Self-led learning and making molecules

Self-led learning. More fun and more facts that stick to the noggin.

Even though our homeschool year hasn’t officially begun (we are in Canada where ‘school’ doesn’t start until next month) learning is always happening no matter the time of year.

I have learned through the years that workbook learning and following a traditional school schedule does not entirely work for us. It’s drudgingly boring in our home and not much learning really happens. Some learning, yes, but not that kind that sticks.

Oftentimes when we make our trips to the library we end up taking home more books than planned. This time, my oldest grabbed The Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks, from a display table. It’s formatted much like a graphic novel which I am sure means, for our graphic novel loving family, a more interesting read.

Human Body Theater book

Human Body Theater book

L has taken an interest in biology and graphic-novel-style books have certainly helped. What’s more fun than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich describing to you its travels through the digestive system?

We stayed up for an extra half hour at bedtime talking excitedly about all of the wonderful facts about the human body. I couldn’t believe how much he remembered and he hadn’t even finished the book!

I love biology and had thought seriously about going into medicine so having a child who is as excited as I am about this kind of stuff was just too much to wait until tomorrow to talk about. 🙂

X is now in the process of reading the book and enjoying it just as much.

L is our ‘Finder’.

To explain, whenever we are in a store searching for a specific product or looking for a solution to our quandry, L is almost always the one to find what we are looking for. I call him my ‘Finder’. X, on the other hand, has total parking mojo and often when we need a parking spot in the city we find one just vacated with time still on the meter.

I had been searching for some time for a good molecule building set for the boys. There were many online but either didn’t show exactly what the contents were or were just too pricey for our budget. Not long after the search had begun, L spotted at our local second-hand store just the kind of molecule building set we were after. That’s my Finder!

Today he built the molecular structure of glucose after easily naming it off to me the other night. He’s got a knack for numbers too. They both do, just like their math-loving father. 🙂

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I have since had the request to put Primates, another of Maris Wiley’s books, on hold at the library.

I have to say that these boys retain information that is of interest to them far more easily than things that are not of interest. This is true for so many of us, of course. It pertains to homeschooling and self-led learning too. The boys are reading and making and creating on their own all of the time.

And for that, they love to learn.

And I love that they love to learn.

My heart smiles and I feel like a good mama.

And I am so happy to have a Finder and a Parking Mojo dude in my family.


Solar Eclipse fun in Nova Scotia!

Solar eclipse photo sharing is the best way to get back to blogging, don’t you think?

I am going to try my darnedest to keep up with two blogs! It’s said it before, I know, but you probably don’t remember (lol) since it’s been so long!

To start things off here is a quick share of our eclipse experience yesterday.

Beginning of partial eclipse viewed with pinhole setup

Beginning of partial eclipse viewed with pinhole setup

Viewing the eclipse with a pinhole box…

We visited a friend’s place where there was a better view of the sun at this time of the day. Our home in the city would probably have had us standing in the road to view the eclipse!

My friend, Dawn, was determined to make some eclipse viewers. I am glad she did as I didn’t have any boxes to bring over that were large enough for us to stick our heads into like a pinhole camera. She found that there were no longer any big boxes at her place either but did a search and found directions using a small box. It worked wonderfully!

Small box eclipse viewing

Small box eclipse viewing

Small box eclipse viewing

Small box eclipse viewing

Small box eclipse viewer

Small box eclipse viewer

Even though we were not in the path of totality (big sad face) we were able to view a partial eclipse. It was very exciting!

Parital solar eclipse in a box

Parital solar eclipse in a box

This was about as much of the eclipse as we were able to see from Nova Scotia. I love that it looks like a crescent moon!


Ending of partial solar eclipse

Ending of partial solar eclipse

It’s at times like these that we can be thankful for such easy access to other people’s photos of the solar eclipse! There are some wonderful ones circulating on Instagram. Some people used a colander to view the eclipse! What a great idea! Instead of seeing full circles of sunshine coming through the holes of the colander you see what looks like half moons. I wish I had thought of that! We also saw pictures, such as at Melissa Wiley’s blog Here in the Bonny Glen, where the shadows of trees looked like so many half moons as well. Just beautiful!!

What a wonderful world we inhabit.

Global Big Day – the bird count!

On May 9 (yes, I’m a little behind in my posts because I greatly detest editing photos!) we had an amazing time outdoors counting birds for Global Big Day.

Global Big Day happens once a year as part of Cornell Lab of Ornithology events. The goal is to find and record as many bird species possible worldwide. The boys had the binoculars and their phones for the app and I had my camera while Stephen took note of species spotted and how many.

The first place we went was Porter’s Lakes Trail just across the street from our library. There are so many trails in Nova Scotia you don’t have to drive too far at all to find one – many are in the city!

I think this nest belonged to the American Goldfinch that we heard and spotted nearby.09May2015_Bird Count_01 We had seen this osprey nest from a distance many times on our way to the library for years but never went on this trail. We were excited to get so close to both the mother and father! They were clearly used to all of the people walking on the trail – they just ignored us all.09May2015_Bird Count_30There were also many signs of beavers…
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The Merlin Bird ID app was extremely useful in not only identifying bird species but also in matching certain bird calls to the bird before we saw it! At our first location I heard a bird call I did not recognize and the boys used their app to find that it was the Red-winged Blackbird. I was so excited because when I lived in Wisconsin as a child they were my favourite bird. I had heard that they spent time in Nova Scotia but I had yet to see one so I was very excited to know that the bird call was indeed a Red-winged Blackbird. This picture is the bird reacting to the call on the app!

09May2015_Bird Day_63 There also just happened to be a geocache in the area so why not find it?!09May2015_Bird Count_83 And of course a wooly-bear caterpillar!09May2015_Bird Count_85 I am not sure what tree this was as there were yet to be any leaves but it reminded me of an oak.09May2015_Bird Count_88


From here we went to another location about 20 minutes away. We were totally psyched after seeing the blackbird and osprey, plus a Yellow-rumped Warbler whose was camera shy. I was told of a place where there was a blue heron and osprey so we crossed our fingers…

09May2015_Bird Count_161As we walked onto the trail there above us hovered an osprey searching for fish in the waters below. It was quite an experience to watch and were awed by its ability to just float in one spot in the air, catching the currents.09May2015_Bird Count_18209May2015_Bird Day_218Of the times I caught the osprey with my camera diving for fish, I’d say 85-90% of the time it came out with a fish.

09May2015_Bird Count_189 09May2015_Bird Count_19009May2015_Bird Count_191 09May2015_Bird Count_195 09May2015_Bird Count_196The tree swallows were so fast that it was very challenging to get a decent picture. They were also hanging around the osprey as you can see in the photos above.09May2015_Bird Day_187A Common Grackle. Part of the Crow family but with this beautiful blue/purple neck.

09May2015_Bird Day_110A Yellow-rumped Warbler (twice), a Downy Woodpecker and a pair of Goldfinches.

09May2015_Bird Day_12709May2015_Bird Day_264 09May2015_Bird Day_134 09May2015_Bird Count_137We saw the Blue Heron but it was on the other side of the marsh and my lens just wasn’t long enough to take a decent photo. Boo. 🙁

I cannot go to any trail without a picture of some moss these days!

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Double-crested Cormorant with a fish!
09May2015_Bird Count_177We really just couldn’t get enough of that osprey. Look at those wings!

09May2015_Bird Day_228 09May2015_Bird Day_260 09May2015_Bird Day_261

We did a lot walking that day and all got a bit tired. A huge overturned tree is a great place to take a rest!

09May2015_Bird Count_144My silly boys! Those binoculars were just purchased last Christmas and they are amazing! Bushnell Bone Collector Trophy 10×42’s in case you are wondering. Water and fog proof. Just right for Nova Scotia! 😉09May2015_Bird Count_155 Haha!09May2015_Bird Count_150

It’s hard to believe we saw all these amazing birds so close to home – you can see an apartment complex in the background above.

Below are our findings for the day. Can’t wait for next year!






Egg Geodes!

We love doing science projects but sometimes when they are time-based we tend to forget about them.

That’s what happened when we started our egg geodes! We had mixed boiled water with salt, epsom, and borax – each separately and added a bit of food colouring to them to tell the difference (for fun) and labeled them with tape.

For the first few days the boys were peeking to see what was happening with the eggs. The salt and borax mixtures showed changes during this time. By the second week I think the water had for the most part evaporated. But the epsom salt had us wondering if anything would happen as it stayed as a liquid with no crystals to speak of. At that point the boys started to grow less interested and eventually I forgot about them too! This was done in mid-April.

IMG_5561And here we are in June. 🙂

It was worth the wait to see the results! Okay, it really didn’t take this long but it took me this long to finally get around to posting the results! But it was probably a month before the water in the epsom salt fully evaporated.

The salt crystals reminded us of the salt deposits in caves and the crystals were cubic in shape. These eggs were also the only ones that formed deposits at the top edge of the egg.


The borax crystals were much smaller which made it more difficult to see their shape but are apparently they are prismatic – and very sparkly!

IMG_5933We all agreed that the epsom egg geodes were the coolest and worth the wait! The crystals were long and kind of spiky in shape. There were a huge pile of them in the bottom of the egg!


Here is a neat site if you want to try to grow your own crystals and really, who wouldn’t because they are just so neat! 😉

This link is for growing your own egg geodes. It’s a little more in-depth than the one we used. We got ours from the Tinkerlab book but it’s also on their website. The book is very cool, though!