Raising Backyard Chickens - Introduction

My son is raising chickens.

After purchasing fresh eggs from a local farmer while living in Germany my son became interested in chickens. His need to fill his belly (eggs) is what really drew him to the chickens. We continued to walk to the farmers house for our weekly eggs and during each visit he would spend more and more time watching and interacting with the hens. As time passed his interest only grew.

It didn't take him long to decide that he wanted to raise his own chickens, but we were temporary residents and living in a rented house. The timing definitely wasn't right to jump in, but it was perfect to begin learning what was required to raise chickens.

For two years my son watched countless youtube videos on chickens, coop building, raising chicks, buying equipment....... Anything to do with chickens, he watched it.

I of course thought his interest would be short term, but after two years of watching him research and listening to him question owners and tell me all about raising chickens, I knew the only way to satisfy him would be to get him some chickens.

Last May we moved to Michigan, and finally moved into a house in October. Ironically we moved to a house very close to my parents. So being familiar with the neighborhood,we were shocked to learn that three of the neighbors were already raising chickens.

We had another stroke of luck when one neighbor asked my son to care for his chickens while he took a long vacation to Florida. The trial run let him experience what was really involved in caring for chickens. His interest didn't let up.

Fortunately, our new house came with a dog house. My husband and son had the winter months and early spring to get the dog house converted into a coop.

While writing this post I am proud to say that my son calls me grandma. He is the proud papa of 13 chickens.

Over the next several weeks I will create a series of posts focused on chickens and the numerous lessons learned raising them. This hands-on experience has been fun for the entire family.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Each Child is Unique

At the butterfly house each child did something different.

Any parent of more than one child knows how different each child is. It is their uniqueness that leads them down their own path in life. As educators I often wonder how one teacher can use a single curriculum to teach so many students. Although it seems like a good idea it can be difficult to make work.

When my oldest was around six years old we followed the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling primarily using the Ambleside On-Line curriculum. Educating was so much fun and so easy. I knew exactly what to do when my son was ready. Well I was sorely mistaken. The literature intensive curriculum did not work well for him and I spent years trying to figure out something different and effective for him.

Now they are 9, 12 and 14 and although they are best friends, they are still very different. When we visited the butterfly house recently, I couldn't help noticing how they all naturally did something very different.

 My youngest packed a sketch book and was happy drawing.

She is a very visual learner and enjoys taking her weekly art classes.

My oldest packed a camera and like me, snapped as many beautiful images as possible. After all, it isn't often we are surrounded by butterflies and beautiful flowers at every turn.

 My son took the book from the center and tried to identify as many butterflies as possible. He was interested in all of the differences.

I have never used a box curriculum and today, each child follows a unique education plan based on their interests and learning methods. As they grow and change I'm sure we will make more changes but I'm happy that I finally realized that because they are each so unique, it is best for each of them to have their own tailored education plan.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Modern Canvas Art for Kids

Project 4: Blended colors painted onto squares were glued onto a background of modern art lines and squiggles.

Modern art is fun to create and can easily and cheaply be used to spruce up a room. This is the fourth modern canvas art project for kids. The see the other project ideas, please visit the Arts and Crafts Page.

Red, brown, dark gray and cream colored acrylic paints were used for this project.

 Beginning with the lightest color the canvas was filled with squiggles, swirls, lines and dots. Each color was used to create only one or two different shapes in the background.

 Wooden squares can be purchased in small bags at craft stores for a few dollars.

 Using the colors in the background, many squares were painted. Most squares were painted blending two of the background colors in different ways making this a great color mixing project for kids.

 Once the squares were painted and dry they were glued to the canvas with a hot glue gun.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Is Life of Fred Enough?

When I first saw the Life of Fred books in 2011, I bought the entire set. It was an excellent decision and I haven't looked back. Since then, Z-Twist books has come out with a chemistry book as well as language arts books which I also recommend.

Life of Fred is a complete math curriculum written in story format. It not only teaches math concepts, but teaches the application of math thereby making math interesting. Since learning with Life of Fred is very different from traditional methods of learning mathematics, many considering purchasing Life of Fred books ask "How do kids learn from Life of Fred" and "Is Life of Fred Enough?"

Learning with Life of Fred is different. The author of Life of Fred expects his students to think. Traditional math curriculum tend to give an example and then expect the student to repeat the steps in the example with different numbers. Opposite to this approach, Life of Fred books will explain the concept and how it is used in real life through a fictional story. Often an example of how it is applied is embedded in the text. At the end of each short chapter, the student will be asked to apply the same concept to a different real life situation. In addition, the student is typically asked a few questions based on math concepts and applications taught in prior chapters.

Because the books are written in story format and teach application well, they do not make math monotonous. Instead of a page or pages of similar problems, Life of Fred asks only 2-10 questions depending on the material presented. When students are having difficulty with a procedural math concept such as long division, it is sometimes necessary to take a short break from the books and focus on the concept.

There are many people who follow various math curriculum and use the Life of Fred books to supplement math. That is a very good idea as those students are learning both math concepts and application and getting plenty of procedural practice. At my house, we take the opposite approach. We use Life of Fred as our backbone and add in extra practice only when it is needed. The extra practice usually comes in the form of a short lesson coupled with a hand written set of problems to focus on a difficult concept. My children had difficulty with rounding and long division among other concepts, so we took short breaks during those lessons.

Sometimes our breaks from Life of Fred have come in the form of entire short workbooks. Since the jump between the Fractions book and Decimals and Percent book was a challenge for my son, I have chosen to have my daughter complete a School Zone 6th grade workbook before beginning the Decimals and Percent book.

Life of Fred is a complete curriculum. However, as with any math curriculum, if a student moves on before mastering a concept, it can have a snowball effect. If a student is having difficulty with a concept, the chapter should be repeated, they should try additional problems, or the concept should be presented from a different angle before proceeding. To me, it doesn't make a difference which math curriculum is being followed. If a student doesn't understand, they are not ready to proceed.

We are Life of Fred fans and have been from the beginning. Because the books teach critical thinking and teach the application behind the procedural steps of math, Life of Fred students come away with a clear understanding of math and an ability to solve difficult problems of any type on their own.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Sponge Canvas Art for Kids

Project 3: We made modern canvas art using sponges, acrylic paint and foam stars.

This is our third modern art painting. After watching the HGTV show Design on a Dime, my 9 year old daughter and I were inspired to create several pieces of modern art. This piece was for her bedroom. The plan was to use sponges to create a blended galaxy background for a few stars.

 First, light circles and arcs were drawn on the canvas with pencil. Each area was slated for one of four colors; cream, orange, pink or purple.

 Beginning with the lightest color, sponges were dipped into the paint and then dabbed onto the canvas to fill the area.

 Using sponges to fill a canvas with color worked very well to cover all the white spaces. When brushes were used in project 2, streaks were visible once the paint was dry.

 Once all the canvas was filled, foam stars were painted with color. Surprisingly, they held the color very well.

 The stars were attached to the canvas with a hot glue gun to finish the project.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Alaska and Hawaii Books for Kids

Lesson 12: Alaska and Hawaii

This is the last lesson in our United States study. Earlier lessons can be found on the Geography Page.

America is a country filled with variation and uniqueness. Although differences can be seen between all the states, they are much easier to see on a regional basis. While learning more about the states, I wanted my daughter to gain an understanding of the overall geography of the United States and learn how the differences in climate effect the region. 

Studying all of the United States in a 12 week time frame is very short. Therefore, this study serves as a basic introduction. Before the US study, we learned about Native American. Because we studied Native Americans by concentrating on the region of the country where they were/are located, the two studies complimented each other in many ways.

For example, the plains Indians and the states of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota occupy the same territory. With the same resources available, it was interesting to learn about both the pains Indians and the states of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Before colonization the Natives hunted buffalo, rode horse back and made clothes out of animal skins. Now the people of the plains are primarily farmers. So how did we go from then to now? The answers are not always happy, but hopefully I have raised some questions in my daughter's mind.

Next on our learning list is The Little House (9 Volumes Set) and a study of United States History. But first, a quick study of Alaska and Hawaii.

Alaska and Hawaii are probably our two most unique states. They are not part of the continental United States and therefore, much more remote than the others. Fortunately, there are lots of books available on these two states. Here are some that we read.


Luka's Quilt - When Luka doesn't appreciate the traditional quilt her grandmother makes their relationship suffers. Fortunately, they find a way to put aside their differences and both be happy.

The Island-below-the-Star - In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl of Norway journeyed across the Pacific Ocean on a raft in his Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft expedition. His exploration changed the way the world believed the Hawaiian Islands were populated. The book Island-Below the Star is a picture book that retells what the journey may have been like from the native perspective.


Baby in a Basket - Pictured Above - This book tells and amazing, true-life story of a baby lost and then later found from a sleigh in Alaska.

Akiak: A Tale From the Iditarod - When a lead dog is taken out of the Iditarod, he isn't ready to be done racing, and finishes the race on his own. We loved this excited true stroy.

The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Step-Into-Reading) is another exciting, but very different story about a lead sled dog in Alaska. Balto a true hero, is instrumental in getting medicine to sick children in Alaska during a snowstorm.

How Alaska Got Its Flag
Through a statewide competition, the big dipper ended up on the Alaska flag. This is an inspiring, non-fiction story.

The Great Alaska Pipeline is a very detailed book suitable for adults interested in the Alaska pipeline. It is interesting, but I would only recommend it for older children who are interested in engineering and big science projects.

A Child's Alaska is the perfect introduction to Alaska for young children as it highlights many Alaska uniquenesses such as the Northern Lights, sled dogs and the midnight sun.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Modern Art Canvas Wall Hanging Project for Kids

Project 2: We used acrylic paint, canvas, brushes and wooden circles to create a modern art wall hanging.

 Wooden circles come in small bags and can be purchased at crafts stores for a few dollars.

 First, cream colored circles were drawn all over the canvas. Next, light blue was used to outline the circles. Then two darker shades of blue were used to outline the circles. When two circles were close together, one was chosen to be on top while the other fell into the background.

 Then the remaining white space was filled with blue.

 A hot glue gun was used to glue the circles to the canvas at the centers of the circles.

The result was an interesting piece of modern art for our very blue bathroom.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Southwest and Pacific Coast States

Lesson 10: Southwest States
Arizona, New Mexico, Texas

The Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest are two national parks that make good topics for a southwest state study. Here are some picture books to introduce children to the southwestern states.

The Armadillo from Amarillo
Fish Fry
Armadillo Rodeo
Grandmother's Adobe Dollhouse

Lesson 11: Pacific Coast States
Washington, Oregon, California

Smoky Night
Tree in the Trail
Condor's Egg
Squirrel and John Muir
Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.
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