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. 


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


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.


We even got to see a rainbow at the falls.


When did Thomas get so much bigger than me?


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


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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…


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


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…


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.


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!

How we homeschool

I hang out with a few different homeschooling groups, some are structured homeschoolers and others are complete unschoolers and the rest fall somewhere in-between. I call what we do community-based homeschooling. We’re not quite unschoolers and we’re definitely not structured homeschoolers. Thomas is free to do what he wants 95% of the time and a few days a week I ask him to do a little math (thus the disqualifier from being a true unschooler.) The other day I asked Thomas his thoughts on doing math, he said he planned to continue doing it, using the same curriculum we’ve been using. He said it was something he needed to do. In the past we tried going for a year without doing any math and he forgot a lot of it. I’m glad that he’s choosing to do the math and that he sees the benefits. It makes my life much easier when he chooses to do the work.

At the end of the year Thomas and I go through our calendar and make a list of everything we did. It helps him remember all the fun stuff and gives him something to talk about at our assessment. Plus it’s really cool to see it all put together in a list, it really makes you feel like it was a full year of learning. Last year was the first year for this “year in review,” I blogged about it here.

One thing about all these classes and events, before I sign Thomas up for anything I ask him if he wants to do it. These are all things that he wanted to do. I’m lucky that I have a very easy going child that loves to do all sorts of things. When we saw how many fewer shows we went to this year, he chastised me because he really wanted to see the Cinderella ballet and it was my fault we didn’t go. Having a child that is interested in all of this makes it much easier, if he didn’t want to do any of these programs for the most part we would have skipped them. Occasionally there’s something that I really want to do that he may not be crazy about but even then he’s a good sport about going.

So here’s this years list of activities in no particular order:

Science classes at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery:

  • Animal Diversity
  • A-Mazing Sea

Gym & More Fri Co-op:

  • Literature Class: Beowulf, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Lady of Shallot, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Overview of Medieval Times & architecture
  • Medieval science and scarecrows
  • A day in the life of…
  • Armor and chivalry
  • Medieval Feast
  • Holiday Party, Gingerbread Castles
  • Gym Class
  • Musical Class
  • Math Lab
  • Wrote and performed 2 musicals: The Gothic Canoe Musical and The Legacy of the Cookie

Columbus Metro Unschoolers Co-op:

  • Art
  • Tennis
  • Manga
  • Hip- Hop
  • Floor Hockey


  • Soccer
  • Indoor soccer
  • Floor Hockey
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Bowling
  • Homeschool Gym
  • Rock climbing
  • Field Day
  • Sailing

Zoo Classes:

  • Polar Expedition
  • Year of the Tiger
  • Rainforest Adventure
  • Circle of Life – Food Webs
  • African Safari
  • Treasure Quest: Handheld Computer Quest


  • Volunteering
  • Youth Volunteer Winter Event
  • Boys Discover…Engineering!

Trips to:

  • Seattle (Pike Place market, Waterfront)
  • North Carolina (Beach, need I say more)


  • Nutcracker, ballet
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollow, play
  • Just So – The Musical
  • BalletMet Up-close, various types of dance
  • Harry Potter (parts 1 & 2, how awesome is that!)

Columbus State Community College, Science Days

  • Polymers
  • Acid/base testing
  • Metals
  • Circuits
  • Effects of an Oil Spill I & II

Tours of:

  • Orville & Wilbur Wright Bike museum
  • Loveland Castle, aka Castle de Laroche
  • Mac-O-Chee Castle
  • Cedar Bog
  • Circle S Pumpkin patch
  • Ohio State House, judicial process in Ohio
  • Darby Creek, Bison
  • Newport Aquarium

Additional programs and classes

  • Went shooting at a shooting range
  • Science/ Interest Fair (did a project on yo-yo’s)
  • Chemistry classes (high school level Chemistry class)
  • OSU Football game
  • Pioneer Day at Mohican School
  • Homeschool Dance
  • Yo-Yo Event
  • Sky Zone
  • Zoombezi Bay
  • Columbus Art Museum (homeschool day)

Additional Art Classes

     Art with Heather

  • Polymer clay
  • Starry Night recreations
  • Encaustic wax artwork
  • Basics of drawing
  • Master Study class
  • Color Theory
  • Two Dimensional Art
  • Watercolor Painting
  • Master Study: Claude Monet
  • Chalk Pastels
  • Photography classes

     Art at Tuttle

  • Ceramics
  • Drawing & painting

    Art at the Riffe Center

  • Deep Space, photo collages


  • Halloween Party at Tuttle
  • COSI (250 hours)
  • Game Day with Somali immigrants

Field Day

Thomas does a once a week homeschooling co-op with about 11 other families. Besides covering some awesome educational subjects we also try to do some of the typical school events that kids usually enjoy; field trips, Valentines Day Party, Science Fair, Choir, Medieval feasts (ok that may just be a homeschooling thing) and Field Day. We always end our co-op in May with Field day one week then the Science Fair the next week. It’s a nice tradition to welcome in summer.

Thomas thoroughly enjoyed all the field day games:

Thomas and Ben (his BFF, if boys have BFF’s) were paired up for all the 2 person events. Here Thomas is racing with Ben inside the wheelbarrow, he managed not to dump his precious cargo.


Then there were animal races, Thomas was a chimpanzee:


For this race you had to get to the bucket with a penny stuck between your knees and drop it in.


You can’t have field day without a 3 legged race!


Thomas and Ben won the race.


tug-o-war, boys vs. girls. The girls won both times. When we did kids vs. parents the kids kicked our butts, but in our defense we were way out numbered!IMG_9759IMG_9775

and a water balloon toss that Thomas and Ben also won! They were a good team.


Thomas doing his happy dance:


The little kids had made paper canoes to go along with their literature class so they had canoe races in the creek. The older kids had fun cheering on the younger kids. They were also happy that for the first time ever they were allowed to play in that creek.


Thomas preparing for the group photo:


Everyone LOVES Thomas!


There were several other games that the kids also played and a cooperative game added in because we are homeschoolers after all.

You know it’s a successful day when you have no injuries and no one ends up crying from hurt feelings!

Homeschooling…but what do we do??

That’s a big question, our neighbor and graduated homeschooler is working on a college research project looking at different groups in society. She chose homeschoolers and came along to our co-op to observe. After 2 weeks of observing she interviewed a few of the participants. When she interviewed me she asked what our homeschool day looks like, what type of program do we use, do we have a typical day? Um… well first off every day is different, dictated by what outside activities are going on. Our type of homeschooling is community based (I just made that up) we don’t spend a lot of time at home doing school work.

One thing we do, that we really love is our Friday co-op, all the moms teach different topics to a group of 26 kids. This session we have been studying Medieval times. So Thomas in his literature class has read Beowulf and is now reading Canterbury Tales, he also does a gym class, and a music class where they are writing and performing a medieval musical. Then we all eat lunch and move on to a large group activity. Every 2 weeks is taught by a different pair of moms and covers a different medieval topic. So far the topics have included: overview of Medieval Times & architecture, Medieval medicine and herbs, a day in the life of Medieval people…Armor, chivalry and becoming a knight.

We’ve also had to 2 field trips trips to local castles: Loveland Castle & Mac-O-Chee castle (which isn’t really a castle after all.)

For my 2 weeks I provided wooden shields and swords that were used when the kids were knighted. The kids went through stations learning about being a page, squire and finally a knight. And you certainly can not be knight without your weapons!

Here is Thomas working on cutting out 1 of the 30 swords that needed to be done. He also helped cut out and sand all the shields that we made.


That purple sword that we were using as a template is actually my sword. Beth claims I gave it to her but I don’t think so, I’m pretty sure that Shera Princess of Power needs her own sword!



After having some technical difficulties with the band saw (thanks to Daniel breaking the blade) Dan had to hop in and help or we may never have finished. After the band saw proved fruitless Dan switched over to the jigsaw to finish up.


Here is the group pledging their Code of Honor and preparing to be knighted by me Queen Sheila

Pauli and Thomas were having a serious battle, I think Pauli may have got the best of Thomas.


Next Beth jumped in, why is everyone picking on poor Pauli?


Pauli the victor!


First day of work

IMG_5208Thomas finally had his first volunteer day at COSI a couple weeks ago. On the way to drop him off Beth asked if he felt grown up he said he did and she agreed that when she started she also felt very grown up. He was scheduled for a full day, 9-5. I couldn’t imagine him on his own for so long but we’ve been involved with COSI long enough that I knew he would be OK.

He had a great first day, he was pretty much left to explore the building but in a scheduled methodical way. All employees and volunteers are given a very detailed daily schedule that tells you where you should be throughout your entire shift.

Thomas started his day at 9am at the morning meeting, the schedule shows the meeting lasting for the first hour but it really only lasts about 10 min then he shadowed his friend Louisa until 11. Then a new volunteer tour and finally lunch at noon. Thomas has an hour to eat but since he finished in about 10 min he got to explore COSI the rest of time (as long as he has his work shirt covered up.) Then at 1:00 off to adventure for more scheduled exploring, 1:30 watch the EG (electrostatic generator, the thing in the commercials that makes your hair stand up) show, 2:00 watch the pumpkin explosion show, 2:30 watch rat basketball, 3:00 watch the Imax movie about caves, 4:00 watch the weather show, then at 4:30 the final debriefing before he gets sent home. I can’t help but think that he must have been sent off to war when I see the debriefing. When I asked Thomas about that he has no idea what that means. Maybe they walk through a secret chamber to erase all their memories from the day.

No wonder he had such a great day all the things he loves about COSI and left to explore them on his own! A perfect day for a 13 year old boy.

Art program at the Riffe Gallery

Columbus has so many art opportunities, one of the free ones we always try to take advantage of is the occasional Sunday program downtown at the Riffe Gallery. About every 2 months when they get a new exhibit they offer a free family art program. This program was for the photography show called Deep Space (which much to Laura’s disappointment didn’t have anything to do with outer space.) It did however have to do with spatial effects, we were inspired by the photographs and the advice of one of the artists to create collages that were supposed to show depth through layering.

IMG_3962 IMG_3963


Beth decided not to follow the rules on her first piece and just did a story collage using any pictures that spoke to her or were questionably appropriate. (why is that always the case with my kids?)


A little chocolate snack to keep the creative juices flowing.


You can’t create without making a mess. We must have been the most creative group there because we were definitely the messiest!


Beth with both of her collages, the one on the left is her second creation and her first attempt at following the suggested guidelines, while it didn’t use layering to create depth she did create a person using pieces that weren’t just body parts. The one on the right is a hodgepodge of what’s in Bethany’s mind.


Ros LOVED all the cat magazines that were offered, so both of her collages were of all the great cat pictures she could find. Then she got to take home as many cat magazines as she wanted, double bonus!


Here’s Thomas with his picture of a black hole sucking in the universe and ET (and a pot leaf, really I don’t know what is wrong with my kids.) I think the fact that the program was called Deep Space subliminally affected the kids; Louisa, Thomas and Matt all worked on pictures of outer space.


And here is my collage, I also didn’t follow the rules. I just put together pictures that I liked based around an art theme. In my mind it does tell a story but it just seems to lengthy to type out.


A year of homeschooling in review

One of my proudest moments (I say sarcastically) as a homeschooling mom is when people ask my kids what they do for school and inevitably their response is “nothing.” Through the years, with all three kids, that’s the standard response, then they usually look my way waiting for me to give a better answer. I never really have a better answer to supply. I stutter about trying to explain that we don’t really do book work like people are used to seeing in a typical school environment, then I try to extricate myself form the uncomfortable conversation. 🙂

Today Thomas had his end of the year assessment, one of the options Ohio homeschoolers can choose to stay in compliance with the regulations. In an effort to prepare a more thought out response than “nothing,” Thomas and I went through our calendar making a list of all the activities he’s participated in this past school year.

Man when you write them all down it is an impressive list! There is no way anyone would think we did “nothing” after reading this list.

Science classes at Boonshoft Museum of Discovery:

  • Tree house Trek, Science focus: forestry
  • Space Adventures, Cross-curricular; Science focus: space exploration; includes Space Adventures exhibit and NASA curriculum
  • Crime Lab Detectives, Science focus: forensics; includes Crime Lab Detectives exhibit
  • Toying With Science, Science focus: chemistry and physics of toys

Fri Co-op:

  • Literature Class: Huckleberry Finn, Charlie Skedaddle, Red Badge of Courage, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Physics Quest
  • Consumer math
  • Mythology
  • Gym Class
  • Music Appreciation


  • Soccer
  • Indoor soccer
  • Floor Hockey
  • Ballroom Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Street Hockey Tournament
  • Bowling

Zoo Classes:

  • Mystery & Crime solving (with COSI)
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Boreal Forest
  • Furry, Feathery, scale, slimy
  • Animal Defenses
  • Predator/ Prey

Geography Club:

  • Sept. Oceans & Sea
  • Oct. Mississippi River
  • Nov. Poland
  • Jan. Middle East; Afghanistan & Pakistan (Three Cups of Tea)
  • Feb. Haiti & Dominican Republic (speaker)
  • Tour; OSU Map Room
  • March; map making

COSI classes:

  • Light & Optics
  • Toying with Science: Simple Machines
  • Boys discover engineering
  • Multi-media, social networking camp

Trips to:

  • St. Louis (St. Louis Arch, Museum of Westward Expansion, Budweiser Brewery)
  • Seattle (Pike Place market, Waterfront)
  • North Carolina (Beach, need I say more)
  • Florida (Disney World, very educational!)

Cincinnati Field Trip:

  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • National Steamboat Monument
  • Ohio River to go on a B&B steamboat


  • Nutcracker, ballet
  • Madeline, musical
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream, ballet
  • Pierce to the Soul, play
  • Farfalle- Butterflies, modern dance
  • Alice in Wonderland, ballet
  • Treasure Island, play

Columbus State Community College, Science Days

  • Brain dissection (sheep)
  • Geology Rocks

Tours of:

  • Ohio Statehouse
  • Kelton House
  • OSU Map Room
  • Windy Hill Organic Apple Farm
  • Air force museum
  • Stratford Ecological Center, From Sheep to Sweater
  • All Hallows Eve, Ohio Village
  • Chihuly Reimagined at the Franklin Park Conservatory
  • Chihuly Illuminated at the Columbus Museum of Art
  • Abraham Lincoln Re-enactor Presents; Lincoln’s First Visit to the Statehouse on September 16, 1859
  • Re-enactment of the Repose of Lincoln at the Statehouse

Misc. programs

  • Ceramics
  • Made Hula Hoops
  • Went shooting at a shooting range
  • Science/ Interest Fair
  • Physics classes
  • Science of Gingerbread Houses; Workshop