decreasing the busyness and increasing the calm. Homeschooling affords us the time to support these values. On this day my little juicer and I made one of my favorite juices (recipe below) while discussing green vegetables and health, organic vs conventional produce, the mechanics of a masticating juicer and whether or not our worms would like our juicing remnants.
Mexican Green Juice
6 Green Applies, 6 Stalks Celery, 4 or 5 Green Romaine Leaves, 1/4-1/3 of a bunch of Cilantro, 1 Lime and 1/4 of a Jalapeno Pepper (seeds removed).
We are both SO excited about finding River Ranch at Texas Horse Park. We learned about this ranch because it generously offers free services to the public on the third Thursday of the month. On that day, we did short little rides in their event arena. We loved it so much we booked a time to return for a one-hour trail ride. We learned a few basics about riding and got the feel for relaxed, western riding. If you want to experience a trail ride yourself, there is currently a Groupon. We plan to return for riding lessons over the next few months and take advantage of the pleasant spring weather to come.
We attended The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the Dallas Children’s Theater. I anticipated it being a little young for us, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a thoughtful, entertaining puppet show. It had almost a dream-like quality to it. The puppeteers did a lovely job of becoming their puppets and making their presence unfelt. This theater keeps the shows to 55 minutes with no intermission and has great organization with arrival seating and post-show departure. Kudos to a job well done!
Last month at the Dallas Museum of Art, Jennifer did another wonderful job with the kids, teaching about The Silk Road, trade route. She told ‘stories from the route’, talked about the countries ‘along the road’ and discussed how China became known for its silk. In the art lab, the kids learned to hand embroider. Sebastian enjoyed it very much and asked if we could go to the store to get more embroidery supplies so he could continue to work on his design.
Level 2 robotics floor or basement level’s dino race are where you will find us at the Perot Museum. This trip included a tour of the NASA space exhibit currently on display.
Here Sebastian and friends took a ride in a space vehicle. The simulation makes you feel as if you are weightless and spinning around in space.
Sebastian and I coordinated a ‘famous painters’ series at Painting with a Twist in Richardson. For our first month, we started with studying the life of Vincent Van Gogh and did an ‘inspired by Starry Nights’ painting. This month we are studying Pablo Picasso and will paint a cubism ‘Selfie’. If you are a fellow homeschooler and wish to join us, please register here: Thursday, March 29th from 12:30 to 2p. Use the passcode: HIP HAPPY to register by March 21st.
Sebastian is ready to try out the local skate parks this spring/summer, so I thought it was a good idea to get a few lessons in during the tail end of winter. We are taking lessons at Soar United on Thursdays at 3pm. There is a 4:30pm class. Both are open to the public, feel free to join us and chat about homeschooling! I have learned about my son, that his sport is anything with wheels or blades on his feet. His favorite sports are rollerblading, skateboarding and skiing.
Microsoft taught this month’s class about the Paint 3D software on Windows 10. The kids created or downloaded images which would then appear on the screen and through the computer’s camera. Sebastian finally got to get his picture with his Minecraft nemesis, Herobrine! Here are more details about using Paint 3D.
I want to offer a reminder to those pondering their child’s education; lessons and learning are found every day in everything, use that to drive your ‘curriculum’. Creativity grows from a mind allowed to think and question. Strategic thinking is spurred from reasoning through challenge. Happiness blossoms from a loving, supportive environment that respects and nurtures interests. Raising a happy boy that thinks creatively and strategically would be a good way for me to sum up my goal for this our first homeschool year. Whatever is driving that little whisper inside you to question the status quo, give it room to be a louder voice and research your options.
“Since 1998, bird watchers across North America have come together for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This February 16th- 18th is your chance to participate in the GBBC as a citizen scientist! In 2017 “an estimated 240,418 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 181,606 bird checklists reporting 6,259 species-more than half the known bird species in the world,” according to the February 7th GBBC news release. Participating only takes 15 minutes outside with your little one to record the birds you see. All the materials you need to get started are provided below. So, grab some binoculars and a bird book, and get started!” -Dallas Arboretum
“Our spring #homeschool series kicks off March 12 with #PlantDetectives and CSI in the Garden. When you finish the session, step outside to smell the wonder of spring!” -Dallas Arboretum
We finally took the plunge and invested in a laptop for Sebastian. We wanted a windows based laptop that would be good for gaming (fast RAM), travel (lightweight & thin), Skype/google hangouts (built-in mic & cam), quick to boot up (solid state), lots of room for files (large hard drive), comfortable and easy to use (backlit keyboard, touchscreen & flip back yoga positioning). We went with a Lenovo Yoga. I am sharing this because several people have asked me how and what we decided to buy. I will say that if you can hold out until Black Friday weekend and specifically Cyber Monday, that was when I found the best price. Be sure to compare Best Buy and Fry’s as Amazon did not have the best deals on laptops. We had a spare monitor that Sebastian can use as a ‘second screen’ and we also added an external mouse for comfort.
His laptop has opened up many new learning resources for us that I am really excited to share. If you have seen me lately then you have probably already heard me talking about this first one. Outschool! It is a video-conferencing type scenario, so that second screen comes in handy. Outschool is incredibly easy to use and they have an amazing amount of classes to choose from in the catalog. First, you register, then you pick a class. Some classes are one time and average around $8-$11. Other classes are multiple weeks and some are even a couple of months. Register for something, then on the day and time of the class simply open the ‘Zoom’ link to see your ‘classroom’. If the teacher needs to communicate ahead of time, they will post messages (or follow-up info) in the ‘classroom’. You can search for classes on just days/times you have available or just on certain subjects. If you have a skill to teach or knowledge to share you can register to teach a class too. We have done classes on world geography, polar bears, Winter, the Constitution and learning to make NPCs for Minecraft.
We are starting a new class on Minecraft servers. We have been working on creating our own, so this is going to help us complete that project. Last week we started a class on learning to use a microscope and observing/comparing things underneath it. Soon we will start a beginners multiplication class and I have my eye on a few Spanish classes too. He knows how to log-in and get ready for the class to start. We have a routine where he gets ready early and practices typing while he is waiting for the class to start.
I love that I’m there and able to help Sebastian along if needed, but there is a sense of independence too. He is learning how to use technology to learn about any subject while having an interesting and unique experience with different teachers and students from all over the country and world. Win!
Another source a fellow homeschool mom shared with me is Khan Academy. We have enjoyed the easy to use platform. It is simple to see right where we left off from the time before and I like the assessments. They help me know if Sebastian has the concept or if we need to spend more time on something. We have been using Khan for math and grammar.
We continue to have our monthly classes at the Microsoft store in Northpark Mall. This is such a popular fun event for so many of my homeschool family friends. Lunch and outdoor play are incorporated into these afternoons which makes for a great day of learning and socializing. Techie Factory continues to be one of Sebastian’s favorite weekly classes. The first half he gets to help other students and during the second half, he gets to collaborate with or learn from older students.
Our monthly DMA visit involved studies of Native American art and specifically basket weaving. It was a lovely afternoon so after class, we got to cross the street to Klyde Warren Park and have lunch at the food trucks.
Our friends Parker and Mason had their 8th birthday party at our favorite steam-punk playground, Spark! We are always drawn to their giant ‘light bright’ and of course, we went with a Minecraft theme for our art-making. When we left, Sebastian commented how pretty downtown Dallas looked and that I should grab a photo.
New at Zhen this semester we are attending a music class for music mixing. Sebastian is already three lessons in and compiled his first song: The music style is electronica, but he is learning to record and mix in vocals, too. The software used for this process is called Ableton. In addition to needing a stable laptop with adequate hard drive space and fast memory, you need microphones and an interface. He already wants to lay in video for his youtube channel, eagleprescott.com. Slow down child, we will get there!
Lastly this month we had a worm composting class at Texas Worm Ranch. It was good for them to get their hands in the dirt. We learned so much about worms, how to compost, how to use the worm casting and of course they sent us home with our own box of worms! 🙂
Education.com was kind enough to provide us with a project on sound localization. You can read below for all the details. To access a variety of study materials on ANGLES, visit Education.com’s website here.
What? Where? If you can tell when someone’s sneaking up on you, your ears might have a good sound localization ability, meaning they’re great at judging sound direction.
How well do people sense the direction of a sound?
- Grassy field
- Lots of string
- Nails or wire stakes
- Plastic freezer bag
- Jingle bell
- Tape measure
- 2 or more friends
- Can your friends determine the direction of a sound? How well can they pinpoint the direction that a sound is coming from? Create a hypothesis, your best guess about what is going to happen. What directions are the easiest to identify? Which ones are the hardest?
- First, you’ll create a semicircle so that you can make sounds in different places. To build your circle, put a nail in the ground and tie one end of a spool of string to the nail. Measure out 30 meters of string and pull the string taut. Put another nail in the ground and tie the other end of your string to the nail. This length of string will act as the diameter of your semicircle.
Walk along the string until you get to the middle. Put a nail at that point, and tie more string to that nail. The new string should be 15 meters long. Walk to one end of the diameter, holding the new string. Start walking in a curved path, holding the string taut. As you walk, you or a friend can hold a plastic freezer bag of flour with the corner clipped off and use it to mark a semicircle on the grass.
- Now it’s time to make some noise! Ask one of your friends to stand at the midpoint, the place where you put the second nail. Put a blindfold on your friend so that he will have to use only his ears to pinpoint the direction of the sound.
- Measure out another 15-meter length of string for yourself, and give your 2nd friend his own 15-meter length of string and a jingle bell. Tie the ends of these strings to the nail close to where the blindfolded subject is standing. You and your friend should stand at the edge of the circle, holding your strings to either side of your blindfolded friend.
- Have your friend with the jingle bell quietly move along the edge of the circle, stop, and jingle the bell. Ask your blindfolded test subject to point to the place where he heard the bell. Walk around the edge of the circle to move your string so that it lines up with the place your blindfolded friend is pointing. Ask your blindfolded friend to take his blindfold off and measure the angle that each string makes with the semicircle’s diameter. Place the results into a table:
|Test Subject||True Angle||Guessed Angle||Difference|
- Do five trials for each blindfolded test subject, then ask your friends to switch jobs.
- How accurate were your friends’ guesses? Was one person more accurate than the others, or were they all similar? What directions were most difficult for your friends to guess?
Surprisingly, you and your friends probably will have had a harder time determining the precise direction of sounds that happened in front of them!
How do people tell where a sound is coming from? Different animals have heads and ears that are capable of capturing sound in different ways. Owls have flat facial disks that act like satellite dishes, capturing sound. Many bats have large pinnae (“ears”) that collect sounds.
People have pinnae too—but we call them ears. The part of the ear that processes sound is actually on the inside of your skull, and the things we call ears are our sound-collectors or pinnae.
Our pinnae sit on the sides of the head. This means that it’s easy to hear sounds that are coming directly from the left or the right. When a sound is above us, below us, or behind us, it can be harder to pinpoint exactly where the sound is coming from. However, we make up for this weakness with our eyes! Humans usually use our eyes to detect things that are right in front of us, because our eyes point forward.
We can still accomplish sound localization and determine where a sound is coming from even when that sound isn’t directly to the left or the right of us. A sound that comes from behind us and to the right moves into our ear pinnae and gets amplified in a certain way—meaning the sound is louder in one of our ears than it is in the other. Then, the brain takes that information and decodes it. Over time, we will have heard many sounds from this direction, and we get trained to realize that the particular amplification pattern this direction produces means that this sound comes from behind us and to the right.
A sound that comes directly from the back of your head is hard to figure out because it doesn’t move as easily into your ear pinnae. It might echo off something in front of you, and that could help. Usually, people turn their head slightly when they hear a sound behind them, and this helps their ears capture the sound and helps their brain decode it.
Project Author: Tricia Edgar
For more fun science projects, go to Education.com!
Great article just published on Business Insider. Here’s the sum-up but give this one the five minutes it will take to read. There are several more worthy articles linked inside too.
1. Personalized learning is a strong method of instruction.
2. Students can learn more about what they really care about.
3. Social media gives kids a way to form lasting friendships. *We have met lots of friends through our local homeschool Meet-Up group, too.
4. Students don’t deal with cliques or bullying.
5. Students may achieve more in the long run. *Note the comments and linked article from the homeschooled Harvard Junior.
January was a good month for learning and experiencing new things. We started the year off in Santa Fe, NM where Sebastian went snow skiing for his first time. He absolutely loved it, so much so that we re-arranged our plans to accommodate his request to ski an extra day.
The views in and of downtown were as stunning as they always are during the holiday season. Santa Fe never disappoints with their breathtaking sunsets, southwestern style and luminaria-topped, adobe buildings. Sebastian hadn’t been back to Santa Fe since he was 3 so it was great to re-introduce him to a town we love so much.
We spent a day exploring the psychedelic, Alice-in-wonderland like atmosphere at Meow Wolf. We found many, many hidden treasures. You can start your adventure at the mailbox and follow the mystery of what happened to the family that used to live in the house. Otherwise, you can just wander the eclectic mix of art and portals. Despite the crowds, this is not an experience to miss when visiting Santa Fe. I recommend visiting later in the day when the families with little kids typically have to go home for nap-time.
While it ended up being a much shorter visit to Los Alamos than I would have liked, we were able to see part of Bandelier National Monument. We made it to the cavates which were my ‘must see’ part of the park.
When we visited Shidoni Gallery, we also spent time at Tesuque Glassworks with a glass-blowing artist named David Shanfield. He gave us a front row seat to observe the process and craft of hand-blowing glass. We brought home one of his signature glass flowers in my favorite colors, teal and blue.
Here are a few more favorite shots from the mountain in Santa Fe. All my photos from Santa Fe, Bandelier, the Mountain and Meow Wolf are on my photography website, LoveCameraEarth.