Friday, October 24, 2014

Field Trip Friday: Of Camo & Cabooses

  Today didn't work out quite like we planned.  We had to scrap our original field trip plans, but life as a homeschooler, you roll with it!  So instead of geocaching we explored a museum that was on our wishlist & in the direction our day was taking us: The Old Depot Museum in Ottawa. Trains are Shorty's favorite, and with some upcoming study on the trans-continental railroad, it actually was pretty good timing.  After we arrived and were exploring the caboose outside (they are renovating it and will let you see inside if you ask) I noticed that all the kids were wearing camo pants!  If I attempted to coordinate this, you know someone would balk...
  I had never been to this particular museum, but had heard wonderful things about it, and rightfully so.  The cost was right: $5 for all of us together.  They had an excellent exhibit on early Ottawa since it was their 150 anniversary this year: the front room was filled with artifacts from the first 2 decades of Ottawa.  We kind of skipped the next room which had some more local history (a cool exhibit on the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre & an interesting local silk worm farm that was around in the later part of the 19th c.).  This poor room got neglected by us because in the room adjacent was...TRAINS!!!
  Almost taking up the whole room was a model train track with a recreation of Ottawa.  Not just that, but you could push certain buttons and make things on the model move & play music!
After quite a while, we had to literally drag Shorty away to see the rest of the museum upstairs.
  The upstairs was really well laid out.  The grand photo op...
And theme rooms chalked full of artifacts.  The cool thing about it was they were so full, you didn't just walk in, but they had these little sheets at the door that explained things in depth while getting you to find it.  It was the ultimate I Spy!
The General Store
They also had a classroom.  It was totally hands on and a group can even reserve it for a one-room schoolhouse day.  The best part is getting to use the rope outside the door for the schoolroom & ringing the bell! Definitely considering going back for just a school day!
This place was definitely not your ordinary county historical museum.  They found a great way to incorporate tons of history and local artifacts without the run of the mill exhibits or high dollar bells and whistles.  We'll definitely be making a return trip!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Field Trip Friday - Naturally...

  Who can resist dinosaurs?  Not this family!  We found out about a recently opened natural history museum in Overland Park, so made it our next stop. The cost is a little pricy - so much that it might be enough to make you consider buying a year membership if you want to take it all in.  I'll tell you what though, the Grand Hall is free and if you're in the area it would be something to take in just for that!
  In the Grand Hall they have replicas of a T-Rex, pteranodons, and marine fossils as well. 
 But the main draw is the dino screen! You can go off in a side room and create various dinos or dragons, name them and then watch them appear on the big screen in the Great Hall.
 If you stand in the right place, you can even get eaten!!
This thrilled the kiddos so much we spent over an hour doing this, we circled back several times so it may have been way longer than that total.  What is cooler than getting eaten by a dino??
  They had a fantastic discovery area that you bought an appointment for.  You could stay as long as you want once you got in, and we spent around an hour there.  They had excellent things for the kids to do:
You can hold a bug, touch a snake, or gaze at the poison dart frogs...
Or put together dinosaurs or even a 3 foot praying mantis...
  They also had a special exhibit hall that you could pay separately for.  The exhibit this time was on mythic creatures.  Everything from unicorns, bigfoot, mermaids, dragons, and gryphons.  I think overall, I was a little disappointed on the displays of artifacts for the whole museum - most were replicas (from the dino bones to the Figi Mermaid).  But if you're a kiddo it doesn't really matter, its just thrilling to see!  Bubby was thrilled to see a Figi Mermaid and a life-sized dino does not disappoint.
We have plans to go back and check it all out again when they switch up exhibits.  The kids loved it!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jonathan Edwards

  I don’t take much time for myself.  That’s the point I’m at in my life and I am contented with it.  So, when I go to pick out a history book, I’m kind of picky.  History is my thing.  Well, its kind of our family thing, with a mom as a historian and a dad as an archaeologist, there’s no escaping it.  So since I don’t have a lot of time to read all the stuff I want to and I’m always on the look out for things to make history alive to my kiddos, books in our household have to fit these two criteria: 1) teach me something new and challenging but in a short format 2) make it easy to understand and interesting for my kids too.  Bonus points for using a Christian perspective.
  That’s why I like Christian Biographies for Young Readers series.  Being a purchaser for our church library I have bought some before.  I hadn’t delved into them beyond general perusal, but knew they were chalked full of absolutely wonderful illustrations, historical pictures and manuscripts as well as side notes explaining some items in more detail. That is very important for me in non-fiction kid books, if you don’t have an interesting format, you’re losing them right off.
  I didn’t know much about Jonathan Edwards beyond him being one of those fire and brimstone preachers of the Great Awakening, so I was looking forward to this review.  From a historian’s perspective, Ms. Carr did an excellent job drawing in many facets of colonial history: Plymouth, the Deerfield raid, Isaac Newton, the French and Indian War and other characters of the Great Awakening, George Whitefield & David Brainerd. 
  The book takes a very different turn than I was expecting.  It focuses on his upbringing and how it and his other life experiences contribute to his ministry, but it primarily focuses on how he incorporated God’s handiwork of his natural environment into his ministry.  How he used the wonder of God’s creation to over come such fears as those of thunderstorms, which were a menace during that time.
This was a wonderful segue into his eventual work with the Native Americans at Stockbridge.  
  Tidbits I loved about this book: how detailed it was down to the illustration of George Whitefield which showed him with his lazy eye (something that was not covered in the book, but it was cool to see it come out in the illustration).  The appendix at the back of the book with the timeline of Edwards’ life and a “Did you Know” section, things that I could see the author thinking really interesting and while they did not fit into the flow of the story, she wanted to share with us. 

  I’d definitely recommend this book on one of the great theological minds of early America!
  I received this book free from the publisher and the thoughts and comments are my own and was not required to write a positive review. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kaw Valley Farm Tour

  Have you ever been on the Kaw Valley Farm Tour?  We had gone several years ago, and had been dying to go again.  So we invited Great Grampa along and took off for an afternoon.  It takes place early in October and is on a Saturday & Sunday.  You can't beat the cost - $10 per car.  There is a wide range of farms featured.  This year we took in:

A lavender farm

lavender on the drying racks

A regular farm

feeding the turkeys

hayrack ride with Grampa

climbing hay bales
A winery/orchard
   One of the ways this winery was organic was in its weed control - sheep!  Did you know that sheep love to eat poison ivy??? I'm thinking of starting a herd now... ;)
  I was really impressed because Shorty was very involved in asking questions while we were out.  Especially at the winery, he would ask "what's that for?" about each piece of machinery.

  We also went to a bee farm & a nursery where we were able to go into a butterfly enclosure (at a cut rate with our farm tour pass).  Not a bad day for $10 per car! ;)  Of course each place sells some of their wares. We came home with honey, and a bag of craft lavender.  What a wonderful way to find out about & support local businesses.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Museum Crawl & the Tabernacle

  Daddy has been gone a bunch lately, so we've been savoring our time with him when we can.  Last week he was based out of St. Joseph, MO again, so guess what we fit in to our schedule - museum crawl! Now the actual museum crawl is over, but we're still using it as a guide.  This time we visited the St. Joseph Museum which housed 3 stops on the museum crawl: the Black Archives, Native American museum and the Glore Psychiatric Museum.  The Glore was the biggest part of the museum, but I figured it would be more of an adult subject matter so we skipped it (much to Bubby's dismay, he's made us promise to go back with Ducky and Gigi so he can take it in).  The other exhibits were great!
Mookie loved the doll exhibit
Bubby hard at work on the Museum Crawl questions
  One of the great parts of the museum was the Black Archives.  While a little broad in its scope it was great to see a timeline of black history in front of us.  Something that struck Bubby was the "white" water fountain and the "colored" water bucket side by side.  One of his best buddies is of African descent and it bothered him that they would not have been treated equally.
    Our next day included a trip to Platte City.  We fit in a detour to the Platte County Museum.  It is a house that was built around the time of the Civil War and furnished for the time period.  The kids were really good, even Shorty who was a little bit of a handful the day before (you notice I left that story out...). 
Shorty's favorite exhibit - the trains!
The kids on the back porch and their picture
The house really reminded me of the Amelia Earhart birthplace in Atchison. I think I would be content to live in either one;) The kids were thrilled that our tour guide gave us a picture of the house.
    After our tour it was on to the Tabernacle Experience.  It is a traveling exhibit that was hosted by the First Baptist Church of Platte City. All I can say is - wow! I can't regale you with pictures because cameras weren't allowed in the tabernacle area, but I would highly suggest it if you are interested in the ancient Jewish temple practices. Each person gets an Ipod for an audio tour (either a child or adult version).  You walk through in pairs at spaced intervals.  Mookie & Bubby went first, Shorty and I next and then Ducky and Gigi.  Its very hands on, essentially taking you thru each step that the priest would do (you get to throw wood on the altar, wash hands in the laver, light candles, etc...).  I am so glad Shorty and I were in the middle!  He did get kind of bored, so I would let him bebop forward or backward to the others in our group and do the activity in advance of our learning about it, or redo it.  It worked pretty well.
  Something I thought was cool was that when we were in the Holy of Holies, there was a hole in the tent that cast a sunbeam directly down on the Ark of the Covenant, kind of reminded me of a movie I saw once...  We did make it out of there without succeeding in burning the Ark down with our incense stick (just a brief flick of a spark, but with Shorty, you never know).  The kids were totally thrilled to see parts of those Old Testament books right in front of them.  You can't beat hands on, touch it and feel it stuff:) 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Wedding, Silver Dollar City, a Battlefield and Guttenberg

  This last field trip was one we've been waiting for for a few months.  One of our very dear friends was getting married in Springfield, MO. A bit of a trip, but something we wouldn't have missed for the world.  Of course it sparked thoughts of what can we do along the way.  One thing presented itself when Mookie won a couple of Silver Dollar City tickets through our local library's summer reading program.  SDC also had a special going on where people born in 1976 could get in free, so that took care of my ticket too and Shorty was free because of his age!  We only had to purchase one ticket - not bad for a family of five!
A picture of the Co. I boys I found recently
  On the way down we stopped at Wilson's Creek Battlefield.  This was great for the kids because it gave them an opportunity for another Junior Ranger badge, and great for me because some of the Burlingame, KS Civil War Veterans from Co. I of the 11th Kansas Cavalry fought there. 
  The battlefield had limited displays when we were there because they were in the process of revamping the old ones.  They had a really interesting auto tour and they also have one of the biggest collections of west of the Mississippi Civil War items.  You can find their virtual museum here.
Looking up at Bloody Hill at Wilson's Creek
  The staff at Wilson's Creek was excellent.  They gave Shorty a Junior Ranger badge so he could be like big brother & sis.  They also copied items for me from their collection & told me to contact them if I thought of anything more. 
  On we went for a short stop at Silver Dollar City and then out to supper.  We ate at McFarlain's in Branson where they placed us at a table that rose during our meal.  Hubby and I were let in on the secret.  They couldn't figure out what mom & dad were snickering at.  They kept looking around to find someone that was going to sneak up on them with a wacky sombrero or sing a silly song to them.  It wasn't until the table was up to their chins that they finally caught on.
 The next day we arrived at the City as soon as it opened and we shut it down.  My family has been going to Silver Dollar City every five years since I was five.  It is one of our favorite trips as a family.  We can't wait to go with my folks on our regularly scheduled on in a couple of years.
 Before the wedding celebration on Saturday we needed something to occupy our time.  Hubby found the exhibit "Passages" was in Springfield.  Passages is a collection artifacts that take you through the history of the Bible.  When we were in Dallas last year we had seen that it was there, but didn't make it.  Boy are we glad we took it in in Springfield! The collection included actual Dead Sea Scroll fragments, cuneiform tablets, Bibles throughout the ages as well as other Biblical texts and artifacts.  Essentially the whole exhibit was full of Bible history, world history, science and just a perfect side trip for us in general! They had wonderful interactive displays, hands on things for the kids to do, as well as animatronic characters.  They even had a scavenger hunt for the kids.  I'll tell you what, if you want a kid to get absorbed in a museum, give them a scavenger hunt!
Transcribing a line of text in Latin with real ink!

Shorty listening to St. Jerome talk about his life

Watching a working replica of a Guttenberg press
They even had a play area for Shorty

The exhibit said that it would take you 2-3 hours to finish.  Well, we took 3 hours and could have spent more time! We literally had to drag the kids out of there.  We definitely packed a ton into our trip, but hey, it was school!  I think we'll take tomorrow off;)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tom & Huck

  We've not been to the gravel bar much this year, but this last week we made the trip to see Ducky and Gigi while they camped.  It is one of the 3 ancestral stomping grounds that put me immediately at ease (it and the hills in Platte & Buchanan Cos. in MO as well as the area around Atchison, KS).  We took a buddy with us this time.  What fun we had!
One of my favorite gravel bar picture places
  From the moment we pulled in, Bubby and his buddy were on the ground running.  They took off exploring the area.  Thankfully it was cool so we didn't have to worry about ticks!  The first project became building a raft.  Ducky provided fishing twine & they made up the plan themselves.  They were so proud!
  Of course, they wanted to try it out.  Oh, I am not an adventurous soul, so I squirmed and hemmed and hawed and then caved.  How can you turn down two excited boys? The first attempt ended a little soggily...
 They added some bigger logs for more buoyancy and success!  Of course we had them to a rope we held and they rode close to shore, but it was enough:)
Well, it got a little river weary by the end of it all, but they had fun!  They are now nicknamed Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn! ;)
  The next day they were up at daybreak and Ducky took them out fishing by a fire on the gravel bar.
Then was a tour of all three gravel bars which led to some of them being covered almost head to toe in sticktights.
  The boys weren't the only ones having fun, Mookie went exploring to capture some lovely wildlife shots...
And Shorty was happy just following adventure where he could...

We came home tired, stinky and dirty but we wouldn't have in any other way:)