Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs

the shorline

the shoreline

We’ve been focusing on Earth Science the last few months, and most recently, learning about fossils.

Friday we drove down to Chesapeake beach to fossil hunt near the cliffs. Fossilized shark teeth are a common find.

some random dude and a view of the cliffs -miocene formation in southern Maryland

some random dude and a view of the cliffs -miocene formation in southern Maryland

The cliffs are off limits for digging as officials are worried about landslides and injury, but people comb the beach at the low tide looking to see what fossils may have been washed free.



Pete sifts the sand looking for fossilized shark teeth

Pete sifts the sand looking for fossilized shark teeth




We sifted and dug and searched for two hours and found one small fragment of fossilized shell.

Lily gives it a go

Lily gives it a go

While it was disappointing the kids enjoyed the search. We want to go back on another warm day in April or May.



Tessa exploring

Tessa explores

Spring Planning

Two months to go

We have two months left of the school year. We’ll break for May and start back up in June with a modified summer schedule.  I believe we’ll nix most indoor studies and spend as much time outdoors as time allows.

Before summer though, comes spring,  and like last year, I’m in planning mode.

Goal one: Plan and plant this year’s pollinator garden


We had a good amount of bees and butterflies attracted to our pollinator garden last year.  I want to add some swamp milkweed to the bed. We also have plans to grow herbs and mint in containers.

Goal two: plan and create a shade loving garden for the front yard

Being a northern exposure with light blocked by the homes across the street, the front yard is always in the shade and somewhat cooler than other sides of the house. I want to plant a front bed with native shade loving flowers.

Goal three: to observe and photograph Moth Emergence


I already have a robin moth (Hyalophora cecropia) cocoon in the basement. I haven’t decided if I will photograph and release or keep it for its full life span and then try framing it.  I’d love to get a Luna moth cocoon as well.

Goal Four: start nature quest 2016


It’s almost time to grab another quest booklet and tackle Nature Quest 2016. This will be our third year participating in the hiking program run by Baltimore County Parks and Recreation.

personal goals

For myself I want to work on my writing more AND get out to photograph butterflies more. Specifically, this blog needs more attention.

I also have my homeschool paperwork to complete and turn in. I’m doing slightly better at it then previous years when I spent all of April in a panic. I will probably STILL spend April in a panic but hopefully not AS panicky as usual. 😀

How about you? What are your spring plans?



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Frozen eggs, nuclear forces, true love and the white food theory

Morning! I hope all of my U.S readers are staying warm and safe today.

This week we discovered that someone’s been messing with the fridge temp thingy again.


a frozen egg

Beyond that one should not mess with the thingy, the children learned that when you drop two items of differing mass, absent differences in wind resistance, they’ll still hit the ground at the same time. Yay Galileo!


We dropped many things, many times. We should have tried frozen eggs, but it didn’t occur to me.

Enough things were dropped enough times to get my fiance (working in the basement) to come upstairs to figure out what the hell was going on.

(Link to the pbslearning resource we used for our activities)



Just as with magnetism and electricity studies, we listed the four fundamental forces of nature. I’m not tackling strong and weak nuclear forces with lower elementary kids, but they aren’t too young to learn they are fundamental forces.  We’ll dive into atoms more next year.  We also read books and watched more programs about Galileo and gravity, as well as learned about ancient people’s beliefs/uses for the night sky.

There was also a rather long documentary on Stone Henge that lost everyone’s save little bee’s attention about 45 minutes in.

I love listening to that man talk, but not even Donald Sutherland narrating could make it interesting.


Aidan is learning about and making tessellations in his math curriculum, which uses his strong point, geometry and trigonometry to review middle school arithmetic, which has been a long struggle for him. He’s hoping that next year he can use geometry to learn algebra. I do think its possible, but am still looking for the best direction/resources .

A nice coincidental thing occurred.

Little bee got her latest lab kit and it is also about gravity.


She made this fun little game on Wednesday.

Its also been snowing a bit.

These two pictures are the difference twelve hours and blizzard conditions make.

We’re in for possibly another foot today.

fridayevening sat. morning

We had to go to the store on Thursday in order to prepare for this.


This was the store.

Not only were the milk, toilet paper, and bread loaves nearly gone, but customers had also almost cleaned out the whip topping, sour cream, and eggs.  Kevin (fiance person I keep mentioning)shared a theory he read that it wasn’t just milk, toilet paper, and what not that sold, but white things in general.

Perhaps when the milks gone, people start reaching for things that look similar.

“Darn it! No milk! Sour cream? close enough.”

We shopped, got all the way to the checkout still living and then,  THEN I realized, I left my card at home.


Kevin was left waiting in the magazine aisle for forty minutes while I went to retrieve it.

That, is love.

And that’s it.

Stay warm.




Biomes, ecosystems and animal habitats

Hello people.

Life is moving along.

Peter is recovering from his cornea transplant.

He’s been such a good and patient kid.


He still needs drops four times a day, but now only needs to wear this guard at night.

We’re wrapping up nature quest.


(Patrick playing in the creek at Cromwell Valley Park)

One more trail to go and we’ll be in the running for prizes at “Nature Quest Fest 2015” which is this coming weekend.

Learning goes on as it does.

During the month of October the littles and Pete are studying  biomes, first terrestrial and then we’ll take a dive into the aquatic for a week or two.

This week its a little bit of both with study of wetlands.

We’re talking about:

  • Climate: how it affects the specific ecosystem, the types of plants and animals that can live there
  • Biodiversity: examples of how everything relies on everything else
  • Adaptations:  how  animals and plant adaptations are suited to their habitat
  • Biomes: different types of ecosystems within each biome designation (rainforest vs. deciduous, salt marsh vs. swamp, etc.)

We’re reading about them.


We’re watching videos about them:


“The Magic School Bus Gets Swamped”



“Bill Nye the Science Guy: Wetlands”

For a social studies tie-in we’re learning about famous deserts, wetlands, grassland, forest and rain forests in North America.

This week we’re watching these videos:

Nature Wonders : Everglades USA

Realm of the Alligator (Okefenokee swamp)

Bee is researching and marking the famous places on our map of the United States.


Friday, the plan is to wrap up the wetland study with a visit to Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary which Lily marked out on our Maryland highway map.




Huffing Felines and Project Updates


I hope everyone is enjoying their Friday.

Today is a kid free day, and also a day to get some work done, including caulking around the tub.

I know, I know, its a charmed life.

I can feel your jealousy from here.

It’s not always this glamorous.

This is mouse.


(picture of me, holding my cat, she wants nothing of it)

Mouse is a bit weird.

That’s ok, she fits in.

One of the things that makes her weird, is her enjoyment of inhalants and other substances not usually enjoyed by housecats.

She goes crazy over/tries to eat:

  • smelly junk mail, especially if  its sealed with rubber cement
  • magazines, especially if they have perfume inserts
  • glue
  • my herbal tea
  • new paint
  • coffee

As of today I can add bathroom caulk to the list.

I began to caulk and she ran into the bathroom with a wild look of ecstasy.

“I can has caulk??”


I shut her out of the bathroom.

Shutting the door made me feel rather light headed, but better that then having to explain her substance abuse issues to the vet.

She’s sulking now.

I should update you guys on some of our ongoing projects.

First off,

The closed terrarium


It.  has been sealed over  a month and as predicted is happy and has grown. There have been at least two generations of little gnats living in there as well.

Speaking of insects, next we have:

The pollinator garden

We’re getting quite a few insect visitors.

gaillardia4  gaillardia7DSCN0004

The Bee Houses

Leaf cutter bees moved in next door to our  mason bees. DSCN0011

The mason bee make a smooth mud covering, while leaf cutter are lumpy.


sweet potatoes


We have several plants, all from one potato:



nature quest

We recently completed both trails at Oregon Ridge, and the trail at Marshy Point.  Here we are at Marshy Point looking at an Eastern box turtle spotted by Tessa.


Kevin, a new, and rapidly becoming a very important person in my life, took the above photo. I don’t blog about love. Maybe I should.

Anyhow, here’s the box turtle:


Marshy point has a neat nature center, that includes a free roaming duck.

That’s it for project updates.

Time to get back to the chores.

Enjoy your weekend. 🙂





Bacteria, Schedules, and Spelling App demonstration (Wednesday picture diary)


My throat is sore, and I’m feeling blah. It’s completely unacceptable, I have too much to do, and too much (including a presentation this Saturday) coming up.

I need my voice.

Pictures from week two of our summer schedule:

Monday we checked on the bacteria cultures we started last week. These are merely from agar being exposed to the air outside.


Tomorrow we’ll add test squares of antibacterial agents to one dish to observe how they inhibit growth. We’ll also start cultures of swabs of household surfaces.

Pete and I went on our weekly shopping trip. He wrote most of this list, selected most items, checked off all items, and scanned the groceries himself.


My brother made this clipboard 30 years ago. 🙂

Here’s a look at our summer schedule for the littles:


It’s the first year I’ve done a wipe off checklist for the littles.  Granted its only week 2, but they seem to be enjoying it.

Aidan’s rhetoric assignments for the month:


This is posted on the wall next to his weekly assignments. He reads this, and the rest of the schedule, and plans his work time accordingly along with his chores. He’s pretty good at time management. I only check with him now and then to see how its going.

Lily looks at her weekly schedule and creates a checklist for herself before beginning in the morning:



Finally here’s another video app example, demonstrating how Pete uses the “Word Wizard” app from Escapadou to practice spelling words:



Summer term Begins (Wednesday Picture Diary)

Hello people.

Random pictures and videos this week are of our first week of summer term and a “new” school year.

Tessa and Patrick are reviewing their c-v-c’s


We were able to get two sweet potato slips planted. We’ll plant the rest as soon as they root, however we’re running late and its unusually chilly, which I love, but sweet potatoes do not.


Lily worked on her “tinkercrate” projects, this time making light up paper lanterns



This year Pete is working through the middle school version (12+) of Dragon box. He didn’t want recorded, so here I am demonstrating the last level he completed:

and supplies for Aidan’s first set of labs arrived.


You can never have too many petri dishes.






Closed Terrarium Project

Our first closed terrarium (made out of a gallon juice container) stayed sealed for two years before the plant died.

This year we’re trying a glass container with a better seal.

Educational value can be found in a mini demonstration of the water cycle, discussion of plant respiration, ongoing observation, discussion and problem solving. Children of all ages can help out with this great and simple family project.


  • small rocks for drainage (3.99 USD)
  • sphagnum moss (2.99 USD for a very large bag)
  • activated charcoal (from pet store, I’ve had it so long, I can’t recall the price)
  • potting soil (varies, I used left over from our planters)
  • small tropical house plant with low to medium water needs, generously pre-watered (important, no other watering happens- 5.99 USD)
  • Glass Jar (got this one at michaels, 9.99 USD)

We started by  putting drainage rocks in the bottom of our jar.


then a layer of sphagnum moss to separate the layers.


then came a layer of activated charcoal. (keeps mold away)


and finally the soil and plant.


We closed it up and wrote the date it was sealed on a piece of tape on the lid.

If all goes well, it should last awhile, filling the jar and dying back a few times. Our previous one was kept in the kitchen, but this time we’re placing it in the living room.

There is already a good bit of condensation on the glass, before long it will trickle down to the soil.


I plan to do a one, three, six, and annual update if it goes as expected. If it doesn’t we can hypothesize about what went wrong and adjust for next time.


Have you ever kept a closed terrarium? How did it go?


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Release the Frogs!

Happy Monday, and Memorial day/bank holiday  for everyone celebrating.

We’re on our final week of break before we start the new school year.


Time to get back to it.

We’re switching to year round now, but only 4 days a week.  My eldest and I managed that schedule for years so I know its workable.  It will, I hope, give me more open Fridays for writing.

As most of my weekends are kid free,I like to spend the lion’s share of them alone at home doing things I don’t usually have time for, and enjoying much needed solitary time.

Saturday my to-do list had :

  • write
  • groceries
  • release the frogs

Have you ever had that on a to-do list?

The  tadpoles from a week and a half ago developed into frogs quickly so I decided to not wait for the kids to come back to release them.  I grabbed the portable pet cage and drove them back.  Water is heavy so it was slow waddle from the parking lot to the pond.

A man out for a walk  came by, looking confused/interested. “Hello!!!!!:” I called super cheery (like “Flo” from progressive commercials level cheery) “Well hello!”

He passed without  another word.

I wonder what he was thinking.

Finding a good shallow spot I dumped them out and watched them. They were doing generally exploratory happy froggy things.

I began to think, will someone think I’m dumping a pet??

My plan, if so, was to defend myself saying “they’re indigenous,

indigenous (repeating for emphasis) !!! They belong here! And anyway -it was educational!”

No one asked.

I once raised non indigenous frogs from tadpole to frog.

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Jeremy lived rather long lives.

We don’t like to talk about what they did to Kermit.

I’d like to say its was science-y educational reasons but no, it was on my bucket list. I have a mental list of things I’ve wanted to do in my life. Raising frogs, butterflies, and chickens are on it. I’ve managed all three. I raised chickens back when I lived in West Virginia, from peeping mail order chicks in a baby pool to grown laying hens in a portable pen. It was generally rewarding save for the killer dogs and foxes.  One time we even had surprise llamas. Butterflies are much easier.

It occurs to me that my bucket list may be a bit unique.

As far as our spring project list goes….

  • The pollinator garden planned for this year is growing ever so slowly.  The seeds we got from Green Fest  have not germinated, save one unidentified sprout.  One type of flower is blooming. Itty bitty ants like it.


Another is getting ready to:


  • We’ve had more orchard bees lay eggs in the houses. I’m hoping we also get some leaf cutter bees over the summer.

DSCN0013 DSCN0014

  • Our sweet potato are taking extra long to develop. I need to get them out in the planters and growing by June if there is to be anything to harvest by October.
  • I have the supplies for the new closed terrarium. That will be a step by step post when that is completed (some time within the week).

With Spring out of way, Summer plans are coming into view, which include

  • growing things in petri dishes
  • swimming at the waterfall/Patapsco
  • more nature Quest Hikes
  • keeping on with the Butterfly survey

Growing things in petri dishes is another bucket list thing, but at least I have the excuse of a teen studying microbiology.

Do you have a bucket list? (written or merely in your mind) What is one  you’d like to do but haven’t gotten to yet?  (comment below)


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Video! HCC Green Fest with Tess

Tessa and I are having a weekend of just the two of us while the other kids are visiting their Dad.

This morning we went to Howard County Community College for “Green Fest.”

It was crowded, and I am exhausted.

(Miss Tess isn’t in the least, she’s running circles round me this evening)