Rock Climbing at Geneva Hills

Thomas, Dan and I spent this past weekend camping, about an hour away from home, so that Thomas could do his first outdoor rock climbing. He has been climbing at Vertical Adventures for the past year, but this was his first time climbing on actual rocks! it was a great weekend spent with some really nice rock climbing families. We can’t go wait to go back again.

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This is Thomas’ first ascent up the boulder.

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I am amazed at how strong he has gotten this year. He is no longer my little boy, he has definitely grown into a man body.

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He looks pretty proud of himself. Actually, I think he’s laughing because his coach Justin chastised him for whale-rolling onto the top.

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And since this was a rock climbing trip of course he needed to bring the slack line.

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Geneva Hills is privately owned summer camp facility on 350 acres in Lancaster, which just happens to have some undeveloped rock climbing areas. In exchange for the climbers coming in and clearing out paths to the boulders and cleaning off the rocks, we get to camp for just a donation to the campground. It was a beautiful area, that we’re looking forward to returning to.

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and here’s a few more pics of Thomas climbing some of the others boulders.

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Everyone loves water parks

After our fun at COSI we all walked across the bridge to the waterpark at the Scioto Mile. It has been a ridiculously hot spring, which is hard for these Seattleites to take considering it’s only 60 degrees out west.

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So contemplative

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and Zen-like

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Even the big kids got in on the fun. BJ said he didn’t plan on getting wet, but how can you resist?

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Thomas was running towards me being silly, this really nails his essence, I think.

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It’s even more fun when the BIG sprinklers come one…

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So mistyIMG_7808

What a great day with friends and cousins.

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Even G-ma and G-pa came along, it’s like they’re homeschooling parents now that they’re taking care of my niece and nephew while my sister is working on getting her house sold.

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Just a little zap

My niece Isa has made the journey to Ohio so we now get to rediscover all the fun little kid things that my bigger kids have outgrown. We met some friends at COSI for a few hours of fun. Isa does not ever remember being at COSI so it was all new to her.

COSI is even more fun when you know the kids putting on the shows. Both Thomas and Louisa do the EG (electro-static generator) show at COSI but by the time we got there Thomas had already done his show for the day so we only got to see Louisa’s performance. The little girls loved getting shocked, so much that we sat through the show 2 times.

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Next they tried out the wind tunnel.

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Then they all worked together to lift the car.

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They did need a little help from Thomas.

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That car is really heavy.

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They also got to watch Thomas and Louisa do one of the carts. Thomas has learned so much being a volunteer at COSI.

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It was so much fun getting to watch Thomas and Louisa do there stuff and watching Isa and her new friends get to know each other. It was like they had always been friends, not that they had just met last week.

Another fun day with the boys

We are really enjoying having BJ, umm I mean William (that is just not gonna stick) back with us in Ohio. It’s like Thomas’ long lost brother has returned.  The boys are doing great together, they must still be in the honeymoon phase because they have not had any fights or problems at all. It probably helps that they’re not together everyday. BJ splits his time between our house and my parents house. That little bit of away time seems to be keeping everyone happy.

I don’t think BJ was expecting to have as much fun as he’s been having hanging with all our homeschooling friends. It’s always a little awkward being the new kid in a group. But our group of kids are just awesome and completely welcoming to everyone that joins them.

We’ve been to the rock climbing wall at the Scioto Audubon Park twice this week. The second time was for a class on climbing the wall. That was nice because there were lots of rangers there to help belay the kids. Unless you have at least 2 people with gear you can’t climb with the ropes. The kids still have fun though, even when they don’t get to climb all the way to the top.

Climbing wall: The largest free outdoor climbing wall in the country, 35 feet high. Climbing is free, but climbers must bring their own ropes and equipment. The climbing wall opens at 9am and closes one hour before the park close. On the second Friday of the month, from March through November, the climbing wall will stay open till midnight.

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There’s also a fun playground for the kids to play on on when they’re not rock climbing.

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Circuit Benders’ Ball

Thomas, BJ and few friends did a workshop this past weekend at The Columbus Idea Foundry on building a Two Transistor Light Theramin.

And what exactly does that mean you may be asking? Well essentially it is noise maker that has a light sensor on it. But in the process of building that the kids learned how to solder the very small electronic connections and they learned how to create a simple two transistor light Theremin based on the 1976 Forrest M. Mims III design.

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Both Thomas and BJ knew how to solder form previous classes they’ve taken. But building the transistor was something new for them both. BJ thought it was even more difficult than working on computer boards like he’s done in the past.

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All the kids ended up with their own noisy little transistors, whose sole purpose seems to be only to annoy all the older people within earshot.

A Day in Cleveland

On Friday we left the house at 6am to meet up with some friends and drive 2 hours north to spend the day in Cleveland.

Our first stop was The Playhouse Theatre to see Red, a Tony award winning Broadway Play about the artist Mark Rothko. This show was amazing! If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. It is pretty intense and there is some bad language, it is meant for older kids and adults. Besides the show being completely amazing two other things I took away from this were always go early for the preshow talk, it gave so much more insight to the production and really helped the kids (and myself) better understand what was happening. And always stay after for the talk with the performers. It’s so interesting to see what they have to say about their experience doing the show.

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Next stop was lunch, we thought we would eat at the Westside Market, but instead we just picked up dessert. As Thomas said it was all meat, cheese and pastries…It did remind me of a cross between the North Market in Columbus and Pike Place Market in Seattle, not quite the same as either of them but the same cool market vibe.

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After buying our desserts we headed back to a little Mexican place, Ohio City Burrito, we had passed on our walk to the market.

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After lunch we spent the rest of our day at The Great Lakes Science Center. Since the kids volunteer at COSI they spend a lot of time at the Columbus science museum, it’s fun to see other science centers and compare them to COSI.

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The kids had fun in the Goosebumps exhibit, learning all about fears. Thomas does not have a fear of falling…

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But he does have a fear of clowns.

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Thomas and Molly struggled to build the Canterbury Arch. Poor Molly she is just a little too short to reach the top…

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Hmm Kristen wasn’t too much help, they definitely needed Thomas’ height to get to the center up. Thomas claims that he can do this by himself at COSI, I’m not sure how that would be possible.

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I loved the view of Lake Erie from the museum.

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Such a pretty walkway down to the water.

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It was a whirlwind day, 14 hours of driving and exploring. We had so much fun on this little road trip. This is what homeschooling is all about. The flexibility to take a day and go explore. I love our homeschooling life!

You can see more about this trip on Kristen’s Blog.

Plenty of field trips

Besides all the shows we’ve been going to it’s also been the season for field trips. Luckily we hang around with some highly motivated people that plan all kinds of cool things for us to do.

In the past 2 months we’ve…

gone ice skating during the lunch skate, it’s the best time to go if you can. Only $4 and the rink is practically empty.

A lock-picking class at The Columbus Idea Foundry, apparently Thomas is a natural. He often has his lock-picking kit with him, so if you’re ever locked out of something and he’s around, he can probably get you in.

Learn how to solve the puzzles provided by common pin tumbler locks and wafer locks, defeat security mechanisms, and generally enjoy the intrigue of popping a lock open without the key. Locks are just puzzles waiting to be solved.

OHAYOCON 2012 at the convention center. Ohayocon is a 3 day event that focuses on the art, culture and community surrounding Japanese Animation.

Hockey game with friends.

A tour of the The American Whistle Corporation and then a tour a the The Flag Lady Store in Clintonville. Two field trips back to back, way to pack it all in to one day!

American Whistle Corporation is the ONLY manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States! For approximately 45 minutes, we will show you a thriving, small, American manufacturing plant and entertain you with interesting information about whistles and fascinating machinery—some state of the art, some dating back to the beginning of the company. Best of all, everyone leaves with a shiny new “American Classic” whistle!

I am so glad I wasn’t driving that group of kids home, I hate whistling!

A visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory along with a class about the importance of environmental knowledge about personal energy consumption and conservation, the global carbon cycle, and the carbon sequestration power of trees and plants.

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After the class the kids got to watch the butterflies being released.

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Then we went to the playground for a picnic and some time to play in the waterfalls.

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During that same week (man we’ve had amazing weather in March) we went on another picnic at The Topiary Park in downtown Columbus, then a visit to the Columbus Museum of Art.

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The art museum now has a kids area complete with a space to climb on and in. I’m surprised by the lack of rules surrounding climbing on the structure. There are no signs saying not to climb up on the play house and it is even set up to make it look like they want  you to climb to the top.

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And, of course, our trip to Niagara Falls. The grand-daddy of all field trips!

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The life of a Homeschooler

Columbus is a great place to homeschool! There is so much to do and see and you can do most of it pretty inexpensively. At the end of last year when Thomas and I did our “year in review” we realized we didn’t see as many shows as we normally do. That was one thing Thomas wanted us to do more of and I think we accomplished that goal.

Just in the past month we have seen:

Bill Blagg’s The Science of Magic at the newly remodeled Lincoln Theatre.

For centuries, magicians have used scientific principles to make people levitate in mid-air and vanish in the blink of an eye. Illusionist Bill Blagg’s one-of-a-kind educational experience takes you on a rare, never-before-seen journey “behind the scenes” of the magic world.

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African Adventure: Safari in the Okavango, Documentary, on the big screen at COSI.

Tornado Alley 3D, Documentary‎, on the big screen at COSI.

Dressed, a documentary film at the Wexner Center. This was not only a great film but the designer Nary and the producer were there to answer questions after the show and we even got a free lunch. All for free!

Unfolding against a backdrop of the Fashion Industry in New York, “Dressed” is the inspiring story of young clothing designer, Nary Manivong, who defied the odds amidst a broken childhood, homelessness and the fiercely competitive world of fashion to pursue his ultimate dream – a show of his collection at Fashion Week.

Two of our friends posing with Nary:

Four Score and Seven Years Ago also at the Lincoln Theatre

After escaping slavery in Georgia, life in Gettysburg is everything young Lemuel dreamed it would be. However, his ideas about the North and the South, as well as what it means to be a free man, are challenged when he unexpectedly befriends a young Confederate soldier named Jacob.

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Nearly Lear at the Thurber Theatre put on by the Wexner Center. This show was AMAZING! and I think it was free also. The Actor/ writer/ producer, Susanna Hamnett, stuck around after the show to answer questions and chat with the small group of students that were there..

A one-woman version of the Shakespearean play. Actor Susanna Hamnett plays nine characters in this laugh-out-loud retelling, dubbed “a tantalizing introduction to the lifelong pleasures of seeing and reading Shakespeare.” 

Here’s our group of friends before we went in to the show.

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Sleeping Beauty, the ballet at the Ohio Theatre. This was the most expensive show we saw but it was still only $10 per person, which is a GREAT deal for a full ballet. It was also senior day at the theatre so all the homeschoolers were seated in front and center surrounded by the seniors. All the other school kids were in balcony. We had great seat!

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And on Friday we’re driving up to the Cleveland Play House to see a play about renowned painter Mark Rothko.

In this Tony-winning play, Master American painter Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art. But when his young assistant gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the possibility that his crowning achievement could also be his undoing. “As much as any stage work I can think of,” Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote, “Red captures the dynamic relationship between an artist and his creations.”

That is a crazy amount of shows to see in 1 month.

Just another Homeschool field trip…

To Niagara Falls! Thomas and some of his friends have been doing a environmental science class where they briefly discussed hydroelectric power, but that was enough for us moms to jump at the chance to take the kids to Niagara Falls for a fabulous field trip. It was a whirlwind 2 day, 1 night trip but even in that short amount of time the kids learned so much more than they ever could have from just reading about the falls and the power plant in a book.

Our first look at the falls. Both Thomas and Ros said it wasn’t as big as they thought it would be. I didn’t realize that the falls were split by Goat Island. 

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This is Niagara Falls but the mist in the back is from the Horseshoe Falls.

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After our 6 hour drive we took a little break at the falls to play some Frisbee and eat our lunches. It was a beautiful, warm day who would have thought it would be like that in March. When we made the reservations we were worried about snow.

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We even got to see a rainbow at the falls.

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When did Thomas get so much bigger than me?

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Thomas and friends doing OHIO. After we left the observation area of Niagara Falls, we walked across the bridge to Goat Island.

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We are lucky to have such a great group of friends! These kids are amazing, they are so not like the stereotypical teenager that everyone worries about. They are sweet, kind, polite and a joy to be around.

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Thomas’ favorite part of the hike was the side trek to Three Sisters Islands. These rocky formations were originally all under water so the rocks have been worn smooth. It was a great place to just sit and listen to the river.

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But it was an even better place to climb around and explore. Of course, I was always in the background yelling for Thomas to get away from the water, which he ignored. We were upstream from the falls for heavens sake, so if you slip in over the falls you go.

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Ironically he got in trouble from a park ranger for climbing down to the water on the shallow, calm side of the rocks.

he's very contemplative

But it was perfectly ok for him to sit on the edge of the rocks by the deep rapids. What is wrong with these people?

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After we exhausted ourselves exploring the state park we headed to our hotel to finally check in. We ate a quick snack and the kids were off to the pool. While they were swimming I took one of the other moms across the street to check out the casino. As part of our Groupon Deal each adult got a $25 voucher to use at the casino. Both Laura and I left the casino with a little bit of winnings from our free money.

Then we were back to the falls to see it lit up. It was very pretty but it was so cold outside once the sun went down and it took a ridiculously long time for the colors to change, at least 15 minutes for each color.

the falls at night, man those colors change SLOWLY! each color lasted about 15 minutes

We just stuck around for the pink, white, back to pink then orange. By this time it was 9:30 and the kids were hungry again, I guess the snack we had before just didn’t cut it for dinner. We also got vouchers for the TGI Fridays at the hotel so Laura took the kids to eat while I took Tracie and her mom to the Casino so they could use their free money. I seem to be the only person in our group that gambles so I was the tour guide for this part of our trip. Tracie was the big winner leaving with almost $60, which she generously used the next morning to buy everyone breakfast. After 2 trips to the casino I managed to stay $20 ahead which I planned to use the next morning at the casino while everyone else was asleep.

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After all of our morning dalliances while most the kids were still asleep (Laura and Ros walked back to the falls, as did Tracie and I returned to the casino) we fed the kids, checked out our hotel and were off. First stop the Daredevil museum, which was closed. So we got a pic in front of the sign and headed to our next stop…

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The Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, this was a homeschool field trip after all.

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We had a very entertaining and informative tour of the power plant, then we watched a 20 min movie that explained again how the water was diverted from the falls and showed how the plant was built (all in only 3 years.) Then we were left to explore the facility…

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and the observation deck

observation deck over the gorge

The kids have a great story they can share about a fighter jet that was on fire that turned sideways and flew through this bridge while it was being constructedIMG_6709the American power plant on the right and the Canadian one on the left

This is the Canadian power plant right across the gorge.

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After our time at the power plant we were ready to head home. It was a great trip with a great group of friends. And we decided that our next big homeschool field trip would be to Williamsburg in the fall!

Making Pysanky Easter Eggs

Finally after more than a years break we resurrected one of our favorite co-op activities, Geography Club. From the time Daniel was young we have been going to monthly geography club meetings. Learning all about the different countries and cultures from all over the world.

As the years passed the group kept changing, kids grow up and moms move on, until finally all of the original members had moved on. Those of us left behind tried to keep it afloat but eventually we just needed a break. But the break is over and we have been reinvigorated.

This month we studied Eastern Europe, we started as we always have with a map challenge so the kids can show off all the countries they have memorized over the past 3 weeks.

We were the first to arrive so the kids spread out and got to work. Apparently, they wanted to make sure no one was looking at their answers.IMG_5827

Here’s the whole group working hard.

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After several different activities (a comparison of population density, an explanation of the European Union, looking over some Euros, a PowerPoint presentation from an older sibling that just returned from overseas and more…) we got on to the fun artsy part of the day. Making Pysanky (Ukrainian) Easter Eggs. We didn’t have time to use a traditional method, instead we used sharpies on blown out eggs.

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They turned out great even without using melted wax and dies.

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